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Half-Life

Developer: Valve Corporation Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
08 November 1998
Half-Life - cover art
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4.07 / 5.0
0.5
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4,228 Ratings / 12 Reviews
#128 All-time
#6 for 1998
An experiment at underground government facility Black Mesa fails catastrophically, ripping open a portal to an alien dimension. As the U.S. military is sent in to suppress the infestation and slaughter all witnesses, scientist Gordon Freeman is forced to take direct action.
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1998 Valve Sierra  
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1998 Valve Sierra  
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2001 Valve Sierra  
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2001 Valve Gearbox  
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2001 Valve Sierra  
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2003 Valve  
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I liken Half-Life's place in video games to Citizen Kane's place in movie history: it's the old trendsetter that still manages to be current, long after its release. Only time will tell if Valve's debut will hold up so well five decades later, but it's safe to say that it remains immensely enjoyable and impressive over a decade later. Playing it again for the first time in years, you might be surprised to find less of a trip down memory lane and more of a return to values and concepts that even the most recent, progressive games fail to touch upon.

You measure a game like Half-Life, the first of its kind, by "oh shit!"-moments. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was full of "oh shit!" moments, while BioShock had only a few but they were potent enough to leave an impression on anyone who played it. Half-Life's credits scene on the tram, initial encounters with the marines, and various monster encounters might not have the element of surprise anymore but they still retain a level of class and polish that will always stay with the game and be its strong point. Xen and the final boss encounter stand out so much in the eyes of the game's detractors not because these sections are genuinely bad, but because they are the only part of the game that fails to meet the intro's pedigree.

Ugly Quake engine mod aside, Half-Life has a distinct world and feel that might not have the strongest visual pull but applies a presence of space on the most masterful level. The outside environments in the game are minuscule now, but retain a release and awe solely due to how well Valve makes you feel claustrophobic earlier on. All the models, guns, and environments are well constructed and have a logic to it that clicks immediately. Solving puzzles and platforming in Half-Life doesn't only work well, but adds variety and depth that no FPS displayed before it and practically none have since.

I expected to go back and forth with Half-Life, but I failed to consider how immersive and addictive this classic is -- beating it over the course of two days. Doom kept you invested because the core mechanics failed to get old -- Half-Life offers another level to the FPS: you keep playing because you need to see what comes next. Seeing a scientist operate a microwave, catching a glimpse of the G-Man, and trying out new strategies on the marines opened a new door in video games. Half-Life was the turning point when place, pace, and atmosphere dictated a successful title as much as debugging, core mechanics, and graphics. Will Half-Life blow away a newcomer, now? No. Nevertheless, it will consume them for the day or two they compulsively play through it. At the end of it, they'll wonder why polish, innovation, and originality are so rare -- and it took a 10+ year-old game to bring this issue to light in their minds.
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SUPER_Lonely_Panda 2016-04-06T01:30:43Z
2016-04-06T01:30:43Z
5.0
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While I agree that this is a fantastic game, I feel there's a bit too much filler for it to be a masterpiece, especially once we get to xen where I feel the game falls off a cliff when it comes to its quality.

Prior to our disappointing trip to the alien planet, we have a frenetic fps which admittedly borrows heavily from the likes of quake and duke nukem when it comes to its gameplay and presentation but does more than enough to carve its own identity with these ideas. Instead of a marine or a machismo ladies’ man, we play as a scientist whose surprisingly good at defending himself against not just hostile aliens but also the military who are sent midway through the game to assassinate him due to being responsible for the alien invasion he causes at the start of the game. This game is well known for not having any cutscenes as every action takes place during gameplay, it remains a pioneering way of storytelling to this day as it gives players the option whether to pay attention to what's happening or to ignore it in favour of doing their own thing. Although the human enemies are freighting enough, it's the alien invaders that steal the show as simply put, they're nightmare fuel from being able to teleporting willingly to possessing dead humans by attaching themselves to their heads and controlling them parasitically. As this largely takes place in a science facility (in the middle of the desert) we have a vast array of creative weapons to fight off these foes, although the starting crowbar seems to be a fan favourite due to how unconventional it is even for an fps game like this. In addition to the frenetic combat this game has to offer, we also have clever puzzles which puts those found in shareware games to shame due to how well designed they are, some even rival those from the tomb raider franchise as being complex without being random to give you an idea of the level of intelligence required from the player to solve.

