Review by FalcoLombardi99

"Just Short Of What It Should Have Been"

Being labeled 'Game Of The Year' by over fifty publications, and also given the title of "the best game ever created" more than once, Half-Life, created by Valve and published by Sierra, was quite the accomplishment. Half-Life revolutionized the First-person Shooter world of gaming, having the game's story taking place all through the perspective of Gordon Freeman - the player.

Half-Life: Opposing Force is an expansion to that hybrid, built by Gearbox meaning of course it runs on the same engine. It comes with a nice bright green package that follows the linear presentation style of the other Half-Life expansions, but is attractive nonetheless. However, this review isn't about the packaging...

Half-Life: Opposing Force is just short of what an expansion should be. An expansion of a game is never expected to be as good as the original, so the game does have some excuses. From beginning to end, the player is tied up in a war between the ferocious aliens of Xen, the Black Mesa Personnel, and of course, the US Marines. But does the game manage to grasp that intense, chaotic atmosphere that Half-Life so brilliantly captured?

The single player campaign starts with the player taking control of Corporal Adrian Shephard, awaiting deployment from the inside of a helicopter. A few cheesy lines later, and the squad leader starts to give some general outlines of what's going on. With a resonance cascade scenario occurring within the heart of the Black Mesa Research Facility, extra terrestrial life from the planet Xen has invaded the area and is waging war against security guards and scientists alike. Of course, all this information would be too much for the world to handle, so the US Government decides that wiping out everyone involved (including the aliens) is the best solution. Isn't it always?

The story doesn't develop as well as it could have. Instead of trying to be original and add depth to the plot of the game, Gearbox just decided to follow Half-Life's lead and drench the game in action. Which is nice if you're looking for a shooter, but not so much if you want to know why the hell you're fighting Black Ops in the middle of a desert for. Yes alright, so the reasoning is there, but it is so shallow, that the potential this game had makes one sad. Gearbox could have added a side story, with a few twists, and already this game would be up a point. However, a small cameo from the G-Man and Gordon Freeman himself makes the game slightly more interesting.

The game play has a lot to offer compared to the original Half-Life, and yet still, it feels as if there is something missing. The highlights are the new and improved weapons you come across, including some real ingenious designs and concepts, such as an squid-like creature that fires projectiles from its mouth, and a detached barnacle alien that is used for reaching high places that you couldn't possibly jump to. Other differences between this expansion and the original game include night vision instead of a basic torch, a wrench instead of a crowbar, a nifty knife on top of that, and the somewhat glitchy ability to climb ropes.

The downsides of gameplay mainly lie with unoriginality, a poor atmosphere and few scripted events. Does anyone remember the tall green tentacle-like monsters in Half-Life that you had to destroy using an experimental weapon? Be prepared to that again, except with a different kind of monster. And even if the story does state I'm in a war zone, why do I not feel like I'm in an intense battle in spite of all the shooting? This is the result of a combination of bad atmosphere and little scripting. While the the events that were put in the game were done well, there's not enough by a long shot. Events make atmosphere - and there is little to no atmosphere. Just aliens and Black Ops here and there. The idea to scatter many fellow marines all across the game was a good idea, however there's not enough complexity in the ally system to make it an enjoyable occurrence. Squad members will annoy you with senseless ramblings every few seconds, and while their firepower is helpful, they'll either be getting in your way or staying away from the action. Don't make the mistake in thinking this is a team-work game.

The graphics of Half-Life: Opposing Force are outdated, but after all this was an expansion made for Half-Life, which was made in '99. There are no complaints because the new enemies that are added are detailed, and look smoother than most of the original enemies do. Gearbox does the best to not keep you in one setting for too long because the same old textures get repetitive and boring... you start feeling as if you're playing the first Doom game again. Gearbox does however make a nice set up and layout of areas that feels inviting to the eyes.

Sounds are just like Half-Life, except there is no music in this one. Not that it needs it, there are plenty of sound effects occuring all the time. Walking on different materials produces a different sound, as well as hitting your wrench on different surfaces, jumping different heights... it's all there. No complaints.

Half-Life: Opposing Force is a short game, about 5 hours in length for the single player campaign. However good games aren't determined by length, and this is still worth your money (IF you don't have anything else to buy). You'll feel at home with the Half-Life controls and game rules, however don't expect Half-Life, expect a First-person Shooter with a sense of emptiness, and an un-motivating plot.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 03/23/05

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