CHAPTER 1 WINS! Strange. We really thought it'd be Chapter 3. BUT ALAS, YOU HATH SPOKEN. Go get coffee. Now! Or tea! CHIPS AND DIP!
Let me set the scene.
Cold drafts creep around rebar and debris. The sound of pitter-pattering rain bounces around the concrete walls. Glass crackles beneath muddied boots. Ash tillies in through skylights with the rain. Calming silence is punctuated with a din all but too familiar: Antlions roar and soldiers die; their screams echo in the now dead Prospekt.
If you hadn't figured it out yet, we're BACK - and we're PISSED. Just kidding. We're actually pretty happy because not only did we get a new suit but, we also got a new body. Also, we got to keep all of our faculties! That's a pretty decent promotion.
Of course, none of this could come without a brand new, KILLER intro to explain our protagonist's predicament.
Entropy : Zero 2 is a character story. It places Bad Cop centre stage and peels back the layers. You see, Metrocops are like onions. We do a bit of this through the game's opening sequence, which is designed to set up the themes of the game, and helps to clue you in on where Bad Cop is at in EZ2.
Bad Cop is a little more talkative this time around. Maybe it's because of all that time he has spent in containment. Or the fact that we have a fantastic, dedicated voice actor. One of those two. As I mentioned above, Bad Cop is back with all of his faculties.
It would seem that the Earth-bound Combine Advisory are down on their luck. Whilst we were sleeping (or screaming in a combine sensory deprivation chamber - a matter of perspective), some science hipster in a metallic, orange jumpsuit blew up the Citadel and dropped Breen down a Combine teleporter shaft. The humans have risen up and the Combine can't phone home. All of this happened because the of administrator's assistant - Dr. Judith Mossman.
The rebels have an ace up their sleeve - the aforementioned science hipster. The Combine Advisory were hoping to match that in a grand retort, and opted to produce their own agent.
We all know Freeman vanished briefly after the events of Half-Life 2. And this is precisely where Entropy : Zero 2 starts off - right after the legendary science hipster broke the Combine panic button.
The Combine - probably convinced that Freeman had blown himself up - have turned their gaze towards the enabler: Judith Mossman. This is where Bad Cop comes in.
It would appear that Judith has fled with a large group of rebels... North. *Gestures upwards* The location is never precisely nailed down but one thing the advisory knows for sure is that it's very cold, isolated and probably TEEMING with rebels. They know the PERFECT guy for the job. The one and only Unit 3650 AKA Bad Cop.
The birth of a trans-human is a wonderous thing. Lots of screaming much like human births. Except this screaming is all internal and belongs to the host which, upon waking realizes it no longer has any control. It just has to watch. GNARLY.
But you don't need to worry about the host, because the wonders of Combine technology have placed our protagonist firmly at the helm of this newly produced template imprint. Bad Cop is ready, willing and fully enabled to HUNT DOWN THAT MOSSMAN - you knew it was coming!
After being briefed on the situation, it's a short ride up to the surface level - to the Nova Prospekt WE know and love.
Up on the surface, the situation is pretty dire. Survivors of Freeman's conquest are trying to organize themselves amid swarms of antlions. They are defending the last template fabrication facility at the prison - the very same area that just farted out the Combine's latest hero. That's Bad Cop, if you're not catching on yet.
This particular cell division has been mobilized to cover Bad Cop's ass, as he heads for the extraction zone. But as you'll see - Bad Cop quickly learns to take advantage of his new position and starts ordering these drones around himself. Taking soldiers with you is a key part of Entropy : Zero 2 gameplay. Players have a choice in this - but seriously, who doesn't want their own squad of Combine soldiers, that turn their heads to look at interesting world elements, beckon and gesture, comment on their predicaments, respond to Bad Cop and assert their dominance?
Treading in Freeman's wake is pretty treacherous. But with these guys by your side, you'll be at the extraction point in no-time. The Antlions can be pesky - but you can stop them from spawning by blowing up their burrows.
Whilst you're here, it wouldn't hurt to explore... World building is a staple of Entropy : Zero 2's level design. You'll often find details and goodies off of the beaten track - such as rebar'd Combine soldiers pinned to walls by Freeman's crossbow bolts, or his foot prints... and more!
The antlion season has changed a bit since we last saw them. Now they're all super mad and red and angry. Keep your distance if you don't want to get rekt. You know how antlions work - the difference here is these ones glow!
I mentioned the rain before. The mad dash from Nova Prospekt occurs in a gloomy rainscape. Perhaps an echo of the burning Citadel - or just coastal elements doing their thing. Regardless of the cause, you could cut through the atmosphere with a knife. Or with your foot - Bad Cop can kick now, if you didn't know. You can use that to break crates, inspire your men or knock over antlions.
A useful ability considering we have no stunstick. Just one of the many things we gave up for this job... Instead we get a kickass prototype pulse pistol. Our new sidearm recharges, so you'll never be completely out of a fight.
The flaunt through Nova Prospekt serves to introduce the player to these new abilities, whilst highlighting the unforeseen consequences of Freemans actions at the prison - further casting a narrative light on the past.
And the past is super important in Entropy : Zero 2. This is a character story, remember? The ending of this chapter will treat the intrigued to a slice of Bad Cop's history - something that happened to him back in the good ol' days of beating citizens and handing out non-compliance verdicts.
This dreamscape serves to set the scene in terms of Bad Cop. You'll get to see the what's and the why's. His past may be a little richer than you might think - and it all has a knock-on effect in Entropy : Zero 2.
The details and atmosphere in these sequences are a wonder to behold - firmly taking players back to those 'better' times. As rain again patters onto overhead windows, cops go about their business - talking shit about each other and... replacing lightbulbs? Who knew!?
All is done to ironically highlight the humanity that lingers in these Combine loyalists. You know - that bunch who don't believe in humanity?
Players will get to snoop around and glimpse life behind the closed doors of Bad Cop's old precinct. It's a great position to launch into Chapter 2 from and is sure to have you wondering about our wise-cracking protagonist.
Chapter 1 manages to show players the destruction left in the wake of a furious Freeman. It lays the narrative ground necessary to explain our characters audible wit. It sets our protagonist up for war, and paints players a grotesque picture of an agent struggling with his human identity. All between the confines of a Combine incubator and the confines of a dropship. How 'bout that?
Check in with me on Twitter this coming Monday for the next round of 'MEDIA STORM'!
Until then - stay safe!