With all of these positives, you may be expecting me to give this a perfect score, sorry to say that's not the case because once we leave the facility, the game becomes complete garbage due to how rushed the last third of the game feels. First off, xen looks like complete shit as it looks like a random meteor that just happens to have wildlife growing on it, to say nothing of the interloper level where we bounce from meteor to meteor while fighting strange brain creatures that are supposed to be intimidating but really aren't. The gonarch boss almost picks up the slack due to how intimidating that boss is, however once we've dealt with that nightmare fuel, the game becomes shit again as we work our way towards the final boss which is a complete joke. Also, since freeman is by himself in these levels, we don't get any exposition in what's going on meaning we're left to speculate what's happening for the remainder of the game. This is a case where I highly recommend stopping the game once you enter the portal to xen because trust me, it's not worth finishing the game from there

So yeah, I'm probably being too generous with my rating for this game all things considered, but what I like about this game, I love which is why it gets the score I'm giving it.
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Foxylover92 2021-06-23T00:17:24Z
2021-06-23T00:17:24Z
4.0
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Aliens but in the best way possible
The original Half Life was a game I did not think I would like. Out of every monster in media, aliens were some of my least favorite. After completing it for the first time I can now say that Valve's portrayal of aliens is what I look for in sci-fi. For negatives, there is a lot of backtracking and non-descriptive puzzles, but they aren't too complicated given some extra thinking. Valve has definitely mastered the art of sound design, I could almost sleep to the ambience it was so immersive. Definitely a solid game but If you aren't a fan of old graphics and physics, try Black Mesa, the fan-made remake, because this is an experience you definitely will not want to miss out on.
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sylviasounds 2023-08-03T22:36:52Z
2023-08-03T22:36:52Z
3.5
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Half Life is an iconic and universally praised FPS from Valve, which had a few sequels and modded versions, yet no official Half Life 3. I think the hype at the time was due to a larger focus on narrative and a bit more depth to the gameplay than simply running and gunning.

It actually gets off to a very slow start, since you are standing on a train for a while whilst taking in the sights as an automated voice explains information about the lab. Then you are left to wander through corridors and eventually stumble across your hazard suit, and the lab that you are supposed to go into.

Fundamentally, the plot is a typical sci-fi/horror plot - so I didn't really understand the praise for the plot when playing it for the first time in 2023. You play as Gordon Freeman, Research Associate at the Black Mesa Research Facility. He is a silent protagonist so doesn't seem like an interesting character. You are instructed to activate a machine and push a crystal into a machine. This triggers a "Resonance Cascade" which basically opens a portal between this world and an alien world of Xen. Gordon seems to have some kind of vision of this alien world, but when it becomes conscious again, he finds that not only the research facility is overrun by aliens, but there's also soldiers storming the facility to wipe out any survivors to cover up the accident. Periodically, you see a man walking casually through the facility who stays a mystery until the very end, although not much is revealed about him.

The first hostile creature you meet is the iconic Head Crab. I see this as taking inspiration from the Face-huggers from Alien, and maybe a raw chicken! They seem to turn people into zombies, so that's another variant you face. Then there's an alien that seems to spawn in and shoot electricity at you. One alien is like an immobile sac found on the ceiling with a dangling tentacle that will grab careless people and pull them up. Later on there's more animalistic creatures, and some large brutes which have a strange gun that seems to fire some kind of wasp which homes in on you.

As you venture through the facility, there are some scripted horror sequences where you will see guards or scientists being killed by the aliens or even the soldiers. Some of these sequences allow you to save them if you are quick. There are some sections where you need a survivor to open locked doors with their higher level access rights.

Music is only used in some sections, so the game mainly relies on the spooky ambience. I found that some of the spatial sounds were bad - so you could hear an enemy as if he was close but maybe they were actually far away.

The first weapon you get is the iconic crowbar which is used for smashing crates and grates which often allow you to venture forth, often crawling through vents and jumping between pipes. As you go through the game, you find more weapons. They start off typical - like a couple of types of pistol, machine guns, shotguns, a crossbow, bazooka, then some sci-fi weapons like Gauss Gun, and the Gluon Gun, and that one that fires wasps. There's grenades, mines and satchel charges. You are extremely well kitted out by the end of the game.

Gordon's movement is extremely fast and slippery which is the game's major flaw. It doesn't feel right and makes platforming difficult which is quite a prominent gameplay element. It often feels like you are on ice, but then there's pools of water which acts even more like ice. At the end of the game, the game is intentionally more floaty and it's quite hard to adapt to the final challenges when you have spent so long getting used to the existing loose physics.

