Aliens, monsters and physics Oh my!
As a nuclear physicist itís obviously your job to save the world from hostile alien invaders. Armed with your trusty crowbar and an arsenal of weaponry those pesky aliens donít stand a chance. So put yourself in the shoes of Gordon Freeman and prepare for a unique adventure unlike anything ever seen in gaming before!
Console: PC,XBOX, XBOX360, PS3
Release Date: November 16, 2004
ESRB Rating: Mature
The game takes place several years after the events of the First Half-Life game; people who never played the first one shouldnít worry about not being able to follow along seeing how the storylines (though a continuation) are reasonably different and you won't be missing much. If you do want to experience the first game, itís available to download on Steam Welcome to Steam for only $10.
The game is set several years after a hostile alien force known as "The Combine" came to Earth through an interdimensional portal and completely took over the planet. Establishing themselves as leaders, they now control Earth with an iron fist and oppress and abuse the human inhabitants.
You play as Gordon Freeman, a physicist who wakes up on a train with no memory of how he got there or when. You begin the game in City17, the Capital City/Colony of the Earth. You find that the Combine Police Force oppresses citizens and keeps them in line. The Combine quickly realize that youíre not supposed to be around and try to arrest you; wielding no weapons or means to defend yourself all hope suddenly seems lost. Your character blacks out and when awoken he learns heís been saved by a lady named "Alyx Vance." She takes you to her father's underground laboratory and you learn about the plan to overthrow the Combine government, a plan you are now a part of.
Visually, this game is starting to feel a bit out of date. When you compare it to more recent titles you can see how it compares to modern-day graphics. The framerate goes a bit low from time to time during some heated battles but itís nothing that really bothers me too much. The graphics arenít by any means bad, just a bit outdated. The water looks great, the creatures look believable and many of the setting are amazingly creative and thought out. The character models on human main characters are all very distinctive but the non-main human character models tend to get slightly repetitive after youíve seen them so many times.
The environments change constantly; you go from a civilized urban area to a marsh outside the city, large bases, small towns, zombie infested villages, beach sides, giant sci-fi complexes and many more. Each time I play through Iím amazed by the diversity of the Half-Life universe. One thing that really stands out to me in this game is the lack of cutscenes, it was intentional and I love it. Well, technically there are cutscenes in a sense, but all of them are viewed through the first person perspective of Gordon Freeman to keep you and the character connected.
The game is paced extremely quickly and youíll often have to make quick decisions in order to survive. The game runs off the source engine and is strongly physics based. Things you pick up react as they should, things you throw go as far as they should and break the way they normally would in real life. From time to time you encounter physics based puzzles. There are several different types but a common example would be piling cement blocks on one end of a see-saw type object in order to create a ramp to reach a higher point. Partway through the game you get a weapon called the zero-point energy emitter (commonly called the gravity-gun). This is easily one of the most useful tools in the game and one of the most amusing weapons in video game history. Using this weapon you can actually pick up and launch just about anything that isnít strapped to the floor; oil drums, cement blocks, tires, crates, small enemies and more! You can even grab enemy grenades out of mid-air and shoot them back.
There are plenty of weapons to choose from that you discover throughout your adventure. They range from common Earth weapons like pistols and machine guns to alien weapons like the Combine pulse rifle.
The game mostly takes place on foot and has you crawling through a lot of sewers and vents. When you're out in the open itís often an all-out brawl with the Combine military and whenever youíre in small spaces or uninhabited towns youíre often pitted against the indigenous alien life in the area (often head crabs and zombies). The game keeps things fresh by introducing new gameplay mechanics almost every chapter. One chapter is set to be suspenseful in a Zombie-infested town to appeal to the Horror genre, one chapter lets you control a bunch of aliens, some chapters have you working with a team of revolutionists and in some chapters you get vehicles. All these gameplay variations keep the game fresh and stop it from feeling repetitive.
The game is a good length. It takes me around 10 hours to beat and never has me bored. There arenít really any reasons to replay it though. There are no achievements, no alternate endings and only one route to take through the game. However, Iíve found myself replaying this game multiple times just because itís such a well constructed game.
Itís rare that you hear any music in the game; normally it plays when you're in a really awesome and heated situation like driving away from a Combine helicopter in the city canals or falling victim to an unexpected Combine ambush. Apart from that you only hear music a few times. I wouldnít really complain about it though as it keeps you more connected to the character and it's fitting.
The sound effects in this game are good. Every creature makes a different distinctive sound so you can listen and know what sort of stuff youíre up against before even entering the area. The Combine soldiers communicate in an almost incomprehendable radio-chatter which always keeps you on your toes.
The voice acting in this game (like the voice acting in any Valve game) blows me away. It really helps in game immersion and makes all the characters feel very believable.
So, to sum this game up: Half-Life 2 is an incredible unparalleled game, strong on storyline and gameplay and set in an interesting location. The graphics are a little bit outdated but it doesnít take away from the experience. Itís been out a few years now and you can buy it for only $30 bundled with the orange box (which means you also get the two next parts of the game as well as Portal and Team Fortress 2) or for $20 off of steam a price thatís more than appropriate. If you own a 360, a PS3 or a decent gaming computer there should be NOTHING holding you back right now. Buy it and enjoy it, I promise you will.