Flashback Feature: Half Life (1998)

Hello readers! Today it’s my pleasure to start off our new weekly segment, Flashback Friday, where we look back at games old and not-so old that we really recommend you either play again, or even play for the first time. So without further ado, this week’s game is a PC gaming classic, and one of our favourites here at G33k P0p, it is of course Valve’s debut game Half Life.

So, for those who haven’t played Half Life, (you poor things) here is a quick going-over of the basics of the game. It was released by Valve on the PC on 8 November, 1998 and a PlayStation 2 port was released on November 11th (NA) and November 30th (EU). It was Valve’s debut title and is a sci-fi first-person shooter with many different weapons and tactics to choose from. While it is known for its singleplayer story, both ports of the game feature a multiplayer deathmatch mode, and if you have the game on Steam on PC, you’ll probably find a few players on a handful of servers which still run. The critical response to Half Life made the original PC port one of the highest-rated games of all time, scoring 96/100 on Metacritic.com and 87/100 for the PlayStation 2 port.

Now while the game is old, I don’t want to give too many spoilers away on the story since our head admin ‘The Discordia’ is playing Half Life for the first time. Nevertheless, the story goes like this: You are Gordon Freeman, a Theoretical Physicist ready to start a day of work in the top-secret Black Mesa Research Facility in New Mexico, USA. At first the game allows you to take in the scene on the Black Mesa tram system, there are no cut scenes, or pre-rendered action sequences, just you, on a tram, on another day at work.

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The tram ride at the start of the game

After the tram ride, you arrive at the Sector C Test Labs, as you will be going into the test chamber to analyse a Xen Crystal, a strange object collect from the border world dimension ‘Xen’. (I’m afraid there’s too much to talk about with things like Xen and the back-story to Half Life, but there are plenty of online video game lores, so check them out) Anyway, the game once again lets you walk around the labs, talking and interacting with other scientists, if it weren’t for the late nineties graphics the atmosphere of the game would almost feel real!

You then have to go to the locker room and pick up the famous orange H.E.V Hazard Suit that almost symbolises the game, and then you have to get down to the test chamber ready for the experiment, along the way meeting characters who will later appear in the games’ sequels, such as Eli Vance and Doctor Isaac Kliener. The mood is tense as you enter the test chamber, but the experiment continues anyway, and SHOCK HORROR, the experiment goes wrong, opening a portal to the border world dimension, Xen, and as well as causing massive damage to the facility, alien creatures pour in and infest what is left of Black Mesa. You then continue through the game, battling Xen creatures and US Military troops alike, solving puzzles and trying to just get out and to stop the portal from staying open.

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The experiment goes wrong in Chapter 2: Anomalous Materials

Now, while Half Life is an FPS game, it’s not just shooting things that solves problems, you have to think outside the box, use what’s around you and who is around you to help. The complex structure of the game environments adds more aspects of difficulty to the game, Half Life is definitely a game which challenges your brain as well as entertaining it.

The atmosphere of Half Life is really something special, despite the poor graphics by today’s standards, the area of the game feels immersive, containing lots of little tweaks and features like posters, excess rooms which can be explored, random props, and an overall feeling of realism. At a first glance, the story of Half Life seems very far-fetched, but considering the environment it takes place in and the interactions that you can have with friendly NPCs, the environment and story of the game is very realistic.

Despite its age, Half Life still lives on within the modern-day gaming community. It’s amazing storyline and gameplay makes it (and the rest of the series) still very fun today to replay again and again. Also, Half Life lives on in the Crowbar Collective remake: Black Mesa, an updated, modern version of the game capturing the action within the parts of the game within Black Mesa, it has some amazing graphics and delivers just as well as the original. One other place where the game thankfully lives on, is the speedrunning community, due to many exploits in the GoldSource engine that the game uses, speedrunners can use exploits and tactics such as bunny hopping and negative health from doors. Amazingly, people still set new records for speedruns and longplays, most recently, team Quadrazid completed Half Life, (at least a 3 hour game) in under 25 minutes, taking and incredible 4 years to complete the planning for the run. Not only that, but Half Life spawned many mods back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s which Valve later brought the rights to and made into games, and then franchises. Such as the Team Fortress and Counter-Strike franchises, which have since gained massive acclaim and brought in millions of players.

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Half Life’s deathmatch Multiplayer is still fun today

 

In all, Half Life is an amazing game, that despite its age, never fails to disappoint, I really recommend you play it some time soon!

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