Smashing crates often reward you with extra pickups, although they can be used to hide aliens on occasion. You can find medpaks and energy items to partially top up your health and armour. There are also devices positioned on walls which recharge your health and your suit. Your suit gives you extra protection in hazardous areas like radioactive waste.

There's a few elements like water, fire, electricity and radioactive waste. Often these pose environmental puzzles. Sometimes it’s a case of finding a switch, repositioning boxes to make new platforms, or finding alternate routes. Pushing blocks can be very awkward since you just bumble into them and often hope for the best.

Other hazards are explosive barrels, and trip wires. Explosions can be used to your advantage in combat, but there are times you need to be aware that you can trigger a chain reaction.

I think the game does well to keep the locales feeling varied, you do get to venture outside, and later to the alien world. Compared to today's FPS games, the 11.5 hours playtime is quite long, but I felt it was about the right length. The Steam version comes with a HD upgrade pack so I thought the graphics held up well. I was impressed that it was often clear where to go due to the design. Playing some old games (like the Jedi Knight series) had some very questionable game design and some obscure paths, but it was a rare occurrence here.
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CaptainClam 2023-08-01T23:00:48Z
2023-08-01T23:00:48Z
4.0
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On a scale of one to ten, how “mature” is the first-person shooter genre of video games? Actually, I’ll just revert this question into a rhetorical one because it would seem obvious to anyone that FPS games are inherently mature given the content of the genre. Any game where the player has a stacked arsenal of firearms strapped to their belts is bound to foster a bevy of bloody chaos. Even for those few FPS games deemed tamer by the ESRB where the player can’t splatter the walls with the insides of their enemies like a messy canvas, I can’t name a single FPS game with a rating less severe than “T” for teen. One game could potentially swap the bullets with NERF darts or some kind of liquid substance like water or paint, but where’s the vicarious thrill in that? Video games are the only outlet in which mowing down people and creatures with full rounds of piercing bullets and blowing them to smithereens with explosives is considered morally permissible in society (unless you want to join the army), and that’s probably the primary reason for their success. While the bloodshed and immersive gun-toting perspective the first-person angle provides certainly solidifies the FPS genre’s maturity in the graphical sense, there is another facet to the spectrum of maturity that might be in contention. FPS games are graphic, but are they sophisticated? The genre obviously isn’t intended for children, but statistics will point out that most of the FPS landscape is dominated by those younger than its intended demographic. I’m speaking about something of a “high-brow” FPS experience, a game that approaches the tropes of the genre with a more methodical, atmospheric, and cinematically-paced direction as opposed to the guerilla, high-octane masculine wish-fulfillment games like Doom and Duke Nukem portrayed. The first FPS game that elevated the FPS genre into its proverbial puberty, if you will, was Half-Life, the debut title from widely acclaimed American developer Valve.

I should probably interject and claim that Half-Life was not an “alternative” FPS game that appealed to the PC gaming hipsters while alienating the casual crowd that were usually satiated by the standard gung-ho FPS games. Half-Life was well received by practically everyone under the sun because it was still a tried and true FPS game. In fact, Half-Life’s beta form was a modded experiment, using the iconic multiplayer FPS game Quake as its mechanical template. Still, Half-Life was arguably the most innovative FPS game of the early 3D era after the genre’s basic foundation was established in the generation prior, and I’m surprised Valve’s ambitions didn’t turn anyone off at the time. Half-Life was truly a game changer not only for the FPS genre, but for gaming in general, as games from genres outside of the FPS also took note of Half-Life’s sprinklings of pure genius. If I were to compare Half-Life to another work outside of the gaming medium with the same kind of impact, it would probably be Jean-Luc Godard’s seminal 1960 film debut Breathless. The seminal French New Wave film took the rulebook of filmmaking and burned it to a crisp, and Godard reshaped the medium of film from the smoldering ashes of tradition that was forever lost when he ignited the pages. All the while, Breathless still offered a simple story as to not mystify the audience too swiftly with all of the radical rule breaking they were witnessing. Half-Life follows something of a similar effect as the game is easily recognizable as an FPS game on the surface, but they’ll soon notice the askew details interwoven in the fabric of the game. As one could probably guess, Half-Life’s legacy is cemented by its visionary attributes that several future titles would emulate, making it a game held in the highest of respects by the gaming zeitgeist. However, Half-Life is turning a quarter of a century old this year and it's a game from the earliest of 3D eras, so I unfortunately have to bring its overall quality into contention with the dreaded “great for its time” assessment usually accompanied by ellipsis. I hate to judge this legendary title by the liver spots it sprouted over time, but I’m not sure Half-Life can entirely coast by now with its landmark accomplishments.

