Half-Life (video game)

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Half-Life
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"Run. Think. Shoot. Live."
Protagonist(s): Gordon Freeman
Adrian Shepherd (Opposing Force)
Barney Calhoun (Blue Shift)
Gina Cross and Colette Green (Decay)
Genre(s): First-person shooter
Platform(s): Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 2
Linux
OS X
Release:
Half-Life
Microsoft Windows
NA: November 19, 1998
EU: November 27, 1998

PlayStation 2
NA: November 11, 2001
EU: November 30, 2001

Linux, OS X
WW: February 14, 2013
Game of the Year Edition
WW: January 1, 1999
Opposing Force
Microsoft Windows
NA: November 19, 1999
EU: November 29, 1999

Linux, OS X
WW: July 31, 2013
Blue Shift
Microsoft Windows
NA: June 12, 2001
Linux, OS X
WW: July 31, 2013
Decay
WW: November 14, 2001
Engine: GoldSrc
Developer(s): Valve Corporation
Gearbox Software (Expansions and PlayStation 2)
Publisher(s): Sierra Studios (retail)
Valve Corporation (digital)
Country: United States
Series: Half-Life
Successor: Half-Life: Alyx (chronologically)
Half-Life 2 (by release date)


Half-Life is a 1998 first-person shooter video game developed by Valve and published by Sierra Studios for Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 2. It was Valve's debut product and the first installment in the Half-Life series.

Plot

Players assume the role of Gordon Freeman, a scientist who must escape the Black Mesa Research Facility after it is invaded by aliens during an experiment gone wrong, with the military later intervening to wipe off all evidence of aliens and the facility staff involved in the incident.

Why It's Full Life

  1. It is one of the first FPS to feature alien invasion themes.
  2. Half-Life features no cutscenes; the player has uninterrupted control of Freeman, and the story is told through scripted sequences seen through his eyes meaning everything happens in real-time, which was unlike anything at the time.
  3. The game has a decent story about a physicist who must stop an alien invasion that actually has some depth to it for the time. Instead of simply telling the story via text on screen like most FPS games, the game tells its story through the events of the game itself and the interaction with NPCs.
  4. This was the first truly linear FPS game that featured set pieces. While that may not sound interesting, there is good reason for it as it's revealed that most of actions are guided by the ominous figure: The G-Man.
  5. This game introduces one of the most mysterious characters in gaming: The G-Man. Not much is known about him other than he's a man with a briefcase and extraordinary powers, who works for an unknown organization. One thing is for certain, he has a fascination with Gordon. Throughout the game, the player can catch glimpses of the G-Man stalking Gordon in order to observe his progress.
  6. Many awesome weapons, ranging from normal weapons like an MP5 to more advanced weapons like the Tau Cannon and even an alien itself. All of them have fun uses that are perfect for the situation the player is in, some memorable ones include:
    • Snark - A tiny alien that can be thrown to harass enemies, they are weak alone but are hard to hit and can be hostile to the player if no other targets are found.
    • Hive Hand - Organic alien gun wielded by the Xen grunts, it is able to shoot weak hornets that follow targets and has no ammo.
    • Gluon Gun - A heavy experimental gun with a hose emits a laser that annihilates all matter with no reloading.
    • Tau cannon - Another weapon with experimental origins, it is a weapon with the ability to charge for a stronger shot. Overcharging it will cause it to explode but this can be used to your advantage to reach heights.
    • Crowbar - A simple utility/weapon with quick swing and moderate attack speed, intended to be more used to break objects than as a tool for fighting. It is the most famous weapon out of all of Gordon's arsenal, perhaps being the most iconic videogame weapon.
  7. Fight against some of the most dangerous aliens, such as the iconic Headcrabs and Vortigaunts. Not only will you fight against aliens, but Marine soldiers who seek to eliminate the protagonist and scientists, as a means to contain and erase all traces of the alien invasion. The enemy design is mostly creative to fight against with each faction having its own memorable enemies to fight against such as the Gargantua, Houndeyes, the HECU turrets, and even Apache Helicopters!
  8. Good voice acting especially Michael Shapiro who does a really good job at giving The G-Man a calm but sinister voice with a stutter.
  9. You can get security guards and scientists to aid you. Security guards can open doors and kill enemies with their pistols, while scientists do the same thing but instead of helping in fights, they can heal you if necessary.
  10. The A.I. was also innovative specifically for its human Marine enemies, who were the first FPS enemies to work in squads and use complex tactical behaviors and movement patterns instead of simply charging in a straight line at the player. Valve made a selling point out of their ability to flush the player out with grenades.
  11. It was later ported to the PlayStation 2 with updated graphics and more polygons were added to the characters' models.
  12. Fun multiplayer mode.
    • The Tau Cannon's alternative fire pierces walls, which allows taking campers down. To add even more "pepper" and reasons to move faster, some maps have a shelter with a button that calls for an air strike which kills everyone outside the shelter.
    • Even though the online play service World Opponent Network was discontinued, you still can play the old version of Half-Life and its mods using WON2.
  13. Both expansion packs, Blue Shift (where you play as a Black Mesa security officer) and Opposing Force (where you play as a HECU soldier), have improved gameplay compared to the main game and expanded the lore.
    • There is also the PlayStation 2 exclusive co-op mode titled "Half-Life: Decay" which now can be played solo on PC as a mod titled "Half-Life Decay: Solo Mission which can be found on Steam and Moddb

