Review by kiriyama2

"The best of the Half-Life expansions"

I know that I'm in the minority here, a lot of people seem to hate Blue Shift like it were some sort of virulent plague in the gaming world. I, on the other hand, think that the game is fun, and is definitely the best of Half-Life's expansion packs. I'll be the first to admit that it is not perfect, however it is just so much better than Opposing Force (hereafter known as OpFor). It's kind of a shame really that the Dreamcast version of Half-Life never saw the light of release, because I can see how this game would've been phenomenal on that system.

Blue Shift casts you in the role of Barney Calhoun, a security guard at Black Mesa. It starts right around the beginning of the original Half-Life (you play as the security guard that's locked out of the door you see in the tram scene in the original HL), and has you running through the day to day of a Black Mesa guard. After one of the other Barneys (other guards) tells you to go check out a stuck elevator the teleported experiments go awry and the aliens from Xen begin their invasion. During Barney's tribulations a scientist informs you that a scientist buddy of his, Dr. Rosenberg, has almost perfected a teleportation system that'll get you and a bunch of the other scientists out of Black Mesa. So, naturally you go and hunt down Rosenberg and along the way you get into fights with the Xen creatures and soldiers. When all's said and done, Blue Shift is really just a side story to Half-Life and OpFor. As early on in the game some soldiers mention Shephard and his people “dying” (getting shot down), and you do see some soldiers dragging Gordon to the trash compactor. Also, at points the story in this seems a bit inconsistent with the story elements of the other games. Not five minutes after the game begins the Xen experiments go awry, yet about ten or fifteen minutes later when you're going through some sewers you hear some soldiers talk about how Shephard and his people are dead. And then, about an hour later you see them dragging the unconscious Gordon away to toss him in the trash compactor (and that doesn't occur in the original HL until about three quarters of the way through that game). Feh, perhaps I'm just over thinking this.

Blue Shift includes with it the High-Definition patch, which upgrades the visuals. It makes the machine gun look different (instead of an MP-5, it's now and M-16) as well as the shotgun (it now looks like a SPAS-12). Also it makes all of the character models look better. While I can't in good conscience say that they look great, they do look a hell of a lot better than the models in, say, Deus Ex. One thing about the graphics, even with their upgrade the backgrounds are still blurry. There's also a new enemy type running around in this one. It looks kind of like a Vortigaunt, but just so different that it's a new enemy. So all that said, the visuals do look pretty good, the High-Def patch made it look awesome.

One of the amusing things I find about this game, is that if you decide to run through the Hazard Course, instead of the female scientist in the hazard suit like in the original Half-Life there'll be a Barney there to instruct you. Gameplay in this has not changed one iota from the gameplay found in the original Half-Life. Which would sound like a complaint were it not for the fact that Half-Life's gameplay was sublime.

During the course of the game, you engage in firefights with aliens from Xen, and, of course, the military. This time however they have limited the arsenal of weapons since OpFor, and the original. You get just the handgun, magnum, shotgun, assault rifle, grenades and satchel charge, and of course the crowbar. It just seems a bit strange that they've cut the number of weapons in Blue Shift to below that of the base Half-Life game. Perhaps it's because this was originally intended as a Dreamcast game, but it's still somewhat depressing to be without that awesome heavy machinegun from OpFor.

Like I mentioned briefly above, the gameplay in Blue Shift has changed not at all from the gameplay found in either HL or OpFor. Which isn't a bad thing, because those games were really pretty good. Problem is that the game has not changed at all from the other two. It still boils down to running around Black Mesa killing soldiers and aliens for a prolonged period of time.

There's also the fact that the game has a large amount of jumping puzzles (if you'll recall I said in my OpFor review I'd mention it here, so here we are). What's more the jumping and grabbing in this game is more finicky than it was in the previous games. When you're jumping toward a ladder or barrel, or whatever, you have to be spot on and perfect with your jump. Otherwise you'll ricochet off of it and be plunged into the bottomless pits of Black Mesa or land in pools of radioactive slime. A curious little thing about the jumping is the fact that if you hold down the spacebar it makes you crouch. Which is sort of neat, but actually a bit of an annoyance really. As sometimes during the jumping puzzles when you leap to whatever, ladder, let's say and you'll miss it because of the crouching. But still it's only a minor complaint. The jumping puzzles can just be quite irritating with how spot on you have to be with your jumps, and also the auto crouching.

Unlike with OpFor, which was set entirely in Black Mesa (unless you jumped into the portal after Gordon, and promptly died), Blue Shift actually does go into Xen once more. Which, I must say is actually a slight bit better than it was in the original Half-Life (say what you will, Xen wasn't much fun). For one the jump pads have been removed, and was short enough that it wasn't that much of an annoyance.

Even though this game is quite fun, and gives the graphics a nice boost to the tired engine. Sadly though, one of the problems that plagued OpFor returns to Blue Shift. It really is amazingly short, clocking in around two hours max. Another annoyance is the fact that at the time when this was released it for some reason came with a copy of OpFor. Making it seems somewhat redundant for those of us who had already bought it separately. Granted, they did offer a ten dollar rebate, but still. It's sort of like what Valve did with The Orange Box, including Half-Life 2 and Episode 1, in addition to Episode 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2.

Of the two expansions for Half-Life, Blue Shift is better than OpFor. Granted it didn't really fix any of the problems that plagued OpFor, it was just a better experience overall. I really don't understand why this game wasn't better liked than it was. Outside of They Live, Team Fortress Classic, and Counter-Strike, Blue Shift is the best of the non-Valve made Half-Life games. With the inclusion of OpFor, there's really no reason not to own this game. Especially if you get the original HL games off Steam, it is well worth the price.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 09/05/08

Game Release: Half-Life: Blue Shift (US, 06/11/01)

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