Half-Life: Late to the Party

Hi, hey there, what’s up? Out of all the ‘late to the party’ ideas I have planned currently, this one has to be the one I’m latest to. In fact, I’m so late that me raving about this title is probably going to come across as someone who has just discovered the 90’s. Actually, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, let’s say it’s like I’ve just discovered Myspace.

Ok, let’s dive right in. As the title of this post gave away, I’ve recently arrived at the Half-Life party. I went a bit nuts in the Steam Christmas sale, and one of my spur of the moment purchases was the entire Half-Life collection. An absolute bargain considering it cost me little over £6. Now somehow I’d managed to bypass the whole Half-Life buzz at the time when it was so popular. I knew it existed, and I knew it was popular, I’d just never thought of buying the games before. First person shooters aren’t my favourite style of game, so maybe I was focused on some other type of game, or book (who am I kidding?).

Before I go any further, I don’t want this post to sound like the rapid typing of that annoying guy who’s just discovered something really old that everyone already knows about. I know many of you have been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. So take this as my belated review of the series, and please bear with me as I, well, annoy you I guess…

So I played the first game, and as it is around 15 years old I was expecting a clunky, dated Doom-esque experience. And I was very wrong. Yes the game is dated, that’s a given. Despite the lack of character models (which is expected for a game of that generation), the graphics and gameplay were a lot better than I was expecting. The storyline was engaging, and I thoroughly enjoyed playing it. The campaign length also took me by surprise; it was pretty long for a first person shooter.

After finishing the game I took a little break before playing Half-Life 2. I talked to fellow OHO blogger Ian about this series not too long ago, and he told me that I was in for a treat. In his opinion Half-Life 2 was one of the best games he had played.  And when someone like Ian says something like that about a game, I take his word for it. I was definitely in for a treat.

Half-Life 2 Walker

Another epic Battle in Half-Life 2 (Episode 2)

It’s been 9 years since the release of this game, but honestly to me it could have been released yesterday and I would have still been impressed by it! It’s no wonder this game received so many awards; the graphics are great, the story is compelling, the gameplay is excellent, and I genuinely felt engaged and immersed in the world. It’s not often that I play a game and feel like I’m actually in it, as if I’m actually the protagonist, but Half-Life 2 accomplished this. I think this mainly comes down to the gameplay. The whole thing is completely free from cutscenes, and you never lose control of your character. The whole experience is portrayed through the first person lens, keeping the experience feeling real.

Another great thing is that you learn about the story and the world as you go along. Since you’ve received no introduction or backstory, or any indication of what’s going on, you learn everything through your direct experience, again through the first person lens. This makes for a truly immersive experience, where you really feel like you’ve been plonked right in the middle of it all. I know that tons of games do this now, and it’s really not that uncommon, however I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that’s done it so well. In fact, I don’t know of a game which creates as much of a cinematic experience without the use of cutscenes as Half-Life 2 does.

So bravo Valve, you’ve made a fantastic series which is now one of my favourite games. I enjoyed it so much that I played episodes 1 and 2 straight after, because I just had to know what happened! I really feel for all those fans who appreciated the games at the right time (i.e. not a million years later), and had to wait for each instalment to come out so they could carry on the story.

Half-Life 2 Car

Oh, and you get to drive this little thing too…

There are a lot of things I love about Half-Life 2, such as the storyline, the gravity gun, etc etc… but I think the main thing that really got me was the interaction between you and the other main characters, particularly Alyx Vance, who accompanies you throughout most of the game. The bond that develops between your character (Gordon Freeman – one of the most badass protagonist’s out there) and Alyx throughout the journey feels oddly real, and you become attached to her and the other characters within your little rebellion group, willing them to safety as you dodge from one close encounter to another. Also I might add that unlike a lot games, there is a good dose of humour, and the characters that accompany you do not become annoying. I feel like this is missing from a lot of titles, where some characters prove to be a little bland and you really couldn’t care less what happens to them.

Anyway enough of what you already know, and have known since these games were released. Here’s a question I’d love to hear your thoughts on. Do you think Half-Life should be made into a film? J. J. Abrams has mentioned briefly that he’d be interested in making this happen, but would it be a good thing? Or would it spoil what already is a very good cinematic experience? Personally I think that if done the right way Half-Life could be made into a great TV series, possibly in the mould of The Walking Dead. In my opinion the relationships between characters as they grow together would be better shown through this sort of show, and the world within this series has so much more to give than just a feature length film can present. Thoughts?

 

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