Immediately, the player will notice Half-Life’s most innovative contribution to gaming in the opening sequence. Half-Life’s video game equivalent to Godard’s advent of jump cuts are the seamless cutscenes. In most video games, cutscenes are implemented as breaks from the gameplay to interpose exposition in a cinematic display. In an era where cutscenes were becoming more commonplace thanks to gaming technology now competently rendering something akin to reality like film, albeit in textures resembling claymation, Half-Life was not satisfied with conforming to this prevalent trend. Personally, I don’t mind cutscenes in video games as long as they are of a tasteful length and aren’t used as opportunities to substitute gameplay as film clips with little interactivity. Perhaps Valve were dissuaded after witnessing the self-indulgently long cutscenes seen in Metal Gear Solid released that same year and adamantly declared that video games should not stray away from their interactive nature. The opening “tram sequence” where our protagonist, the faceless theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman, is being escorted through the entrance of the Black Mesa research facility. While riding on the tram suspended over a magnetic rail, the player has free reign of camera control that can point Gordon’s first-person perspective towards any of the sights along the way to the main entrance. Once tardy Mr. Freeman finally makes his arrival through the security gates, his fellow scientists instruct him to find the HEV suit and make his way down to the testing chamber. Normally, a cutscene would direct the player through the process of directing Freeman towards his main objective because it’s purely exposition with no trace of action to gamify, and the opening on the tram would be scrapped entirely for being unnecessary. Most likely, cutscenes would interrupt the gameplay any time a scientist or security guard would speak to Gordon or the player would watch a lengthy cutscene detailing the descent from the entrance to the test room because the “action” doesn’t occur until after this objective is completed. Allowing the player to keep control of Gordon during these sections as if the action never ceases feels more organic in terms of mirroring gameplay with real life autonomy. It almost exposes the superficial aspects of implementing cutscenes with automatically generated results in an interactive medium. Of course, the ability to act freely at all times allows the player to act like a lunatic in down times where their gaming skills aren’t needed. In this context, Gordon can dick around the facility for as long as the player wishes, running around like a sugar-addled child and popping a scientist's meal by pressing the popcorn button on the microwave too many times. Half-Life is arguably the prime culprit in causing a sense of “ludonarrative dissonance” in gaming, but the game was made in a time when non-gamer critics were apathetic about the medium and didn’t come up with rhetoric in an attempt to sabotage its credibility.

During the experiment in Black Mesa’s chambers, Half-Life truly loosens the chain of exposition as all hell breaks loose. Or, at least in Half-Life’s context, hell is the convergence with another dimension light years away. An accident occurs during the test when Gordon pushes a space crystal into the concentrated energy field in the test chamber’s center, which becomes dangerously unstable. This mistake creates a phenomenon the scientists refer to as a “resonance cascade,” which acts as a one-way portal to Earth from an alien world called “Xen.” If the explosion from the reaction didn’t kill everyone with the laboratory crashing down on them as collateral, then the hostile creatures from Xen will be sure to make quick work of them. Panicking in a situation that is seemingly hopeless, Gordon has to fight his way to the surface with his Black Mesa peers and pray that some kind of organization like the military comes to their rescue. The catalyst event in Half-Life is such tonal whiplash from the mundane office environment, and it catapults the player into a point of no return.

Throughout the duration of the game, Half-Life subtly exposes itself as a horror game. The game isn’t classified as one by most because it doesn’t fit the traditional definition of one, probably due to the genre being redefined in the vein of survival horror at the time thanks to Resident Evil. Surely, the content of Half-Life would be reasonably described as horrific. The state of New Mexico is a very inspired choice of setting for the Black Mesa compound, for the “Land of Enchantment” used to be associated with conspiratorial oddities like UFOs and radiated creatures before a certain television series shifted that to crystal meth production. Everything fucked up in New Mexico seems to only be affirmed by unreliable word of mouth, and that is exactly what the scenario in Black Mesa seems like: something a future urban legend. On top of climbing to the surface, Gordon and the others have to contend with Xen’s eclectic ecosystem of creatures, who all seem to have acquired a taste for human flesh. Every enemy the portal has provided is completely unique and takes some time to learn how to dispatch them upon frequent encounters. However, it’s not how they approach Gordon that makes them terrifying, rather; it’s what they do to the defenseless scientists. “Head Crabs” get their nickname from attaching themselves to the heads of their prey after they’ve paralyzed them, controlling the host in a zombified state. The look of how gnarled and decayed the host body is in such a short amount of time matched with their agonizing cries makes this enemy a shocking encounter. Barnacles are stationary predators that act like venus fly traps, letting down their sticky, rope-like tongues to unsuspecting victims and hoisting them up to liquify them like a bioorganic blender, leaving the bone remnants as cleanly as a barbeque feast. Sometimes, the enemies lurking in air vents and between the crevices in the walls reduce the scientists to a bloody pulp, a testament to the theory that the fear of the unknown is more frightening than what is seen. Eventually, the military does arrive, but the player should save their hallelujahs. Instead of lending a helping hand, these padded, meathead sons-a-bitches are ordered to exterminate every last Black Mesa employee as a drastic means of covering up the resonance cascade incident. It’s like a darker depiction of jocks picking on the nerds, or picking off in this context. Even with their combat training and weapons, the military men will also succumb to the same grizzly fates at the hands of the aliens as the scientists did. All hope seems to be lost in Half-Life, and the constant visceral encounters make the feeling of doom more impending.

