Half Life 2
Game title: Half-Life 2
Genre: First Person Shooter
Platform: X-Box and PC, X-Box, PS3 and 360
ESRB Rating: Mature
Release date: November 16, 2004
Overall rating: 10/10
Wake up Mr. Freeman. Wake up and smell the ashes.
Half-Life 2 is the sequel to the critically acclaimed Half-Life, a game that won a record setting 60 Game of the Year awards in 1998. Being the sequel to a game of such high calibur, it has some mighty big shoes to fill. On the outside, it seems like Half-Life 2 did a decent job of of it, winning a more than respectable 35 Game of the Year awards itself. While this is nothing compared to the previous games 60, 35 is still unheard of in the gaming world. Next to nothing has ever done that. Are they justified, though? Does this game really deserve it's 35 Game of the Year awards? Lets find out, shall we?
Gameplay - 10/10
The most important thing in any first person shooter is the gameplay. Half-Life 2 has alot of it, and man is it good. There is more to do than just shooting here. There are puzzles to solve, vehicle levels and a beautiful world to explore. Half-Life 2 has it all, and it is all extremely well done. It is not very often that video games impress me this much, especially when you take into consideration that this game doesn't really do too much that is truely innovative, atleast from a gameplay stand point. The shooting is just that satisfying. The majority of the enemies that you will fight in this game are called the Combine. They are intellegent. The enemy AI is great, and it makes them fun to battle. There are plenty Combine to kill as well. They will back away, duck, dodge and work together to best you. Valve did a truely impressive job with the AI. It far surpasses that of the first Half-Life, which was very impressive back then. There is also a nice variety of guns in this game. Thanks to the many different types of guns, and the different elemetns of HL2's enviorment, you will never run out of ways to kill people. I must compliment Valve on the Gravity Gun. This pretty much makes up all of the gameplay innovation, and it is beyond cool. The Gravity Gun allows you to pick up objects and toss them at enemies. Don't feel like shooting your enemy? Pick up a brick and toss it at him. It's that simple, and alot of fun. The Gravity Gun is also the center of alot of the games puzzles.
Gordon uses the Gravity Gun to kill Headcrab Zombies.
Speaking of the puzzles, they are logical. They make you think, but are never overly frustrating. They are well thought out, and are an excellent edition to the gameplay. As previously mentioned, the world of this game is big and beautiful. There are many things to see, from opressed suburbs to sandy beaches. It is all a joy to explore and look at. Finally, there are the vehicles sections of the game. There are a few sections throughout the game where you will be given a vehicle to control. These are also superb. The vehicles are easy to control and a blast to drive. They will give you a real sense of speed, and it gives the game an overall frantic run and gun gameplay feel that just enhances an already spectacular experience. It also does a nice job in breaking up the meat of the game, and it aids in making the game never feel repetitive.
Graphics - 10/10
How often do games age this well? Half-Life 2 is now 2 years old, and it is still a step above almost everything else. This game looks phenominal. The draw distance is incredible. The level of detail is undheard of. The characters in this game are some of the most realistic I have ever seen. The animations of the characters are as good as video games get. The physics engine in this game is the best of any video game EVER. You would have to see it in action to believe just how good it is. This game uses color brilliantly, to set the moods of different areas. The main city is a little drab, indicating the opression. The prison is run down and falling apart, indicating just how much the Combine care about the Earth. The sandy beaches are beautiful, but litered with junk, rust and run down houses, which shows both freedom and a lack of safety, and Ravenholm has a real survival horror setting. It is all brilliantly done. I cannot praise the graphics enough, and I cannot find the right words to describe just how good this game looks. I will just post a couple of high res screenshots for you all to admire.
A driving level. Look at that water, and the way the sun reflects off of it.
An urban war zone. Look at the smoke, fire and the way the sun shines through.
