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From what little i know from the story, Half Life 1 involves experiments gone wrong and you trying to escape a secret research facility before either the aliens or the soldiers kill you.
Half Life 2 involves inter-dimensional empires trying to take over the world.....
If you ask me, i would say that escalated quickly.
PSN/Steam = retrohunter95.
No it is not.
Rumble Roses. Someone enters the room.
Them: O_O Me: What?! I always play games without my pants on!- Inmate 922335
HL1 is basically the same story as Doom... Oh noes! you've opened a rift into another dimension and aliens are zombifying everything.
There are a few characters that you would recognize from the first game in the sequel, but that's not necessary to enjoy the game.
All you really need to know is that you were sorta 'put in stasis' from the end of the first game to the beginning of the 2nd game, so technically you haven't aged at all, while the rest of the world has gone on without you. That'll explain a lot about everyone's reactions.
Some things will be unclear, but the player should get the gist of it. Things are explained in Half-Life 2 to help the player understand as well.
You have the basic idea of the original Half-Life down. The ending directly leads into Half-Life 2, though. The ending is weird, just like Half-Life 2's ending and its episodes.
Half-Life 2 can be played on its own and it can be understood. Like many other science fiction works, things will be confusing, but that's all part of the fun.
However, if you play the original, you'll get a better understanding of what takes place in Half-Life 2, you'll notice how things have changed, etc. It's not required, though.
Black Mesa is free to download and play. It's like a 2012 reimagining of Half-Life. There are even extra bits of dialogue here and there. However, it's not complete (the end of the game isn't complete, and it's a pretty cool/important part) and the mechanics don't capture the feel of the original game (the original game had fast-paced, floaty mechanics which worked pretty well, but Black Mesa feels kind of like a modern FPS, in my opinion; it feels heavier and slower). If those don't bother you, then you should try it.
What happens between Half Life 1 and 2 is told to you during the game, but for much of it you kind of have to infer and fill in a lot of blanks for yourself.
That being said, the biggest thing you'll probably be confused about it who G-Man is and how he plays into things.
That, and the beer Barney owes you.
"I just wasted a bullet. Don't waste your life." -Big Boss
Never played HL1 when I played HL2 + episdoes. Still enjoyed it and giggled like a little girl when you got
Buddha says He who is in Continuous Hell never dies. Longevity is a big hardship in Continuous Hell
II never beat HL1 but I've played all of HL2 and the episodes which I had no problem understanding. Also you can just read the entire plot spoilers on Wikipedia before you play HL2. For the most part I'd say it would be very worth checking out Black Mesa. It's the fan made HL1 remake on the Source engine, you can download it for free but IIRC some of the ending portions of the game aren't finished. I'm not sure when they'll complete it and officially put it on Steam.
I played HL1 after i had finished HL2 and the episodes.
You don't need to of played HL1,the game explains a fair bit, and most of the characters explain how you know them.