Review by Freebooter16
A worthy expansion for an incredible game
Generally speaking, I don't expect much from expansion packs, so Half-Life: Opposing Force was a pleasant surprise. Opposing Force sees the player returning to the Black Mesa Research Facility as Corporal Adrian Sheperd, a young member of the USMC Special Forces. You arrive slightly after Gordon Freemen leaves for Xen, and since new things start going on in Black Mesa after this, it allows for an interesting and different game.
Gameplay - 9/10
Opposing Force is arguably more action-packed than its predeseccor - there are few fewer puzzles than one would find in Half-Life or Blue Shift, and the new weapons, aliens and ability to command troops puts a lot more emphasis on combat. The beginning of the game is similar to the original Half-Life, with plenty of jumping, hitting switches and duct-crawling (you even get to take a ride on the tram), but the second half of Opposing Force is an all-out war.
There are some new aliens in Black Mesa, and they're a refreshing change - the new soldier aliens have excellent AI, attack in groups and even use their own form of grenades. You'll have a variety of new weapons to take them out with - an M16, a sniper rifle (thankfully, the crossbow's gone), a Desert Eagle, my personal favourite the SAW, and many more. The best aspect of the gameplay, however, is the squad. You now have the ability to command Soldiers, Medics and Engineers on the battlefield. Using each team member correctly requires planning - it's best to let medics hang back, for example, so they can heal you after a firefight. The Marines will also interact with each other - if a soldier is wounded, he'll cry out, "Medic!" and your medic will run over and heal him.
There are only a few flaws which prevent gameplay from getting a perfect score - the ropes are a big problem. The climbing animation is terrible, and they're very difficult to swing from; fortunately, they only show up four or five times throughout the game. Your soldiers will occasionally have problems following you around if you take too many turns - although I admit, their navigation skills are a vast improvement on those of the scientists and security guards in the original Half-Life. These are but minor flaws in a great game, however.
Story - 8/10
The story is delivered in true Half-Life style: fragmented and disjointed, relayed to you through snippets of information from scientists and security guards, which adds to the feeling of isolation and fear Half-Life is famous for. Opposing Force's storyline ties in neatly with that of Half-Life - you'll see Gordon Freeman leave for Xen, and can even follow him there (but don't expect to survive). You'll revisit some classic scenes such as the dam, and learn a bit more about the original story hints and suggestions of Half-Life - there are some extensive parts of the game set in laboratories clearly made to study the aliens.
The only criticism I have with the storyline is the "black-ops" soldiers. It seems a little too contrived, thought up as an easy excuse to have human enemies in the game as well as aliens. I find it pretty unlikely the government would attack its own men. But hey, it worked - without the black ops soldiers, the game would have been considerably less fun.
It's also interesting to note some of the similarities between Opposing Force and the Stanley Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket - I'm sure some of the phrases the drill sergeant spouts out in boot camp are direct copies, and the medic is nostalgically reminiscent of Private Joker. This adds to the whole military atmosphere of the game.
And, when it comes right down to it, being a Marine is just plain cooler than being a scientist - even if that scientist is Gordon Freemen.
Graphics - 7/10
They're looking pretty good - although it really depends on your PC's arsenal, Opposing Force generally looks crisper and cleaner than the original Half-Life, especially the weapons (no more Lego Glocks!) and aliens - the shock trooper is magnificent. There are a few minor quibbles (the muzzle flare of the M16 makes it very difficult to see what you're shooting, for example), but on the whole the game does itself proud in this aspect.
Sound - 6/10
The sounds are fairly average, no improvement on the original game (but Half-Life had pretty damn good sound effects). One thing I found particularly spooky was the noise of those little dart-shooters running overhead on the catwalk, metal against claws... you turn your head up to look, and and see something running off into the darkness...
The music isn't to everybody's taste, but it only plays a few times - albeit at very inappropriate times, like when you're smashing apart crates or sitting in an elevator. I want to hear music on the battlefield, not creeping along a corridor armed only with a monkey wrench. The other complaint I have is your fellow soldiers - there aren't enough phrases for them. Security guards and scientists have dozens, but your Marines' vocabularies are limited to about four or five random sentences.
Replay Value - 7/10
Like the original Half-Life, Opposing Force is a game you can always get back to. Some parts never get old - charging into the three-way gunfight in the warehouse with my SAW blazing is still fun, even after I've wracked up countless gameplay hours. However, replaying is something you'll be doing quite a lot, since Opposing Force is only about a quarter the size of Half-Life. The game's length is, in fact, is the only place it doesn't measure up to Half-Life.
Overall Score - 9/10
Great graphics, eerie story and action-packed gameplay - in certain areas, this game is better than Half-Life. The only problem is, it's over once you really start getting into it. If you like the original Half-Life, you'll love Opposing Force.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
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