The Half-Life 2 Files, Part 2: The Road to Ravenholm

From: Anthony Taylor
To: Eddy Rivas and Spider-Friend
Subject: The Road to Ravenholm

Aww, that poor spider. He just wanted to play some HL2, also! Nothing wrong with that. You should name him Lamar.

Getting back to the pacing, remember last time we talked about the slow, almost leisurely pace of the game’s intro? It seems like there was a good reason for that because once things start to move, much like the Juggernaut (bitch) they don’t stop! Seriously, going through the canal, constantly getting shot at every time you get out in the open and being on the constant run had me pausing just to catch my breath and wipe the sweat from my hands. It went from Animal Crossing to God of War in the time it takes for a headcrab to leap at your head. And I loved every second of it.

Although it took a bit to get used to the controls of the airboat, (I kept thinking I was playing Halo…and yes I did teabag some Combine soldiers. Sue me.) once I got into the swing of things, I was traversing the canal with finesse and dare I say, panache as well. The game does a great job of dispersing ammo. Every time I think I am about to run out and have to resort to my crowbar, I find a room with a nice chunk of supplies. It’s very astute in that way. You can tell Valve play-tested the hell out of it.

Ravenholm…yeah, the minute that infamous line was uttered, I thought, “I bet a thousand dollars my sorry ass is going to go there.” True to form, I won that bet, although now I owe myself a grand. You’re right in that Ravenholm felt like a real place. Anyone can make a creepy level, but not everyone can create a setting that feels lived-in, yet still kind of gives you that haunted house/amusement park ride feel that certain games can. It’s a unique combination and one that is difficult to find in any other game. Maybe Rapture and Arkham Asylum, both of which owe a huge debt to Half-Life.


Also, how awesome is the Gravity Gun? I sure am glad the saw business was booming in Ravenholm because I sliced up quite a few of those bastards with them. Even got myself a Cheevo in the process. And I somehow almost felt guilty when I set one of the zombies on fire. Their screams were suddenly very human and distressing, much like I imagine your scream was when the ‘pider sat down on your lap. By the by, did you toss stuff at Dog’s head? I did. I feel no shame in telling you that. I also took his ball and threw it in the dumpster. I was trying to see if I could break the game, but Alyx just told us to move on to the next segment. Well played, Valve. Well played.

To conclude this bit, the rebels are growing on me a bit more than they were. They seem to show up at just the right time, which is their job, I reckon. But honestly… I’m kind of clueless as to what the hell is going on. I trust Valve to fill me in later on, but I have no idea why the G-man let Gordon out of stasis and what my purpose is. I’m very much in the dark and just trying to survive. Which is probably how the rest of humanity feels in this world of despair. Did I miss something or do you feel the same way? And how awesome is the music when it decides to kick in during those moments of badassery?


There you have it. What are your thoughts on part 2 of the HL2 files? What do you recall of the road to Ravenholm? Are we pansies for being scared? Feel free to join us as we play through Highway 17 to Entanglement, and tune in next week for part 3 of our playthrough!

Featured Image – Ethermancer

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I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

13 thoughts on “The Half-Life 2 Files, Part 2: The Road to Ravenholm”

  1. Like Eddy, I’m not the biggest fan of anything horror. I refuse to watch any sort of scary movie or game. When I was going through Ravenholm, I was not a happy camper. I started it at about 10pm and by 1020 I’d turned the game off I was that freaked out. I couldn’t keep playing it, I had to wait until daylight hours. That probably took away some of the atmosphere, but I saw enough to know that Valve are masters at what they do.

  2. Lol, spiders and panache. Bit had me laughing quite a bit.
    Another great account guys, I’m really enjoying them so far and it’s nice to have something fill the void after Anthony stopped recounting his (mis)adventures in games, lol.
    If I remember correctly (it has been about 3 years) there’s a bit on the canal where you’re meant to go to that red building in the picture on the first page. When you get to it you found that the rwbels you were to meet were turned into zombies which is teased by the head-crab-rocket-thing. One of the most chilling parts in any game. Unless I’m making it up, I really can’t remember. 🙁 I guess I’ll just have to get it and play it again! 🙂
    I was wondering what the next game you guys will play will be. I know you aren’t even halfway through this yet but the curiosity is getting the better of me. I’d imagine Bioshock is a strong contender after listening to the E3 podcast, but who knows?

  3. Reading this really makes me want to get back to my own play through of this game. I’m currently on my third time through and just really don’t want to go down that last shaft to where all the poison spiders are…

    Any ways, I’ve really enjoyed hearing what you think of the game. I consider it one of my top all time favorites and it’s nice to hear there are still other people out there discovering it.
    Are you guys going to be playing through/discussing episode 1 and 2 as well?

