Half-Life 2 Review

Half-Life 2 Review

  • Comments 56

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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  • I've gotta say, well done Valve. This is another great and revolutionary game. Your story line is wonderful and the endings to the game, although they give little new information to the not-so-observant, are excellent starters for their follow-ups. Don't stop.

    To the people who found the conclusions lacking, try to look at it this way: they aren't conclusions. They are simply the end of a chapter. Remember reading goosebump books when you were younger? If you do, remember how every chapter would end with a crescendo, making you want, no, NEED to read on? This is the effect I believe Valve is after. For whatever reason (money, love, power) they have chosen this method, I will continue to buy their products. I'm a great fan of saga novels and the like and so I find the HL Saga (which I hope it turns out to be) extremely entertaining.

    Any information important to the ongoing story line can be found throughout the game...

    check this out to understand a little more...
    http://members.shaw.ca/storage_4/hl2story/

    Keep it up Valve and don't be discouraged by negativity.
  • goodness me I can't believe someone find this a better game than Doom 3! and the reasons given are that HL2 RUNS FASTER when they DRIVE AT HIGH SPEED! why don't you try wolfenstein then - it will FLY! Just compare DETALIZATION, just look at the hot dam wall surface structure for cyberdemon's sake! man, half life is just another Duke3D-type of experience with a higher cartoon quality but cartoon nevertheless!!! just how one can think of comparing it with the creepy experience of DOOM 3 is just beyond me! have you been actually able to read any of the writings on the wall in HL when you're close by? remember those monitors scattered throughout the UAC base - man, what the hell are you taking about when you compare the engines!? and it really, really beats me how people could ignore the dynamic lightning and prefer that cartoon game only because there're open terrains!

    and the STYLE!!! Doom is just so hot dam stylish! and the sound! and the monsters! and the damn everything around you! I can't believe anybody in the whole world can take HL seriously - it's the same as playing pinball! In Doom, it was so many times I felt hair standing on the back on my neck! THAT is the real world! oh my......

    the only reason I thought HL2 would be interesting was because of its `interactivity', which proved to be equivalent to being able to throw rubbish at your enemies -- what a wonderful experience this is! I'm definitely going to get rid of this DVD, but sure as hell I'm going to play Doom again and again, because it IS an another world experience.

    in all fairness, HL-1 WAS a revolution. HL-2 doesn't come close to beating even Duke3D, let alone HL-1.
  • HL1 was a breakthrough. And so would have been HL2 if they did one thing. Send Gordon through the damn portal and fight some f-in aliens. What happened to the weapon they showed on the demo that you put little alien creatures into for ammo.
    For that matter, why so few weapons? I agree with those who say the ending sucked and this is more like a military FPS. HL1 was awesome because it had it all!

    UT2004 was more satisfying for the money. I loved FarCry and Doom 3 was more interesting going to hell and back. We want mind expansion not another jarhead wet dream.

    Now, what to do, $55 for a great game engine? HL3...ha, I'll wait for the hackers to get hold of it!
  • Halo 2 has the best graphics, storyline, shooting, and best main character in all of video games! It will be game of the year, and will make Half Life 2 suffer a long painful death.
  • halflife 2's ending was a complete crock!

    i loved playing hl2 from begining to end, especially
    controling the antlions and having the upgraded grav gun

    the gmans lil speach at the end really didnt make me think any less of the game itself, just the fact that
    obviously valve ran out of ideas and couldnt make up their
    minds for an ending

    sure maybe it does improve the chances for halflife 3...
    but i still would like evne the slightest of closure

    i also agree with one of the above, doing the "tour" of the
    citadel, i also wanted to kick those random alien asses!!!

    bring back the big fly shooting guys from hl1 and then maybe
    just maybe the game woulda been a challenge...

    i think an opposing force style game would be cool tho,
    except...u'd fight like 3 variations of enemys in the entire game :|

    either way, i prefered hl2 over doom 3... but the end was shit :)
  • Man at first i thought, damn what a great game. I mean, the physics, the engine just unbelievable. After a few hours of gameplay it started to bore me, easy opponents, same old gameplay ( drive,....see a problem,...fix it ,..drive some further....see a problem,....fix it,....drive ..etc etc ). I only died a couple of times,...specially with the stryders, but overall i found it pretty simple.
    My teammates on the other hand are complete idiots,....what's that for frikkin AI ????. They block doors, when ur running for cover, the stand in your way. I was glad when some of them died. I was better of without them.
    I was also completely surprised by the ending,....i mean in the "matrix " factory ( and we all know what i mean ) i saw somepretty cool creatures i was hoping to battle, only to find that shooting 8 "lightning " balls at some dumbass core ( that did nothing back ) ended the game. My feelings u ask ??? WTF is this ???
    That totally sux, the game ends so suddenly i was staring at my screen like for like 5 mins and thinking to myself GO**AMN !!!, this is it ???
    Totally ruined any decent feelings i had left for the game.
    Overall :nice engine, great physics,lame story, easy enemies ,boring gameplay and an ending ,....well what can i say .............WTF !!!!!
  • My only problem with the game was the ending and the weapons. The ending was too "Deus Ex Machina", where it was obvious that they simply ran out of ideas and scooped Gordon out of there.

