With it being over 20 years old now, I’ve decided to revisit Half-Life.
What was once a revolutionary game, with amazing graphics, a great story and fantastic puzzles is now a depreciated mess. We’ve had 20 years of games come out after this, and with that much hindsight I can say with a straight face, this game is not as good as people make it out to be.
Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way first, guns. The gun play is fantastic but shows it’s age, the animations are overly exaggerated and the damage doesn’t always make sense. The shotgun and assault rifle feel very underwhelming and inconsistent, sometimes needing more bullets to kill enemies than the base pistol. The distance you can throw grenades feels very short but the damage they deal seems adequate. The only weapon I actually find overpowered is the revolver; when your pistol can one shot an enemy that would normally take 4-6 rifle shots, it may be a little broken.
The beginning of the game, while possibly being great when it first came out, now feels drawn out and extremely annoying. If you don’t pay attention to the minute details of the markings on the walls, even getting your H.E.V suit and starting the game can be confusing. The dialogue of the game takes far to long to get the point across, and makes the game move at a snails pace.
With the dialogue the way it is, it causes a major problem. The story is already a convoluted and confusing mess, unless you listen to absolutely every second of dialogue; and listening to the dialogue takes annoying amounts of time causing the story to stall, and become dull. There’s a lot of the story that isn’t elaborated on and confuses me; like why the military instantly starts shooting you when the last thing you were told was that they were on their way to save you.
The textures of this game did not age well at all, and nor did the lighting. A lot of the poor textures add to the difficulty of some puzzles. The bad lighting only really hurts the maneuverability of vents which doesn’t amount to a lot, but when it does you can really notice it. A lot of the puzzles are easy enough to solve, only a few causing me to spend more than a few minutes on them. I did get stuck at multiple points in the game due to poor checkpoints, the game not saving on chapters or loading screens, and pure stupidity on my part.
Getting through the puzzles and into the actual story, it is excruciatingly long. It took me over 10 hours, from start to finish to complete the game (on easy, mind you). When the military starts to intervene they kinda just forget to tell you what to do from there on out, and make you figure it out yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind having to figure out what to do next, or where to go next, but in this game it gets really annoying.
There’s a section with a giant fan in the Chapter Blast Pit, that is probably what tripped me up the most, causing me to have to completely restart the game. It’s nowhere near obvious enough as to what you’re supposed to do, having multiple platforms that make you think you’re supposed to go through them instead of straight up. There’s also a fall in the same chapter; where a large pipe that you’re walking through collapses and is near impossible to beat if you have less than 100 HP.
As you’re making your way top side in the Chapter Apprehension, for some reason there are ninja’s? This is never elaborated on, it’s just out of nowhere and completely baffling. This leads into a confusing laser level that literally finished itself for me; the door opened extremely early without me having to finish the puzzle, causing me to waste time on said laser puzzle. Once outside I got stuck with 1 hp against multiple military personnel causing nearly a half-an-hour of frustrated Quick Saving and Quick Loading. In the later game before Xen there’s an Overpowered tank that took me a few minutes to get around. That coupled with the lack of health packs is a real detriment to how fun it is, not to mention the snipers that can some how shoot you from around a corner.
After entering Xen I got lost for about 20 minutes because of how un-obvious the way to progress was. I played through the ending as normal in a nice cycle of; getting lost for a while before progressing.
After finally getting to the Nihilanth I quickly destroyed all the Crystals needed before getting stuck in an almost endless 40 minute loop of; attack, show brain thing, die to stray laser beam. OVER AND OVER AGAIN for 40 minutes.
Half-Life is not a fun game, it is definitely a mentally challenging game. It sits in this weird Limbo in my mind, because I enjoyed it more than Half-Life 2, but it holds absolutely no candle to it’s sister series Portal. I will not criticize all the bugs, or the textures because the game is 20 years old, but I do not think this game is worthy of the 96 that it has on Metacritic. It’s story is odd, and feels like an after thought, having possibly made levels before thinking about how they line up, or join together. In saying this, I am excited for Black Mesa and plan to play it.
7/10 – Now that I’ve beat it, I probably won’t play it again.