It may be short but this is the start of something very special indeed. New enemies, new Alyx, who could ask for more!

User Rating: 9.3 | Half-Life 2: Episode One PC
Half Life 2: Episode 1 starts off straight after the end of HL2. You've destroyed the citadel and everything looks like Alyx is going to die along with most of City 17. But wait, what's this?.......... Alright, I won't spoil it for you. But sufficed to say, you and Alyx survive and team up. The citadel, in it's dying throws has set off an auto destruct sequence and you and Alyx have to disable it to give you and the rest of the city time to evacuate. The action starts straight away and you get stuck in from the very first minute and this is just "level 1. You start with the normal gravity gun and seem to move down the ladder of weapons (apart from the super gravity gun in the first level) as the game goes on As the end draws near you'll have all the same weapons as you did in HL2 which is a bit of a shame, I thought Valve might have thrown us a new gun along with the new enemies and new locations. Valve have really out done themselves and Episode 1 actually plays and feels better than HL2. The graphics are superb with HDR lighting playing a marvelous role which really brings the game to life. I would say that the HDR lighting looks even better than it did in the Lost Coast tech demo. The maps really use this to it's advantage, especially in some of the levels where you have to lead Alyx through an underground parking lot just using your flashlight. If your standing to close to a wall and turn it on, you can't see anything for a few seconds as your eyes adjust to the sudden brightess. Alyx will even shield her face if you shine it in her eyes and she even jokes about seeing Dr. Kleiner when you get back to see about a new battery for the flashlight to stop it running out every few minutes. Overall there are 5 "levels" taking about 5 hours to complete, so it's quite short but this is a new era of episodic gaming and I for one would rather have 5 hours of Half Life greatness every few months rather than 20 hours every few years. Vavle have said that all 3 episodes will be released by the end of 2007.
The levels range from the citadel, underground parking lots, train stations and the likes but everyone is mapped to perfection with each level posing it's own puzzles and enemies. Again the levels are linear but you never really notice it as there's too much going on. Take some of the puzzles for example, in one level you reach a 3 storey parking lot with antlions pouring out of 3 holes on the ground floor. As Alyx watches your back it's up to you to find something to plug the holes with, but Alyx isn't invinsible and will get killed if you take too long. So it's puzzles on the go if you like, you still have the puzzles of "old" where the action stops while you figure out how to get past the electricified water but it's these new puzzles that really lend a hand in making Episode 1, one the best expansion/episodes I have ever played. People are moaning that it's expensive but take into account that over 3 episodes (15 hours+ of gaming) it's going to cost about £37.50 ($60), about the same price for a regular full priced title, some of which only last 10 hours. Oh I forgot to mention, there is a commentry track that accompanies the game which can be turned on and off. I personally played the game through without it and now I'm going to play it agin with it turned on. Vavle have said that there are 115 nodes which you can activate and listen to. So is Half Life 2: Episode 1 worth the money? Yes I think so. It maybe short but the actual quality and content is superb. If you liked any of the Half Life titles then go and buy this NOW, you won't regret it.