Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Review No. 110 Half-Life: Blue Shift - PC (16+)

Strong Points:
Superb gameplay
A great range of weapons (though the smallest of the three games)
Music is atmospheric
It's challenging
Puzzles are good
You will have to use all the weapons
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
More characters makes the world seem more alive
Makes more sense than the original from your characters perspective (i.e. a security guard (even the Black Mesa ones) could definitely survive better than a scientist)
Explains a lot of the lore and story that was missed from the last two games
Very similar to the last two

Weak Points:
Not very long - even shorter than the last one
Graphics haven't aged very well
Slightly anti-climactic compared to the first
It can be ridiculously hard (I had 5 HP for the majority of the game - again - again)
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
Not as many weapons as the last two
Very similar to the original

Rating: 76%

In-depth Review:

Release Dates:
World Wide: June 12, 2001

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)

The second expansion pack for Half-Life is much like the last two games only... shorter. Like four hours short. Now this isn't all bad, as it lets you have an afternoon of gaming with an achievement at the end of it. However, after the last two games, four hours feels rather... small. This, coupled with the fact that there are less weapons and gameplay options than Opposing Force means that Blue Shift is definitely the most underwhelming of the three games.

However, there are some redeeming factors: all of the core mechanics, such as the great shooting mechanics and 'tough as nails' gameplay, that made the last two games so great remain; the atmosphere is as great as ever; its shortness enables a quick afternoon's worth of gameplay; many Easter Eggs for the original remain and the lore is explored in much greater detail, thereby answering some of the questions I've been asking since playing the original (such as 'What is actually going on here and why?'). This makes the game more of an expansion pack than the last expansion pack (Opposing Force) which I was close to classing as a short game. Be this as it may, the lack of cutscenes, subtitles or the ability to go back over story still led me to missing out on parts of the lore.

In the game, you follow the story of the Black Mesa security guard Barney Calhoun (hence the title Blue Shift - relating to both the astronomical principle and the fact that the security guards wear blue) as he tries to escape from the Black Mesa facility after it is invaded by aliens and the army. This offers yet another outlook on the original game as well as looking at the plight of the humble security guard - ever destined to die for you only to get shot around the following corner. Throughout the game you meet many, slightly more developed, characters and fight many, many, aliens and soldiers all in your quest to escape the facility and get to safety.

To aid you in your quest you have... slightly less weapons than before with no new additions to the original game and with some reductions (no experimental tech this time, I'm afraid) as well as less enemies and no new ones. Maybe the developers took a leaf out of the doughnut eating security guard and just thought that less is more (although more doughnuts is still more doughnuts). Oh, and the graphics haven't received an upgrade either so you've still got that...

Overall, Half-Life: Blue Shift is a rather underwhelming expansion pack that should either be treated as an interactive lore add-on if played after Opposing Force or a build up for a greater game if played before. Whatever you decide, I still feel it's worth a play, especially as it's only four hours long!

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