Review by BigCj34

"A great mission packed expansion that betters some elements of the original Half-Life"

Half-life was released by the end of 1998 and was seen by many as revolutionary from its atmospheric feel, the first person presentation of the story and of course astounding gameplay, spawning dozens of mods such as the hugely popular Counter-Strike, plus two official expansions developed by Gearbox, this Opposing Force release in the autumn of 1999 and Blue Shift, released in Spring 2001.

Half-Life: Opposing Force intervenes with the events of the original HL, where you play the role as Corporal Adrian Shepherd, A US Marine. Although the aim for the US military was to send out a clean up crew into Black Mesa and silence any witnesses (such as Freeman and the scientists), but the helicopter explodes scattering you and your allies around the place, leaving you with no choice but to escape Black Mesa.

The game starts off with the optional Boot Camp training level, starting with a Full Metal Jacket style sequence with Drill Instructor being very much like Sergeant Hartman, who takes you through an assault course, which is more sophisticated than the Black Mesa Hazard Course if I say so myself.

Opposing Force boasts a whole series of new weapons, from the barnacle and wrench to the powerful Desert Eagle pistol, the SAW machine gun, to the alien weapons such as the Spore Launcher and the almighty displacer. For the most point, the new weapons add a new air of freshness to the game, plus a new sense of experimentation. Some of the old weapons have been removed, such as the Gauss cannon and crowbar, but this hardly matters seeing as many of the new weapons are better.

Opposing Force boasts an improved squad system, where you can recruit a squad of up to seven troops to help you on your way instead of security guards, with them having different functions. For example, there are your regular combat soldiers, plus engineers who can use a blowtorch to open certain doors, plus medics. In reality, it's unlikely that you would plan out a scene with your combat soldiers in your first attempt or so, as the squad AI is, to be blunt, awful. When hitting the use key for the soldier to move, you have to keep checking back on them it see if they're actually moving, plus the tactics they use are poor, ducking and shooting enemies without making any attempt to hide, it's easier not to bother with the soldiers unless you need to.

The overall feel of the game feels more condensed and action-packed than the original, which in some cases is a plus. The game feels less boring at times, and keeps you more on the edge of the seat, instead of wandering about for hours trying to solve annoying puzzles and listen to scientists ramble on with stuff you'd less care about. Opposing Force is only about half the time of the original half-life, with 11 chapters compared to Half-Life's 18, but the game doesn't feel anything near short, and proves to be satisfying at the end with near endless action, as opposed to cut-scenes and the like.

The art Gearbox have put in this game is the way that they have breathed new life into a game people would have thought gamers have had enough of already. The fact that they have used a different perspective of view in the same world is one thing, but the addition of new weapons and monsters is another. The new monsters don't provide much significance, because you're still fighting the same old' vautigaunts although there is the occasional surprise, but the great thing is finding new ways to kill them with the new arsenal of weapons available. The Desert Eagle pistol proves handy in the start of the game, until the SAW machine proves handy for taking out the Black Ops, while the sniper rifle takes out the Black ops troop who was just about to ambush you as soon as you sneak around the corner. Some new tweaks have been added to the general gameplay, with NVG instead of a flashlight, rope swings aside from the squad combat.

Opposing Force constantly delivers surprises, be it the Black Ops ambush, a giant boss alien poisoning you around the corner or running along the space above the ceiling and beneath a floor, only to find the damp tiles send you down to the electrified water below. The scripted scenes are also of surprise, from the old head crabs jumping out on to your face to aliens randomly charging through walls, there's plenty of scripted scenes to jerk you up on to your seat. Seriously.

The graphics on Opposing Force are just the same of the original Half-Life, not since it uses the same engine. The graphics by today's standard to look obviously dated, with low quality textures, overly square environments and very matt lighting effects, but the models and animations still hold well to beat least recognisable and the environments set the scene quite well. The audio is fine, with true stereo sound and good dialogue, explosion effects and gun sounds, all been crafted well to fit even today.

Opposing Force is a great satisfying experience, even if it only takes 10 hours to complete. Opposing Force nowadays can be installed offline with the original Half-life if you have an old copy (boo!) but registering an old Half-Life CD key through Steam gives you access to not only Half-life, but Opposing Force (yay), Blue Shift (another expansion) Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, Team Fortress Classic and a quirky Frisbee-throwing game called Ricochet, which isn't a bad deal if I say so myself. You can pick up Half-life anthology nowadays, although £15 is a bit pricey for such an old game, but what you get is definitely money well spent, with hours of single-player and Counter-Strike to keep you occupied for a long time.

Graphics Dated, but very good for it's time and does the job today 6/10
Sound Great effects, acting, explosions, to set the mission based atmosphere. 9/10
Gameplay Never fails to surprise, great action and always on the ball. A page-turner 9/10
Length Shorter than the original, but more concentrated with action than wandering around solving what to do. 8/10

Half-life: Opposing Force is a brilliant expansion pack to a revolutionary game, which is in some cases better than the original in terms of entertainment value. It doesn't have as much intensity and atmosphere as the original, but is more fun which in the end of the day, is what matters. 9/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 09/22/06

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