Opposing Force

  1. This expansion gives a new perspective on the events of Half-life in which you are Adrian Shepherd, a HECU marine deployed into Black Mesa which happens around the same time in the main game. In addition, introduces more new features and edits such as the ability to climb ropes and swing on them, Night vision, a completely new tutorial, and more new character models.
  2. HECU is given another perspective that slightly humanizes them more and expands on their lore as well. Their vests are actually powered by energy and are compatible with the HEV batteries which makes sense on why these batteries are scattered in the first game. The Black ops are also given more elaboration as their involvement is actually a failsafe if the HECU is not able to contain the invasion which they are deployed to detonate a nuclear warhead in the facility and terminate all others (including HECU) on sight.
  3. Lots of new weapons the player has competing against the arsenal of the main game.
    • The Wrench - A more powerful version of the Crowbar, it has two attack functions, one is a lighter blow while the other is a slower but powerful attack.
    • Combat Knife - Faster swinging melee weapon. Very good against weak enemies.
    • Desert Eagle - It's essentially the Magnum but with a laser sight and better fire rate.
    • M249 SAW - A heavy weapon that is very effective against bulkier enemies but has high recoil.
    • Displacer Cannon - Experimental gun that is able to shoot big energy blasts that cut through entities. It also has a secondary ability to teleport to certain dimensions depending on the map you are in.
    • Spore Launcher - Alien weapon that shoots spores in an arc and has great damage.
    • Shock Roach - Similar to the Hive hand, it's an alien that fires weak electrical bolts with no ammunition requirement.
    • Barnacle Gun - Utility tool intended to latch onto certain spores to reach new places, it has another function of being able to eat head crabs instantly or latch onto larger enemies.
    • Sniper Rifle - Function similar to the crossbow with the difference being the projectile travels instantly.
  4. Like how Gordon can recruit security guards, Adrian can recruit his fellow marines who are more combat-capable than the guards who only wield pistols. There are also different classes of them such as the Medic who heals more than Scientists and can treat wounded soldiers back up, or the Engineer who is able to break open locked doors.
  5. Two new factions appear in this game, another alien race known as 'Race X' and the Black ops troops (only one type of black ops appears in the main game and they are rarely encountered). Race X is another faction that joins during the Cascade attempting to infiltrate Earth, while the Black ops are the backup used to wipe off Black Mesa after Gordon's interference with HECU's operation.
    • In addition to new factions, a new zombie type appears in this game which are the Gonomes, stronger zombies that are able to shoot globs.
  6. The story and levels are good with a soldier getting mixed into an alien invasion while inadvertently tasked with disarming a nuclear bomb in the facility, levels make good use of the new weapon's utilities as well and with more entertaining puzzles. The story is also integrated well with the main game in which events from the main gameplay out within the expansion's story without causing problems with the original's continuity.

