One of the things that's been bothering me in playing Half-Life 2 is this: it's a great game - so why is it always so hard to get motivated to sit down for another session?
And I think the answer is this: that it's never downhill.
It's a matter of game pacing. Sure, it's great knowing that there's a massive challenge ahead of you. It's fantastic walking into a big, empty arena with lots of RPG ammo on the ground and then hearing the whining of approaching enemy helicopters. The moment of, "Oh shit, now things will be hard," is one of the best parts of gaming.
But you know what's also good? The moment when you know from here on in it gets easier. The downhill moment.
Anyone who's ever played a real time strategy knows what I'm talking about. Building up your base is good, repelling the enemy forces is just fine, but what you're really hanging out for is the bit at the end of each level where you steamroll anything standing in your way.
Or if you've played an RPG - the uphill grind through each level pays off when you get that level up and suddenly everything that used to be hard is now comparitively easy.
It's doesn't always have to be challenging. Sometimes it's fun when things are ridiculously easy.
In Half-Life 2, and for that matter Episode One, it's all uphill. It never gets easy. Even at the end of Half-Life 2, when you're wreaking havoc with the upgraded gravity gun, you're still in very real danger of falling to your death or being the victim of a stray explosion. It's never about what you've just accomplished - it's always about what's next.
It's just it would be nice if sometimes the path went downhill.