Well it’s that time of year again; project backlog has come upon us yet again. when I decided to do project it was with games like half-life 2 in mind, too date I have brought this on three systems and have failed to complete it on any of them and I think this game represents the biggest omission in my entire game collection, this game is legendary. There that’s it game review over. What you want more? Ok fine here goes. This is the game that future game have been judged by, I feel it is important for me to clarify that for the next however many word this review turns out to be (and as we know I can waffle on for quite long time) I will be talking at great length about how great this game is and how everyone should own a copy of it. This game is almost perfect in my opinion and if it wasn’t for the controls then I could honestly call it perfect. So it’s without any further ado that lets start this review (I was a poet and didn’t know it).
When half-life 2 was released almost 8 years ago it was released with two major things steam and valves new graphics and physics engine known as source, I would argue that slack jawed expressions came later. This brings me in a roundabout way to the first point of this review and that would be the graphics. Despite being nearly 8 years old the graphics on half-life two are simply stunning, I played this game on the ps3 and although this game was released somewhat later with updated graphics it is still 4 years old, this is all down to the source engine that powers the game but some of it can also be attributed to the style of the game. Firstly despite its expansive vistas the game is rather claustrophobic, it’s very much like being in a city in that everything is rather big and awe inspiring but you have set roots that you can take through it therefore negating the overwhelming nature of it all. This is the same in half-life although it looks big and inspiring you have a pre-planned route that you can’t deviate from in any way, even when the game appears to be more open such as when you riding the buggy on the beach you will quickly find that you are surrounded by impassable cliffs. This though is not a bad thing because this linear claustrophobic allows them to focus on over areas of the game. The story and the character design, we’ll come back to the former later but for now let’s concentrate on the character design. When half-life was first released the game designers talked a lot about character design and how it was central to their design philosophy and boy does it make a difference. the attention to detail on the characters takes this game to 11 in terms of graphics, things like having the eyes reflect light and when the characters talk having their whole face emote takes the characters from something I have to tolerate in order to progress in the game in to something I actually genuinely care about and want to protect. This character design though is only possible thanks to the claustrophobic nature of the game. this linear nature also allows the game designer to be rather lazy in there game design and use the same texture maps over and over again allowing for more detailed character designs. This laziness is very much true right up to the final boss when the game designers just went nuts on the colour pallets.
While graphics are important in gaming the most important factor most definitely has to be the story. this is off course a sequel to half-life and so naturally follows on from that, I can’t really comment on the continuity of the story because I never got a chance to play the original but I found the story in this game to be rather good if not a little basic. It involves a dictatorship and an uprising against said dictator, although this is a rather stale by this point in history the understated conservative nature of it and the games compelling characters meant that I just couldn’t stop playing it. This story mainly focuses on Gordon freeman and only occasionally deviates from that. The scale of this game is perfect, very often games try to bite off more than they can chew and this means that story inevitably suffers. This is not the case in half-life 2 they bite off just enough to make the story compelling while leaving plenty to be discussed in later games.
As I have already alluded to the controls leave a lot to be desired in this version of half-life. Simple things like climbing a ladder and walking over a ledge which are normally rather simple affairs on the pc end up taking much more of your precious time. This poor excuses for a control system becomes even more annoying when vehicles get involved, these vehicles are controlled in the same way as your character, which is until you have to go down a narrow door or say a drain pipe or even over a ramp which unsurprisingly is asked of you more often than you would think. This will result in reversing and have to line up the vehicle multiple times in order to make the jump. This is so frustrating and actually takes you out of what is an otherwise very engaging game. This plus the fact that 90% of the time you will die in this game is because of the controls failing you this does not help the controls very much.
Gameplay like the story before it is not a very original experience, it’s your usual fps with the odd puzzle affair thrown in faire and I for one am ok with that. You’re talking to the guy whos owned every single Pokémon game despite them all basically being the same game. We’re not trying to invent the wheel here were trying to have fun and that’s exactly what valve has done here. Despite the conservative nature of the game there is still enough variety in the enemies and the gameplay to keep even the most cynical gamer happy. just when you get used to one style of gameplay you’re in a buggy and then you’re in a squad and so and so on this added to the rather inspired puzzles that were just difficult enough to keep me interested without making me want to kill myself kept me constantly engaged and I loved it.
In conclusion this is a solid game and has made it rather easily onto my top games of all time. Thanks to its simple ideas done beautifully and I can honestly recommend this game to everyone, even my Nan. The sound design is just something I wanted to bring attention to in my conclusion is great there nothing else to really be said about it. The only disappointment I had with this game was the controls but weren’t enough to turn me completely off this which says a lot about the rest of this game. Go and buy this game