Half-Life - PC
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- New weapons; new levels; solve a variety of puzzles; first-person shooter
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The plot of the game is typical (in fact, it's little more than an elaborate version of Doom). You are Gordon Freeman, scientist at the Black Mesa Research Facility, involved in some mysterious experiments. These experiments go awry, and foul creatures begin taking over the complex. It gets more complicated, but there's no need to ruin the surprises that await. Suffice it to say that Half-Life isn't a great game because of its story; it's a great game because of how it presents that story. From the opening moments of the game to the final showdown (and even beyond) all hell is continually breaking loose, and there is never a moment where you are not seeing things through Freeman's eyes. There are scripted events in the game. There are opening and closing scenes. But they all occur naturally within the game environment. It may sound simple, but it goes a long way toward helping create a believable world.
Weapon, ammunition, and health placement follows the same philosophy. You'll hardly ever come across an item that is just bobbing and spinning in place like some gift from the heavens. Valve has done a good job of justifying the typical health and armor meters. Freeman is wearing a hazard suit, used by researchers involved in dangerous experiments. To regain health and armor energy, you must fill up at power stations. These are almost always located in logical places, usually near areas where dangerous work would be performed. There are no power-ups to be found. Weapons and ammo are taken from supply closets or the corpses of fallen security guards and soldiers. Even the more experimental weapons have their proper place - in the weapons research department of the facility. And late in the game, once you've left the research facility, the supply of ammo and first aid kits is believably scarce.
There are no levels in Half-Life, or, more specifically, it lacks the concept of levels and episodes we've come to expect. The game is a continual stream of locations from beginning to end. You can move back and forth at will (with only a few exceptions), as can those who are pursuing you. And though the brief loading time between zones is the one artifact that breaks the flow of the game, the transitions are thankfully brief.
The attention to detail doesn't just stop with the basic structure. The game is full of surprises, continually throwing new obstacles and challenges in your path. There is a wide variety of textures, lending a distinct look to every area. The numerous scripted events bolster the illusion of reality, and you'll come across detailed scenes that are continually suspenseful. The gameplay is very puzzle-oriented, but the puzzles hardly seem to be superficial obstacles. Whether you're repairing a reactor or finding some way to dispose of a massive locked door, the puzzles always seem plausible in the world Valve has created.
The alien enemies are well designed and occasionally border on the terrifying. From the basic headcrab (which resembles a cross between Alien's facehugger and X-COM Apocalypse's brainsucker) to monstrosities a hundred times its size, the enemies truly look like organic beings. There are human enemies in the game, and these display a level of artificial intelligence that is remarkable. While many a game's idea of excellent AI is simply monsters that can make it through a doorway to follow you, Half-Life's antagonists act in a manner that is frighteningly realistic. They won't follow you through a doorway - they'll just lob a few grenades to where you're hiding and be done with it.
The weapons look and sound great, ranging from the realistic combat shotguns and grenade launchers, to the science-fictional, high-powered particle accelerators. The level design is diverse (owing a nod of thanks to Jedi Knight), including the expansive research facility, some great outdoor areas, and foreign locales that are best left to be discovered on your own. Suffice to say, it never gets repetitive.
The only problems with Half-Life are the results of it being so ambitious. The fact that all of the humans in the game look like clones takes from the otherwise realistic atmosphere. The diversity of the levels and puzzles will undoubtedly leave you thinking some areas were better than others. But complaints that arise are simply a reaction to the fact that the game is so close to ideal. Half-Life is an exceptional single-player game and a solid multiplayer game (though the upcoming Team Fortress add-on may make it even better). It takes the tried-and-true one step further but ends up leaps and bounds ahead of the rest. --Ron Dulin
--Copyright ©1998 GameSpot Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of GameSpot is prohibited. -- GameSpot Review
Top Customer Reviews
Due to an experimental accident you become trapped in a fictional `Area 51' type of underground facility. The experiment you were working on created a dimensional portal that damaged the base and unleashed hordes of repulsive aliens hell bent on destruction. Your mission, should you choose to accept it (like you have a choice!) is to get out of the base alive and get help. Unfortunately the military have other Ideas. The military brass wants the whole problem to go away, they want to kill the aliens and all the scientists too. Your only allies in your herculean task are a few intellectually challenged security guards and a few terrified scientists. Fortunately you have the use of an `Earthworm Jim' environmental suit and along the way you accumulate a devastating arsenal of weapons. The time to chew gum is over, the time to kick a$$ has begun.
