Frugal Game Reviews: Half-Life 2 – Lost Coast

Posted: 7th November 2010 by Mister Critic in Random
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Reviewed by Mr. Parvenu

This story doesn’t end well.  The beans get burnt.
Before that, a brief aside about my computing.  I’ve a Mac and a PC.  The Mac sees most of the action these days, as the laptop is just more useful to me.  Naturally, all of my gaming is done via the tower-PC.  Due to a recent move, I have just started using the PC again, and am in the process of re-installing various programs and games.  This is how I found the Lost Coast.
I think it was long ago when I lived in Taiwan, and I bought a video card with all the Half-Life stuff bundled with.  Back when the ATI 9600XT was a good card.  Anyway, so I (re)installed Steam and found that there, listed with the numerous other Half-Life games was an unfamiliar title: Lost Coast… it seemed to call out to me, flirting with my sense of adventure.  I had many questions, “What’s lost about it?”, “Will I be playing as Gordon?”, “Why don’t I remember more about this title?”.  What I did remember from a few years ago, was that the Lost Coast had introduced some new renderer, or sharper textures (something I’ve always complained about in previous Half-Lives… the textures can be downright terrible).

I looked up Lost Coast at the Steam store to find that the list price was $99.  “Wow, that’s expensive… this game better kick a– oh it’s part of the ‘Valve Complete Pack’, which contains 21 other games.”  I know what you’re thinking… and, yes, $99 is a bit on the high side for a frugal game review. However, if you divide by 22 games, it’s only $4.50 a game.  So I give it a pass.
Clicking through my Library and on the 5th game with a title that began with “Half-Life 2…” the download and install process began.  But, it was late, and, if like any other game of the same name, bound to take a long time to install.  I left the old girl running and went to bed.

The next morning I did several things, among them were: wake up very late, because my job affords me flexible hours, and I’m lazy; turn off my computer after noting that the game has successfully installed; placed a heap of black beans in water to soak so I could have something for dinner.

Arriving home from work, I put the beans in a pan with some water on the stove and booted up Lost Coast.  The menu screen shows a quaint town suspiciouslynot riddled with bullets and debris.  “Curious, no Combine activity.”  You start the game on a pier overlooking a bay and the aforementioned city.  I was quite struck by how real the water looked… “Ah, there’s that new fancy rendering I heard about… a while ago.”  Onward, you meet up with a less colorful Gordon, of the fisherman variety, who instructs you to take out a gun on a hilltop… a gun that most not be shooting at the city, as it looks pristine from most angles.  “Ah, well, up the hill.”  In no time you hear the distinctive radio chatter of Combine baddies and engage in some well choreographed shoot outs.  I must admit to being genuinely surprised when by the sound of zip-lines and repelling troops, which took me so off guard I took a few moments to regain my composure and return fire… “I’d forgotten they did that.”  I’d forgotten, because it had been some time.

Quickly dispatching the rest and making my way into the courtyard proper, I hear the repeated blast that must be the gun I’m meant to destroy.  Having swept through the courtyard for goodies I become unceremoniously stuck.  There’s a door to the sanctuary of a church, but I can’t seem to open with with any weapons, breaking the stained glass and moving some boxes adjacent so I can just jump through doesn’t work.  Stacking boxes high enough to jump the fence only leads to the background textures going wonky and forcing me to reload the game.

Back to the courtyard, find power-ups, stand bemused in front of church doors.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I did this for some time.  Pondering how to open a door.  After perusing the options menu for keyboard controls I found the “use” button is mapped to ‘e’.  “Oh right,” it had been so long I forgot the “use” button… wait, had it been so long that I’ve forgotten basic controls of the game?  Indeed, it had.  Three years… Half-Life: Episode 2 had come out in October of 2007.  Three. Years. Ago.  As many have said before, “Isn’t episodic gaming supposed to mean shorter games at more frequent intervals?”

Note: Episode Three has no discernible release date at the time of writing.

Anyway, I made it into the church and stopped the gun, and shot some more baddies.  After which I was stalled for a few minutes trying to figure where to go next after being marooned on a rickety ledge atop the sheer cliff side.  A few blasts of the gravity gun later and I’m descending back to the fisherman.  He greets me and as the screen goes black, I wonder what the next level will be… but, alas, there is no next level.  I had come to fist-fight with a bazooka.  I was expecting something like half an “episode’s” worth of play and got about 30 minutes.  Flummoxed, Wikipedia tells me that Lost Coast is a “technology demonstration”… which is probably why I never played it.

Was it prettier than previous incarnations?  Yes, the water in particular is very realistic.  The textures a grade above horrible, which is a marked improvement.  But there is very little else to this game, which would have been nice to know before my hopes for a longer game, as well as all the water in the pan, evaporated, and my dinner scorched.