Half-Life 2 Review

Half-Life 2 Review

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Well, it's been almost one full week since I purchased Half-Life 2, and in that time, I've managed to set aside around 18 total hours to play this game from start to finish. Valve has truly created an interactive masterpiece...one that will no-doubt set the bar for other first-person games for quite some time. In the process, they've created a top-notch game engine that renders stunning environments that put both Doom 3 and FarCry to shame. I'm very much looking forward to future games that leverage the power of the Source engine.

Like many people, I spent about 40 minutes Tuesday night trying to connect to Valve's Steam internet service to activate my copy of Half-Life 2. I received various arcane errors that made it obvious to me that Valve hadn't planned very well for the onslaught of traffic they received on the first day. Needless to say, I was quite frustrated. Not only had I been waiting for 5+ years, but the box and DVD were in my hands! It surprises me that Valve doesn't have a 30-day grace period like Windows XP product activation. Anyway, after a bit of persistence, I was finally able to activate and fire up the game.

I was elated to discover that I could configure the game to run at 1,920 x 1,200, the native resolution of my recently purchased 23" Sony LCD monitor. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that the game recommended setting everything to "high" for my dual Opteron workstation. Running the video performance benchmark that's included with Counter-Strike: Source reveals that my system is capable of around 70fps at these settings...more than enough for smooth game play. I guess I made the right decision to delay my computer purchase until this release.

Unlike the original Half-Life, Half-Life 2 doesn't include a separate training level. Instead, it introduces new concepts as you play the game. When you encounter a situation that warrants the use of a new feature, the system displays a short message on the screen telling you which key to press to access the functionality. They really did a good job with this, because the situations don't seem contrived, and they provide just enough to get you used to the new feature.

There is a very deep sense of immersion into the environment. As I mentioned, the graphics are downright stunning. Even my wife (who isn't a game player at all) was impressed with the quality and watched me play for a little while. The shadows, light, and surface reflectivity all lend an air of realism to the scenery, and there are some scenes that are nearly photographic. The audio is also extremely good. I was immediately thrown back to the original Half-Life game when I heard some of the very familiar sounds. Also, the weapon effects have a satisfying depth that I found missing in Doom 3.

On top of all that, the game physics add even more to the realism (courtesy of the Havok engine). For example, you can push and lift many of the boxes and barrels in the game world, and this capability is used for some very clever puzzles. You eventually get a "gravity gun" that allows you to pick up or push much heavier items like refrigerators, televisions, and rusted-out cars. There's nothing like "throwing" an old car at a group of approaching enemies and watching the ensuing rag doll physics. Priceless.

Unfortunately, I frequently encountered the nefarious stuttering problem that has plagued so many players. But, unlike many of them, I decided to continue playing despite the fact that it tends to jar you away from the storyline. The only other negative that I can think of is the simplicity of game play on even the medium difficulty level. Although I had to replay a few areas many times, for the most part, it was nothing like my experience with Doom 3 or FarCry. This is a minor complaint, since it's still a fantastic journey.

Overall, Half-Life 2 is an excellent title. If you're a fan of first-person shooters, or if you like interactive fiction, this is a worthwhile purchase. It's smarter and brighter than Doom 3, more moody and beautiful than FarCry, and miles ahead of Halo 2 (which isn't a totally fair comparison, since Halo 2 is limited by the aging Xbox hardware). This is truly one of the best games I've ever played, and as a matter of fact, it might become the first game that I play through a second time. Kudos to Valve for a very polished and immersive experience.

If you'd like to read another perspective, I found Scott Hanselman's review to be both unique and insightful.

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  • Does anybody no when Half Life 2 is coming out for XBOX.
  • Lot of comments I have to agree with - specifically the end - I was expecting ALOT more trouble.

    As for the graphics - I think that Doom3 was better - the detail in D3 was fantastic - compare ANY still in D3 with HL2 and there is no contest (ok - except for the severed heads in D3, and I guess the fact that D3 was always in enclosed spaces helped). Far Cry had a much better gameplay than D3 and HL2 'cause you could go almost anywhere - great fun trying to go back through FC a different way each time.

