I think I give off the impression of watching a lot more TV and playing a lot more videogames than I actually do. But during March, a month where I lived in an apartment with an enormous TV and an X-BOX 360, I certainly did put in some video game time. But don't worry! I wasn't wiling away my time pointlessly, no, I was playing the BEST video game(s) I've played in maybe ever. I was playing (and beating) Half-Life 2 and its follow-ups, Half-Life 2 Episode 1 and Half-Life 2 Episode 2.
Okay, if you've played Half-Life 2 then you don't need to read any more of this post because you know how good it is.
If you haven't played, then please, let me try to explain my enthusiasm.
This is a video of one of my favorite sequences in HL2. Really, you don't have to watch it, I just didn't want this page to go imageless.
It is difficult for me to pin down exactly why Half-Life 2 is so great. It's just one of those games where you run around with your gun sticking out in front of you, shooting bad guys and solving puzzles. But there's something about this game . . . it's very immersive, there are no cutscenes, the whole thing happens continuously, you're running through the whole story and the whole story is happening to you. But the main thing is this game feels like it must have been made by video game making geniuses because something awesome and interesting is constantly happening, there's just excellent pacing, and some how this atmosphere emerges from the game that has you really feeling like, yeah, you're this scientist and you're right in the middle of a major league crisis on earth (being taken over by aliens, of course). Sometimes you're sneaking around and just trying not to be killed in some tunnels, sometimes you're stuck in the middle of what feels like a full out rebel war. The danger escalates through the game and it contains some of the most exciting "Oh crap!" moments I've encountered in videogames (of which, like I was saying, I haven't played that many of [since High School])--for example, there are these really tough villains called Striders which are like giant daddy long legs with gattling guns that take a whole lot of rockets to blow up. They are DEADLY and they are hard to kill. The first time you have to fight a Strider you don't have to fight A strider, you have to fight about five or six. But later on, there's times (like at the end of Episode 1) where you just have to fight one Strider--part of you wants to be like, "Oh, no big deal, just have to fight one strider" but the fight is so hairy! You'll die so much, and just love it.
I shouldn't have written that long paragraph, I should have written: Half-Life 2 (and Episode 1 and Episode 2 [and no, I don't understand why they aren't called Episode 2 and Episode 3]) is as good as many great books that I've read. And I don't feel like the hours and hours I spent playing it were misspent. At all.
Also, what's really great is you can get all three Half-Life 2 games and the spectacular Portal and never-played-by-me Team Fortress 2 all together on the budget-friendly Orange Box collection.