As scientist Gordon Freeman working deep within the underground Black Mesa complex, your workday takes a hard right-turn into hell when top-secret experiments go awry, unleashing a blood-thirsty menagerie of nasty critters. Only your wits, stealth, and effective use of weapons and cover will save the day.
Fighting your way back to the surface is a bone-chilling affair, but the scenery makes it all worthwhile, thanks to Valve's choice of 3D-polygon engine. Half-Life took the best that Quake and QuakeWorld had to offer and taught it a thing or three, with a staggering list of tweaks and optimizations. For starters, Half-Life is the only Quake-tech game to support both OpenGL and Direct3D. For peak performance, we recommend the OpenGL option (with its multitextured lighting), although the D3D isn't shabby. Either way, Half-Life packs all the expected visual tricks, including alpha-blended water and glass, procedural texturing for blood-splattering effects, and even cool spark effects. Unfortunately, the clean, bright, and varied textures are limited to 256x256. But they do run in either 16-bit or 24-bit depth for even crisper colors. Rather than traditional multipiece polygon models, Half-Life's models are made up of a single mesh.Read more ›
So, what do you do? Get out as fast as you can! But this is a HUGE facility, and soon you find that no only do you need to find an exit and escape the clutches of the interdimensional aliens, but the U.S. government has called in the military to clear out the experimental complex of evidence... including scientists (you!).
You'll need to rely on your wits, your reflexes, your skills with various weapons (from grenades to crowbars to shotguns to a crowssbow), and finally, you might want to actually interact with some of the survivors. In what is bound to be duplicated in shooter games hereafter, you can speak with scientists you find, who you can save (or kill if you are feeling sadistic), and security guards who will be more than happy to follow you around and give you backup if it's needed.
The mood of the game is at parts exhilarating, at parts dreary or horrific, but always FRIGHTENING. At times you will go through a heater duct in darkness, with only the small light of a flashlight to help you on the way. You'll hear a noise coming ahead of you through the darkness, and if you don't react quick- SURPRISE!Read more ›
Although the story lacks originality, the plot is revealed and implemented in a wholly appropriate way. The game is entirely unbroken, with no discrete stops between levels; you can even go back to a previous level. Even though the gameplay is linear in nature, the excellent level design always gives the feeling that there are things going on that you can't control. Any imbalance in the weapons in single-player mode is made up for by the judicious availability of ammunition. Items always are found in logical places.
The artificial intelligence is truly awe-inspiring. Soldiers work together in teams, laying down cover fire, throwing grenades with deadly accuracy, flanking your position, and generally disallowing the stale strategy of "wade in with guns blazing." If you do not like being beaten by a machine then you should not play this game.
The multiplayer extends the game's replay value indefinitely. Although slightly lag-prone over the internet, the game is fun nonetheless. The weapons in multiplayer are superbly balanced. A few maps are included with the game and countless user-made arenas are available online, ranging from wide-open bloodbaths to intricate cat-and-mouse chases. Several mods are available as well, such as Team Fortress Classic and CounterStrike, which extend the multiplayer gameplay to more intelligent, team-based bouts.
This game has outdone every similar program that has come before it and I have a feeling that FPS's for years to come will be regarded as merely pretenders to the throne.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Knew it was old but not ancient. Wouldn't play on old XP machine so, what the hell. Being a man, I hated to do it, but I looked at the book. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Barry C Elliott
Immersive story, spooky atmosphere and graphics that is beautiful even 17 years after the game was first released - these features make Half-Life one of greatest FPS games ever... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Marcos
The Good: Game holds up 10 years later, one of the best told stories in gaming history, a lot of memorable moments, tons of mods available
The Bad: Graphics look hideous... Read more
Even though this game is almost 15 years old and uses a modified Quake engine, it is still one of the most FUN and best shooters ever to be made. Read morePublished on November 1, 2011 by Jeff Johnson
I'm a scientist and work in a classified area as well. This game reminds me of an incident I once encountered. Read morePublished on May 18, 2011 by prostudent
I bought the original when it first came out in 1998. In late 2004 Valve rereleased Half-Life with the update source engine used in Half-life 2. There is no new content though. Read morePublished on January 28, 2009 by OverTheMoon
The only bad thing about this game is that it will destroy the fun from every game you will ever play again. Every game that I have played since will always be compared to this. Read morePublished on August 11, 2006 by Brent Brubaker
Revolutionary. This is one of the best games I ever played. The skeletal movement system and A.I. make for a very awesome time. Read morePublished on January 13, 2006 by fender
Mention first person shootears and this is probably the first game that will come to your mind. its' tht damn good!
i first played this game in 2000.. Read more