Review by nickthegun

"Half Life Reloaded"

Half-Life 2

The Free-man has returned....

Graphics

What can you say? Excellent. The Graphics engine for HL2 is sublime. Everything looks beautiful. Or grim, dirty and hopeless....well you get the picture.

You have to give valve full credit for creating such a scalable engine. I know several people running HL2 on wildy different rigs, from workstation to powerhouse, and they all get more than acceptable framerates. At the top end, HL2 is a joy to behold. The locations are often breathtaking and the NPCS are all well realised and a far cry from the Generic Scientist #3's seen in the Original

Sound

Funny. Ive heard a lot of complaints that the sounds havent been updated since HL1. So what? I like it. The HEV sounds are the same, the guns, the crowbar 'PTANG!!!', everything (at least to my ear). I find it comforting in a strange way that slaughtering a headcrab with the crowbar sounds the same throughout time. Besides, it wasnt like there was anything wrong with the sound in the first place. And this time theres a lot more (occasionally ropey) voice talent. And pump up music.

Gameplay

Where to start? How about the beginning.......? From the moment you disembark the train it becomes immediately obvious you can interfere with anything not nailed to the floor. Which initially is a joy. But actually, soon becomes tiresome as you constantly have to move boxes and furniture out the way to progress. Or the constant 'Physics' Puzzles......

The physics engine is one of the major selling points of HL2 and, to a certain extent, it works really well. But there seems to be a 'Lets do it because we can' element sometimes, especially after you get the Gravity Gun. Some puzzles felt a little like over egging the pudding and prolonged some of the more boring levels. Not that the levels were particularly dull, but a lot didnt have the......for want of a better phrase....'X-Factor' (sorry) of the original.

I missed Black Mesa. I really did. HL1 was like Die Hard. You were trapped and had to escape, against huge odds. It felt claustrophobic, urgent and was just a great, great concept. HL2, if you'll forgive the analogy, is like DH3. You may have the run of the city, but its lost a bit of its magic, being concentrated in one place. Ravenholm is no match for the Dam. And some of the sections (water hazard for example) are just too long.

That said, HL2 is hugely enjoyable. The story is excellent. Its thoughtful, considered progression makes every plot revalation a joy to behold. Finding news clippings, talking to people, watching TV, every twist feels well earned (if a little cryptic).

The set pieces are still here. Bombing down a road dodging bullets from a gunship, holding armies at bay with sentry guns, they never stop. Valves steadfast insistance of never using cutscenes is still the go here and does nothing but immerse you totally in Gordons character. You know what he knows.

Its a funny one, this game and I think it suffers, in some respects, from the malady that afflicted Halo 2 and The Matrix Reloaded. Its clearly not the final part of the story and was made with a sequel in mind. I think (my theory anyway) is that HL2 is setting up HL3s return to a black mesa style environment.

In summary, this game is amazing. It delivers a fantastically immersive world and plot, inventive set pieces and a some of the best visuals yet seen in a game. Its lucky really as the installation was the most hair pullingly frustrating experience I have ever had the misfortune to witness. and steam continues to be one of the reasons I gave up playing CS. I have heard that after seeing the success Valve had with HL2 other softco's are considering similar copyright protection methods. My advice is; Dont. HL2 only got away with it because its so damn good people would have sat through much worse to play it. And i can guarantee they wont for Game X.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 12/16/04


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