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Half-Life 2

Developer: Valve Corporation Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
16 November 2004
Half-Life 2 - cover art
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4.24 / 5.0
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5,081 Ratings / 10 Reviews
#44 All-time
#4 for 2004
The Seven Hour War is lost. Earth has surrendered. The Black Mesa incident is a distant memory. Reawakened from stasis in the occupied metropolis of City 17, Gordon Freeman is joined by Alyx Vance as he leads a desperate human resistance movement striking out against the Combine.
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Former Black Mesa scientist Gordon Freeman is awoken from stasis by the mysterious G-Man and finds himself in "City 17", the headquarters of a dystopian alien empire called the Combine, which has conquered Earth. There, he reunites with several Black Mesa scientists and helps resistance members and defeat the Combine in an effort to free mankind.
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Undoubtedly one of the most influential games of all time but like some others have already said, it feels pretty empty. Not really in a "dystopian empty" way but in a way that I can't immerse myself into the game because it has that feeling of being in a gmod map in the way that you know there's nothing beyond the confines of the map. Also my enjoyment of the game went down quite a bit after Ravenholm (still like the rest of this game), but it's still a 4 because of how amazing that stretch of the beginning to Ravenholm is. The ending section is also very good. Just wish the latter-middle section of the game was more interesting.
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Have you heard the bad news?
Because you've already heard everything that's to be heard about this game related to the good parts.

1 - Amazing graphics for the time;
2 - Viktor Antonov's crazily unique art direction for the game, seriously go and look up the concept art;
3 - you get to witness the birth of modern FPS, TPS and all other action-adventure games nowadays in general;
4 - thrilling execution and immersion;
5 - good (although sparse) audio and OST;
6 - a crazy, powerful new engine that makes the experience;
7 - everything is virtually unforgettable. No moment, person or place you'll forget. The craft is amazing.

Now, Half-Life 2 has 3 major, undeniable problems:

1 - the "brainy" parts, too dumb and easy due to incompetent playtesters;
2 - the forced physics mechanics, that should have just been made more for emergent gameplay instead of idiotic "shoot the explosive barrel" bits and the like;
3 - the weird slow pace that makes it clunky.

The new experience Valve made (the story and action-packed cinematic adventure) with this game, that influenced all of the games coming after it, is also the reason for all of these shortcomings: they did it first but didn't do it just right.

Playing it is a chore. It's the classic sin of "shopping list" gaming, where there is no fluidity among objectives, even if they're put in a straight line. The natural feeling of Half-Life 1, that played between the height and space of levels is now replaced by move, stop - shoot, stop - puzzle, move again.

The semplicity has kind of been kept, but lost, as the design fails, giving you no ability to aim again but putting you in situations where aiming is necessary for example; you must throw grenades at the snipers all of the time and avoid them, but never get a rifle with a sight. You get a gimmicky level where you use the sand ants to help you with the enemies, that are useless and boring, just to give a sense of movement on screen and control (that was scrapped in the final game, replaced by a call command for teammates that is useless too), and the gravity gun gives limited excitement because there is just always one and only one way to solve things - you feel really trapped in this sandbox world that doesn't really work like one, everything is actually scripted and all other possibilities are locked.

Why? There is no answer other than the incompetence of the designers. Many steps forward on the hardest accomplishments to be ever achieved in gaming and then some dumb regressions over the simple things.

Luckily, this review is meant to be reactionary in order to write a few things down in a new perspective. The game is great for the most part; just too far from perfect. You should play it if you haven't.
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mattboa 2017-07-26T16:22:36Z
2017-07-26T16:22:36Z
8.5
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P.S.: Too easy and maybe not as good as the first one, which was just as important as this on those important fronts. HL2 could feel like an update to you.
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While this game isn't as disjointed as the first entry in the franchise, I have to say there's a bit too much filler for it to be among my favourite games of all time even if I don't have any issues with seeing it to the end.

