Right after trekking through the claustrophobic streets and shadowy corridors of Ravenholm, Half Life 2 drops a wide coastal road in front of you, gives you the keys to a dune buggy and lets you roam, free to explore to your hearts content. It’s like a childhood fantasy come true – just you and the open road, free to stop at whatever decrepit house tickles your fancy and poke about its rooms in search of hidden treasure or dead bodies. Occasionally, like any good childhood story, a disgusting head-crab infested wretch lurches out of a gloomy basement, or corners you in a tiny bathroom, providing just the kind of tension that makes picking through abandoned homes interesting.
Outside, sad-looking tire-swings hang from leafless trees overlooking run-down docks. You drive through dried up river channels, past hulking ships left behind on the sand. There’s a palpable sense of adventure and self-sustenance; just you, your buggy, your guns, and your wits, as you fight off vicious Antlions, defend lighthouses, crash through loading bay windows, battle with helicopters, raid boathouses for supplies, invade Combine-occupied cliffside installations, climb over the rickety steel supports of a huge bridge, dodge a collision with a speeding freight train and generally partake in some intensely gung-ho shit, amidst the sad and forgotten ruins of the coast outside City 17.