Saturday, 29 November 2014

Review No. 84 Half-Life - PC (16+)

Strong Points:
Superb gameplay
A great range of weapons
Music is atmospheric
It's challenging
Puzzles are good
You will have to use all the weapons
Some genuinely surprising answers to puzzles
Storyline is good
You will be on edge for the whole game - no hand holding here
Lots of different types of gameplay - platforming, shooter, stealth, puzzler etc
Being able to save whenever you want to is very helpful

Weak Points:
Graphics haven't aged very well
It can be ridiculously hard (I had 5 HP for the majority of the game)
Some of the mechanics (i.e crouch jumping) can be hard to learn
There are no cutscenes so you can miss information
Some glitches
The enemies AI isn't great/sometimes too good (can see through walls occasionally)
HP restore points aren't very evenly spaced
Difficulty spikes

Rating: 90%

In-depth Review:

Release Dates:
North America/Europe: November 8, 1998

W Key: move forward
S Key: move backward
Mouse: turn left, right, Look up, down
Mouse Button 1: primary fire
Mouse Button 2: secondary fire
Mouse Wheel: next weapon, previous weapon
A Key: strafe left
D Key: strafe right
Spacebar: jump
Ctrl Key: duck
Ctrl + W Key: crawl
V Key: swim up
C Key: swim down
End: return vision to center
R Key: reload
W Key + Ctrl + Spacebar: long jump
Shift Key: walk
F Key: flashlight
Q Key: last weapon used
E Key: use
Tab Key: show score (multiplayer)

You think you've played a game before? Think again. This is game that holds no hands and takes no prisoners. Ever tried facing an army of electrical aliens that can one shot you with only 5 health? Or have you tried to jump over gaps while being shot at by homing bullets? Or what about running towards a door only for an explosion to wreck the walls and bring the ceiling down on you? No? Well, you can start here. 

This, by no means, is a bad thing, in fact I've never felt so tense when playing through a level or so exhilarated when I'm finally victorious. However, it can end in a repetitive grind until you wait for the enemy AI to finally go in the right pattern that you need to kill them. It can also end in you having to think of some pretty creative ways to kill the enemies, though, as well as testing your gaming skills and ability to adapt to the limit. And this is just the fighting. There are also platforming sections, puzzles sections and stealth sections (helped by the fact that you will, quite likely, be on low health for most of the game). The puzzle sections also have some 'wow!' moments which I won't spoil here. 

The weapons are varied (all the way from crowbar to machine gun to laser to alien hand) and, for once, all usable and helpful due to their different strengths and ammo capabilities. The enemies are also varied and will cause you to learn their strengths and weaknesses (as well as their predicable/sometimes very random AI) so that you can kill them without being damaged too much (although, you will get damaged anyway). 

The story is told without cutscenes which, while not breaking the immersion, can mean that you can miss bits of information or lore. Also, the game tries to make it more realistic by making you face the person who’s talking in order to hear them well. Not that it’s easy to see who is talking as the characters faces aren't very animated (their mouths kind of change state without the animation of them moving up and down). In fact, none of the graphics haven't aged very well with bad textures everywhere (not that you'll be able to admire the scenery very long before your shot). 

The game is split into levels (although I only say this as the game flashes up names at certain points in the game, there aren't actually levels per se) with various loading points and they are all (besides Surface Tension) well-paced. Throughout the levels you will gain your various weapons; lose all your ammo; find more ammo; heal at the, quite rare, health stations and encounter various scientists (who can heal you), guards (who can help you kill things) and aliens/soldiers (who will try to kill you). As well as the single player mode, there is also a Training Room as well as multiplayer (if it resembles Counter Strike, that's because it is).

Overall, Half-Life is a great game that will drag you, kicking and screaming out of today's world of guided games and into the much more difficult world of gaming in the 90s. And you'll love it for that.

Goodbye for now, Harry 

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