Half-Life 2 Review

The long awaited sequel finally arrives!

Review by Darren Cartledge
Published 16th November 2004

Half-Life 2

  • Developer: Valve
  • Publisher: Sierra
  • Release Date: 16th November 2004

In 1998 Valve unleashed a game on us that raised the bar for first-person shooters and quickly became one of the greatest PC games. Now one of the most anticipated games is finally here after a long six year wait.

Half-Life 2 sees you once again take up the role of heroic scientist Gordon Freeman. Who finds himself thrust into the struggle to save Earth from alien’s, intent on wiping out its population and taking all its resources. It’s up to you as the “Freeman” to save Earth and the people you care about from the evil that was unleashed at Black Mesa.

Half-Life 2 is set around City 17 which is controlled by the combine, at the beginning of the game you arrive in the city and are soon introduced to the resistance and a young woman named Alyx Vance. Who acts as a guide and supports you in your fight. You are soon (with thanks to the resistance) introduced to two good friend from Half-Life your bio suit and trusty crow bar! Gordon soon finds himself in the thick of things when during a routine teleportation things go array and Gordon finds himself transported to various locations, including City 17’s leader’s office! As you can imagine all hell breaks loose from here on in.

Half-Life 2 stays faithful to the original game combing intense first person shooter action with immersive storytelling. The game offers a wide variety of action orientated play in a number of different locations, from sprawling beaches to claustrophobic sewers. Environments are also highly interactive! Almost everything can be picked up, tossed or smashed in to pieces. Once you acquire the gravity gun you are then able to move or toss heavy items such as cars at enemies. This comes in extremely useful when ammo is scarce.

There’s a wide choice of weapons available for you to tackle the Combine forces with. Ranging from simple pistols and shotguns to pulse rifles and laser guided rocket launchers. However you will need to use your ammo wisely as it can be sparse especially on the harder difficulty settings. If things do come to the worst and you find yourself without any ammo you will always have your trusty crowbar and the gravity gun at your disposal.

As well as your standard first person shooter action Half-Life 2 features some excellent vehicle sequences, these are extremely fast paced and usually see you being pursued by some kind of Combine vehicle usually a gunship. Half-Life 2 gives you the opportunity to get behind the controls of several vehicles, the first of which is a hover boat. You will later get to drive a buggy and even a crane. Vehicles are mission critical and while they seem impervious to enemy attack, losing them in water or off a cliff will result in your failing and needing to start the sequence over.

Enemy AI provides a good challenge however the aliens and zombie seem to be rather more formidable then the human soldiers you will come up against. They all attack in numbers however the AI of the soldiers seems to get a little confused when they go for cover usually bumping into each then heading back out into the open. Although having said that, they function perfectly fine when they are on their own.

The game runs relatively bug free, with good frame rates even when the screen is filled with the most frantic action. However they does seem to be a slight issue with Gordon getting stuck on objects especially in confined areas. This also seems true during the buggy vehicle sequence the car will often get things stuck under its wheels resulting in you having to exit the vehicle and freeing them. This can be a major inconvenience especially when you have a Combine Gunship raining gun fire down on you. Minor annoyances, yes! Is it enough to spoil the intense action? No way!

Like its predecessor Half-life 2 features stunning graphics, character models are some of the best I’ve ever seen in a game. Movement is smooth and realistic. Environments are rich and varied with impressive drawing distances. The game also features lots of nice touches such as sun reflecting off roads, and mist in the distance, when near the coast or at high altitude. Water effects are excellent and look stunningly realistic, it’s also nice to see authentic ripple movement when walking through puddles.

Music and sound effects are both excellent in the game. Weapons fire is amazing while explosions and vehicle sounds are also done to the highest standard. The in-game music adds an air of suspense to the game and helps get the adrenaline pumping during action sequences. The best part of the games sound is voice acting, which is probably some of the best ever heard in a video game, although some of the dialog in a bit tongue in cheek at times.

Highly anticipated games usually have a tendency to disappoint however, Half-life 2 lives up to expectations and the minor niggles that are present are not enough to spoil the experience and like the original, Half-Life 2 is set to become one of the greatest games ever.

Review Score: 9/10

Please note, this review was scored using our old system. For more information please see our review policy.

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