Ryan Matthew Pierson
April 12, 2010

Video games are quickly becoming bigger than movies. With titles like Halo and Call of Duty outselling some of the hottest motion pictures in recent years, it is no surprise that game developers are upping the ante in terms of action, violence, controversy and sex. The Grand Theft Auto series, for example, is set in a violent world depicting murder, theft and non-consensual sex.

Half Life 2 has been out for years though the environment the game is set in is becoming more and more recognizable as our own reality. You play Gordon Freeman, an accidental hero and freedom fighter set against an oppressive government referred to as the Combine. A freedom movement known as the resistance has put you up on a pedestal as their would-be leader. Your mission throughout the game is to stop the Combine from expanding their oppressive tyranny and in doing so you effectively reverse their grip on society.

In this world, cities are given numbers instead of names. You are assigned to your city and given relocation coupons to travel. The majority of the first act of the game takes place around City 17 which is where the villain, Doctor Breen, has set up his administration. You enter the city through a train and make your way through their receiving lines. As you make your way forward, a woman asks you if you’ve seen her husband. She states the over watch is being nice allowing her to stand and wait for him. She doesn’t know how long she has been waiting.

Another complains about the ongoing message given on rotation by Dr. Breen welcoming everyone to City 17. He is warned by another citizen in matching prison-like attire not to speak too loudly to avoid consequences. The people are beaten, tired and hopeless. They are all wearing the same clothing, much like in Orwell’s prophetic 1984.

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As you are making your way through the checkpoint you are stopped. Cameras begin clicking off photos of you and a soldier approaches you commanding that you follow him to interrogation. As you make your way down the hall you hear someone pleading for reason as they tell their interrogator that they have their relocation coupon. The “civil protection” soldier closes the door and you are left with the impression that his fate is not pleasant. The floor is littered with pools of blood and a red chair is set up over a drain in the floor positioned much like you would find at a dentist office.

As you move through the city, you come across people being searched, beaten, and killed by civil protection teams on power trips. Homes are raided and the residents are beaten regularly. No cause, no reason and no warrants exist.

Perhaps the worst offense is a reproductive suppression field imposed on the population by the government. This energy field restricts reproduction by preventing certain protein chains from forming. Throughout the first act of the game, Dr. Breen makes references to it stating that the field will be removed when mankind has learned how to control their instincts.

There is a glimmer of hope, however. A resistance movement among the people has set up an underground railroad and anyone that escapes the cities can follow it to makeshift barracks. The resistance suffers losses along the way yet stays true to their cause. They provide resources and assistance to you throughout the game in exchange for your help keeping them safe from the oppressive Combine.

Half Life 2 is a first-person shooter game set apart from many others today. Unlike games that allow their heroes to torture, Gordon Freeman maintains a moral compass and helps those in need. He is an accidental hero that happened to be at the wrong place at the right time.

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