Half-Life, Not Half Bad. Review

Half-Life Info


  • N/A


  • 32 - 32


  • Sierra


  • Valve

Release Date

  • 12/31/1969
  • Out Now


  • PC
  • PS2


Half-Life, Not Half Bad.

There have been obvious repetitions that have somehow worked their way permanently

into the first person genre. Repetitive gameplay and a weak story seem to hinder

almost every new game making their way into this supersaturated market. Now, here

comes Half-Life, a game as hyped as Unreal

or Quake II,

but a few questions still remain. Does Half-Life stand up to its hype?

Is there a need for it in this overcrowded and repetitive genre? Unquestionably,

the answer to both questions is yes.

If you haven’t even caught a glimpse

of the hype that surrounded the release of Half-Life, then the rest of

the gaming world and I pity you. One of the most stressed aspects of the game

is its immersive single player experience. The game has been featured on so

many web-sites and in so many magazines it would make your head spin, so bear

with me for a moment while I repeat what you might have already heard . . .

You play as Gordon Freeman, a scientist at the Black Mesa Research Facility, conducting dangerous and top secret genetic experiments. Without giving away too much of the story let me just say that, after a freak accident (or was it an accident…), you find yourself battling amongst unearthly creatures in an effort to free yourself, save yourself from government troops, and to eventually save the world. The story is revealed through dialogues with other scientists, overheard conversations, and other various clues discovered throughout the game.

Unlike other first person shooters (FPS), the story is not abandoned in the

middle of the game for bigger weapons and constant mayhem (a la Unreal).

Ambient music does an awesome job at setting the tone, and a barrage of sound

effects seriously compliments the single player experience. From start to finish,

with the exception of Thief,

Half-Life provides the best single player experience on the first person


While Half-Life‘s gameplay is unmistakably similar to the rest of the

first person genre, there are many subtle differences that give it a nice edge

over others. Half-Life tries to better explain many things that most

other shooters take for granted. For example, Freeman (you) is wearing a battle-suit,

which explains how armor can be added. Weapons and ammo are not placed at random

points throughout the map; players must discover hidden weapon caches and grab

ammo off of enemies. Rarely will you ever see some ammo or armor just lying

in the middle of a hallway. Also, while there are some health packages around,

most health and armor must be obtained from vending machines on walls throughout

the game. Lastly, the entire game is continuous, and the only breaks are the

brief loading times.

Now, on to one of the most talked-about

aspects of the FPS genre: the game’s engine. Just how does Half-Life

graphically compare to other existing engines, namely Lithtech (Shogo,

Blood 2)

and Unreal? Valve combined the Quake and Quake II engines,

along with some of their own code, to create an engine that feels and runs like

Quake II, but with many graphical advantages. Both texture quality and

variation are much better, which result in a better variety of settings. From

the enclosed tunnels of the underground Black Mesa Research Facility, to the

open canyons of surface, Valve did a pretty good job breaking away from the

usual dark, tunneled dungeon feel that most FPS fans are tired of. While Half-Life

does have its fair share of tunneled levels, there are enough other levels that

the variation is commendable.

There are a number of lighting and firing effects throughout the game, few

of which can be compared to those of Unreal. However, all of them are

a huge improvement over Quake and Quake licensed games. Half-Life‘s

hybrid engine is a small step ahead of Monolith’s LithTech, implicit in the

more detailed polygonal objects. In the end, Half-Life cannot visually

compete with the Unreal engine, but Valve made excellent use of their

Quake license.

The big hooplah over Half-Life is due to its amazing AI. Friendly soldiers

and scientists help you whenever they can, while enemies will plot strategies

to kill you more efficiently. Unlike Quake, you can’t just hide in the

shadows and pluck off enemies without them reacting. Instead, they’ll attempt

to outflank you and drive you from your hidey-hole. A far cry from your typical

frag-fests, Half-Life keeps you on your toes.

As you might imagine, because of its Quake license, Half-Life

is expected to have solid multiplayer support. Well, you’re damn right. Half-Life‘s

multiplayer, with help from the recently released patch,

rocks the house. Level and mod editing is easy and supported by a number of

famous programs. Also, Valve is expected to release their Team Fortress mod,

which is said to be the epitome of multiplayer mods. Nevertheless, on the Internet

or over a LAN, Half-Life‘s current multiplayer support proves to be as

solid and as reliable as Quake‘s.

The bottom line is that Half-Life lives up to its hype. A fantastic single player experience, with reliable and customizable multiplayer support . . . what more could a FPS fan ask for. While Half-Life won’t replace Quake II in terms multiplayer supremacy, Valve’s excellent use of the Quake and Quake II engine ensures that it will have a vast number of followers.