Half-Life: decay -A look at Half-Life: decay-

Much like with the Dreamcast, it was decided that there would be enhanced graphics and a bonus episode, both again made by Gearbox, for the PS2 version of Half-Life. Decay is a very unique Half-Life game in two major ways. The first way is, as you've probably heard, that it is co-op. There are two main characters than can be controlled by two players. (There's also a singleplayer mode that lets you swap between the two; but it requires a lot of rubber banding to get around). Secondly, instead of being one continuous game like a normal HL game, decay is broken up into a series of missions. Other than that, it runs like how you'd expect a Half-Life game to. Like Blue Shift, there are no new weapons or enemies; it's just straight up Half-Life action.

Gearbox had a PC version ready to go, but they weren't ever able to release it, sadly. There's currently a fan effort to port decay back to the PC but they're taking a REALLY long time, so I will have to use a PS2 for this look back. If you want to check the progress on the PC port, check out http://hl2source.com/?content=projects&id=decay

-Dual Access-
Decay stars Dr. Gina Cross (the hazard course instructor) and Dr. Colette Green; two female scientists who are working behind the scenes at the Anomolous Materials Laboratory. During Half-Life, when you get your HEV suit, you'll notice that there's room for two other suits: Dr. Cross and Dr. Green are the ones wearing them.

The game starts off after the tram arrives, so no long intro sequence like usual. :) It appears that the doctors have been deleted from the system registry so they have to be readded. Talking to security guards is great, because the characters are female. “Hey… you know, maybe we could catch a movie later?”

As your characters enter an elevator, the one and only Gman sighting is made, as he steps into an adjacent lift. Finally you make your way to the main are where a scientist in a wheelchair, Dr. Keller, greets you, and mentions that Freeman is running late, wondering “What Kleiner sees in that boy?”

As Dr. Keller doles out what the two scientists are suppose to do, Dr. Rosenberg (from Blue Shift) shows up. It seems Harold told Dr. Rosenberg that they were going to run the Anti-Mass Spectrometer at higher than 90%, and being the designer of that piece of machinery, Dr. Rosenberg isn't at all happy to hear it. It appears the Administrator was the one to persuade the scientists to run it that high. Rosenberg calls the administrator a “beurocrat” and says that machinery is not meant to be run at that level. Keller eventually shoots him down saying it's not Rosenbergs decision, and that if it wants to stay and watch, so be it, otherwise “you can go play with your little labs under the trainyard…”

Anyway, Dr. Cross goes and gets the sample (as seen on the security camera in Blue Shift) but the lift seems to be jammed. Dr. Green heads into the test chamber or rather, the area above the test chamber, and finds a crowbar on the ground. Cross enters the chamber as well and finds another crowbar jammed into the lift mechanism. Removing it allows the sample to be delivered. Green is told to activate the spectrometer and bring it to 80%.

The rest of the experiment proceeds like in Half-Life, as you hear over the intercom system, and of course it all goes to hell.

Cross and Green wake up to hear Keller and Rosenberg arguing over the intercom. Keller realizes that they've witnessed a resonance cascade but Rosenberg is skeptical: the dampening fiels would have prevented it, but as Keller pointed out, they failed. Rosenberg is rather peeved because they were designed NOT to fail, and that the only way this could have happened is if someone had turned them off, and even then there should have been a notable discrepancy in the “displacement flow indicators.” (Interestingly enough, a scientist does remake that he's “showing a small discrepancy… no it well within acceptable bounds” in Half-Life right before the accident.

Rosenberg wants to go to the surface and call for help, but Keller decides that they need to close the dimension gash before it becomes too wide to close. Rosenberg convinces Keller that they can have soldiers there within two hours to rescue everyone.

After hearing the conversation, Cross and Green make their way through the ruin lab back to Kellers station. On their way they find health stations, which look WAY cool in the PS2 version, as they have a little arm with a needle that comes out and you can see a canister of some green fluid.

Upon returning to Kellers area, Dr. Rosenberg makes a comment that, IMO, implies Dr. Cross created the HEV suit. Keller says that Cross and Green are to escort Rosenberg to the surface while he stays behind to assess the damage (Keller doubts he could make it to the surface anyway, since he's bound to a wheelchair)

Rosenberg, Cross and Green head to an elevator, apparently there's a shortcut through the Hazard Course that they can take.

-Hazardous Course-
Rosenberg still believes the #1 concern at the moment is the people trapped in Black Mesa, and that they should try and reach the satellite communication equipment to try and call for help. It's pretty cool to see the Hazard Course from the inside out, though you at one point come across the place where Shephard did, and it's wrecked in a completely different way. The level ends at the same place it does in the Hazard Course, with that train.

-Surface Call-
Gina and Colette fight their way through the Satallite Communication center. After realigning the dish, Rosenberg tests it by calling Dr. Keller, who requests that Cross and Green be sent back down immediately, the Damping Field is going critical.

After making it back to Keller, he informs the two doctors that in order to reset the dampening field, the dampening locks have to be set manually, which may cause increased displacement activity. As they make their way, the military seems to be arriving. Upon resetting the dampening locks, alien controllers start teleporting in, drawn in by the distortion. The locks do not work and Keller theorizes that it's due to interference from the other side, summizing that “these aliens may not all be here by accident.”

