The Bottom Line: The Best Game Ever Created bar none.
After years of waiting and delays, Half Life 2 has finally arrived to the delight of gamers world wide. It has been almost 6 years since gamers last stepped into the HVAC of DR. Gordon Freeman in the groundbreaking first title in the series that won numerous awards and set the standards for all future 3D shooters. While countless mods and two add on helped keep the series at the forefront of gamers worldwide, fans have clamored for years for the next chapter in the series and good things have indeed come for those who waited. The game takes places in a city under siege called City -17. While it looks like an Eastern European city, it is a ravished area that is under the brutal control of forces known as the Combine. No sooner has Gordon entered the city via train after being transported there by the mysterious G-Man from the first game. It seems Gordon has been working for the G-Man for the past five years and when he arrives at City-17 he soon finds himself reunited with some of his old colleagues from the Black Mesa facility in the first game. Soon Gordon is a member of the resistance movement as he battle to stay alive and defeat the combined forces of both Xen and the Combine who want him dead and the rebellion crushed. Assisting Gordon on his missions are a variety of highly detailed NPC characters whose animations are so remarkably life like, that you will find yourself drawn to them and caring about their fates. Chief amongst them is Alyx, the attractive daughter of Dr. Vance from the first game who pops up at various points in the game to move the story along and assist Gordon. There are also fan favorites such as Barney the security guard and scientists from the first game such as Dr. Kleiner. What players will likely notice from the first moment of HL 2 are the every lavish graphics and the amazing new physics engine in the game. Most objects in the game can be manipulated and when you later acquire the gravity gun, players can pick up and toss objects at enemies as well as disrupt things such as explosive barrels and support braces. Where this feature really shines is in the vehicle portions of the game where Gordon operates items ranging from a dune buggy to an air boat. The ability to flip the vehicles, scale the sides of walls to make tight turns, and make jumps that would rival the Keneval family. Not only is this awe inspiring but it is a gripping and thrilling feature that does not have a rival anywhere in gaming. Sure, other games let you operate a vehicle, but none let you have so many options in the operation of the vehicle and simulate real physics without compromising any of the action or fun as well as the story. Another solid aspect of the game is that is contains solid and effective puzzles and situations that while challenging, will not drive you to the brink of madness as did some of the puzzles and situations in the original. This is not to say that Half Life 2 is not a challenge just that it relies more or a cerebral challenge and less on the jumping and twitch puzzles that filled the last one. The sound in the game is solid as everything from character voices that grow weaker the further you move away from them to the screech of the enemies and their com chatter is engrossing. Those with surround sound systems will be able to enjoy the game in all of its auditory greatness as the tension does rise in a dark area when only a faint but growing noise can be heard. Graphically the game is as I mentioned before amazing. The detail level of the characters aside, the scope and detail of the city and various game locales shows the true power of the engine, and more than once, I found myself stopping to take in the view. The only real issue I had with the game was the lack of a Deathmatch mode for the game, as the Source Engine version of Counter Strike is what the game offers for multiplay. Thankfully this was addresses just as I completed the game as a new Dm mode is available for players via the Steam system that is required to play the game. Some players have expressed frustration over what the called the slow and cumbersome need to use Steam to install, unlock, and play their games. While it did cause a long install, I found the so called intrusion of steam to be minimal after the initial install, but it should be noted that an internet connection is required in order to play the game as a free Steam account is needed to access the game. Quite simply Half Life 2 is not only the best game of the year, but the best game ever. From its cryptic yet engrossing story, amazing graphics, and innovative action and locations, Valve has once again set the bar very, very high for others to follow. While some may have issues with certain plot outcomes, they are in keeping with the series and pave the way not only for expansion packs, but the likely and hopeful Half Life 3.
Gameplay 5/5 Graphics 5/5 Audio 5/5 Value 5/5 Fun 5/5 Rating M Valve Software/ Vivendi Gareth Von Kallenbach
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About the reviewer
Gareth Von Kallenbach (garethvk)
I am a syndicated movie & game critic, writer, author and frequent radio guest. My work has appeared in over 60 publications worldwide and he is the creator of the rising entertainment site "Skewed … more
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The Half-Life 2 with Deathmatch DVD collects two of the must-have shooter games, bringing you twice the action. Start out with Half-Life 2, where you return to the alien research facility called Black Mesa. The aliens are now pouring into our world and you'll join the resistance movement to stop them. Battle it out with friends in crazy, realistic mulitplayer action with Half-Life 2: Deathmatch. Then test your tactical abilities with Half-Life: Source -- where the gaming kicks up a notch through the amazing Source game engine.