Very Short Half-Life 2 Review

I finished Half-Life 2 today.

Half-Life 2 is a very good game. Buy it.

Ok, that might be a little too short a review….

Half-Life 2 is a very good game. It has guns, you shoot things, very fun. Buy it.

Hmm, again perhaps too short.

Half-Life 2 is a very good game. It has guns, you shoot things. It also has physics. Things bounce. You chuck furniture at people until they die. Very fun. Buy it.

What you still want more detail? This reviewing games gig is tiresome. Ok here’s my take on Half-Life 2.

It is a very good game. Buy it.

Half-Life 2 was a long time in coming. The original Half-Life was realeased in 1998 and the sequel (the only game the developer Valve has produced on the PC since) was released in November 2004. A friend bought it and I had a brief play for a few hours during November. But I’m not really a PC gamer so I didn’t play it again until recently. As indicated in a previous post I picked up a copy from EB Games at 50% off. A bargin I thought. Surprisingly my Laptop could play it at a respectible frame rate. And since all my consoles are still in NZ I had nothing else to play. Hence I dove in for extensive periods. Unemployment has it’s benefits. And it gave me a reason besides iTunes to boot Windows XP.

Half-Life 2 is very much like the original Half-Life. In fact it is almost exactly the same, just with better graphics and Karma physics. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The original Half-Life was lauded as the pinacle of PC first person shooters for a long time. In fact probably until Half-Life 2 was released. And with good reason. Half-Life did things differently.

Firstly the game had no cut scenes. Historically alot of first person games have broken out of first person mode and instead gone to a 3rd person perspective to tell their stories. This has the advantage of making the game’s story more cinematic but also the disadvantage of breaking the players connection to their avatar. Instead of being “the guy with the gun” they begin watching “the guy with the gun”. These are very different things. Half Life broke the mold for a story driven game in that it had the “cut scene” happen around your avatar and you ratained control of the camera (aka your avatar’s eyes). Very revolutionary for the time. Not so much now. Half-Life 2 sensibly retains this sensibility and imbelishes it with more detail and finer touches afforded to us with the increase in computer processing power since the original debuted.

Another benefit of the added “grunt” PC’s now have is that we can have much more realistic characters. Half-Life 2 probably has the best character and facial animation system in any game produced to date. It is quite marvelous. The characters actually “emote”. Very rare in computer games. Something I think a lot of developers will be copying from now on.

The other benefit we get from our CPU’s new found heavy lifting abilities, is physics. Really good physics. One of the central pieces of the Half-Life 2 game experience is the use of the “gravity gun”. Which is basically a really strong “hand” with which you can pick things up and throw them around. Once you acquire this “weapon”, the game environments take on a very different aspect. In fact there are a number of sections of the game designed exclusively around the gravity gun and its ability to hurl stuff around. This certainly changes the pace of the game and mixes up the play experience.

Another way Valve have mixed things up is by the inclusion of a few “vehicle” sections. These sections are basically just gauntlets that you drive through either doging or blasting things up with mounted guns. This could have become boring quickly but Valve wisely inserted obstacles in your way so that you had to dismount and conduct some sort of combat/puzzle section before continuing. Very well balanced.

I could continue to gush and tell you all about every feature of the game but you should just go buy it and play it yourself. If you like first person shooters even remotely you should play Half-Life 2.

There is only really one comment I could make about Half-Life 2 that is negative and that is that some of the on foot shooting sections of the game started to feel a little long and drawn out at times. But only just slightly. I think I probably took about 20 to 25 hours to complete the game. The game could probably have benefited from shaving a couple hours off here and there to keep the pace of the action up.

So if you still havn’t played it, go buy it and enjoy.

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