Chapter 4: P3 Mid1, BS2 Mid1

Sorry that took so long. I had like all this exam stuff, then a week-long hike, then I had a terrible case of writer's block, since I wanted the plot to move along, but not just move it from point to point where I act like a butthurt asshole whining about how "fun gameplay" =/= "realism", instead of actually having funny events or dialogue happening. Unfortunately, that will show up often in the chapter, and hopefully you can forgive me for that.

"We have to find the Borealis, it's the only way we can stop it from happening!" Barney and Chell had no idea what the Bird-Person just said, because they haven't actually heard about the Borealis in any sort of meaningful way that could be construed as important to the saving of humanity. "Explain," said Chell, "what that even means". "It's an Aperture Science icebreaking research ship that has mysterious properties that only Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance know of. And that knowledge disappeared when they disappeared with the vessel. We still believe it can defeat the Combine, even though they didn't even use it to defeat the Combine. Whatever, we still need an objective to get to in the game, and the Borealis will be our MacGuffin". "Wasn't having no discernible objective what made the first game so loved?" replied Barney "The feeling that you were getting nowhere? That all your efforts to the surface only accumulated in going back down? What about City 17? You spend half the game running around the countryside only to end back up where you started! Having a clear objective just ruins it!" Chell scowled at both of them for being far too Meta, which is a privilege reserved only for being the narrator. "But, conveniently," continued the Bird-Person "we have only just figured out where the Borealis is now; in an unspecified jungle", because we haven't done a jungle level yet, and we need to showcase the Source 2 Engine in a pretty environment to look at. So they went.

Right from the get-go, Chell and Barney were given all of the weapons in the game, instead of being given like, just a crowbar at the start, when a whole bunch of guys are searching to kill you; "Here, Gordon, you dropped this back at Black Mesa!" "Oh, thanks Barney! It's not like I'm suddenly up against the entire police force of a Totalitarian state or anything! Gee, thanks a lot! Clearly I don't need guns, that would be ridiculous, you smug, pathetic asshole". But Chell never had this experience, and completely undervalued the significance of how much this makes life easier for her. And thus the adventure began, after about 2 chapters of pacified world-building, where you see the Gman disappear into an alleyway 5 or 6 times.

After about 20 chapters of repetitive driving levels (the car is a Ferrari this time! It handles and controls exactly like the Jeep and Pontifax, but it looks different, so it's clearly completely new and original gameplay guys!), all of them bordering on obscene length, Chell and Barney were thankfully finally blocked off by a wooden fence, and they could get out. Oh yeah, and the bird-person came with them too, as a sidekick who doesn't do any damage whatsoever, despite looking like they're firing weapons at the bad guys. Not that he was even needed, since the game is Co-op. He was just coming along with them because I needed a reason to whine about useless sidekicks in video games.

By the time I finished my self entitled kvetching, Barney, Chell and the Bird-Person had arrived at the Borealis, where we find that Bullsquids and Houndeyes have become resident to it, since we need to bring back those cool, original enemies, instead of just generically replacing them all with Antlions, which are practically the Mary-Sue Self-Insert of Half Life 2. Suddenly, THE COMBINE ARRIVED OH MY GOD, a twist surprising to nobody. "Humans, you have already failed!" announced the Combine using some nebulous speaker system. "We have you completely surrounded, and we have like, 10 Advisors, and 200 soldiers and stuff. But I reckon we can send them all out to kill you as a progressively difficult Wave system, allowing you to get better battle tactics for the area as you go along, with a cool-down time in between each attack to restock your ammunition and health! I can't see how this plan can possibly fail!"

As you would have come to expect: easily. There are still 5 more chapters to go after this one anyway, so that you maybe would have put it together that maybe now is not exactly the right time to start killing off characters. "Don't you dare go anywhere!" shouted the Combine "We're going to come back in roughly the amount of time it takes you to go through a generic series of hallways with MINOR ENEMIES and maybe a short PHYSICS PUZZLE! AHAHAHAAHAHAAAA! And by the time we're back you'll be in a different enough scene so that the Combine Wave Formation Strategy™ DOESN'T FEEL OVERUSED! BWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!" seriously where are those speakers coming from. I don't see any.

And go through a generic series of hallways with minor enemies, and solve a physics puzzle they did. They made it to the control room, where the big, obvious "win the level" button was. But it wouldn't work…

…On the player's second playthrough of the game, they enabled the developer commentary to hear the Valve staff's insightful commentary on the production of the game, which usually always boils down to "we kept beta testing until players found the level fun to play". This particular diatribe was placed next to 3 other commentary bubbles, meaning the player had to loiter boredly for 15 minutes until they'd listened to all the commentary.

"When we designed this area, we thought we could come up with a new and interesting way of fighting the same-old formula of shooting Combine until they stop, and so we came up with the totally original idea of having to refill a generator by bringing gas cans scattered around the map to it. Wait, no, we did that exact same thing in Left 4 Dead. Well, everyone liked Left 4 Dead, so we just copied it. Look, yes, we know that the gas-can scavenge is also reminiscent of Episode 1's escort mission through the train station. I don't care. Basically, every game we've ever created is awesome, so if we take enough assets from the previous one, we can make the game good based entirely on nostalgia alone. Don't believe me? Look at the Half Life 2 Alpha. The gameplay was so different to the first, it would have sucked. Mate, listen. I know by this point you're itching to get onto the next commentary bubble. Don't worry, it's only Marc Laidlaw, you're not missing anything. All you need to know is this section is cool, and we arrived at this conclusion because a whole bunch of people playtested until they found it fun to play."

Literally how goddamn long those commentary bubbles talk for. Seriously.

… The engine was refilled, and the control panel lit up. "Wow," said Barney, "I have never seen a bigger red button in my life. Should we press it?" "Dude," said Chell, "I spent hours underground doing nothing but pressing big red buttons, no matter what the consequence is. In fact, it's impossible to do anything else in this room other than push the button and throw computer cases and books around the room while the Bird-Person ignores that doing that is really strange behaviour to be doing." Barney went up to the button and pressed it. It didn't work. "It looks like there are two buttons that have to be simultaneously pressed," said the Bird-Person. "That's a pretty arbitrary way of encouraging co-operation". Chell and Barney pressed the two buttons at the same time, and then the Borealis teleported somewhere, as a cliffhanger.