Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Visit to Ravenholm in Half-Life 2

A while back I wrote about zombies in Valve games, and part of that article covered the zombie-like creatures in Half-Life 2.  Since I've already talked about the zombies themselves, how about we take a trip to Half-Life 2's peaceful, scenic town of Ravenholm, where you'll find the largest concentration of horrors in the entire game.

Ravenholm used to be a mining town before the Combine invaded, and was later converted into a refuge for City 17 escapees.  It was connected to the main base of the human resistance (Black Mesa East) through a series of tunnels for convenient and secretive access.  Things were all peachy (well as peachy as they can get with alien overlords enslaving humanity and destroying everything) until the Combine discovered this town of refugees.  The Combine proceeded to "shell" Ravenholm, by bombarding it with capsules containing the zombie-creating creatures called Headcrabs (see my previous article about Valve zombies).

A skull-crunching Headcrab.
The result was that a large amount of Ravenholm refugees were converted into zombies, while the remaining population were wiped out by these terrors.  At some point after all this chaos, protagonist Gordon Freeman is forced to journey through Ravenholm (at night!), and we witness the destruction first-hand.

Signs of the zombie battles are everywhere, from barricaded doors, to blood-smeared rooms, to zombie and human corpses littered everywhere.  Zombies lie in wait in various buildings and alleyways, shuffling over to attack whenever you come near.  Needless to say there are some great jump-scare moments during your trip to Ravenholm.

As you continue your tour, you discover that not everyone was killed after the Headcrab shelling occurred; a lone survivor named Father Grigori somehow found a way to stay alive through makeshift zombie-traps.  You'll find car engine blocks which power spinning blades, cars suspended in the air by winches (which can then be dropped on zombie hordes), and even electrified chain link fences.  You can interact with all of these toys, making for an enjoyable way to dispatch enemies without using up your ammo.

It slices, it dices!
Ravenholm is one of the best levels in Half-Life 2, due to its immensely frightening atmosphere, as well as the fun-to-use zombie traps.  What did you guys think of this level?  Did you find it somewhat frightening, or have scarier games battle-hardened you to the point where this was nothing?

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