Review by KnightsoftheRound
"Seven years ago Half-Life set the standards for FPS games, and still holds up today as arguably the best FPS of all time."
Released back in 1998, Half-Life revolutionized the FPS genre in a whole new way, and changed people's expectations of what an amazing FPS should contain. This is especially noticeable, when you think back to when Doom was originally released. Doom set the standards for great FPS games, however when the Doom formula was tried in 2004, it proved to feel slightly stale and old, compared to Half-Life and Half-Life 2.
You are Dr. Gordon Freeman, working in the Top-Secret Underground Black Mesa Research Facility in New Mexico. When an experiment goes horribly wrong, a portal is opened and thousands of aliens infest the facility. At first you really don't know what happened, all you know is that you have somehow caused a Residence Cascade and now you must fight your way to the surface to escape. Along the way you learn that the Government has decided to send in the military although unfortunately for you and your fellow scientists they are not here to rescue you, they are here to eliminate everything including you. As Gordon Freeman you will have to use your wits and the help of fellow scientists and security guards to help you escape.
Half-Life creates a great sense of mystery as you really don't know at the beginning of what's going on. As you will notice a mysterious figure observing you randomly throughout the game known only as the "G-Man" who walks around carrying a briefcase. One of the greatest aspects of Half-Life is that their are no cheesy cut-scenes and you never leave the eyes of Gordon Freeman, so the story is told by things you will hear and see from people and objects around you.
What made Half-Life so amazing was the fact that you were never always doing the same thing. In a typical FPS you run around and shoot things and thats pretty much it. In Half-Life you have to do a lot of other things, including jumping puzzles and navigating tricky terrain while hiding from a military helicopter trying to blow you to pieces, to trying to find out how the hell your supposed to kill that giant monster blocking your path. A combination of several other genres mixed into Half-Life with it's story driven gameplay makes for an amazing experience and an amazing game.
Half-Life has a bizarre armor system. Along with having your maximum of 100 HP you have suit energy that is contained in your HEV suit that you will wear for the entire game. Besides losing HP when taking damage, a lot of attacks will drain your suit energy, but many attacks will simultaneously drain your HP and HEV energy, however this is good, because the HEV suit lowers the amount of HP lost from enemy attacks, so having a charged suit will be essential to your survival. You can charge your suit from the wall mounted charging stations or with batteries you can pick up during the game. But don't worry, you only lose energy when you are attacked by enemies, your suit does not drain on it's own.
Half-Life also features some incredible weapons, that you would not ordinarily expect to be in the average FPS. Obviously you start out with your average 9mm pistol, and then your shotgun and your smg, but you will eventually be lead to the bigger and funner weapons. Half-Life includes a new kind of melee weapon: The Crowbar. As with the crowbar you will come across the following weapons in Half-Life: (not in order) Glock, .357 Magnum, MP5 with attached grenade launcher, Shotgun, Crossbow, Rocket Launcher (RPG, rocket propelled grenade), Tau Cannon/Gauss Gun, Gluon Gun, Hornet launcher, Frag Grenade, Satchel Charge, Trip Mine, and Snarks.
Now I will explain the weapons that you are probably having a hard time figuring out exactly what they are used for and what they are. The Crossbow is essentially your sniper rifle, although it shoots slower than a sniper rifle, it is undoubtedly powerful. The Tau Cannon/Gauss Gun (has 2 different names) is an experimental weapon that shoots orange lasers and can also be charged and shot through objects. The Gluon Gun is also an experimental weapon that shoots a blue energy beam that makes enemies explode on contact. The Hornet launcher is an alien weapon that shoots hornets out at enemies, and the snarks a little aliens you can throw that will attack nearby enemies, or you, if their are no enemies around. The snarks will explode after approximately 15 seconds after being thrown.
Half-Life also features some unique jumping puzzles. Significantly in your travels to the alien home-world Xen, you will be doing a lot of long range jumping between platforms in a low gravity setting. The alien world is very bizarre and fun to look at, although the jumping puzzles may seem to become tiresome, the trip to Xen is not very long, so it will be over before you become tired of it. Half-Life also has some boss fights, and these boss fights are unique in their own rights, and also pretty hard. So anyone who appreciates a challenging boss fight should find what they are looking for here.
Admittedly not amazing at our current point in time, Half-Life did feature some great graphics back in 1998, and they are definitely manageable to play with now. If you are extremely picky about graphics, the expansion pack Half-Life: Blue Shift came with the HD pack (High Definition Pack) that upgrades the weapons and player models of Half-Life. The only potentially "bad" thing about using the HD pack is that it changes the MP5 to a M4A1 and the glock to a Beretta. Although since the transfer of the games to Steam, the HD Pack no longer works on Steam, and only if you install from the CD. Although you can download the HD pack to work on Steam, but it is not official. However Valve has stated that the HD pack will be officially available sometime in the next few weeks (as of this review has been written). Half-Life is still an amazing game, and it also has gore, which can either be a good thing or a bad game, so keep in mind that you can disable the gore if you really want to.
The weapons in Half-Life sound amazing, and the music is great when it's there. The music in Half-Life will appear at key moments in the game to help pick up the pace, for action packed sequences. Although the music does seem to be absent for a good portion of the game. Half-Life does a good job with the ambiance as well, so you feel like you are in a creepy environment, although the game never gets that scary. The PA system that talks is also a very welcome feature, since you know that the military is after you, so having it saying "Gordon Freeman, please report to top side for questioning" is very nice to hear. Your HEV suit that you wear also has a voice of it's own and will tell you when you are in environmental danger such as radiation, burning ect...
The entire Half-Life 1 collection is now available for an extremely cheap price, and you get 7 games with it. There are also tons of third party mods that can provide you with hours of entertainment. Half-Life is an amazing game, with tons of extra content through mods, and multiplayer options. I myself have racked up many hours playing mods of Half-Life and the games that come with it. Half-Life is just an amazing game, that should not be missed for any reason.
I give Half-Life a complete 10/10 because of it's amazing replayability, with it's amazing single player game, it's amazing expansions, it's amazing storyline, and it's amazing mods there is NO reason why Half-Life should not be in your collection of classic games. Half-Life revolutionized the way that FPS were played and to this day, many games still can't match the quality and presentation that Half-Life has successfully achieved so many years ago. If you are a fan of FPS games then you owe it to yourself to experience Half-Life.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/25/05
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