Half-Life 2: Episode One review

Valve breathes new life into the seminal shooter, chapter by chapter

GamesRadar+ Verdict


  • +

    A-grade storyline and atmosphere

  • +

    Superb dual character mechanic

  • +

    The focus on kinetic

  • +

    tactical gameplay


  • -

    It's another cliffhanger

  • -

    Another long wait for answers

  • -


  • -

    not much

Why you can trust GamesRadar+ Our experts review games, movies and tech over countless hours, so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about our reviews policy.

Anyone who completed Half-Life 2 - one of the most accomplished first-person shooters ever made - was left with more than a few niggling questions after the final credits rolled. Did you actually save City 17? Will hero Gordon Freeman escape from the G-Man? And did Alyx Vance, the game's leading lady, end up on the wrong end of a thermonuclear explosion?

We needed answers and, finally, we've got them. Half-Life 2: Episode One is the first in a trilogy of games that continue the story of Half-Life 2; Episode One kicks off seconds after that game's thrilling cliffhanger ending. But, despite obvious similarities, this is an entirely fresh adventure.

We won't give too much away, but Episode One immediately reveals how Gordon and Alyx survive the blast at the end of Half-Life 2. The Citadel is now on the verge of a second catastrophic explosion and your goal is to escape across the suburbs and catch a train out of the danger zone.

Episode One offers more of a breakneck potboiler in comparison to Half-Life 2's epic narrative. Five hours is enough to reach the end, but the five superbly-paced chapters are hugely satisfying, both in terms of plot and the sheer volume of action. It won't be long until you're pining for Episode Two - but this first episode never leaves you feeling short-changed.

Every effort is made to push Half-Life 2 forward and to avoid familiarity. Your surroundings are now actively involved in the gameplay. You begin by re-entering the Citadel in spectacular fashion and have to protect both yourself and Alyx from huge pieces of falling rubble with the super-physics gun. Puzzles and obstacles are even more believable as real-world challenges thanks to Episode One's robust and intuitive design.

It's Alyx who makes the biggest impact, though. The charismatic Miss Vance is always by your side and your involvement with her makes the game an incredibly absorbing experience. Alyx isn't invincible but she doesn't need to be wrapped in styrofoam peanuts either - mostly, she's putting you to shame with her gritty combat skills.

More info

DescriptionAlyx and Dog return to add chapters to the ongoing saga of super-scientist Gordon Freeman.
Platform"PC","Xbox 360","PS3"
US censor rating"Mature","Mature","Mature"
UK censor rating"16+","16+","16+"
Alternative names"Half-Life II: Episode One"
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)

Ben Richardson is a former Staff Writer for Official PlayStation 2 magazine and a former Content Editor of GamesRadar+. In the years since Ben left GR, he has worked as a columnist, communications officer, charity coach, and podcast host – but we still look back to his news stories from time to time, they are a window into a different era of video games.