-Domestic Violence-
Keller and the two doctors reach the dormitories in a tram (Finally providing a use for the handicap spot on the tram :D) In order to seal a rift (in what Keller calls a Resonance Reversal) they need to launch the Lambda Satellite, but in order to do that, they need the all-clear codes. In the dormitories there should be a guard who knows the code.

Sadly they all seem to be dead: looks like the soldiers have arrived and they're not discriminating between human or alien. The dorms are fairly cool; there's a pool and Freeman's door is open (He also apparently doesn't bunk with anyone). Eventually a guard is found and brough to the tram.

-Code Green-
After rescuing the guard, Keller, Green and the guard head to the traffic control room, fighting past an Osprey and several marines. This was a very short mission, actually. Just hard to do with all the marines you have to fight. Once there, the delivery codes are sent and the all clear allows the rocket to be launched.

Due to interference or just plainly broken equipment, Gina and Colette have to manually raise the displacement beacon required to seal the rift. After fighting through sewers filled with marines and teleporting slaves, you find the beacon, only to realize that the surface access thing is jammed. Looks like SOMEONE will have to clear it, while making sure the beacon doesn't get damaged.

Fixing the jam, however, results in the lift controls getting busted, so of course it takes two to operate the manual lift. :P Beacon up and we're ready to go!

In order to run the beacon, a large amount of power is required, which can only be supplied by a beam matrix in the Gamma Labs. The Gamma Labs were used for alien quarantine. It seems the Gamma Labs were a place of experimentation for the aliens; dissected Headcrabs, bullsquids being milked for venom, and vortigaunt collars are being experimented on.

Theres a big puzzle involving colored beams of light passing through crystals, the culmination of which pissess of the aliens who begin teleporting in like crazy. Making getting back to Dr. Keller much more difficult. Keller is please with the matrix being reactivated, but reminds the players that everything comes down to the upcoming resonance reversal.

Hooo-boy is this mission hard. The idea is that you use the focus emitter beacon to charge the crystals on the canyon walls (Very similar to the crystals in the Nihilanths chambers and the crystal used to start the original cascade.) Keller is confident that the crystals will be far more effective than the dampening fields.

Keller explains that the facility that houses this equipment was used as a cross-dimensional netting ground. It allows scientists to collected organic samples and creatured without the danger of actually going to Xen.

Keller warns that once the crystals start charging, the aliens will most certainly notice and try to stop it. And that they do; first with slaves and then with grunts, finally followed by Half-Life's ONLY manta flyer that you can attack. It flies by and zaps the hell out of the beacon and can destroy it. Between that, the grunts, dealing with the PS2 controller, wrestling with the targeting system (Oh hey, look, the flyer is totally offscreen but you're still pointing at it and not the alien grunt :P). having no quicksaves, and having to keep an eye on your other half so she doesn't waste ammo... This is a HARD damn mission. Especially without anything powerful to take out the grunts with at a range. (Nothing like the Gluon or Tau Cannon.. Just the Rocket launcher and you need IT to take down the flyer.

Ugh, the worst part is that the first ½ of this level can be down while asleep, but you still have to sit through it eacha nd every time you restart. :P And the AI for your partner is fucking stupid enough to do things like launch grenades next to a fucking wall. BAH. However, utilizing out automated teammate is key to this, as you need someone to kill the grunts while you're shooting down the Flyer. Once you destroy it, the process can be completed.

However, there's a side-effect: Colette and Green start getting teleported around at random. Keller, amongst exploding machinery, attempts to get enough power to retrieve them. During the event, you can hear Dr. Rosenberg call out for Calhoun from Blue Shift to enter the portal back to earth before he gets trapped in Xen.

After the event, the rift is apparently sealed, and Dr. Keller and his associates bring Gina and Colette into safety, explaining that they were in a Harmonic Reflux; the swirling eddies between two displacement events.

‘course, this ending kind of got retconned as the portal storms increased, not decreased; though the Nihilanth dying may have has unforeseen consequences. :D We never find out quite what happens to the Doctors Keller, Cross and Green; although there is supposition that in Op4 you find Gina's body under in Xen; though she's wearing the wrong color HEV suit.

-Xen Attacks-
What's this? A secret mission where you play as a Vortigaunt? If you get “A” grades in every Decay mission, you get this secret one. Luckily for a 1-player game you only need to get a A grade with only one character each mission. :P After replaying “Displacement” twice, I got A grades in all the levels. Stupid displacement.

Playing as a Vort gives you a distorted POV to make it more alien like, I guess. Your health is represented by a green bar on the bottom of the screen and when you charge up your lighting has a targeting thingy that has three rings; two green and one red. When the red one lights up, you can fire for full damage. That's it for the hud, aside from your vorty hands. Your primary attack is slashing, secondary is lighting and that's it for weaponry.

You start off in the Bullsquid area from Half-Life that you see during the cascade (and can stumble across in Opposing Force via the displacer. The Nihilanth tells you “Thieves. You all are thieves. You all are…” and teleports you to earth to steal back some Xen crystals. You fight some marines and a small pack of assassins (Whom are laughable easy to kill when you have lock-on abilities and can just run up and slash them to death.) in a sort of parking garage or train repair area… or something. Interestingly enough, this is the only thing outside of Op4 that gives any impression that the military and the black ops aren't on good terms: the assassin area has a dead marine in it. Anywho, you recover the crystals in a truck and they all live happily ever after.

Decay would have been a lot more fun if I had a human person playing with me: and I could use a keyboard and friggen mouse. I hope the mod version gets released soon.