Yet, Half-Life never really exudes the same aura of spookiness like most horror games do. Half-Life’s atmosphere is more cold and mechanical if anything. Most of the game takes place inside Black Mesa’s walls and before the facility ran rampant with extraterrestrials, this was a place of business. Black Mesa was a professional environment that looks like the archetypal corporate building, reveling in sterility. Once chaos ensues, the destitute state of Black Mesa’s interior is like a fracture of bureaucratic stability. It would feel liberating if Gordon’s life wasn’t at stake because of what reduced Black Mesa to this, or if he wasn’t wedged between multiple layers of the Earth’s crust. Between the detritus of machines littered around the corridors of Black Mesa and the sublevel layers of earth the facility exists under like an inward skyscraper, Half-Life exudes a dreadful sense of claustrophobia that seems insurmountable to escape. Music is used very sparsely in the game, so the soundscape is the minimalist static of broken machinery matched with the tapping of Gordon’s footsteps. Half-Life gives off the feeling of being alone, even though many NPC scientists and security guards are scattered about trying to survive. The fear stems from feeling like Gordon is left to his own defenses in this grueling trek to freedom.

This ascent to the surface also feels quite extensive because of how Half-Life is paced. Half-Life’s progression is more linear than its FPS contemporaries, with the seamless nature of its presentation making the ascent to the surface an uninterrupted excursion with the occasional loading break. It’s a far cry from the tailor-made, individual levels that divide FPS games like Doom. Yet, the journey does not feel like a straight dash to the finish line. The way Half-Life is constructed is that while progression is technically a long stretch between point A and B, several intersecting routes put an array of decimal points to get to the destination. Half-Life’s story is organized in chapters, and the start of each chapter introduces something new or strictly has a core level motif. For example, “Blast Pit” is the circuitous extermination process of three sharp tentacles protruding from the exit point, and Gordon must turn the power back on in three separate pathways to expunge it. “Residue Processing” sees Gordon reclaiming all of his weapons after being bushwhacked in the dark by the military and sent to a garbage compactor like the first Star Wars movie. Actually, describing Half Life’s chapters as organized implies they are of equal division in length, and this is certainly not the case. Some chapters are brief while some are prolonged to the point of wondering when it’s going to end, and this pattern (or lack thereof) persists across the entire game. I much prefer the shorter chapters because the gimmick or theme of some of the longer ones tend to overstay their welcome. “On a Rail'' is an excruciatingly long chapter involving traveling with an electric rail car to the end of the line just so Gordon can be lifted along one elevator after a certain point. Considering how many times Gordon has to stop and prudently run across the tracks, it seems like we’re escorting the rail car rather than vice versa. Isn’t that assbackwards? “Surface Tension” sounds like the apex point of the game’s narrative, but it is rather the midway point where the game’s difficulty curve ratchets up exponentially. Snipers located in elusive corners annihilate Gordon at every waking moment along with new armored alien species with projectile weapons to contend with. Did I mention there is an attack helicopter to duck and cover from unless Gordon has a specific weapon on his person? After completing this grueling expedition around the surface world, the chapter made me feel as bruised and battered as Gordon probably did. I have no qualms with the shorter chapters.

