Review by JW ACE

"Story and AI are the best I've seen....."

I have always loved FPS's. But I always felt something was missing, like a good story. I mean shooting demons is fun and all but Id can't make a story to save their life. Also, I considered myself a great player, until I played on-line death match. There is no substitute for what a human does when it comes to AI programming. While I believe that's still the case, Half-life comes pretty damn close. But enough with the background info, on to the review...

People tell me all the time(mostly people who don't like quake2) that Half-life engine is just a modified quake1 engine. WRONG!!Sorry quake1 fans its actually more of a quake2 mod, with quake1 elements along with some custom elements by Valve. So, to be politically correct, the half-life engine is a quake1/2 HYBRID. So for all you quake2 haters out there who like to say that Counter-Strike is the greatest multiplayer game out there and it sports the quake1 engine, let it go, and move on. Futhermore get a life. Haveing said that, the graphics are pritty damn good. The biggest complaint is the details in the NPC's. Barny has kind of a square head, and the scientists don't look to different from each other. These issues are addressed in the High definision pack(releasts with Blue-shift) but since I'm reviewing the original game I can't count that.
The whole game sports your typical quake2 engine type play(YES 2 not 1)of being inside an installation. There are what will be decribed later as ''surface'' levels but those are rather linear as well. No the quake2 engine(and quake1 for that matter, and quake3 doesn't do a much better job) doesn't give you much ''freedom'' if you will. The Unreal engine does, but thankfully, most compainies either went quake2 and are now quake3 or did something else(like lithtech engine).
After getting that out, the levels are done quite well, and the slight issues of the graphics are not noticed at all. Who cares if Barny has a square jaw, he's covering your ass!

I'll talk more about the levels later, but now...
Gun sounds are done as well as expected in an FPS. What is really done good are the commands you here from the soldiers once you get to them. And the sirens and Warning voices give the game a good ''emergency'' feel.

Nothing really different from other FPS gameplay except the fact that you can move objects around. This allows for many puzzles, and I don't just mean jumping puzzels. Yes, I know, god forbid you have to think in an FPS. But I think this gives the game a more realist feel. There is one part where you have to get across a pool of electricity, you can't jump it, so I eventually looked up, and there was a beam that goes across. So I move some boxes around and jumped up to it.
Also, the whole ''rail'' area was very suspenceful. I kept wondering what was going to be around the next corner. That train system was done very well.

I think the story is excellent. Now everyone is going to complain about the 5 min intro ride. You know what? Live with it. Yeah, hey I actually liked the tram ride. It builds up the atmosphere. You are deep in an underground facility. I kind of wish you get to ride more trams. Anyways you basically get caught up in an experiment that screws up and the whole place goes to hell. Now you have to get out. And this is MUCH easier said than done. I think its a little weird how Freeman(you)is a scientist and can just pick up a gun and know how to handle it, but I guess you got to do what you got to do.

Now let me just elaborate a little about what I said earlier. This game is very interactive. And the AI couldn't be better. The scientists will follow you in order to help unlock area's, and Barny(security guards, he isn't in 400 different places at once) will follow and protect you. Yes, don't kill them for their ammo, that would be stupid since while he is alive Barny seems to have unlimited ammo. And later on in the more harder levels, haveing Barny as a distraction to the enemy's will work to your advantace. So keep him alive.

As for the enemy AI, the military squads have extremily realistic AI. They will do their best to flank you, throw a gernade if you hid in a corner, and they even burst fire. The aliens actually act the way you would think them to, the supper big aliens tend to charge you while the smaller ones just kind of hit and run.

So this game is really close to perfect except for one thing...the ending. Yes, in fact, once you get to Xen(you will know what I mean when you play the game) the game get EXTREMLY hard. The famous level ''Interlooper'' makes even the final levels of Doom 2 look like cake. What do you get for completing that level? Well, the joy of knowing you are almost done with the game, as you get a nice glimse of the final bose. Lets just say, you must see it to believe it. Then you spend about 15 min(more like 30 for a first timmer) killing this SOB only to have what is now known as one of the most disappointing endings in the history of gamming. I think Valve and Monty Python have a lot in common, as they don't know how to end the things they make. Luckaly, It does leave it wide-open for a sequal(which will be out shortly thank god).

Half-life is not your normal FPS, it requires you to think a little bit. Most people will tell you just to get it for multiplayer, but don't, get the retail counter-strike if multiplay is your thing. And everyone who didn't even try to finish this great game, you are a bunch of losers, complaining a FPS is too long, this game isn't long enough.

A classic till the end, man, I can't wait for HL2.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 10/06/03

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