Recently I blew the dust off my Half-Life 2 and decided it was time to play through the game again, and boy was I impressed at the brilliance that is Half-Life 2. Before I continue, let’s just get things into perspective. Half-Life 2 was released in 2004, that is nine years ago (you feeling old?). In terms of technology, nine years is an extremely long time. Although with a game as great as Half-Life 2, if it was released tomorrow, I wouldn’t even bat an eye.
Throughout history, there will always be games that are referred to as “classics” although when you replay that classic some years down the line, it is clear to see that even with its brilliance, the game doesn’t quite live up to the technology of today. So what is it that makes Half-Life 2 the timeless classic that it is?
Half-Life 2 set the benchmark for campaign-driven first-person shooters, and boy did it set it high. This work of art in the genre is so much more than a shooter between you and the dreaded Combine taking over your planet. Half-Life 2 cleverly implements many different genres into one. Just when you’ve had enough of the Combine, out jumps a headcrab followed shortly by the eerie wail of a zombie. Then there’s a friendly alien showing you the way. What’s that? A 3-legged strider is blocking your path? That’s no problem your rocket launcher can’t solve. You also come across a number of vehicles through your adventures that run so fantastically, I would swear I’m driving it in a game like Battlefield 3. This game is so much more than a spray-and-pray, with the refreshing puzzles that require some actual thought (something modern games seem to be lacking).
The dialog and AI interaction of the game was also groundbreaking for its time, and even today, not many games have managed to perfect the player-NPC interaction quite like Valve did. I found myself constantly getting lost in Alyx’s eyes. It seems the only thing possibly missing in this game is finding slots online for Gordon to gamble.
Another thing that made Half-Life the classic that it is, was the re-use of certain weapons and characters that appear throughout your journeys. I couldn’t help but let out a little cheer when Barney hands you the beloved crowbar. My sister thought I had lost my mind showing such excitement for a “silly melee weapon”. My all-time favorite weapon of the game is of course, the Gravity Gun. The awesome concept of being able to utilizes the environment around you was fantastic, I mean who wouldn’t want to kill an enemy with a flying toilet? In my experience, no other weapon from any other game has given me so many hours of fun. The next few days I constantly fantasised about how much more enjoyable life would be if I actually had a gun like that.
Six years after the cliffhanging ending of Half-Life 2 Episode 2 and there has still been no official talk of Half-Life 3 popping its head out. C’mon Valve, we’re all waiting!
By Jason Swindon