City 7: Toronto Conflict Reactions

I’ve had the install file for City 7: Toronto Conflict sitting on my desktop for a long time, but I’ve been too lazy to install it. So, here it is. It’s a mod for Half-Life 2 that represents an alternate timeline where, at the beginning of the game, Gordon Freeman gets teleported to Toronto (City 7) instead of Half Life 2’s City 17. I played the game for an hour (so far) and I’ve recorded my reaction’s, a la Games for Lunch. So here’s my stream-of-consciousness thoughts:

– sweet, the first two minutes are exactly like in Half Life 2.

– I’ve teleported, and someone says he recognizes me, then runs off. Odd. I definitely get a “Valve” feel from this. Good job team. I definitely had low expectations, as I thought it would just be an excersize in modeling Toronto’s landmarks, which doesn’t count as game design at all. It looks like they used the same character models, but used new landmark art with a ton of new voices. Its definitely unnerving to see the trademark Half Life 2 walls next to a Future Shop.

– Holy shit! The parking meters are just like in Kingston. This both increases my immersion and destroys the fourth wall.

– No reaction from the Combine guards when I stand awkwardly in front of them. Darn.

– I tried to get past that pool into what looks like an elusive area. I climbed up onto the fence next to the park and smacked into an invisible wall. That sucks.

– I like that I’m not given any explicit goals in the beginning. Still exploring around is nice and, by the nature of the exploration, equates me with the conventions of this new world without forcing it down my throat. It does help that I’m naturally inquisitive.

– I walked past some guards into an area that was restricted and was instantly plugged full of combine gun energy. A warning would have been nice, like some warning shots at my feet or nose.

– Hmm, still want to get across the pool…in the middle of the pool…uh-oh, sniper lasers…dammit. dammit. First death.

– Restarted. There are humans wandering around, one of them complained about “typical combine maintenance”. Ah, some things never change.

– I’m on a roof now. Yay, I found a crowbar! Now what? It occurs to me that I could kill a lone combine and steal his gun, but they all are in the open. I go to the one nearest to the stairs that go up to the roof and smack him a bunch of times. When he dies, he gives me a grenade but I’m still in a smacking frenzy and it goes flying uselessly. The explosion draws about five more combine and I still only have a crowbar, so I run back up to the roof. They don’t follow. Maybe some of them will drop a gun, so I try to skirmish out, entice a few and lure them up to the roof, but it isn’t happening. They just stay down there, and then mumble something about “losing the target”. Lame.

– I try the same thing a few times, doesn’t go anywhere. I go to a point on the roof where I can watch a crowd of people. Someone mentions something about “Hank” going nuts. Suddenly, Hank runs out, kills a combine with his pistols and tries to make a run across the pool. Hilarious. Results are similiar to my attempt, but it appears that Hank didn’t bother to save his game. So, I guess the designers are telling me that that approach is futile. Or are they? I mean, I DO have an MIT education and I’m wearing a hazardous materials suit.

– I look around, and pick up a filing cabinet (?) to step up onto the roof. It looks like there is an area enclosed by a red fence that I can now reach. I gleefully grab a medkit and hold it (my health is at 100%, but you never know when you may need more) and trounce over to fence, standing directly on top of it. I throw the medkit down so that it lands on the ground inside, and then gleefully smack into another invisible wall. I can’t jump down! The medkit sits inside the fence, mocking me. Lame.

– I go into the “restricted” area I went to before and manage to kill about four more combine this time before I bite the dust. I was picking up some health packs I found and managed to stay alive by skirmishing out, killing a combine and taking his grenade, then returning to behind a box as they all shot at me. If only they clumped so I could take them out all at once, but it looks like I’m not that lucky.

– Wait? What is that on top of those discarded(?) train cars? A generic supply crate? Goody!

– I manage, with some difficult box-moving maneuvers, to get a box on top of another box to get on top of the crate. Somehow, though I’m most likely making a racket and looking like a moron, the combine ignore me. This is pretty odd, considering that they seem to keep a tight control on the other humans.

(Oh yeah, I forgot to mention all the rations humour. Hilarious)

– I got to the top! I gleefully bash open the crate to find…no guns. Its some energy batteries for my suit. Well, now my health totals 170 or so. Now should I make a run for it?

– I turn on the sprint and race through the crowd of combine and people to cross the pool. Somehow, I avoid sniper fire and fly up a staircase and wham, into a door which is clearly non-interactive due to its pixelation. I get swarmed by about 5 combine, and its game over again.

Verdict: I’m looking forward to keep playing this, considering that its design strategy closely follows Valve’s, which is superb. The jury is still out on whether or not the goals should have been clearer.

Also, “Enter the Mind”? Lame! What am I, twenty? I need to change that.

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