If you've never played a Half-Life game and aren't relatively familiar with the story and franchise, then this review might be for you. If you're just looking for a fresh perspective on one of your favorite classics then this review might also be for you. This was the first time I have ever played a Half-Life game. I'm afraid I missed it when it was released, however, I did play similar shooters from that era. I didn't think a review from me would be necessary for such a popular title like Half-Life but seeing that all of the top reviews for it are those ridiculous one or two sentence jokes, I thought that maybe my take on it would be welcome.
In Half-Life, you fill the shoes of Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist who's getting ready for an ordinary day at the office. Gordon Freeman apparently, dons his fancy HEV suit every morning after punching in on the time clock, and then runs around in a room that is not safe anyone not wearing said suit.
Long story short, something bad happens while on the job, and aliens decide to invade Gordon's workplace, Black Mesa labs. You then spend the rest of the game trying to get out of the now compromised Black Mesa facility. The structure is surprisingly large for a research lab and you'll spend quite some time traversing it's different levels, from labyrinthine industrial machinery to the sterile, clean laboratories where Freeman's colleagues go-a-sciencing. Without spoiling too much, the army becomes involved and for some unexplained reason, presumably a cover-up, considers you to be just as dangerous as the invading aliens.
That pretty much covers it, as far as an overall picture is concerned. You won't start with much, as far as weapons are concerned, however you'll slowly build up your collection as you romp through Black Mesa. The gameplay is smooth and uncluttered with too many bells and whistles. You run, shoot, and jump your way to the surface of the facility. Sometimes, you'll even push and pull some things to solve some very mild puzzles. The game can be quite challenging if you up the difficulty enough. And ammo is at a premium. You really have to think about what weapons you're using against which enemies and what is the most efficient way to kill them. Some weapons are better for killing different targets, which is a nice thing that makes this game more than just a mindless shooter.
There is little dialogue throughout this game. In fact, there are even a couple of levels where you won't encounter too terribly many enemies, however those are mostly reserved for the more industrial areas of Black Mesa.
The game is definitely dated, as it runs on the old 1998 GldSrc engine. If you're itching to get your nostalgia on, this can be a good thing, though. It reminded me a lot of Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force from the early 2000's (unsurprisingly, as Raven Software admitted Half-Life was their inspiration for Elite Force). It can also be considered reminiscent of Doom, in it's tone, especially in the later levels I think. If you really just aren't in the mood of '98 graphics, thought, you could always get the Source version of the game, which isn't terribly different, but does give it that extra little oomph you may be looking for.
All in all, there weren't many cons in this game for me, except for it's lack of exposition. I think that may be more of a sign of it's age, however. Like I said, there isn't much dialogue and if you're looking for a lot of story, you won't really find it in this game. However, I've been told that HL2 has more of that sort of thing. I also mentioned above that ammo can be hard to find and many might consider that to be another negative trait. That's just something that will come down to personal preference, though. At least I never found myself bored while playing. The end boss was pretty unforgiving, though. The technical difficulty of defeating the final boss was fairly frustrating and they didn't exactly make the mechanics of doing it very smooth. This also seems to be a relic from gaming's past, though.
All things considered, I really enjoyed this game. I came it with mostly a fresh perspective, as I knew little about the tone of Half-Life and I knew little of the story. Even though I never played this as a kid, the nostalgia from shooters of it's era was enough to make me smile from time to time. If you played Quake III or games like it, you might also notice some of the minor similarities. When you consider that this was Valve's debut product, it makes it all seem that much more impressive.