Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Game review - Half-Life series.

On my blog I'd like to talk about a few games that have made an impression on me. This can be for several reasons such as: Art, Story, Game-play or other things. To give the best examples it's possible I might spoiler story elements. If your planning on playing these games OR sensitive to spoilers please stop reading as it might take the fun out of the game.

The Half - Life series made it's first entrance at 1997 it was made by valve and released by sierra. several small expansions and years later Half-life 2 was released (2004) it had an episode one in 2006 episode and two 2007.


Now why has Half-life made such an impact on me ?
I was already partly game addict back in those days. Spoiled with Wolfenstein, Doom and Duke Nukem ( had the demo that before half life) i was already shooting away left right and center.

However Half-life was new. This was heavily proven in the first few minutes of half-life while your in the train on the way to black mesa.  A memory i will never forget. the life hood around me, cargo being transported, soldiers running around, heli's flying by.

By the these days impatient generation called the longest train ride. this impressed me heavily when i was young.

It brought so much more believability to the game that it completely sucked me in. The first few minutes the experiment goes wrong and you walk by the several research rooms where you see scientists being attacked by headcrabs... awesome stuff !
For half-life this was also the main source of narrative. Where other games generally had cut-scene's or text Half-life had in game events that were up to the player to be seen or ignored.

The greatness of this was continued in Half-life 2 and even more story got put into small events such as citizens being arrested, combine soldiers being attacked or conversations npc's have. One of the most likelly most ( and probably without realizing) noticeable things i found was at the start when the player just arrives in city 17 before the negotiation the player walks by an interrogation room where one of the combine soldiers shuts the little window only to beat the citizen up.

Long video where you can see how valve does it's story telling ( start of the game )

The story itself was also one of the great things. These days a lot of games have implemented this technique ( though valve is still well known for NOT including any cut scene in the half-life series) but the unlike the load of spin offs and world war 2 First person shooter games that followed in it's time Half-life seemed to have a lot more depth and more unique than most of it's spin offs. The fact the player has never gotten to see or hear Gordon freeman ( of course there are some "photo's " hidden around and in half-life 2 the front cover suggests how Gorden Freeman would look like. but in game itself he's the faceless hero making it easier to emerge in the story.  Another good thing about the story is the setting. The environment subtly changes and all makes sense. valve has done it's research and makes things the way it should be. A good example one of my previous teachers on game-design once gave was: The fact the Half Life series ( actually valve in general) Has a good sense of Visual Rhetoric. So for example a warehouse containing heavy objects must have wooden pallets to move them around. If they are there must be a forklift to pick them up. If there is a forklift, there must be a floor/ramp/doorway that allows the forklift to have access.  This is something that amazes me and something that even to date MANY MANY MANY game developers can learn a lesson from. Because how often do i see games where there's this massive boss standing in a room with a tiny door/entrence and/or random items that don't fit the setting( invisible walls anyone ? )

Then there is art. Half-life even though originally not meant like it has gone for a "Realistic "approach. meaning that even though the events might be fictional textures/models aren't stylized. the creature design is really good. I remember headcrabs scaring me to the point where i had to stop for several minutes to breath. . . . . ok maybe they still do. Then there's the Vortifaunts with 3 hands casting electric shocks. and the amazingly cool 3 legged dogs that shoot a pulse of electric when you get close and sometimes travel in packs ( unfortunately not in half-life 2).
Another thing that has made Half-life very good are the puzzles. In half-life 2 the gravity gun got added. this brought a whole new element of game play. The player could now pick up radiators with the gravity gun and hide behind it and/or move obstacles to place them on different locations(solving puzzles example)  This made the puzzles a lot more fun.

What i liked the most about Half-Life 1:

Probably the Start seeing black mesa in it's work and the 3 headed  Tentacle part in half life which took me ages to get through.

What i liked most about Half-Life 2:Seeing how portal got combined in the Half-Life universe, The whole resistance fighting part ( and being part of the resistance) helping them out, giving them cover etc. Nova prospect ( the abandoned prison) which was absolutely Awesome running around fighting off waves of Combine. Also probably my favorite part would be the tunnel part in Half-life episode 2 ( decided not to spoiler this)

What I didn't like about Half-Life
Headcrabs, Ravenholm, fast headcrabs, poisonous headcrabs.

P.S Keep them in the game though.

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