In this serial only attention for the smallest! Those things that do not always stand out while playing, but that make you very happy as soon as you discover them. Today we zoom in very deeply on Half-life 2, a classic of format, even when it comes to the details.

Now that we have arrived at the eighth part of the Oog voor Detail serial, I can say that these are my favorite articles to work on. On the one hand because it is not much different from how I normally play anyway and on the other because I have come to appreciate Detroit, God of War, BioShock and GTA Vice City even more thanks to their details. Today we add Half-Life 2 to that list.

To my shame, I have to admit that I had never played this Valve masterpiece properly. In 2004 I didn’t have a PC for it and later on I didn’t get around to it, because newer games demanded my attention. I’m sorry, I know, but luckily it’s never too late to become a retro gamer. And holy crap, I’m so glad I gave Half-life 2 another chance! I see a lot of things that my favorite first-person games got from here and wow, those physics alone… I can say a lot about it and I haven’t even finished it yet, but let’s limit ourselves for now down to the details. Rise and shine!

Not that punctual

The first detail that strikes me when I walk onto the platform of City 17 with Freeman is that telling the time is pretty difficult. But hey, if your trains never run on time, why would you still hang clocks on your station? Something like that must have been the thought here. And what could be easier than removing all your clocks? Just take off the hands, done.

All glass must be broken!

One of the first things I should always check when I encounter glass in a game is whether it can be broken. Bottles, glasses, but preferably windows and glass walls! And if it can be broken, does it look a bit nice, does it give satisfaction? Well, as you can see, the glass in Half-Life 2 breaks just fine.

Another thing I just noticed in this clip, by the way: check Gordon’s blood on the ceiling, exactly in line with the direction from which I was shot. Top!

Cozy group photo

In Dr. Smaller is an interesting group photo, with some familiar faces from Black Mesa. Gordon, random scientist from Part 1, Eli, Kleiner… but one has been scratched out too! Presumably Breen. Funny that Kleiner didn’t want to see him anymore, but still liked the photo with scratches enough to hang on the wall.

Brutal street art

I can always appreciate graffiti in games. It can make the environment more believable, if done right. Look, random screams (whether or not in blood) on the wall, we know that now. I am only impressed when it really starts to look like street art, like this piece of art, where even Banksy can still suck a little bit!

Working speedometer

I’m not sure if I should find the well-known Water Hazard level brilliant or just plain annoying, but I was very fond of one detail right from the start: the speedometer of the airboat works! And actually much cooler than the speedometer (or is it a rev counter?) Is the fact that the propeller behind you actually turns faster when you accelerate (unfortunately I was not able to record that, you should check it yourself). A pretty unnecessary detail, as probably 90% of the players in this level never look behind them. Still cool!

Butter cheese eggs

At first I thought that this missing block had just been shot off, as a painful reminder that innocent children once played here, but not anymore. Until later I found the block in one of the apartments. As if someone consciously took it off and took it home. Maybe as a kind of protest? you combine, no cross-zero for you!

Rattling downspout

Well, you couldn’t possibly have missed this detail, but you may not remember how important the shaking downspouts are to the suspense in this part of Ravenholm. Of course in combination with the sound of the zombies climbing up. Moreover, I could of course not pass up this almost perfectly running gif …

Echo-echo-cho-cho-ho …

A bit of a serious game has of course sound design of a certain level and therefore it doesn’t surprise me that all weapons in Half-Life 2 have their own echo effect in certain open spaces. What did surprise me is that hitting with the crowbar causes an echo on the ‘whip’. And apparently Gordon hits so fast that his whip echoes louder than the impact on an object. In fact, the impact itself has no echo at all, you only hear the whip reverberating! Special.

Milk.

The cartons of milk you find on the ground show that Valve didn’t have too much inspiration for inventing fictional brands …

Underwater bullets

In Half-Life 2 you spend some moments underwater, but even being shot under water is not very common. Still, at Valve, they’ve taken the time to create an effect for bullets that shoot past you underwater for these moments. A very convincing and quite terrifying effect!

Easter Egg: Back to the Future

Half-Life 2 is of course full of secrets and easter eggs, such as the G-Man that appears everywhere in the background and a hidden Vortigaunt, all of which you can Google yourself. But I didn’t want to keep one of the nicest, smallest Easter eggs from you: this box that looks a lot like a wad from Back to the Future.

That’s it for now! As mentioned, I haven’t finished the game at the time of writing, so who knows that I will add to this list when I see more cool things. I’ll see you next time in the company of Joel and Ellie …

All volumes in the Eye for detail serial:

  • Paintings, posters and advertisements

  • Flowing clothing

  • Bodies in first person shooters

  • What you didn’t notice in God of War

  • What you didn’t notice about Detroit: Become Human

  • What you didn’t notice in BioShock

  • What you didn’t notice in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

  • What you didn’t notice in Half-Life 2

  • What you didn’t notice in The Last of Us

  • What you didn’t notice in Burnout Paradise

  • Which you didn’t notice in Rayman Legends

  • What you didn’t notice in Monkey Island 1, 2 & 3

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