Sound - 10/10
The sound on this game is just as good as the rest of the package. The guns sound very convincing. Even the non existant ones sound like you would think that they would sound. The voice acting in this game is top notch. All of the characters voices are very well done, and they help sell the characters. You could almost be convinced that they are real. Whoever directed this part of it should get a raise. Monsters sound extremely good too. Zombies have this ghastly scream, and when you hear the poisonous headcrabs, you feel it in your spine. You turn arround as quickly as humanly possible, in hopes of getting it before it gets you. All of these noises, combined with the absense of music, fire and several other things help to give the Ravenholm section of this game even more of a survival horror feel. It may not scare you, but it is bound to creep you out. The music in this game is also used well. It is almost never used, but when it does, you know something is about to happen. It really helps build up tension. Sometimes it seems like it is too quite. Sometimes the music pumps you up and gets you ready to slaughter your opressors. The boys at Valve have outdone themselves this time. This game feature sound that is as good as it gets,
Story - 10/10
Obviously, no one expects a Vagrant Story calibur story here, and you don't get it, but what is here is very good and very well told. It is all very cenamatic. All of Half- Life 2's story is told just like the first one, where you never leave the first person perspective. It is all done through top notch special effects, characters actions, things you see and characters interacting with one another. This is a very good way of doing it, because it allows you to get into it even more. You see the story as it unfolds from the eyes of one of the major players. This is a brilliant way of doing it because you feel like you are actively changing the way the story goes. It really helps you get into it even more, and I wish other companies would do the same.
The game takes place some time after Half-Life. G-Man brings Gordon out of what is, essentially, stasis, telling him there is work to do. He places him on a train, and sets him off on his way. The world has changed in huge ways. Black Mesa is no more, but the administrator at Black Mesa, Dr. Breen, is a figure head for an opressive government controlled by an alien race known as the Combine. Barney Calhoun, 'the' Black Mesa security guard, is a member of Civil Protection, which are, essentially, the police in this world. He is also a member of a resistance against the Combine. He joined Civil Protection in an attempt to help the resistance. Dr. Eli Vance and Dr. Isaac Kleiner are also part of the resistance. They are attempting to build a teleportation device to help out the resistance by getting people out of City 17, the main setting of Half-Life 2. There are new characters as well, such as Alyx Vance, Eli's daughter and Dog, a robot that Eli built to protect Alyx. This is how the game is all set up, and it takes off from there. There are several good plot twists in the story, and it's cenamatic story telling is sure to keep you engrossed until the it's climatic, cliff hanger ending.
Replay value - 10/10
I beat Half-Life 2 yesterday, and all I can think about is playing more Half-Life 2. As if playing through the single player mode again weren't good enough, you have several multiplayer options. Much like the first game, this game has excellent multiplayer. It features a version of Couterstrike built onto of the game Source engine, which is very cool. It also includes Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, which is standard death match, but it is alot of fun. If you get tired of all that, there are also many mods for this game. Just like it's predecessor, this game will last a very, very long time. It has more replay value than almost any other game of it's kind.
Final thoughts -
Rarely ever does a game come along that is this good. Everything about this game is fine tuned to perfection to make a complete package that you have to play to believe. If you have a computer that will run it, buy it now. If you have a X-Box, buy it now. If you don't, you are in luck. There are versions of it that will come to both the Playstation 3 and the X-Box 360, along with HL2: Episodes 1 and 2. I cannot recommend this game enough. It is gaming bliss, and it deserves every single one of the 35 Game of the Year awards that it recieved.
Gameplay - 10/10
Satisfying shooting. Great puzzles. Excellent exploration and driving levels.
Graphics - 10/10
Next to nothing is this beautiful.
Sound - 10/10
Guns sound convincing, and the voice acting is excellent. Music is used sparingly and to great effect
Story - 10/10
Excellent presentation of the story. This is as good as the FPS genre gets.
Replay value - 10/10
Worth multiple playthroughs. Good multiplayer and mods. This game is here to stay.