Review by Zylo the wolf

"The most fantastic game of all time? Nah, but still pretty good."

Even if I never was a huge fan of PC games I still did go to a few LAN parties with my friends and there was always one game that we played more than anything else, and that was Counter-Strike. Counter-Strike was a mod for Half-Life so in order to play Counter-Strike I also had to have Half-Life on my computer. A lot of my friends said that Half-Life was also a fun game, especially in single player mode, but I never managed to get into it. But every time I look at "best games of all time" list I see that either Half-Life or Half-Life 2 or both really high so I thought it was time that I finally gave Gordon Freeman a chance.

Gordon Freeman is NOT the typical action hero that we are used to see in FPS games like the Doom Guy or Duke Nukem. Instead he's just a regular scientist who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. He's late for his work at the Black Mesa Research Facility, an underground lab which studies technology to teleport and alien species if I understood the plot correct. When Gordon finally gets there, he puts on a HEV-suit and begins his job which is to push a wagon which carries a strange crystal into a big machine so the scientists can analyze it.

But the experiment goes awfully wrong, and opens up a portal between our world and a planet in another dimension called Xen. Gordon Freeman faints and when he finally wakes up he gets to know that all the communication with the overworld has been lost and that the lab is now full of alien creatures. He and a couple of other surviving scientists agree that the only one who has a chance to get back to the surface and get help Gordon since he should be able to make it with his HEV-suit. He soon finds his first weapon, the series's iconic crowbar, and gets ready to fight his way through the top of the lab.

The important thing in Half-Life is not as in many other games to kill everything that moves. Instead it's much more important to figure out what you are supposed to do to advance in the game. The game is full with puzzles which usually is solved by pushing a button which will open a locked door or that Gordon has to make use of his jumping skills. There are many times where you have to jump on one box, and then jump to another box, so you can jump to a third box and then you are able to reach the place where you are supposed to go.

There are very few enemies that you can call bosses in this game, and you usually have to figure out a way to defeat it by using what devices that there are in the stage. Except from the final boss I can't think of any where I had to hit the enemy a number of times, instead there was a certain trick to defeat the powerful enemy.

One of the main interesting things in FPS games are the weapons that you get to play with, and Half-Life got plenty of them. At first you have to rely your life on a crowbar and a regular gun, but it won't take long until you get such things as a shot gun, a cross bow, an smg with a grenade thrower, a rocket launcher and bunch of alien technology weapons. The most notable is the crowbar which can not only be used to kill enemies without costing any ammo but it can also be used to destroy different obstacles in your way. Even if it's not a weapon, Gordon is also equipped with a flashlight to light up dark areas.

If you see a human who is not attacking you, then you can talk to that person and see what they have to see. For most of the time they give you a hint what you are supposed to do next, and sometimes the scientists will follow you since their aid is required to advance further in the game. There's also a security guard named Barney which will act as a team mate until he runs out of ammo. The problem is that it's very possible to think that these characters are enemies and therefore kill them before they have had any chance to aid you. But this is only a problem when you are a rookie.

What makes this game different from the other FPS games I've played is that this game is not divided in stages, but instead it's a big big stage. The game is divided in different chapters which gives you a clue on how far you have advanced in the game. Even if it's possible for most of the time, I don't think that you ever have to back track to a previous chapter when you have begun a new one. This is good if you save your game and then don't play it anymore for a couple of months, and then come back and needs a clue on where you have already been.

Speaking of saving, I recommend that you save often and use different save files. Every time you die either by getting killed by an enemy or by jumping of a cliff you start over from the point where you last saved your game. The game is kind enough to have an auto save feature which helps a lot because there are many places in this game where you will die the first times, but the further you progress in the game the more difficult the game gets and that means that you will die more often, so sometimes the auto-saves feels like they don't get overwritten quick enough.

The big problem I had with this game was to figure out what I was supposed to do. For example there was one part in the game where I had to jump to platform to platform with a exact timing or I would get killed, and when I finally reached the ground I had no idea where to go and got killed by an enemy. At the same stage I had to to once a again jump from platform to platform, and in order to reach my goal I had to know that it was possible to jump on a certain enemy and travel with it to my destination. I don't know how many times I had to look on walkthroughs on youtube because I really couldn't understand what I was supposed to do. They could've also explain the plot a little better because there is a deep plot in this game, but it's very hard to get it.

Since I haven't played many other FPS games, I can't really compare that many to Half-Life. I can see why people love it a lot more than I do, but even if it was fun I wasn't that excited to get further in the game. I ran out of ammo just right before the end with the game and realized that I didn't care if I could beat it or not. It has a certain charm and memorable moments, but I didn't see that much which really amazed me. It's a classic no doubt about that, but I don't consider it to be one of the best games I've played or anything like that. If I had included mods like Counter-Strike, then I would've given it another point.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 09/15/11

Game Release: Half-Life (EU, 12/31/98)

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