Bad Qualities

  1. While the human AI was innovative, the same can't be said for the aliens. The alien enemies in general are fairly dumb, even the sapient military units won't use tactics:
    • Alien Grunts and Alien Slaves will simply stand still and shoot at you, rarely moving between covers.
    • Alien Controllers just fly straight at you, making it trivially easy to lure them into tight corridors where they get stuck on the level geometry.
    • Gargantuas have limited pathfinding ability (partly due to their size), will not react to getting shot past a certain distance (noticeably on Xen), and will forget that they saw you after less than a minute if you provoke one and then hide.
  2. The "elevator glitch," can cause the player to spawn inside the floor of an elevator at the start of a new level, instantly killing them. Worse still, the game tends to autosave right as this happens, meaning that if this is the only save file you bother keeping, you have to start the entire game again.
  3. The retail PC version no longer works/works poorly (such as lack of Widescreen support) on newer Windows systems.
  4. The controls are very floaty (mostly when strafing) and you can easily fall off certain platforms to your death.
  5. Lots of things have been retconned because of Half-Life 2 and Half-Life: Alyx. Some notable examples are Gordon going from just starting his job at Black Mesa to working there for a long time and one of the top scientists there, NPCs becoming actual people in the game like Issac and Eli, retconning part of Barney's story, etc.
  6. Inconsistent framerate on PlayStation 2.
  7. Xen is easily the worst part of the game. This is due to many reasons.
    • The design of Xen is very vertical and overly relies on platforming which is worst here due to being forced to use the new long jump that you're given.
    • The game constantly pits you against rapid waves of Vortigaunts, Grunts, and new Alien Controllers that fly and rapidly shoot the player with one of their attacks taking a quarter of your health. This makes all the counters in this section trial-and-error.
    • It features the worst level in the game, "Interloper". This is due to everything mentioned above as you're constantly fighting waves of Controllers and Vortigaunts with Grunts that spawn from pods that are littered everywhere. The design is also really confusing due to a lack of distinction meaning you can easily get lost. It's also very vertical as you have to use elevators that spin, meaning you can easily fall as you'll be constantly moving due to enemies shooting at you.
  8. The game can also be frustrating mainly due to the enemy placements as there are many times when the Marines will sit and wait for you before filling you with bullets (the same with turrets).
  9. There are three bosses in the main game who are all terrible for various reasons.
    • The Tentacles. They're defeated by activating the surrounding machinery, which requires the player to sneak or run past the boss several times to reach the necessary switches.
    • The Gonarch. It's a bullet sponge that will spawn a bunch of baby headcrabs. Their almost microscopic size makes it hard to just shoot them, so the player must use explosives to take them out. The boss fight itself plays more-or-less like a Boomer Shooter boss since you have to circle strafe and shoot and you have to constantly chase it down as it will run off to a different section when you do enough damage causing the boss fight to go WAY longer than it should.
    • The final boss, Nihilanth, is easily the worst one. The method to defeat him is tedious. You have to jump through a set of hoops just to unlock the path up to his weak spot, then you have to do a ridiculous (as in "use up all the ammo of all your weapons, including rocket launchers") amount of damage to it to finish the game. This has to be done in mid-air, and unless the xen crystals in the walls are destroyed he'll replenish all his health. The boss itself only has two attacks and one of them involves teleporting you to various rooms. He can spam this attack over and over which makes the boss a huge chore to fight. It's made worse in the Source version where this is the only attack that he uses.
      • Dataminers found, however, that the Nihilanth was meant to have more attacks and even had animations for them but they went unused.
  10. Blue Shift expansion, while good didn't really add any new content like Opposing Force.
  11. The 25th Anniversary version, despite being a great update and has new additions also has shared some flaws:
    • Forced high framerate up to 250 or above.
    • The ropes in Opposing Force still go stuff above about 140 FPS or above.
    • No chapter selection and subtitles.
    • Most map bugs and glitches were also persisted.
    • Blue-Shift expansion not launching.

Reception

Half-Life received acclaim for its graphics, realistic gameplay, and seamless narrative. It won over fifty PC "Game of the Year" awards and is often considered one of the greatest games of all time. Over 20 years later, the game saw a fan remake known as Black Mesa, originally released in 2012 as a mod for its sequel, Half-Life 2, which actually runs on Source SDK 2007, before eventually becoming a standalone game and seeing a full release in March 2020.

It influenced first-person shooters for years after its release, to which critics stated that: the history of the genre "breaks down pretty cleanly into pre-Half-Life and post-Half-Life eras."

People have also made messed up mods for the game on ModDB, such as SSH Mod Messup WTF & Crack-Life or on the company's virtual store, Steam, like Hunt Down The Freeman.

Trivia

  • The SFX effects (especially the generic Scientists grunts) from the game became an Internet meme.
  • There were plans to release the game on Dreamcast, but was never released, luckily there is a leaked ROM that can be found on the internet and emulates it.

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