Half-Life 2

Gordon is alive, he's got new specs and he's ready to take it to the next episode...

Warning: Contains more Half-Life 2. There you go EA, you can use that for your ad campaign. Slap it on a billboard, stick it on the box and get someone to say it in a voice as deep the Marianas trench on the trailer and that should be enough to convince all the sentient life on this sphere that they should buy this brilliant game. A special bundle for 360, Valve is including the original game, two new 'Episodes' PLUS two further offshoot games. Blimey.

While the original Half-Life 2 on Xbox was, and still is, a thing of rare beauty, this High Def edition is shaping up to be much more than just a re-boxed, reprised and re-priced repeat of a game that we scored six percent short of perfection last year. And it's all because the included Episodes aren't mere expansion packs, they are part of a trilogy, they are what Gordon did next - they are, effectively, Half-Life 3.


Instead of being crowbarred-in extras, they feature Gordon's continued fight against the Combine, first of all in the deserted, dystopian City 17 as you leg it away from The Citadel. While the already-released-on-PC Episode One may lack the headline grabbing weaponry and new locations, its stronger story, tighter design, tweaked AI and improved lighting has been a real beard-pleaser. The more explosive Episode Two sees you holed up in the countryside preparing to fight against a tidal wave of Combine reinforcements.

The package also includes a Valve side-project known as Portal, in which a special teleporter gun opens and closes black holes in the game world, allowing you to leap across the world in a single step, turning defence into attack in an instant. It's more fun with physics and no mistake. On the multiplayer front we've got Team Fortress 2, a stand-alone game that will come as part of the package. It's an update of a an age-old PC mod that's heavy on each player having a 'job' (sniper, soldier, engineer and so on) and the cartoon visuals are both surprising and refreshing. All in all, an absolute bargain.

The verdict

You know it will be wonderful. It's rare to find sublime technology combined with genuine talent, but with the craft and care poured into the original's port onto Xbox there is little chance of this being anything other than brilliant. We can't wait for playable code to arrive so we can uncover more and play more.

Xbox 360
14 Degrees East