As par for the course in an FPS game, Half-Life grants Gordon with an abundance of weapons at his disposal. Gordon starts with the standard weapons seen across most FPS games such as a pistol, submachine gun, and the shotgun to name a few, but his arsenal quickly extends to the point that it gets ridiculous (in a good way). Ammunition for the .357 magnum is scant, so one should conserve this powerful handgun for strong singular enemies. The crossbow is the only weapon that operates while Gordon is underwater, and it still impales enemies on dry land just as effectively. Explosives ranging from grenades, trigger-operated C4, a rocket launcher, to trip mines will blow the enemy to bits if the player can use them accurately. The submachine gun even has an alternative grenade launcher with its own ammunition, and it's by far my favorite weapon in the game. The Tau Cannon and Gluon Gun are the juggernaut weapons that are powerful enough to evaporate anything it targets. If the revolver kicks like a mule, these weapons kick like an oncoming car. The developers even get creative with providing some foreign imports from Xen that the aliens have foolishly left lying around. The grotesque, phallic-looking Hornet Gun unleashes the angry insects in spurts of eight, and it’s the only gun that replenishes its own ammo. Gordon can wrangle up these nasty, man-eating bugs called Snarks and sic them on his enemies (provided they don’t chew him up beforehand). Ammunition for most of these weapons is plentiful as it can be found by breaking open boxes with Gordon’s trusty crowbar. Not only is this the weapon people associate Gordon Freeman with, but it’s the first melee weapon in a first-person shooter with its own use besides a last resort of defensive for when you’ve exhausted your ammunition.

While I appreciate the sweep of weapons and the ingenuity of the alien variety, I’d appreciate them more if all of them were practical. Naturally, some weapons aren’t going to be as powerful as others, but this isn’t the issue. The default controls for Half-Life are inverted because it was popular at the time for god knows why. If they weren’t inverted, the shooting controls still require a near perfect amount of precision. I don’t know how many times a headcrab got an opportunity to launch at me like a tarantula because I had to take an inordinate amount of time to aim at the damn thing. This is why I recommend teaming up with the security guards, who I endearingly and non canonically refer to as “Security Steve,” that can take care of the headcrabs early in the game when Gordon is limited to a pistol and the crowbar. After that, “Security Steve” is no match for the military or the alien grunts, and Gordon will still have to line his sights precisely while they pelt him with bullets. Even when aiming correctly, some weapons are pitiful against enemies. One would think a rocket launcher would be in the same league as the other juggernaut weapons, yet it always seemed to bounce off of any tanks or attack helicopters I’d fire a missile at. The shotgun is the worst of both worlds as it seems to deal a tepid amount of damage AND it barely does anything at point-blank range if the cursor doesn’t reach the enemy. It’s a fucking shotgun for christs sake! The reason why I love the grenade launcher is because it’s effective and I don’t have to take adderall to ensure an accurate shot.

If the weapons are anything to go by, Half-Life is often a finicky experience. Why then did the developers feel the need to incorporate platformer sections? Jumping in FPS games tends to be trivial, yet there are so many in Half-Life that you’d think Gordon was donning a pair of overalls and red clothing underneath instead of a hazmat suit. Since we can’t see Gordon, perhaps it really is Mario that Black Mesa assigned to conduct their experiments. Honestly, Mario would fare better in this situation than Gordon because not only is he a schmuck, he’s a frail nerd. Playing as someone who is physically less-than-capable compared to the superhuman hunks overflowing with testosterone seen across most FPS games is admirably subversive. Still, this does mean that Gordon is subject to receiving more quantifiable pain than the average video game hero. Health is fortunately plentiful on the field in first-aid cases and in dispensers that inject up to half of the total health. While replenishing health is opportune, this is only due to the fact that it can be diminished quickly. Armor is less common and unless Gordon has at least a bit of it, his health can drop to zero in a heartbeat. I blame the military’s grenade launchers and the Vortigaunts Sith Lord lightning firing at all angles. With enemies, I learned to approach every new corridor with caution, and I managed to surpass them relatively intact. However, some sections that require platforming seem to punish the player severely. Hopping onto boxes, leaping onto ladders, and bouncing onto high platforms with those alien trampolines still tends to damage Gordon even if the player executes these athletic feats competently. FPS games and platformers were not ready to wed in holy matrimony, and Half-Life is indicative of this statement.

Half-Life is hard, if all of my evidence didn’t make that clear enough. Because Half-Life is hard, it’s important to save often, and I can’t stress this enough. Half-Life’s loading screens are strictly the game buffering and do not factor as checkpoints. The player has the freedom to save at any point they wish in the pause menu, either printing their progress permanently or making something of a checkpoint with a “quick save.” As convenient as this sounds, being in the midst of action can make the player overlook saving. When they finally die, they can be resurrected so long before that point that it feels like a severe punishment more for carelessness than anything else. I tended to save at points where Gordon was at his healthiest, an opportune way to start anew if circumstances didn’t pan out. Eventually as the game became harder, I started to abuse this feature out of paranoia more than anything, and playing the game didn’t feel organic. I guess this criticism could apply to the number of more modern titles with manual save features overall, and Half-Life is most likely the game that pioneered them. Regular checkpoints are just fine, thank you.