  4. @SkubaPatr0l, yes the survivors in the red barn are zombified 🙂 and yes you should play it again 😀 and yes they should play through Bioshock once they finish HL2 and the episodes.

    one of the most gut wrenching and horrid things I have ever experienced in a game came from the level where you get the air boat when you walk up and see the guy fighting desperately to get the head crab off of him only to turn into a zombie right before your eyes. the thing I like about HL2 is that it throws amazing set pieces and levels at you but does not flaunt them at you, they are just there. its part of what makes the world so believable. the photo-realistic nature of the graphics that Julez mentioned in the previous post comes from something I have been a huge advocate for ever since I got into gaming. great art design. If you look at HL2, Doom 3 and Far Cry side by side both Far Cry and Doom pale in comparison to HL2 when it comes to graphics. this is not because HL2 has superior texture resolution or lighting but because the world has such good art direction and inspiration, to the point where it feels hand crafted and real. There is no texture that sticks out as really good or really bad, it just fits.

    Also only Valve could do a character like Father Grigori and make him believably fit in the world, he is funny but never campy.

  5. Half-Life 2 is my favorite game…of all time! I was thrilled when you guys announced you would be playing through my favorite game(of all time). I am enthusiastic to join you guys in playing through the game which still surprises me every time I replay it.
    In my humble opinion Ravenholm is the best video game level in history because it still scares me even though I have played through it several times. The moaning of the zombies never fails to send shivers down my spine. But of all of the enemies in the game NOTHING freaks me out more than the fast zombies. Goosebumps appear on my skin when I hear their freakish chattering and screams as they jump at you from the rooftops.
    I have probably played through Raven holm close to 20 times, but yesterday I was playing through and I actually broke out in a cold sweat because a headcrab I forgot about leaped at my face. My heart rate doubled as I repeatedly smashed the headcrab with a desk like you would a cockroach even after it was dead. I even placed a few rounds into it’s lifeless body for good measure.
    The fact that I can be frightened as a child by a game made several years ago is a testament to how real that valve makes this game feel.

    Oh and how did you guys like Father Grigori?? He was really creepy, but I was oddly comforted whenever I saw him throughout the level.

  6. Another interesting and thoughtful read that also had me laughing, great job once again guys! 🙂

    I have to agree that Alyx’s line “We don’t go there anymore.” was perfectly placed and delivered. Valve are probably the best at pacing their games and designing levels. When the music kicks in, it’s just perfect, with the sounds and the events that are happening in the game, they got it just right. Ravenholm is the creepiest and one of the most well made areas of the game. When I walked out of the building and I saw Ravenholm for the first time, I thought “I don’t want to continue going this way.” but I had to. Ravenholm is truly scary, the atmosphere is perfect. They didn’t make you scared from things jumping out at you all the time (things jumped out at you very occasionally), they scared you with the thoughts of hings jumping out at you, and with the environments were designed, the sound you hear, they clearly put a lot of work into it.

    Another great article guys, keep it up!

  7. Ravenholm on hard mode: Only use the Gravity Gun and saws. I really liked the whole level, like you said the atmosphere is really tense and well done, but if I have weapons I’m never scared in video games, because I always have the power to kill whatever’s in my way. Now Amnesia, on the other hand….

  8. Are you guys plaing HF2 on PC? If so, you should use Synergy…it allows you to play the entire game on co-op.

    1. I’m playing on PC and Anthony is playing on 360.

      Thanks for all the great comments, guys. It’s cool to hear some thoughts from people that played this game years ago while we’re experiencing it for the first time. Like I said in the article, feel free to play through the next session as we do for next week.

  9. [quote comment=”16897″]I’m playing on PC and Anthony is playing on 360.

    Thanks for all the great comments, guys. It’s cool to hear some thoughts from people that played this game years ago while we’re experiencing it for the first time. Like I said in the article, feel free to play through the next session as we do for next week.[/quote]

    Started Highway 17 last night. Continuing tonight. ROCK AND ROLL!

  10. First playthrough I had to take the entirety of Ravenholm (up to where he gives you the shotgun) with just my crowbar as I’d emptied everything long before.

    I got pretty good at back-and-forward knocking them on the head, four times for each kill.

    Brilliant level even after three or four plays. Also, Gadfly Jim is exactly right. There’s no game that looks like HL2 because of its immaculately designed sets.

  11. Another great post guys. Along with you Eddy and supernovaforce, Ravenholm absolutely scared the sh*t out of me. I actually remember it being my least favourite level in a game because I was so terrified when I played it. I think I was 12 or 13 when the game came out. On my trips back through it, I’ve realized how amazing it is, but there’s always a part of me that thinks “I hate that f*ing part of the game”.

    Can’t wait for the next piece.

  12. Just finished episode one, did HL2 over the course of the week.
    It was amazing and quite a challenge to play it on hard. But what I found interesting was that I didn’t feel so much involved in the story anymore, the atmosphere wasn’t that great either. I guess the magic is lost once you get to play it on a good PC 🙁

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