    But HL2 wins hands-down on the physics engine - well done Havoc boys - and if you could cmbine all 3 of the above - then WOW, that would be good.

    Overall - loved the game - and will NOT be selling my copy on eBay!!

  • Doom 3 may look a little sharper but the engine isn't as good. I mean, when in Doom do you take a car or a raft and speed down some open space, dodging and attacking helicopters. The physics of the Half Life engine were incredible.

    As for the ending, WTF. I mean, I love HL, but the ending delivered nothing. It pretty much left the whole game as it started, (SPOILER ALERT for all you nerdz.) Gordon is still incarcerated by the G-man. But where the hell were all the aliens and cool monsters of Half Life 1? Where were the puzzles and cool little science tricks and even the cool F'upped weapons?! Oh well...hopefully there will be a story expansion before the next half life...maybe involving shepard? (Doubtful since gearbox is out of the picture.)
  • I just beat the game on medium, took me about 15 hirs I guess. I loved this game I really do. The story was what kept me going more than anything else, I just had to find out what would happen next. The ending, good grief charlie brown. I have a basic concept of what happened. Obviously Gman has access to some fancy technology and warped in to get Freeman. I'm really curious as to who these clients of his are and why they would want Freeman. I mean think about it, hes just one guy, and sure with you playing as him hes the hero and hes alot stronger than he should be and is able to bring down a world of hurt on such a vast army and blah blah. But considering all the things that we cant comprehend like that lame docter said, it seems unlikely that one man would be of any use at all. Thats what I just dont get. I look forward to playing hl3 in 100 years or however long it takes valve to make it. ALSO, when your gravity changes thats the fucking shit. I had so much fun with it.
  • I really can't wait for the expansion/negt HL game to come out i have all of the previous games and i love every single one of them..I ending really pissed me off too...I will be thinking about it for days now..THANX VALVE!!!!!...
  • I can tell you what the ending is...but don't tell anybody...shhh!

    The first thing you have to realize, is that the G-man is not human, In the first hl, G-man confuses you by saying "the xen world is now under our control, thanks to you" or something like that...suggesting a "rogue goverment." and in half life 2 prima guide it suggests that he is not comfortable with human speach (that is why he sounds like a fucking jerkass when he talks to you--haha)--thanks valve for the hints....I have BEEN THINKING ABOUT THIS SHIT FOR WEEKS...and I am going to go crazy!

    However it is easy to notice that all the military guys are dead in the backgroud in hl1. So who the hell is gaining control over Xen....?

    then in HL2 when you talk to the red eyed aliens (the ones that throw electricity in hl 1) talk to you about "the common path we tread" and that "you (freeman) released us from the power of nihilanth" ---nihilanth was a mind control over them. ...when you killed that asshole in hl 1 you released them from their control (I bet you already knew that) anyway..

    why do you think these aliens always help you in hl2, or for that matter, seem bonded to you? and why do the other aliens are against you, and the whole human race? intending to enslave you?

    that is because there are two "meteorological intelligences" (what dr. breen was describing to dr. vance at the top of the citadel) ---these vast meteorological intelligences that control the aliens are represented by the G-man, and the guys that created the Combine to take control over Earth

    they are two sides of the coin, kind of like good and evil. One side wants freedom to let species control of themselves and give balance to the natural phenomenon. The other beleives that instinct and certain natures of intelligent life cannot rule themselves, and need universal control---

    represented if you listen carefully to the constant blabber of dr.breen on the monitors...remmember when he says fighting instinct? that you must fight it to bring unto the new age?

    why do you think the G-man had teleportation before freeman inserted the thing into the beam in hl 1...? it was not that some other faction of black mesa, or a super powerful conspiracy-goverment type thing that also had the teleportation before...Freeman and his comrades did not even know how to stabalize the beam...

    but G-man can already fly around the universe on his little train..?
    he's an alien that assumes a human form to ensure the human race's survival and well being

    and Freeman is comparable to neo in the matrix...someone with insurmountable energy and natural super intelligence (the reason he survives--using his head) and is noted by the G-man as "the one" that can bring back the balance to nature on Earth..the G-man thus, uses Freeman as a weapon to aid mankind through it's downfalls against the "dark energy" or bad meteorological intelligence.