The big problem I have is how much driving around there is, I get the feeling valve genuinely thought that players would be amused by driving along these empty highways and canals for long stretches of time which I guess they were right about given how I appear to be in the minority with how dull these sections are. Thankfully they don't take up too much of the overall gameplay as you often find yourself pulling over in order to solve a puzzle so that you can move onto the next area. These areas also stop at the halfway point of the game once Gordon reaches the resistance base as he thankfully traverses on foot and by teleportation from here on out. I guess this was to showcase the graphics which do look great even to this day, however as the game was going for realism, the areas aren’t much to look at as they consist of abandoned buildings and barren mountains. At least the on-foot sections aren't needlessly spacious even if that might be due to how much space the driving sections take up in the game. Still, I’ll gladly take driving for minutes on end to my destination over the last third of the first game where valve really dropped the ball in quality for that game. As for what this game does right, that can be summed up in two words, gravity gun. How it took until when this game came out to have a weapon that uses everyday objects as ammo is beyond me, but congrats are in order for valve by successfully implementing not just this mechanic but the engine to allow the physics of this weapon to work flawlessly throughout the game. A close second to the greatest aspect of this game are the characters, specifically Alyx who really is the antidote not just for the brainless bimbos in media back then but ESPECIALLY the insufferable girl bosses of modern media. Sure, Alyx isn't a bombshell, but she isn't a stuck-up bitch either as she shows genuine compassion for those around her whilst displaying a high level of intelligence and combat abilities that feel natural to the story. The rest of the cast is good, particularly Barney who finally has a speaking role in universe after his so-so debut in blue shift.

It's a game I want to give a perfect score to but can't due to the excess fat it has, hopefully there's a version which scales back the driving sections so that I can finally give this game the full love everyone else heaps on it.
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Foxylover92 2021-06-23T00:15:03Z
2021-06-23T00:15:03Z
4.0
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Absolutely stunning in every way.
This game is one of the most well designed games I have ever played. I was loving the original game's engine, but this one is better in almost every way. Graphics were good for their time, level design had a good mix of realism and fun, soundtrack goes absolutely insane, characters are deep and fun to be with, dialogue is believable, everything about this game has been taken into account. Upon first playthrough it is already no wonder this game is as influential as it is. The ambient laboratory/military base labyrinth feel of the first game is now a distant, foggy dystopian future and they did not hold back on the immersion. Travelling from empty windy beaches to busy cities, this game really does make you feel like an on-the-run resistance fugitive. It doesn't look the most pretty to today's standards, but it's definitely far from ugly. This is a game that I have come to love and will never forget.
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sylviasounds 2023-08-05T23:49:11Z
2023-08-05T23:49:11Z
4.5
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With all due respect i've always considered this one of the most overrated games ever and the more i return to it the more i stand by that opinion. For smth marked as fucking Noah's Ark of PC gaming it hardly uses it's physics features to truly great extent, mostly it's autistic puzzles, which are such a dull way of downtiming, i didn't find them interesting at all. It took 13 more years for Breath Of The Wild to make an open-ended gameplay with this concept - something i expected back then from as highly praised game as HL 2 is.
The gunplay lacks proper impact and also clever squad AI of the original alongside with it's more enganging weapon combos.., that's because in Half-Life 2 they expect you to use conveniently placed red barrels for your gravity gun - duh, Ravenholm and the ability to catch an enemy grenade are the only instances for me when this gadget felt actually next-gen for it's time.

Besides, for something which was considered as influencial as, say, the original Deus Ex is way too restrictive to deserve this status. For example, you can't shoot through wooden doors despite in-depth boxes destruction or tear off machine guns from constant armored vehicles (Halo 3/Crysis 2 style). And i find it annoying at times how this game can't sort out it's core gameplay properly (like the 1st one did) to instead force you to partake in some either questionable or not that smooth set pieces. Controlling ant lions with one pheromone device in your hand? Fun. But doing those shabby tower defences sequences with enemies instantly moving down your turrets due to overly tight rooms certainly doesn't do it for me. I also hate how plushy the boat feels to control and how i can't do precise aerial damage for tiny Strider's legs (talking about too restrictive for it's status).

