fishdalf's Half-Life 2 (PC) review

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Great thing's come to those who wait and what a wait it has been.

Great thing's come to those who wait and what a wait it has been. The big question is "was the wait worth it?" And i think you'll find the answer is a resounding yes. Half-Life 2 has a completely new gaming engine that works really well and still keeps the feel of the original. You reprise your role of Gordan Freeman, waking up on a train entering City 17 and soon discover the viscious aliens that featured in the first game have taken over earth after breaking through portals. Some of the old enemies are back and look better than ever, perhaps the most anticipated return is that of the Head Crab which looks absolutely vile. Unfortunately for you the military have decided to work with these aliens and you have been given the role of joining the resistance to help figure out how to destroy these foul beasts.

The source engine this game uses presents the game in glorious detail, this is nothing short of a graphical masterpiece and easily offers the best graphics of any game this generation. The animations are realistic, water and lighting effects are near perfect, and just about every other effect you can name too. The downside to having the best graphics around for the average gamer however is the cost of updating your PC to handle this monster, but if you already have the hardware to run it then you're in for a treat. This game also has one of the best physics systems around and just about every object has the correct mass and weight, understanding this concept can help you along your way. The amount of interaction available in this game is quite impressive, you can use or react with just about everything you see around you. Crates and boxes arent just for getting into hard-to-reach places anymore, they're also useful for hurling at the the enemy when using your gravity gun. Another new addition is the use of vehicles at several points within the story and this has pleased quite a few fans, it seems to be a must for any great first-person shooter at this moment in time.

A downside to this game is the excessive load times, there is just so much to load that it has to come at some price. Unless you have the best machine on the market you will be waiting an inordinate amount of time between scenes. Some parts of the game have you walking back through load points you just crossed and this can become very tedious. For a game that works so hard to immerse you in it's world it's kind of ironic that the loading interrupts play quite considerably.

The majority of weapons will have been seen before simply because most of them featured in the original game, new weapons include the aforementioned gravity gun and a pulse rifle which can cause considerable damage when used correctly.

As with the original game, almost everything is scripted and listening to little hints your allies give you can help you proceed to the next part of the game, so take note of what they're saying. The A.I. is good at most times but it isn't exactly perfect, the enemy has one goal and that is killing you, which sometimes sees them running straight at you with no protrection. On the few occasions were they do take cover they will stay there a short perioid of time and then eventually come running out anyway to be shot in the head. You can even throw a grenade at an enemy which they will acknowledge and shout about but then they will remain in the same place and ultimately just get blown to bits for the fun of it. In fact raising the difficulty setting doesnt seem to make them much smarter either, it just seems to make your guns more powerful.

Now for Counter-Strike, the free mod of the original Half-Life. The thing that perhaps became bigger than the game itself has made a welcome return and been updated with the Source engine. The results are absolutely spectacular, it is the game everyone has been waiting for years to get their hands on and you won't be disappointed. The concept is the same, Terroists v Counter-Terroists which is simple yet effective and makes for some very realistic battles. It may not offer anything new to speak of but it doesn't need it because it is still and always will be one of the best online gaming experiences around.

The big headache that comes with this game however goes by the name of Steam, the first genuine attempt at digital distribution by any major developer. This just doesn't work aswell as i had hoped it would and you feel in a sense that it's being forced upon you with no real choice. If you purchase the retail version it takes on average two hours just to get through the barriers and actually play the game, also if you don't have the internet you may aswell not bother trying to play it at all because the whole game is locked until you register online and get your game validated. This isn't just a one-time thing either, everytime you start your computer up Steam will start up and check your copy is genuine and even download updates without even asking whether you want t hem or not. This should not be okay for a gaming company to do, what if every developer decided to do this with their games? Your computer would be constantly updating and verifying your software, invading your privacy and effectively doing what it wants.

All-in-all Half-Life 2 does a superb job at taking a classic and moving it to the next level. While it doesn't do quite as much for it's time as the original it's still a superb sci-fi shooter and a must for all PC owners.

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