The chapter that starts it all. Chapter One is basically an extended controls tutorial, which is pretty handy for someone with two left thumbs. (Harr, harr.)
Still, there’s meat here: we get Dr. Breen on the terminal screens, trying to convince us of the benefits of our ‘Benefactors,’ including no longer needing or wanting to have sex. He makes alien overlords sound so appealing.
Our fellow survivors paint an even grimmer view. We get our first hint that things have gone awry in the intermittent years when we speak with a woman at the gate.
“Were you the only ones on that train? Overwatch stopped our train in the woods and took my husband for questioning. They said he’d be on the next train. I’m not sure when that was. They’re being nice, though, letting me wait for him,” she says, bringing to mind the intricate train system used in Nazi Germany and the implications of being pulled off a train. It’s not the first or last time the comparison can be made.
Another man anxiously warns: “Don’t drink the water. They put something in it to make you forget. I don’t even remember how I got here.”
Their clothes are faded and torn, the terminal is ram-shackled and trashed. Welcome to City 17.
After a close call with a quick road to Nova Prospekt, we are saved by none other than Barney. We still owe him a beer. I’m not sure where we would find one of those now. I doubt Dr. Breen approves – drink from his private reserve instead!
Soon after this, Barney sends us on our way to Dr. Kleiner without any sort of weapon or protection. Thank you, Barney.
Funny story: I’ve tried to play this game before. Right from the beginning. The thing(s) that stopped me were these damn boxes.
When you watch someone play they’re the one who is totally screwed, not you. They’re in deep shit, with Civil Protection on their tail, not you. You’re just along for the ride.
When you pick up the controllers, you’re the one in deep shit. Those crazy-ass aliens are coming for you.
When you’re asked to stack boxes under window before a bunch of gargling psychopaths burst in the room and beat you bloody, sometimes you panic.
I did eventually manage to stack the boxes and get out of the window that first time. I quit directly after to save myself from further embarrassment.
This time, I stacked them like a champ.
Okay, I’ll admit it: I jumped when Civic Protection came after me on the stairwell. I’d forgotten it was a You’re Totally Fucked Moment © and tried to dance around them.
It didn’t work.
The best part of all of this is that Alyx saves my sorry ass. It’s a synopsis of her entire character. Can’t she tag along for the entire game? Please?
After throwing us on the back of her horse and riding off into the sunset, she takes us to Dr. Kleiner’s lab. Kleiner was one of our co-workers at Black Mesa and is also a rabid fan of scrapbooking.
My first viewing experience of HL2 was a scene when a zombie emerged from a swamp and swung at my dad, shrieking. So the first time I met Lamar my reaction was: KILL WITH FIRE.
Which is really a rude thing to think about someone’s pet, but I had already seen too much.
Lamar, the freaky pet ‘cat.’ A domesticated, de-clawed face-hugger. How cute.
Barney shows up too and throws shade.
Dr. Kleiner and Barney strap us in the super-safe teleportation device and, naturally, Lamar ruins everything. Goddamnit, Lamar.
We get shunted all sorts of strange places, including Dr. Breen’s office. Fun fact: this segment includes the only scene in this game that has ever scared my little sister:
That joke never grows old.
We end up outside the lab with a scanner that snaps photos and, like a Kardasian, split. Now there’s something truly terrifying.
Not all is lost though: Barney finally comes through for us.
Let the games begin.