Technologies in Half-Life 2: Episode Two
The Source engine was considerably updated before the release of Episode Two . The most important innovation is the new lighting and shadowing model that allows using fully dynamic soft shadows. Any object in the game will be able to cast a shadow on itself and other objects if this is specified in the light source’s properties. Objects that are illuminated with Freeman’s flashlight have acquired shadows, too.
The rendering of vegetation using transparency antialiasing has been improved, too.
The physical model has undergone some modifications as well. It now allows creating complex destructible objects such as houses, etc. A good example is the scene with the destruction of a bridge at the beginning of the game or the scene with the attempt to destroy an Advisor. Performance doesn’t plummet down at that and there is no need to use hardware acceleration of physical effects. The new model also supports deformable objects and a keyframe animation system. To speed up the physical calculations the game takes advantage of the dual- and quad-core processors ability to load additional cores. Among other visual effects I would like to point out motion blur that belongs to so-called cinematic effects. Valve may please us with some new effects of the kind in Episode Three, especially since other games included in Orange Box – Portal and Team Fortress 2 - also use depth of field besides motion blur.
The described innovations do not lift the graphics quality of the Half-Life 2 series up to a new level, yet the new technologies have enabled the developer to make Episode Two more appealing and attractive than the predecessor. Coupled with high-resolution textures and an excellent facial gesture system, Half-Life 2: Episode Two features first-class visuals. For us, the game is just as good as, for example, BioShock and even surpasses it at times as concerns the realism of the scene.