Girl in the Machine
Monday, February 11, 2008
Half-Life's All-Woman Hazard Team

In 2001, Gearbox Software released a Playstation 2 port of the much-beloved FPS, Half-Life. Bundled with the game was Half-Life's third expansion, Half-Life: Decay, a co-op experience designed for two players on a split screen. Unfortunately, though a PC port of Decay was made, Gearbox was never able to release it, so the true core of Half-Life's fans -- the PC gamers -- never even got to play it. Which is a shame, because Decay rocks.

Just like its predecessors, Blue Shift and Opposing Force, Decay's sequence of events coincide with those of the original Half-Life. Two Black Mesa scientists, Dr. Gina Cross and Dr. Colette Green, are the monitoring team for Dr. Gordon Freeman's experiment that causes the resonance cascade (in fact, Cross is the one to deliver the cataclysmic GG-3883 test sample). When the shit hits the fan, as it is wont to do, Cross and Green grab their HEV suits and find themselves fighting to survive the onslaught of Vortigaunts, headcrabs, and zombies.

Decay is rife with two-player puzzle action throughout its ten mission-based chapters. While single players can get in on the excitement by switching between Cross and Green, the gameplay is definitely designed for the buddy system. (And don't tell me that finally getting the opportunity to crowbar headcrabs with your best pal isn't a treat.) And Cross and Green aren't just side characters, either: like their buds Shepard and Barney Calhoun in their respective expansions, their actions have a direct effect on the original Half-Life's plot. Specifically, they launch the satellite used to weaken the resonance cascade and prevent another dimensional rift from forming, an event that Freeman witnesses.

Of course, I noticed right off the bat that Decay features -- shock! and awe! -- not one, but two female protagonists. This is quite unusual, particularly when the most I've come to expect from games is the age-old Male Character 1 and Female Character 2 combo. Cross and Green are on the same playing field as Half-Life's other protagonists, and they don't fall victim to cheap shots like unusually sexy HEV suits or watered-down combat. It's also great to see women as scientists (particularly physicists kicking ass) instead of damsels in distress or hapless girlfriends. Cross herself has cameos as the holographic guide in the HEV training course in both Half-Life and Opposing Force, and she can also be seen delivering the test sample in a security video in Blue Shift.

Unfortunately, the fate of Cross and Green is up in the air as the game never discloses whether or not they survive the nuking of Black Mesa, so cameos in future installments are unlikely. However, Alyx Vance and Portal's Chell continue the trend of excellent female characters in the Half-Life universe, and FPS gamers everywhere are on the edge of their seats to see what Episode 3 has in store. In the meanwhile, you can support Decay by visiting the fan-made effort to port the game to the PC, which is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2008. You're welcome.

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 Posted by BomberGirl
 7:54 AM + Link to this post

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