Gamestyle Archive intro: time for a classic and the word maybe abused nowadays but surely there are few gaming series that can match Half-Life. A great game and this review from JJ dates from November 2001. We did actually review the aborted Dreamcast version of Half-Life that never saw the light of day.
When Half-Life was released on the PC it had an immediate impact on games in general. Its influence was comparable the biggest games in the genre such as Quake, Doom and Goldeneye. From the famous introduction right through to the ending moments, Half-Life was atmospheric, cinematic and above all, a masterpiece. Forget Red Faction, this is the daddy. We have waited longer than usual for a console version, thanks in part to the cancellation of the Dreamcast version at the last minute. The wait is over; Half-Life is here, has it been worth the wait?
The game begins with the long introduction that many will find boring and overly long. Already you are judging Half-Life like many other first person shooters and are therefore making a big mistake. Listen to the tanoy, look around the base as the transporter slowly makes it way to its destination, this is your first and last moment of relaxation before Half-Life kicks in. You are Gordon Freeman, employee at the Black Mesa research institute, a top-secret weapon research facility, and situated underground amidst tight security. You and your scientist colleagues are engaged in a highly secretive and dangerous experiment. Today is the big day, the purest sample yet and you are running late. As the transporters takes you down to the laboratory you gaze at the levels – colleagues working on other projects and sections where you are not allowed. Little do you know the fate that awaits you once you clamber into the bio-suit and rush into laboratory. The sample is ready, once you insert it into the field your life will never be the same. Today is one hell of a bad day.
The strength of the game is its plot and to go further would spoil an enjoyable yet memorable and challenging experience. The game does not rely on missions or levels with objectives to complete. There is only one aim in the game – to escape from the base or at least you would think so, things are never that straightforward! As someone who has played Half-Life before on the PC and loved every moment of it, I’ve tried to judge the console version on its own merits. Certainly the game is now four years old but amongst the glut of average shooters on the market, Half-Life still has a certain quality that puts it ahead of most. Rather than just do a straightforward PC conversion such as Quake III or Unreal Tournament, the developers Gearbox have included some tasty extras for us console folk.
The graphical look of the game has undergone a careful conversion and upgrade and looks very much at home on the Playstation 2. There are also two new modes apart from the main game itself; these are Decay and Death match adding great value to an outstanding game. It goes without saying that most games must have some form of multiplayer mode to succeed these days and this has been taken care of. The main game as mentioned is pretty much a flawless adventure and set the tone for first person shooters. Even playing it again is still a refreshing experience; it combines moments of Quake action with Alien Vs Predator tension and mixes in some of its own magic. Everything is scripted and the set pieces that you take part in are flawlessly executed. The detail on the characters and base are very impressive however the sampled speech does sound grainy at times. Still if you take the chance to look around you will realise how much work and dedication has gone into the game.
Importantly the control system here is solid not doubt influenced by Timesplitters but with more buttons assigned actions however you can change things around if you prefer something else. If you have a USB mouse and keyboard then you can enjoy the true way to play a first person game, PC style. The death match mode is fairly standard with some well-designed levels and decent frame rate however it does lack options. In total there are twelve levels available and these are of a high standard, ranging from inside the base to the lovely outdoor environments. There is little customisation here and I’m not comparing it the PC version in that respect, just in general. Basically its just pick your character then level and that’s it, nice and simple but for those of us wanting more it’s a poor relation to other shooters on the console. With the length of time that this has taken to reach any console a fairly decent death match mode wouldn’t have been out of the question, could it?
The Decay mode is mission based and fits in with the main story but the change being is that you can play this along with a friend. This co-operative mode is great fun but I could only play it with a vertical split screen which is not my preferred viewpoint however with a friend it was an enjoyable romp but if one of you dies – game over.
So should you buy Half-Life? The simple answer is yes! It is worth forking out for the main game alone, the extras while limited are just that, bonuses. After you complete the main game (approx 18 hours) you’ll want to go back again and experience it just one more time. Forget its age, great games don’t die, they just become retro but play fantastic.
Gamestyle Score: 8/10