Review by CKeen666
"The game that killed First Person Shooters."
Regarded by many to be the best First Person Shooter ever made, as well as one of the most influential ones, Half Life is a game almost everybody has at least heard of once. And, yes, it was influential, but not in a good way: It removed the exploration and fast-paced combat of titles like Doom or Duke Nukem 3D in exchange for a "movie-like" feeling, with more scripted events and a stronger plot element. Unfortunately unlike what most may think, this does not make the game "deep", it just makes it extremely boring.
The storyline is about an incident at the black mesa facility while you are doing an experiment. Suddenly aliens come out of nowhere and start killing people or turning them into zombies. Gee, I wonder where I've heard this before?! I think it was a game that started with D... Oh right, Doom. The storyline is an almost exact replica of the Doom storyline. With just two differences: They're aliens instead of demons and the government decides to send some marines... to exterminate whoever was present during the experiment so no one will know anything. This is a nice idea that allows you to fight both monsters and humans, but it isn't enough to save the game.
From a gameplay perspective, this one plays like a standard First Person Shooter: The problem is that it's just a very bad one. As I've already stated it doesn't focus much on exploration and instead has many pre-set scripted situations and boring monster fights. None of these are particularly interesting but I suppose they were innovative back when this game was released. However, this is 2011, and I've seen enough scripts in games. Am I supposed to be impressed by a zombie breaking an air conduct and taking a scientist with itself?
The physics aren't particularly well refined and the jumping is sometimes hard to execute, and the worst part is definitely climbing up a ladder: I ended up falling down to my death god knows how many times. Now if I was Duke I would have just taken a scratch. But instead I have to play as this extremely boring character Gordon Freeman who looks like a nerd from 2100.
The enemies are boring as well: there's the slow walking zombies, some enemies known as "headcrabs" which turn humans into zombies and are more annoying than dangerous, then there's some weird enemies that run around and throw acid at you and... whatever. One of the enemies, the one who shoots green lightning bolts, even resembles one of the enemies from the Great Deku Tree in Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. It's not that I hate enemies with electrical attacks or acid attacks, but the point is that they simply look boring. They aren't intimidating at all and the textures used on them are very unattractive. The worst enemy though has to be that red mouth-like alien that sticks to ceilings and attempts to pull you up with its tongue. It isn't fun at all to "fight", you just have to be careful to spot a tongue and then take it out. It would be acceptable if it was used in a clever way, but they really are just placed randomly everywhere. In short anyway, none of the enemies you fight are even remotely interesting. No enemies like Mancubi or Revenants, so to speak.
There's also a horizontal auto aim, which makes aiming ridiculously easy and not fun at all. Vertical auto aim was understandable in Doom where, well, one didn't use the mouse to freely look around. But here it's a complete joke.
There are many parts in the game where you end up running into a locked door: in order to open it you'll often have to enter an air conduct and after exploring it (you can at this point only imagine how boring exploring an air conduct is, especially considering Gordon doesn't move nearly as quickly as Duke), you'll finally spot the exit so you have reached the other side of the door and you can now open it... Except you don't need to open it because you're already on the other side. What were they thinking?! It would have been cooler to blow up doors instead of having to go through air conducts all the time just to open a small door. And while I certainly don't mind puzzles in a FPS this is not the correct way to implement them.
There's also this G-Man person who is supposed to be some sort of... I don't even know, some sort of not-a-human-being, but seriously all he does is walk around the base and act as if nothing is happening. Is this supposed to create a sense of mystery or is the G-Man trying to send us a message, something like: "I don't care about what goes on in this game and you shouldn't care either. In fact, you should just go play some better games.". Yeah I guess that's appropriate.
The graphics are often very bland, mostly because I don't think the textures fit a military research base at all. Maybe they could work in a civilian hospital or airport or something but... not here. They're just too bright and do not have enough variety. Still they're at least better than Portal's, and admittedly, the alien world near the end of the game does look interesting.
The game also appears to have some bugs, like an elevator that kills you for no reason (I was only able to get past it by taking a scientist with me, and I watched as he died for absolutely no reason but at least I was able to reach the other area).
Half Life is credited as being the first game to truly allow interaction between the player and what surrounds him. But this couldn't be any more false: You can effectively talk to some people but most of them will just tell them they are busy and cannot talk. Oh wow, now this is what I call interaction! Later on you can save some scientists and request their help to solve a few puzzles, it's an alright idea but nothing incredible. The point however is that Half Life wasn't the first game to introduce NPC interaction: Strife did it before, and it did it better. But I guess that's because Strife is an immensely better game with a lot more depth, a better storyline, and an open world feeling.
You can judge how good a game is based on how well it has aged. If it has not aged well then it wasn't very good to begin with. Half Life is an example of this: when it was released people were impressed by the (fake) interaction and thus praised the game.In fact I don't think Half Life did anything right. From beginning to end, this game is a disaster. Sure, it might have been something innovative back when it was released, but it has not aged well at all.
Half Life killed the FPS genre. It removed all the fast paced action, all the exploration, all the constant arcade feeling and most importantly the FUN those games had. Oh well... I guess that's what we get when people value atmosphere over gameplay, although both things suck in this game.
Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 01/04/12
Game Release: Half-Life (EU, 12/31/98)
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