By most accounts, these should be two excellent games. At Gamerankings.com the Xbox versions are currently at 86.6% and 89.5% respectively. Edge magazine gave the PS2 version of MGS2 an 8 while HL2 for PC got a 10!
Yet I couldn't stand playing either for any longer time.
I got MGS2 on Thursday, thinking I'd start it up after I finished Broken Sword. Which I did. And I noticed quickly, besides the cheezy voice-over for Snake, that me and the MGS gameplay do not get along. I had wasted half a clip of tranquilizer ammo before I realized that there was no specific way to see where the fuck you were shooting. Except for entering the first-person mode, of course, which means you can't move and it seems the weapon is only raised when you press the button to shoot, and there's no cross-hair, which means you will basically always fire half a clip before you hit anything.
Of course, you could try to sneak up on the enemy, except that with the sneak-button you start crawling on the ground when you move.
Basically, the impression I got from MGS2 was that it was trying to be a sneak-and-shoot game where you couldn't sneak or shoot.
Half-Life 2, then. Selected as Game of the Year by everyone when it was released. It started out so-so; having gotten interested in first-person shooters from Goldeneye on the N64, I always preferred to have forward-backwards & turn movement on the left analogue stick and strafe & up-down look on the right. The first-person shooter I've played the most after Goldeneye is Halo, which also allowed you set the controls to mimic that of Goldeneye. Unfortunately, this is where it became clear that HL2 was a pure PC shooter, trying to emulate the mouse & keyboard combo by having movement on the left and look on the right. Fair enough, and after a while I almost got used to it, being able to walk around with only a moderate amount of bumping into things. And I thought, "hey, this is pretty cool." And then the shooting started. OK, so you're now equipped with a crow-bar and there are half a dozen guys shooting at you from elevated positions and the game plops you down in a railway-yard with blockades on either sides and you start running around looking where to go constantly being shot at by these guys. And the developers then think that you're going to be cool-headed enough to realize that of course the way forward is to go into that train and stack the boxes on top of each other to reach the hatch in the roof.
Anyway, I played until I got to a point where I found no obvious way forward, and by that point I was so stressed out from being chased around without knowing where to go that I just shut it off. It was at that time that I also became aware of a strange nausea. Motion sickness? Odd if it would be since I've played FPS games before without problems, but maybe it could be due to the unfamiliar control system? Maybe I'll give it another try later, because it seemed like a superb game except for high stress-level and the fucked up controls.
In any case, I'm glad I didn't pay full price for either of the games.
Luckily for me, I "found" the two first Broken Sword games, which I'm guessing I will enjoy a lot more than these.