The more i reach the ending the more i feel tired of these unskipable scripted cutscenes (which HL 1 almost never did) and half-empty hallways. And while both HL 2 and it's latest episode engdings feels cool they kinda leads the plot to a dead end if you think about it.

Honestly, HL 2 kinda ruined linear shooters for me. Contrary to the 1st one, it's interactive story-telling is too forced at you. Next-gen features are hardly used as means of truly impressive, open-ended game design akin to Deus Ex or Zelda: BOTW. The gameplay itself feels not that great, because the devs relied more on gimmicky "whoa segments" rather than making the whole thing an actually consistent and satisfying FPS in each of it's core aspect.

Hell, Riddick and Halo 2 were loads better as innovative FPS games back in 2004. What HL 2 really excels at is it's story, aesthetics and clever subversion of 1984's type of dystopia. Yeah, as an adventure game it can work in parts (thx to the Valve's idea fix for campagin variation), but i like my games for the solid fundamental process itself leading to a gameplay loop which keeps me interested to PLAY it instead of some sparse ideas making the single player looking cool and different just for the sake of it.
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Platforms Played on: PC, Xbox, Xbox 360, Steam Deck

It’s strange the things you remember with hyper real clarity. The day Half Life 2 released is one such day for me. I was 19 years old, sat on a bus going into town to sign on the dole. I remember seeing an advert in the free Metro paper I was reading for this game. I looked at the release date, then I looked at my signing on book, today’s date. The sequel to one of my favourite ever games was releasing today! I remember signing on and then going to Currys of all places to buy this. The bus ride home, sat staring at the box and wondering if my PC would even run it… I mean, it would run it, but we are talking low to medium settings, 1024x768 at around about 30fps, give or take depending on how much physics-based shrapnel was flying around the screen at the time. I also remember, with vivid clarity, installing the Steam Client for solely for this game…

…it seems weird now given the success of the platform and all it has achieved, but Half Life 2 requiring Steam really fucked a lot of people off at the time. This was the PC, the land of the free. What was this ridiculous DRM that had to be installed? Why did I need to be online to play an offline game? Authenticating the game took ages the first time, and I was not pleased, but then the Valve Logo appeared with that fucking theme tune that I love and that was that. Half Life 2 looked amazing at the time and honestly, I think it still stands up today, especially the water and glass. It didn’t require a rig quite as powerful as contemporise shooter Doom 3 at the time, running even on my modest system at the time. It wasn’t really about the graphics though, even though they were good. The game was loaded with physics! Pretty ground-breaking at the time, but playing these days, the number of see-saw puzzles do date the game to its time somewhat.

The game does kind of exist in this weird space these days; its so modern in a lot of respects, especially the story telling, but a lot of things have changed in the meantime that really do make Half Life 2 seem quite old school. The lack of quick access to melee and grenades is probably the biggest thing that makes the game seem old nowadays; you have to select them like any other weapon in the game. To be honest, this was quite archaic at the time given Halo: Combat Evolved had already set the standard in this department 3 years prior to the release of this game. Second to that, the game feels quite empty at times, and again, even at the time it did. I personally put it down to a creative decision based on the limitations of the hardware at the time; it’s meant to be empty because humanity is sheltering indoors as the Combine perform their holocaust.

