Half-Life

Video Description

Gordon Freeman is a physicist at the Black Mesa Research Facility. One day when conducting an experiment, something goes wrong and a portal to an alien dimension is opened.


I loved the demo of this game that I first played back on the PS2 on a demo disc. I thought just from the demo that it was a horror game, but technically it’s not. Since then, I’ve seen many people play mods of it, such as Afraid of Monsters and Cry of Fear, which are some of the scariest and creepiest ones. All of this made me believe the original Half-Life was a horror game.

Because of how old the game is, the user interface doesn’t act like how most games do today. Text and UI elements do not scale as the resolution changes, meaning that high resolutions will result in a very small HUD, and small resolutions will result in a large HUD. Since I’m playing at 2560×1440 resolution, the HUD is very small, including the cursor, and the text is nearly impossible to read. So I made two changes to make it larger:

  • Open \platform\resource\TrackerScheme.res in a text editor
    • Find “Legacy_CreditsFont”, change “tall” to 60 (1440p)
  • Using 2x icons and cursors from here

I was also made aware of during part 9 of my playthrough that the FOV should be changed when playing in widescreen, otherwise the game zooms in on the picture and will cut off some of your weapon. By default it’s 90, but should be changed to 106 by typing default_fov 106 into the console if playing in widescreen. (This is no longer needed if using the 25th anniversary update – more info below.)

Since playing this game in mid-2023, the 25th anniversary update was released on November 17th, 2023. This massive update adds some of the things I used for the game, such as widescreen FOV fix, HUD scaling, and controller support. It also adds the demo, Half-Life: Uplink, available for the PC, new multiplayer maps, and many other additions and bug fixes.

My Rating:

Story

The story is relatively limited in the game as it’s primarily focused on gameplay. But, the basic premise is about a physicist named Gordon Freeman who works at the Black Mesa Research Facility. There is an experiment about to happen, so he pushes a strange crystal into a spectrometer for analysis, but the device explodes, causing massive damage to the facility and opens a portal to an alien dimension, Xen. The scientists urge Gordon to head for the surface. While doing so, he must protect himself against the aliens and the HECU (Hazardous Environmental Combat Unit) marines that were set in to cover up the incident by killing everyone they come across so the public won’t know what actually happened.

After making it to the Lambda labs, a scientist opens a teleporter to Xen so Gordon can enter the alien dimension and defeat the life form that’s causing all the aliens to spawn. Upon entering Xen, a mysterious creature known as the Nihilanth speaks with him, saying, “Comes another,” implying that Gordon was not the first to enter Xen, and likely isn’t the last. He finds many dead bodies of people that came before him. But, Gordon is different and defeats the Nihilanth.

A mysterious man called the G-Man makes himself known to Gordon. He has been watching Gordon the entire time, and is happy that Xen is now in his and his employers control. He has a work opportunity for Gordon from his employers. If Gordon doesn’t accept it, he will die. But if he does accept it, he now is working for the G-Man and employers. Who the G-Man and his employers are is a mystery.

Gameplay

This is a first-person shooter where you control GordonĀ and have a variety of weapons available to you. The PS2 version has controller support, but the computer version does not. However, you can still use a controller when using Steam since mouse and keyboard controls will be automatically mapped to the controller.

Controlling Gordon is relatively easy. He runs by default, but can walk if needed. He can crouch, jump, and use a flashlight. Jumping can be a bit awkward since it may look like you can’t reach a platform, but you often have to jump and then immediately duck to get on top of it. You can interact with objects as well, and opening doors doesn’t need an interaction, just move up to it. There are also many areas to explore, but there aren’t many secrets. The game is linear, but has some puzzles along the way.

The game can get quite difficult as you progress, so you’ll have to plan your moves wisely if you want to survive. I played on easy since I knew it was a hard game, and I still had difficulty at times. I also utilized the quick save feature, which allows you to save anywhere. Additionally, there are health and HEV suit (armor) healing stations and pickups throughout the level.

Graphics

The game looks old, but honestly quite good for its time. The character models and textures are pretty good considering its age. I opted to play with the original models instead of the HD ones for the classic authentic look. The colors are a bit faded, and may need some contrast adjustment at times. But, overall looks great.

Sound / Music

There isn’t much music, and what is present is mostly ambient that can be a bit creepy at times, especially in the beginning of the game. The voices also sound really old and like it was recorded on a telephone. Out of all the sound effects, there one that stands out as the best: the health pickup / beginning part of the healing station sound.

Albums

Game Info

Half-Life
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Sierra Studios
Release Date: November 19, 1998
Platforms: Computer, PlayStation 2
Published: (updated: )
Complete

ActionShooter

About the Author

Asphodel Gaming
Asphodel Gaming
I am a streamer and game reviewer that enjoys older games (PS1, PS2, PSP, Genesis, Dreamcast, Game Boy, N64, GameCube, and more), and indie games.
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