Review by Jeenyus
From the beginning, you will notice something different about Half-Life. You don't have a gun. You are riding a boring little car to your mundane job at the Black Mesa facility. Everyone you meet seems to have little interest in you, they just gently tell you where to go. Then, something goes terribly wrong. Such is the premise for Half-Life, from Valve and Sierra.
Graphically, Half-Life is extremely impressive. The Black Mesa facility is highly detailed, even down to little things, like sinks and soda cans. The other people actually open their mouths when they talk, a first for this game type. The most impressive part of the graphics, however, is the animation. Valve used the new skeletal animation system and it shines. Monsters and people move better than in any other game. Screenshots can't show the fluidness and realism of motion Half-Life uses. The system allows for hundreds of different things the game world's inhabitants can perform. Scientists tie their shoes and perform CPR on fallen comrades. Another impressive graphical aspect is the blood effect. It realistically sprays and smears on walls and floors. Half-Life is a visual treat all around if you have the hardware to handle it.
Half-Life has very adequate sound. I don't have A3D, but on regular speakers and subwoofer, all the sounds are crisp and realistic. Unfortunately, the gunshots sound a little weak for my taste.
Although rather complex, the controls can be handled with a keyboard, a mouse, and some practice. Try the hazard course to learn some of the finer mechanics like the long jump.
These things are all nice but the true magic of Half-Life is depth. Literally hundreds of scripted sequences litter the halls of the facility and, to a lesser extant, the outside world. Even though you can't affect many of them, they are a treat to watch, especially the first time through. Weapons are surprisingly original, totaling 18. I thought just about every weapon had already been done in some form, but Half-Life adds some new, clever ones to the mix. Take the Snark, a living creature that hunts down your enemies and bites them good. Very creative. Each weapon is found in a believable place too, off a dead guard, in a weapons locker, etc. Enemies are also reasonably varied. While the variety of monsters is nice (around 15) the most amazing thing about them is the AI. These monsters are ALIVE. Marines will work in groups, strafing you, providing cover fire and back-up for each other. Even the lower monsters will show a passion for living. They run away when injured, dodge gunfire and occasionally even hide. No game of its genre can match Half-Life here. As far as length, Half-Life should take the average gamer from 15-25 hours to beat, and you always want to go on. It's never TOO hard or too easy, the challenge is just right. I could go on forever about all the beautiful touches that bring this world to life, but trust me, you won't want a minute spoiled for you.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/01/99, Updated 07/05/02
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