Rambling: What Made me Hate Striders

I once told you of my opinion of the robotic, spider-like enemies in Half Life 2 called Striders, but didn’t comment further upon it. Let me elaborate on that and on what I think is some of the worst game design in all of Half Life. May contain gameplay spoilers for Half Life 2: Episode 2.

There are a couple of things that I really hate when playing video games, one of the main ones being “Turret type” sections. What I meant by that is parts in games during which you have to defend a certain place from harm for a given period of time, as if you were playing tower defense or acting as a turret yourself. What makes these segments so obnoxious is the fact that you have to constantly look around you and never get to focus on one thing. While you’re busy fighting off enemies on one side you can already hear or see another place being under attack and you just can’t do anything about it but get stressed out. OR you don’t notice and get a “game over” without ever knowing what exactly happened, which is probably even more frustrating. What makes it even worse is that you’re constantly under a time limit, because if you’re too slow, you’re screwed and when you end up losing for that reason it almost always feels unfair.

The final action-sequence in Episode 2 is basically that, as you have to defend a location from and onslaught of Striders, accompanied by smaller robots to keep you from simply destroying their big boys. Take too long fighting one of them and another one is already near the base, which triggers an obnoxious alarm. To defeat the Striders you’re supposed to carry around these explosives of which you can only have one at a time and throw them at their main bodies, then shoot the explosive so that it gets set off. What’s fun about this is that the smaller robots are constantly trying to shoot you and if they happen to hit the “Magnusson Device” you’re holding (which happens a lot), it explodes and you have to get another one. These devices can be obtained at multiple locations on the map, but depending on where you’re fighting it can take quite some time until you have obtained another one, put it onto your vehicle and driven back to the Strider you were trying to defeat. Obviously, by that time not only that one, but other enemies will have advanced towards their goal, making it all the more maddening to have to do that. What you want to do is kill off the small robots, the Hunters; but that is annoying in and of itself once again. They can be beat by riding them over, but if they stand too close to a Strider’s leg, a rock, a tree or any other kind of obstacle, that becomes near impossible and once you’ve come to a stop because of that it takes a lot of time to gain enough momentum and give running them over another shot. You want to know what’s also annoying? Getting out of your vehicle to fight them head-on because that makes you vulnerable, less mobile when you really want to get somewhere by car and it takes longer to kill them that way. And why do you have to set off the explosive after you’ve hit a Strider with one anyway? If you take more than what feels like a second it falls right off them and becomes useless.

There are a lot of things that could have been done better about this sequence and I don’t see how anyone could find it fun. I didn’t even fail once during this part and I was still frustrated and angry at the whole experience. A sense of urgency and the feeling of having to actually fight for your right to party a hard battle can be great ways to enhance an epic battle, but when there is nothing epic and no fun involved all that remains is a frustrating memory.

Good thing the rest of the game is not terrible.


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