Gordon popping his head above the underground bunker to reach his goal of seeing sunlight again was only a secondhand task. The alien forces become so overwhelmingly pugnacious that the military surrenders and counts their losses. After this, the scientists decide to hit the aliens where it really hurts by sending Gordon to their home of Xen via another portal. That’s right; it’s time for Gordon to return the favor to these pussbuckets. The first glimpse of Xen is extraordinary. Gordon finds himself on a floating rock in what seems like the barren outer limits of space. The spacious, almost measureless setting here is the antithesis of the confined corners of the man made setting of Black Mesa, and the aurora glimmering all around is gorgeous. The only drawback to this astral wonder is that the few chapters on Xen are not constructed like the ones in Black Mesa. The developers use the portal devices to teleport Gordon around the place, and progression isn't as smooth. Gameplay here is tweaked a bit as resources are scarce because having them strewn about the place wouldn’t make sense. There are shallow bodies of water with healing properties that cannot be quenchable, which is pretty neat. Overall, it’s a nice change of pace for the end of the game, but it isn’t as effective as the Black Mesa environment in terms of tone.

Surprisingly, the motherland of Xen is also when the game decides to unload a few boss battles on the player. The first truly tenacious foe in Half-Life is Gonarch, a space arachnid that can spit acid, ram Gordon with its solid cranium, and birth infant head crabs from the giant sac dangling from its body. Obviously, this conspicuous part of its anatomy is its weak spot, so it isn't much trouble to subdue. Nihilanth, on the other hand, is the most roundabout final boss battle I’ve faced in a while. This alien demigod that looks like an unborn fetus is slow enough to efficiently telegraph his attacks, but he’s got a few interesting tricks up his sleeves. Oftentimes, he’ll unleash a green orb that teleports Gordon to four different areas, and Gordon must find his way back to the arena. These four areas are also the only opportunities to restock on health and ammo, so I recommend intentionally stepping in front of them even if trailing back can be distracting. Shooting his head enough times to the point where it splits open is when Gordon can unleash a killing blow on the beast and end things, but the continual hike up to reach him at eye level using those godforsaken trampolines and getting a bullseye on his brain is exhausting. This boss took more than a half-hour to beat, and the tedium severely grated on me.

Eventually, as the Xen leader falls, it is no time to celebrate. The final scene of Half-Life introduces its most interesting character: the G-Man. This elusive man who looks like an administrative official with his sharp suit and briefcase appears around the corners of Black Mesa throughout the game, and the player might miss him in their peripheral vision. Whether or not the player caught a glimpse of this debonair stranger during the game, he formally makes his acquaintance to Gordon and congratulates him on his accomplishment. However, what occurred at Black Mesa is not water under the bridge now. The G-Man offers Gordon an ultimatum, as he is to accept an ambiguous position from his employers or face the wrath of more Xen creatures with no means of defense. Exiting the tram from the beginning to a green portal will signal the former while ignoring him will teleport Gordon among hundreds of Xen grunts. G-Man isn’t only perplexing because of his transient demeanor, but of what he represents at the end. It seems to be that the events of the game have made such a negative impact that Black Mesa has doomed the earth. Is G-Man God making an appearance at the end of times, assigning Gordon as some agent of the impending apocalypse? Whichever conclusion the player might come to, the fact that the developers robbed the player of a happy ending after withstanding so much is a stride in narrative-driven games. Suddenly, video games didn’t seem so much like a source of happy escapism achieved through the player’s accomplishments.


Half-Life is remarkably impressive. Valve took no time in evolving as an exceptional video game developer, for they already concocted a masterpiece from the get-go. That is, Half-Life is a masterpiece on paper. The game attempted so many revolutionary mechanics like the seamless cutscenes and uninterrupted progression with that harmonious mechanic, and it worked so fluidly. It was more mature than most video games, much less ones in the FPS genre because it wasn’t afraid to convey an adventure that exuded a bleak atmosphere in a bleak setting that all culminated into a bleak ending. Only films at that time dared to leave the audience drained to that extent, but it shouldn’t have done so with some of the awkward mechanics that did not mesh well with the game’s more exemplary attributes. Half-Life is a strong enough blueprint for the FPS genre moving further than anything. Still, the game is an effective work of art, and that’s a landmark quality it continues to retain.
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Erockthestrange 2017-07-21T20:15:05Z
2017-07-21T20:15:05Z
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Timeless classic
Half-life managed to break through standard fps foundations within the first few minutes of its opening chapter.

