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Posted by dankempster
Half-Life on PS2 - one of the best FPS games I've ever played
When it comes to games, I'm very guilty of making the occasional impulse buy. If I'm out shopping and happen to see something reputable in a pre-owned bin priced less than £5, chances are I'll whisk it away with the intention of devoting some time to it. Another thing I'm guilty of is putting said games on a shelf and leaving them to gather dust. Examples of this are fairly common as I browse my game collection: Devil May Cry, Mercenaries and Okami immediately spring out as games I should really have played by now, as do the first three games in the Splinter Cell series. Sadly, I don't seem to get much time to tackle these games. Every time I scan my shelves, I promise myself I'll play through one of the neglected games soon.

The most recent impulse buy to find its way off the shelf and into the PS2 is Half-Life. The game needs no introduction; the exploits of Gordon Freeman have made him one of modern gaming's most famous faces. Based on this reputation, I bought the game from a local second-hand game dealer towards the end of last year, along with the sequel on Xbox. The games cost me £3 and £9 respectively, not a bad price for what I'd been told were two of the best first person shooters of all time. As was the case with those mentioned above, Half-Life went unplayed for quite some time. Then, about a week ago, for no conscious reason, I dusted it off and popped it into the PS2. I've been hooked ever since. I don't need to give you all the plot details or produce an essay on what makes the game awesome; this is a blog, not a review, and there are plenty of other sites on the net that can give you all that information. What I'd like to do is tell you how the game has impressed me, and convinced me that it's worthy of its mighty reputation.

There are no cut-scenes in Half-Life; just a seamless shooter
The first thing that impressed me with Half-Life was the complete lack of cut-scenes. Everything plays out in real-time, with the plot details being delivered by NPCs without ever breaking up the game's flow. This may not sound like much of a big deal, but in practice it makes Half-Life a very different experience from other story-driven FPS games like Halo. The reason for this is that the action never stops, meaning you're always on your toes and never sure what's around the corner. At one point in the game, an NPC tries to warn you about something but is killed before he can finish his sentence. Because this happens in real-time, and isn't a cut-scene, you instantly go into defensive mode, wondering where the assassin's hiding. It's a small change, but one that gives Half-Life a relentless sense of pace.

Another thing that's really impressed me with Half-Life is the grenades. Usually, in an FPS, grenades aren't that important. They make a nice explosion, and can wipe out a few enemies in an instant, but it's very rare you feel you HAVE to use a grenade. In Half-Life, grenades are a necessity. There's one point in the game where you'll have to use grenades to distract an opponent and sneak by, which makes for one of the game's great moments. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the grenades, though, is how great the throwing system is. In a lot of FPS games, grenades are hard to throw correctly and are difficult to use effectively. In contrast, Half-Life makes grenades easy to use through an intuitive aiming system that let you ensure your grenades go where you want them to. It's simple, but so well implemented, I couldn't help but be impressed.

For a ten-year-old game, Half-Life features some very impressive AI
The last thing I'm going to mention that I was impressed by (and there are more than three, but I'm in danger of making this too long to look half-interesting) is how difficult the game can become when you're fighting a lot of enemies. This is largely due to the brilliant level design, which makes combat a very tactical affair. Enemies are intelligent, too; particularly the military guys you fight in the middle third of the game. They'll actively try to surround you, suppress you and sneak up behind you to take you out. Of course, this doesn't sound like a big deal because most modern FPS games employ similar artificial intelligence. What makes this impressive is that Half-Life is a 2001 port of a 1998 PC game. Ten years ago, this level of AI must have been unparalleled. At a time when most shooters encouraged the player to go in guns blazing, Half-Life taught the player to fear turning every corner and approach every new room with apprehension.

So that's my two cents' worth on Half-Life. I think I'm pretty close to the end now, and when I do complete it I intend to boot up the sequel straight away. I'll probably do this kind of thing on a semi-regular basis, whenever I pull something else off the shelf and give it a much-needed airing.

DanK

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Currently playing - Half-Life (PS2)

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UPDATE
(13th August 2008): I finished Half-Life 2 a few days ago. I was absolutely blown away by the game, much like I was by the original. I'm not going to write a Discovering Gaming Greatness to go with it, because it wouldn't be too different to this one. I wrote a review of the version I played, which can be found here. Damn, I need The Orange Box!
Posted by HistoryInRust

I think Half-Life and Half-Life 2 are equals in terms of their gravitational effect on gaming archetypes.  I have long been a Halo fanboy, and my group of friends in secondary school always berated me about my game's relative simplicity and false significance we console gamers bestow upon it when games like Half-Life exist on the PC. 

Suffice to say, I never played the original Half-Life, and to this day, I still have yet to touch a copy, be it through a Playstation 2 controller, or the simple mouse/keyboard combination. 

Halo 2 and Half-Life 2 were released in the same year -- 2004 -- and though they were on separate consoles, one of which I would not have the opportunity of enjoying (PC), my naivety drove me to champion Halo 2 as undisputed Game of the Year, and pushed me blindly into a semi-religious fervor for the Halo series, especially in opposition to Half-Life 2

Regardless, two days ago, I bought The Orange Box for the Xbox 360.  I am nearly finished with Half-Life 2, and I can say, wholeheartedly, with only having read the light synopsis of the first game on its wikipedia article, that Half-Life 2 is a monolith beneath which all action games should aspire.  Between its near limitless creative mind and the incredibly interactive underbelly rests a game that pales even the most titanic of franchises released for current generation consoles.  Even Halo 3 is inferior to Half-Life 2, and it has been a long time coming before I have had the opportunity to say that. 

Happy gaming, friend. 

Posted by aknowlesjr

This blog has made me reconsider Half Life 1.  I've enjoyed the Orange Box immensely and now thing i may give the PS2 Half Life another try.  I had purchased it before from gamestop, but found it too difficult and lacking at that time.  I returned the game, but now with exposure to the Half Life universe i'm thinking i may give it another try.

Posted by xruntime

Half Life 1 was years ahead of its time. No game during that time matched it in its graphics, story telling, or gameplay.

That said, I'm not really into the science fiction almost horror shooter genre, and I didn't really like it compared to HL2.

Half Life 2 was sometimes a dark and gritty game, such as Ravenholm, and those were the times when I despised it the most. But a good majority of the game was just lighthearted fun, like the parts with the boat or the rebellion in the streets.

Episode Two went even further from the sci-fi scary zombie theme and that's why I loved it the most. For me, Episode Two is the pinnacle of the series. It was fun, and it didn't try to make it scary.

I hate to admit it, but I do get scared easily. I was playing System Shock 2 (I blogged about it) and I can't help but feel that I would enjoy the game a lot more if it wasn't so scary. I just get that squeamish feeling, and it ruins the overall experience.

I'm not sure whether I'll like Left 4 Dead, because while the co-op aspect sounds really fun, its a horror shooter, and that has always turned me off.

My favorite games are realistic military action, games like Call of Duty 4 that are all shoot-em-up for fun, without anything to scare you or any aliens.