Review by BrianJamesBlue
"Half-Life, and why it is the greatest game ever made"
Everybody has heard of Half-Life, and with good reason. After having just completed the game, here is what I have to say about it.
The graphics are getting outdated. The default models for the guns all look like toys. The scientists and security guards looked like cartoons. The graphics on the aliens were nice, and the animation was nice however. Fortunately, there is a High Definition pack download for Half-Life that remedies the other problems, giving you realistic guns, scientists, and security guards to interact with. With the HD pack installed, the graphics are not nearly outdated enough to even slightly detract from the game. There are different crosshairs for each gun, which adds a nice feel to them. Lighting effects in this game are well done - while fighting the final boss for example, green homing energy balls are shot at you. You can tell how close the energy balls are getting by watching the green tint on your gloves. Once again though, I cannot stress enough how much I feel the HD pack adds to the game. With the games original models, I would have given the graphics a 6/10, because it is hard to become immersed in a game with guns that look silly and NPCs that look equally rediculous.
The sound engine for this game is incredible. Sounds are modified based on the area you are in - if you are in a large, cavernous room, you will hear echoes and lower pitches. If you are in a small room, sounds will be quick and sharp. Add this to the already great sound effects and you have a winning combination. Also, the way the volume of the sounds change based on where they are in reference to you is perfect. You can tell from what direction and how far away a sound is coming from easily. The music in the game is pretty much non-existant, but it seems to be used in a way to increase the atmosphere and immersion in the game. If there were music constantly playing, you would constantly be aware that it was just a game, and not be able to get into it as much. With the music only coming at certain dramatic moments, you stay fully involved in the game, but still occassionally get that extra cool feeling of having your own background music theme.
Pure genius. This game engine brings the greatest gameplay I have ever seen. It added crouch jumping, puzzles, intelligent AI, the flashlight, and physics to the FPS genre. It added much more as well, but these are the ones I see most repeated. The puzzles in this game are not very challenging due to the fact that there is usually only one place for you to go. You must still figure out what to do when you get there, however. Most of the games puzzles are quickly and easily solved by bringing an open mind, and completely forgetting that you are just playing a game. Things that previously you would have never thought possible in a game, but would be the simplest solution in real life, are most often the answers to the puzzles in Half-Life. As an example, in one part of the game you need to get to an area with a moat and high walls around it. There happens to be a tower nearby. You happen to have access to a panel to call in airstrikes. If you are thinking "airstrike the wall to pieces, knock the tower over, use it as a bridge to cross the moat" you have just solved the puzzle. In other parts of the game, you are confronted by a giant creature that seems to attack whatever it hears... and it seems to have GREAT hearing. You have grenades. Once again, a fairly obvious solution, but not one you would have expected to work in a video game. Before I stop going on about the puzzles, I should mention that Half-Life has a physics engine where you can push and pull objects that aren't too heavy (you can usually bash them to pieces with your crowbar as well). I am sure you can think of how this is used in the game on your own. Next, I want to talk about the absolutely incredible AI. When this game came out, there were only two strategies for first person shooters - the more frequently used "shoot everything fast" and "shoot, take cover and reload." In Half-Life, neither of these strategies work. If you try to take cover and reload, a grenade will promptly be tossed into your little nook, and you will be blown to tiny bits (which you get to see, by the way). If you happen to be fighting aliens instead of humans, you will get a swarm of homing hornets instead of a grenade. Now in the rare situations where there are neither grenade lobbing humans or hornet spewing aliens, the enemies will quickly attack your hiding place as a group - assuming, that is, that they have a good chance of survival. Yes, the enemies in Half-Life are actually concerned about their personal safety (excluding the alien slaves, who would apparantly sooner die by your hand than disobey their master). All enemies will gather a group if possible, to increase their chances of survival. Now this incredible AI comes in a bunch of wonderfully distinctive enemies. By the end of the game, you will know each enemy by the sounds they make, the way they look, and the way they attack - and you will have a different way of dealing with every single one. It is a great feeling to have varied and intelligent opponents - it givs you a real sense of accomplishment when you finish the game. This sense of accomplishment is also helped by the complete immersion the game creates - you have a sense of "I saved the world" not "I beat another game." The game makes things even more interesting by adding friendly Non Player Characters that can accompany you. Low on health? Talk to a scientist and he will administer first aid. Need some backup? Talk to a security guard and they will follow and cover you. Need a door opened? Find a security guard or a scientist, depending on the door, and they will follow you to it and open it. The NPCs are great to have around, and take away what would have been a complete feeling of loneliness. Feeling like you have some friends in the hostile world Half-Life presents is nice. The security guards all come with some amusing one liners, and the scientists are all wimps, adding some humor to the game. The scientists will refuse to walk past an area where they think they may be attacked, and the security guards will have triumphant expressions for every time they kill an enemy. Amazingly, they never get old. The game still isn't complete, though. I have to mention that the game takes you through a variety of locales, most of which are interesting and fun to play in. The tunnels of the research facility get old after a short while, but the rest of the game really gives you a sense of "I can't wait to see what happens next." Besides that feeling, Half-Life will find ways to scare the heck out of you quite frequently. Aliens popping up when you least expect them, combined with loud and high quality sound effects, have a great shock value. I can remember two times the game really made me jump - the first time in a seemingly empty freezer, when a headcrab leapt onto me out of the shadows, and when I jumped into a seemingly empty pool of water just to find an icthyosaur ready to eat me. A game that can make you jump when you least expect it is great. Enough about the gameplay, though. I need to stop somewhere. Let me sum up by saying that every single thing you do in the game, from fighting enemies, to solving puzzles, to exploring, is fun.
The story is a blast, but I took some points off for being pure 80's scifi movie. Most FPS games don't even bother with a plausible story, especially at the time this game was produced. The story is the standard science experiment in secret research laboratory goes wrong, aliens invade the planet, government sends marines in to end the invasion and silence the scientists. The story gets bonus points for the mysterious "G-Man" though. A seemingly invincible person, apparantly human, and obviously interested in how you manage to stop in alien invasion and survive the marine attack.
The core of any game is the gameplay, and this game is astounding. More fun to play than any other game I have ever played, completely immersive, and I did not even start with the games mods and expansion packs, which would have warranted buying the game by themselves. This is the greatest game ever made, and by far the greatest first person shooter ever made. Get this game now.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/31/06
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