    The G-man's employers are humans and seperate entities of meteorological intelligences---they tell him where there are distresses in their areas...to pursue freedom and have balance to nature, (kind of the values of democracy I guess)

    you can see this when he is talking to the tactician (the guy who gives you your first rocket launcher) colonel I forgot his name..anyway...when you look through a lens along the coast after killing a few combine and entering a small shed in half life 2 you see him talking with the G-man on the other side? why?

    all the other instances he simply apears on screens or alleys checking your progress...but why talking to this guy?

    The G-man is a universal negotiatior to bring balance to certain areas in space in time...Concerning Earth..to have supreme power and control over all beings is not normal (not part of the natural evolution of Earth)---thus the rebellion by the citizens..etc..the electricity aliens and the G-man fight for the common balance...

    the other aliens and the combine...is the bad...

    so in conclusion, the G-man is an alien and you (freeman) are an energy that is only found very rarely that can bring balance to a system...unfortunately he has noted you...and since the good meteorological intelligences (G-man and red eyed aliens) have created you in the first place as a weapon...you owe your powers to save the human race when in distress (your area in space and time)..

    so there it is...now you can go to bed...I will keep thinking about this and update you on any progress.

  • god man, you must really be fucked up in the head.

    what is so bad about the ending..what did you expect? I expected no less man.
    Was it the pretty girl that gave you resentment? when she was being blown away by the blast maybe? It's a frieken game, I was actually getting bored with the goofy bonding that the game tries to create so as to shatter you to trauma at the end...

    I was like yey! that bitch is dead..now I have finished! and you G-man...your a fucking "jerkass" --yey! everybody is dead and I am in a dark hallway as G-man's slave until he decides to come and comfort...me..lol the frieken pedophile...he certainly sounds like it with his moronic gay ass voice.

    who the hell cares..kool graphics, kool physics engine...
    what do you expect, valve writes video games and wants to make money..their just like the next moron...

    Valve thanks for the ending! I LOVED IT--great laughs! keep it coming

    it's not like I expect anything more than 12 year old storyline anyway--LOL hahaha

    hohoho and shut up.
  • The game was great the endin kinda sucked tho, but then again it keeps u guessin, which adds a more realistic edge 2 it.

    Oh, no way dose doom have better graphics, HL2 all the way!
  • yeah
    HL2 is the best game I've played. Some of the staging was fantastic. The enemy AI must be hit and miss at least, but I played it on hard and pretty much half the battles with troops were completely realistic, with the creepy voice chatter and them signalling and waving to each other when they see you, the jingle noise from their ammo packs as they close in; very very atmospheric.
    The worst thing about the ending for me is that from the new game menu, it looks like there is an extra chapter after the dark energy chapter. There is, but its just the credits!!!!!!!!! This was a shock as I had been using this menu screen and the teaser shots in each window to track my progress. A' word to you all, there is one chapter less than you expect.
    Anyway... I hope they decided the plot will be explained in expansion packs before the next engine upgrade and HL3. If thats the idea, I'm in. to quote Starship Troopers "Would you like to know more?"
  • YO yo

    Gotta say, i've played the game over and over and over, i love it still!! No matter wat i've read on the net bout Steam, i still think they made a big mistake, check out this link about Steam http://www.nag.co.za/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=363 , very very impressive stuff.

    One thing you have to understand (to all the ending haters) is that Half Life 1's ending was no better than its sequal. This leaves the game open for more storyline, i find it intreguing that Half Life could actually become a Saga rather than a one time blow off. To be honest, the only reason we were all excited about HL2 is because HL1 left the door open, why should we complain when we can have more and MoRE and MORE!!!!

    Ok, just for u graphics freekz out there, Doom 3 can look sweet at time, but technically Hl2 has got better graphics, one example is each character actually has 40 facial muscles that allow amaizing expressions to be displayed. Doom 3 was probebly the hugest resource hog ever to hit the shelves, HL2 runs on a card that only has DX7, giving players without the neccesary hardware to enjoy the game to.

