Half-Life

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North American box art.

Half-Life is a first-person shooter action game with various puzzle elements developed by Valve, and published by Sierra On-Line for Windows in 1998. You play the character Gordon Freeman working for a company called Black Mesa which is performing theoretical physics experiments and developing equipment for the US military. An accident occurs in the lab, and your team inadvertently opens a portal to an alien world. The aliens are quite hostile and begin killing the scientists. It's your job to try and close the portal, save the remaining scientists, and get out alive.

I didn't play Half-Life until about a decade after it had been released, but I still found the game to be quite enjoyable and technically impressive. An updated version of the game using the Source engine was released in 2005.

Status

I own Half-Life: Source through Steam. I have beaten the original game on easy difficulty, and Source on normal difficulty.

Review

  • Overall: 7/10
  • Best Version: Half-Life Source for Windows

Good

  • Though originally based on the Quake engine, the programmers greatly modified it to result in a rather impressive engine, GoldSrc. The newer Source engine was even better.
  • The enemies have some interesting AI. It's cool to see them hide from the player, attack in concert, accidentally give away their positions, and generally scare the hell out of you.
  • The weapons feature a nice gradual increase in power that allows you to feel like you're becoming stronger as the game progresses, and each has its own function, benefits, and short comings. Also, most weapons have an alternate fire which adds even more flexibility.
  • Fitting scripted dialog into the engine was a good idea and it makes the game feel more realistic.
  • The damaged research facility pitfalls at the beginning of the game are really well-made and often gruesome.
  • Several of the bosses are terrifying!
  • Despite its length, there are a lot of puzzles and unique sequences that help keep the game fresh all the way through.
  • The underwater sequences were well-made and scary to play.
  • The game's intro is a great way of introducing just how massive and dangerous Black Mesa can be.
  • It's nice to see the aliens in their natural habitat on Xen, and makes you feel like kind of a jerk for killing them.
  • The altered gravity on Xen makes for some interesting jumping puzzles.
  • I like how the game alters the menu's background as you progress.

Bad

  • The crouch-high-jump and crouch-long-jump are both uncomfortable to use on the keyboard.
  • Breaking open crates with the crowbar ends up taking a lot of time in the game and is usually unrewarding.
  • It feels like you spend far too much time underground or in tunnels. Every now and then you surface for a few seconds, only to return to the rat maze.
  • The NPCs continue to talk even if you're out of earshot which doesn't make sense, and often causes you to miss dialogue.
  • The human skins are pretty bad. Everyone has a sort of odd grayish color flesh.
  • Having only a couple skins to choose from for the scientists, and only a single guard skin, and having them all use the same voice, hurts the immersion.
  • Every human character in the game is male except for the assassins. Would it have killed the developers to add a few more women?
  • The head crabs that turn people into zombies seems like an uncreative melding of Alien and Doom.
  • The barnacles are a interesting hazard early on in the game, allowing you to bypass them rather than waste bullets, but over time they slow the game down and become annoying.
  • I enjoy the game's music, but it's so rarely used, and it makes the game seem rather empty.
  • The game doesn't seem to explain why the military decides to kill every civilian in Black Mesa. I can think of my own reasons (like they fear a zombie outbreak), but it would have made more sense to explicitly say something.
  • The "On a Rail" chapter has a lot of clever booby traps, but having to keep the cart with you for such a long time slows the pacing to a crawl.
  • Although Xen has a lot of interesting aspects, something about it feels too unusual and odd to be enjoyable.
  • The NPCs have a sort of flapping-head motion when they talk which, while funny, hurts immersion.
  • There are a few too many instances of monsters appearing out of thin air. I know it's thematic to the resonance cascade, but it's too scripted for my tastes.
  • The training room is a bit too slow.
  • It is often not clear when bosses are invincible or vulnerable to your weapons because they bleed even when they can't be hurt.
  • I know it's petty, but I don't like the box art.

Ugly

  • There are a serious bugs with some of the scripted NPCs which force you to reload from an earlier point and replay the section in hopes they get it right the next time around. Some places that are particularly bad are the guard at the beginning who is supposed to open the door to the testing chamber (three reloads), Gonarch breaking down the wall (two reloads), and Nihilanth remaining invincible after you've destroyed everything else (countless reloads).
  • The alien trampolines are difficult to control properly and often require a lot of reloading from killing yourself on them. It would have been better if there were either fewer of them, or they were easier to use.

Documentation

Gallery

Half-Life - Fan Art.jpg|Fan Art. Half-Life - Fan Art 2.jpg|Fan Art. Half-Life - happymonkeyshoes.jpg|Fan Art. Half-Life - MoshingSnail.jpg|Fan Art. Half-Life - ShawnCoss.jpg|Fan Art. </gallery>

Links