Most surprisingly for a game of this undoubted quality, there are two or three sections that are quite tedious to play. The boat, the car and fucking Sand traps. This was released in 2004 though, so having maps of this size, where you sail/drive from action sandbox to action sandbox was still new. I feel Valve knew of the tedium though, especially during Sand traps; when you make it to the other side and climb the little hill only to be greeted with another gigantic sand area to navigate, the game dropping that ominous ambient soundtrack on you… “fuck”. Luckily, they knew, and you don’t have to navigate it, but still. Finally, the gunplay can seem quite old; there is no ADS in this game. Personally, I prefer this and have always felt ADS was a necessary evil for the FPS to work on consoles… kinda anyway, even though Halo: Combat Evolved proved you don’t need it at all.

This all seems quite negative so far, but here is the thing with Half Life 2; the gunplay is largely unmatched, even to this day. Every weapon feels and sounds incredible, from the Pistol to the Magnum, to the incredible Shotgun and the absolutely brutal heavy machine gun, everything is just second to none at the time, and honestly only ever matched by a handful of games since. Then there is the level design; Half Life 2 builds on the original in this regard, so there is nothing really new here, but what there is, is perfectly realised. Nova Prospect towards the end of the game in particular stands out as fantastic level design but as you probably know, there is one place where Half Life 2 shines brightest of all…

… Ravenholm. You fight your way through City 17 and then through the canals to finally get to Eli’s lab. Meeting up with Alyx again, she takes you outside to show you the Gravity Gun. Physics manipulation was brand new at the time, and the gun was mighty impressive. On the way to get it, you walk past the boarded-up passage to Ravenholm. “We don’t go there anymore” Alyx ominously tells you. A few minutes later after getting the Half Life 2 pièce de résistance and playing around with it, disaster strikes and you are separated from Alyx. The only way froward is through Ravenholm. This is where the game design and masterful level design really shines, this is where the game hits one of a few beats during its run time where you think “This really is perfect”.

Ravenholm is a Zombie hellhole. There are no Combine forces here, just an endless procession of Zombies, puzzles, and traps. The game seamlessly goes from an Action FPS to a full-on Survival Horror and best of all, it is absolutely perfect for you to play with the Gravity Gun. There is no one shooting at you here, just Zombies, an abundance of Circular Saw Blades and the Gravity Gun. Its honestly perfect. The story telling here, how the Combine found a resistance stronghold and just shelled it with Head Crabs is utterly brutal, and its all told in a show don’t tell way, like the rest of the game. The way the pace and atmosphere completely changes whilst also letting you play with the games headline new toy is still to this day one of my favourite parts of any game I have ever played. Later in the game… well, the very end, the gravity gun gets an upgrade that make you feel like a fucking God. More incredible design.

Half Life 2 still stands up today, though it does feel a touch dated at times, especially in the driving and boat sections. The atmosphere is still 100% intact, with its strange Eastern European setting being literally eaten by the Mechanized Combine invasion. The fact 7 years have passed since the first game and nothing is done to explain anything to you, everyone just assuming you obviously already know, is masterful, allowing for a more mature game than the “shoot the aliens” of the first game. The AI still holds up but isn’t as impressive as it was at the time obviously. It’s strange to say though that for a game of this importance and quality, I cannot think of what it influenced…