    By the way, Doom 3 overall was hugely disappointing.

    Thanks VALVe, keep 'em comin!!
  • I played Doom 3, Half life 2. And i think each game did a fantastic job at presenting their story in the invironment it was set in. Many people blame doom 3 for being dark and cramped. What did you expect its a base on mars where did you think vehicles were suppose to fit.

    In my mind the best thing to do is for valve and id to work together and combine their two engines, I mean just imagin d3 graphics, lighting and hl 2 physics environment and ai would make any game tuck in their tail and hide in a hole.

    Most important thing to me is that i had fun with both games. I dont think its fair to accuse id or valve for anything. They did the best they could. An dif you are gonna blame them you try to make a game that compares even remotely to either of them.
  • As I played through HL2 i didnt really see why so many compared it to the Matrix. Now that i finished the game I completely see. I compare it most to the Matrix: Revolutions. Both were kicked ass from beginning to right before the end. The ending for both is the worst I have EVER seen. As a matter of fact HL2's ending is the worst of the 2. In Revolutions atleast we all know the war is over. In HL2 we know NOTHING!

    SPOILER ALERT: Time stops, and the retard that does nothing but make cameo's in the games talks a bunch of crap that makes absolutley no sense. We dont know what happend to the girl, the combine, the resistance, what happend to the combine leader, why only SOME aliens attacked you, what happend between HL1 and HL2 and why you just appear out of nowhere years later.

    I dont mind cliffhangers. In fact I like the fact they up the chances for a sequel. But when it leaves me hanging with NOTHING answered its b/s. As a matter of fact the enitre story is just mediocre. Its basically just about a revolution of a bunch of "enslaved" people, when a "hero for no big reason" (apparently saving your own ass from an experiment gone wrong is enough to make you a god in valves universe) shows up everyone gets inspired and fights back. Nothing gets answered as to why youre there, nothing gets answered as to where you've been, NOTHING. Its basically just Serious Sam with good graphics and physics. I could picture Gordon thinking "WTF IS GOING ON!?!?!" throughout the whole game.
  • Another thing that didnt ruin the game but is a step down is that this time around the balck and white headcrabs are the only aliens youll really have to worry about (along with the headcrab controlled zombies). EVERYTHING else is combine. Yeah you get a few of those hanging aliens from hl1 which are pretty much a waste of bullets. Even in the odd chance they do get you it takes them a looong time before they actually bite. Dont get me wrong there are enough variety of combine baddies to fight like the vehicles, but I wouldve liked some more aliens to try and kick my ass. What ever happend to that glowing blue thing that impaled a guy in the video previews of Half Life. That wouldve been a nice boss battle. Which brings me to another thing. What happend to the boss battles? I didnt see any boss battles in this game. Valve has taken Half Life and changed it into a war game. This game felt more like a "Medal of Honor: Half Life". This is NOT Half Life anymore, Valve has simply jumped the bandwagon and made a cross between Medal of Honor and Halo. Thats it. The game IS fun and the quality of programmers and artists is nothing short of impressive, but the writers and whoever decided what to base the story on and what enemies to bring should be banned from working in videogames. Oh yeah ... and whoever came up with that ending should be electrocuted by the red-eyed guys for eternity. As i was given a tour of the combine tower near the end I saw a whole bunch of wierd things i wanted to put a bullet in thier head or blow up. Did they ever come out NOPE! Just for that Valve, im not "buying" HL3.
  • halo 2 is much better
  • half life 2, half life 2, half life 2

    I have an idea for half life 3:

    what about we just do a huge boss that is indestructable and Gordon Freeman dies?

    The plot: It was all made up to seem mysterious...but, as so many have stated, it makes absolutely no sense.

    In fact, I want Gordon Freeman to die in half life 3

    that way the poor bastard doesn't have to suffer through half life 4

    by the way...I also heard that Gordon Freeman was an actual person--did anybody hear a similar story?
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