    The Weapons? Too few, and they were all Human/Combine weapons. No bio-weapons like in HL1, those were just damn cool.... The gravity gun was just plain damn cool, especially after it was upgraded.
    Turns out that you can cheat to get other weapons, or so I've heard. Lemme know if it works.

    Spoiler alert:
    As someone else said (sorry I don't remember and I don't feel like going back to look for him), they should have had Gordon go INTO the other world and kick some alien ass!!! C'mon, bring back Big Blue, or the Hive-Hand Guys!!! Actually show us things about the Combine, about what the hell happened between HL1 and 2!!!

    Overall, great physics, great graphics, but it's obvious that's what they spent all their time on.
  • Awesome game and graphics, I thought the AI was pretty decent but the ending was horrible and left me feeling violated. I thought I had a few days left of playing and now nothing. Maybe I'll re-install Doom 3 and try and make it past the 3rd level without going to sleep this time. Dark room, corner, scary monster. Dark room, corner scary monster. Yay!
  • i enjoyed half life 2 (HL2) right from the beginning to the end. Although i expected more weapons in the game, the super-charged grav gun got two thumbs up from me. The graphics were superb, absolutley awsome , the physics were stunning and the storyline was griping.

    Now the thing that made me the most angry was the ending. Now WTF was that. It happened so suddenly. I expected to escape out of that place with Alyx but NOOOOOOOOO it had to end right there. I was speachless for the first few minutes then i just started to think how are they gonna make HL3, well that is if they ever make HL3. (They better)

    Overall a superb, exciting and obviously the best game of the year for myself and others. Go HL2!!! It rocks. Looking forward to HL3 all!!!

    P.S: For all you Halo 2 fans; HL2 S#%T's all over Halo 2 in more ways then one.
  • "God man" you said it.
    G-Man is god.
  • I still think Far Cry was a better game...it had a more conventional mad scientists/monsters story but Jack Carver came with a personality and the Trigens (spelling?) were damn hard to kill, on top of a beautifully rendered world. The AI was also better, as you'd put on the Cryvision goggles and see the mercenaries rounding up on you.

    I was VERY put off by the activation scheme in HL2, and if this continues with games I may just quit and play chess. Heaven knows I'm old enough. Activation never stops piracy, it only strangles honest consumers for more money. And considering that VALVe's code was stolen last year, the average consumer isn't whom they should be worrying about.

    Hl2 had more detail in everything and interaction with the world, but it was so relentlessly depressing and grim, and like in the first game you saw the same five people over and over. The last four levels had intense combat, but overall the puzzles and ending weren't on the same caliber as the first game.

    As for what it all "means".....it's kind of like the serious debate about the Matrix until the two sequels came out. You can get a real buzz going by not giving people a clue but sooner or later you have to pull the tarp of and see what's underneath.

    It would seem reasomable it will all end as some sort of computer simulation/alternate reality, simply because in both games everytime you get killed or don't accomplish an objective you get a message something like, "subject Gordon Freeman failed to do..blah..blah." It wouldn't surprise me that in HL3 Gordon wakes up in Black Mesa and the G-man was a scientist running an experiment on him. But then again that could change since I feel VALVe is making the story up as they go along.
  • Well I have read some of the above, I missed a few cos i spent so long reading some insane guys take on the storyline.

    Personally it would have been a complete tragedy to wrap up the storyline. Also if you look closely you can see the answers are everywhere. Play the game through again listen to the people that talk to you, especially the aliens (that includes G-Man) think about what will ahppen to city 17 after this with the destruction of the citadel and also try to open your mind to the possibilities that can spawn from this.
    Listen to what is said at the top of te Citadel!!

    This game is, as its predecessor was, a fucking masterpiece!

    The point of a Game is to entertain, and people cannot fail to be entertained by Half Life 2.
    The point of the story is to drive you through the game and all of us here have been!
    The point of the ending is to not spoil what we can conjure in our imagination, the storyline could have closed here but so would the possibilities!

    I for one am very thankful that we will hear (or not hear as it were) from Gordon Freeman again, and in what is bound to be another totally different setting with another amazing storyline and another MINDBLOWING cliffhanger, roll on half life 3!!.
  • :( I just finished it. Awesome game... yeah, pretty easy - but I feel this is ok? I had it on Easy setting and yeah I walked through it, but I felt the game was still excellent. The engine didn't show too much awesomeness to me until the last chapter when you get the super charged gravity gun! Picking up people looks awesome HAHA, yay. The ending really depressed me :( I thought Alyx and Gordon were gonna have a love scene thing, it was SO close. Eh, Alyx and Gordon should've had more to do with eachother... they should've finished on a solid note I think. At least a short movie showing the after-effect and what happened... and a love scene where Alyx and Gordon express their feelings for eachother damnit! lol.
  • i think half life 2 and halo 2 are a chalenge i really like both in my own opinion i just like both.an doom 3 is amazing too.reply bk
  • paul i think ur horneyness has veiled ur eyes from the real topic going on here, love scene or not the final scene and boss sucked
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