There was no immediate guns-blazing action, explosions, or a badly rendered 3d cutscene showcasing how little the story mattered, before being sent on your way to cause mayhem.

Instead, you were on a tram, going to work, You were free to absorb the environment, interact with your fellow scientists and get a sense of foreboding about the disaster and the ensuing chaos that was about to happen,

And that theme of environmental storytelling coupled with amazing detail helped cram the fact that you weren't merely playing through segregated levels, but rather you were part of a big cohesive world that was gone to complete shit.

But half-life was not only influential in game design, but also towards the moving and the multiplayer gaming scene by inadvertently giving life to games such as counter-strike and team fortress.

Half-life is a must-play title for players wanting to understand clever game design and get a sense of historic perspective.
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fleshtache 2023-01-13T13:04:13Z
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Catalog

KCharbzz98 Half-Life 2024-04-13T04:35:53Z
Windows / Mac / Linux/Unix
2024-04-13T04:35:53Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
bartek007up Half-Life 2024-04-13T01:39:51Z
2024-04-13T01:39:51Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
scroopyd Half-Life 2024-04-11T07:10:18Z
2024-04-11T07:10:18Z
4.0
3
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
NekoTempo Half-Life 2024-04-11T06:19:21Z
2024-04-11T06:19:21Z
4.5
4
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
1990's First Person Shooter sci-fi Action Horror Puzzle
AlltheMadmen Half-Life 2024-04-11T05:47:23Z
2024-04-11T05:47:23Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
pearguy Half-Life 2024-04-10T17:56:29Z
2024-04-10T17:56:29Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
XterminatoR666 Half-Life 2024-04-10T12:18:58Z
Windows / Mac / Linux/Unix
2024-04-10T12:18:58Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
blacktomatoemperor Half-Life 2024-04-10T10:59:06Z
2024-04-10T10:59:06Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
AnomalousTable Half-Life 2024-04-10T02:14:30Z
2024-04-10T02:14:30Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
mietra Half-Life 2024-04-09T17:42:20Z
2024-04-09T17:42:20Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
blacksmokerises Half-Life 2024-04-09T13:20:50Z
2024-04-09T13:20:50Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Stravuk Half-Life 2024-04-09T13:13:24Z
2024-04-09T13:13:24Z
4.0
2
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Content rating
ESRB: M
Player modes
1-32 players
Media
1x CD-ROM
Multiplayer modes
Deathmatch / FFA
Multiplayer options
LAN, Online
Franchises
Also known as
  • HλLF-LIFE
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  • Previous comments (93) Loading...
  • lyndonbjohnson 2023-12-05 00:30:01.281369+00
    This is the first modern shooter
    reply
    • ... 2023-12-31 08:43:09.548159+00
      Quake 2, GoldenEye and Unreal all came out before this...
    • anderd0504 2024-02-25 20:18:09.52774+00
      This feels like a Modern shooter in a way goldeneye obviously doesn't
    • More replies New replies ) Loading...
  • Tyraffe 2023-12-12 04:41:37.276568+00
    This has aged surprisingly well for it's time
    reply
    • Stabbed 2024-01-11 09:44:19.946106+00
      the fact that HL2 exists yet i still find myself consistently coming back to this is a testament to how well it's made
    • More replies New replies ) Loading...
  • ashbandicoot 2023-12-14 20:47:25.299437+00
    This is a game that i love but i hate playing idk how to justify it I'm just absolute garbage at this game
    reply
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  • mrelectric 2023-12-22 21:58:12.766367+00
    love the guns
    reply
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  • plexure 2023-12-25 06:08:12.060795+00
    i'm glad that the recent update made deathmatch popular again
    reply
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  • Randomuser12345 2023-12-26 01:05:06.338364+00
    Classic game, but hard mode end up being a bit of a save scum fest given how scarce health and armour can be in places.
    reply
    • More replies New replies ) Loading...
  • youarefuckingcrazy 2024-02-02 03:38:34.404481+00
    that moment when the valve theme song kicks in during chapter 12 as you exit the pipe and look out into the endless canyon abyss below you is the peak of the entire game to me
    reply
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  • gyrodoestherating 2024-04-06 19:21:54.181797+00
    So fucking fun
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