Singularity is the only Half Life 2 clone I can think of and perhaps Dark Souls has vaguely similar story telling, but I doubt this was an influence. Perhaps other developers, much like Valve, didn’t know how to top this so never bothered trying? Anyway, I’ve played this game during ever generational iterations it had. I played it at a rough 30fps on PC at the time, I played it at about 20fps on the OG Xbox, then at 30fps on 360 and finally, I have just finished another playthrough on Steamdeck, this time at 60fps for the first time in my life. For me, there is always going to be some nostalgia tinting my view of the game, but honestly, it still really is a superb experience. Its so unique in the world of FPS games and it genuinely did take story telling to a knew level within the genre. Most importantly though, the gun pay is still unbelievable. A game that lives up to its gargantuan reputation then.
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menoculate Half-Life 2 2024-04-13T01:39:59Z
2024-04-13T01:39:59Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
orchidcnr Half-Life 2 2024-04-11T14:27:41Z
Windows / Mac / Linux/Unix
2024-04-11T14:27:41Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
scroopyd Half-Life 2 2024-04-11T07:12:07Z
2024-04-11T07:12:07Z
4.5
3
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
mietra Half-Life 2 2024-04-10T17:47:54Z
2024-04-10T17:47:54Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
XterminatoR666 Half-Life 2 2024-04-10T12:20:18Z
Windows
2024-04-10T12:20:18Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
blacktomatoemperor Half-Life 2 2024-04-10T10:55:55Z
2024-04-10T10:55:55Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
AnomalousTable Half-Life 2 2024-04-10T02:14:59Z
2024-04-10T02:14:59Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
blacksmokerises Half-Life 2 2024-04-09T13:22:56Z
2024-04-09T13:22:56Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Stravuk Half-Life 2 2024-04-09T13:15:54Z
2024-04-09T13:15:54Z
5.0
3
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
tsw167 Half-Life 2 2024-04-08T18:57:45Z
2024-04-08T18:57:45Z
5.0
3
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
chemicals121 Half-Life 2 2024-04-07T22:35:38Z
2024-04-07T22:35:38Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
zenecast_david Half-Life 2 2024-04-07T21:53:06Z
2024-04-07T21:53:06Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  

Comments

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  • Previous comments (114) Loading...
  • to_noid_or_not_to_noid 2024-01-31 19:02:01.869825+00
    No way this won't get an anniversary glow up like 'HL1' did.
    reply
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  • TheRealJimMorrison 2024-02-04 21:17:21.959419+00
    Civil Protection: 😂😁😁

    CP: 😱😭😭☠☠😱🤮
    reply
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  • brewkirk 2024-02-06 01:53:55.239262+00
    The best shooter ever fucking made. The gunplay and weapon variation is amazing. It feels like there's about 75 different outcomes for each decision you make, and its so fun to replay because of that. To think this came out 20 years ago today and it looks/plays this good is a true achievement.
    reply
    • Magagonal 2024-02-16 03:06:09.527662+00
      Agreed. Every time I think about this I feel like replaying it solo or on Synergy, gotta be my favorite game.
    • More replies New replies ) Loading...
  • WinterMirage 2024-02-26 00:15:56.450209+00
    We Don't Go To Ravenholm has got to be the best level in an otherwise not very good game.
    reply
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    • WinterMirage 2024-03-01 12:05:31.616096+00
    • tanj 2024-03-01 23:35:45.887312+00
      That video isn't exactly a fair case (and, knowing Marphy, is more likely to be intentionally played up for comedic effect). The game's enemy AI has a routine to not attack the player if the player's line of sight to the enemy's head is blocked, to make gunfights more fair to the player. The function is intentional, but is just being demonstrated in a way that the developers likely didn't anticipate.
    • WinterMirage 2024-03-02 18:08:21.096059+00
      I'll give you that it wasn't intended but it still speaks to the basic nature of the AI. All of the combines in this game act like suicidal kamikazes, never acting beyond charging towards the player.

      But in contrast, that same single mindedness works great in Ravenholm where all the enemies are just zombies. That and the atmosphere and pacing in that area is unmatched anywhere else in the game.
    • renegadexavier06 2024-03-05 03:55:06.80474+00
      Hilarious clip
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  • babyclav 2024-03-12 20:26:17.95699+00
    The reception to this makes me feel like a crazy person with how much of a downgrade this is in comparison to Half-Life. The worse weapons, the immersive storytelling of the first has been sullied for basically cutscenes where all you do is sit and wait for the NPCs to finish yapping their gums, the enemy encounters arent particularly interesting. Atleast it has a better last area than HL1
    reply
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  • Magagonal 2024-03-29 20:17:15.915406+00
    reply
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  • koner1 2024-03-30 21:37:12.021204+00
    RIP king
    reply
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