Half-Life is the story of Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist at the Black Mesa Research Facility. Something goes terribly wrong during an experiment and aliens invade our realm. As if that wasnít bad enough military men have been sent in to kill everything, including you! The game is played in first person the entire time with no cutscenes or cinematics. There is a wide variety of weapons, and enemies to kill them with. Unlike most modern FPSs you can carry as many guns as you can find and your health does not regenerate. While the game itself is technically linear, the various areas you pass through arenít as simple as walking down a corridor and shooting whatever along the way.
Iíve played this game (and its expansions) many times over the course of the 7 years Iíve had them. They never get old and are still wonderful to play even as time goes on and games continue to evolve. Although there is a deathmatch multiplayer option I will be reviewing the single player only. The game was played on hard difficulty.
STORY: 10/10 The story is done differently than most games. Rather than give you a cinematic or a cutscene of you talking to someone, characters will talk to you and you are free to move around and do what you will. You, Gordon, never ever speak. This is whatís called a silent protagonist. As you play, the scientists will be the main characters who tell you what you need to do and why. There is also a mysterious man who, if youíre observant, seems to be following you around. What does he have to do with this catastrophe? There isnít as much dialogue explaining the story as some games. This is not a bad thing as the area you are in and its state tells its own story. Wait until you get to the very end, itís really cool!
GRAPHICS: 10/10 This score is not based on current standards of graphics, but rather what they were at the time and my own appeal for them. The vanilla graphics from the disc version has large blurry pixels. Itís honestly kind of hard to look at, but for its time they were very good. The release of the second and final expansion, Blue Shift, came with HD graphics for Half-Life and its two expansions. These made the graphics look far better. With the release of Half-Life on Steam the graphics have been cleaned up even further.
The animations are actually pretty well done for itís time. The environments are very nice looking, not bland or overly reused. The character models are else very nice, especially for the aliens. My only complaint is that there are only about 4 scientist models reused throughout the whole game, and only 1 or 2 security guard models.
SOUND: 10/10 The sound effects are really great, even by todayís standards. What little dialogue the game has is done reasonably well. At certain points in the game a short music track will activate. The music, when it appears, is really nice. The rest of the time you are left to the sounds of the aliens as they lie in wait, the chatter of the soldiers, or the environmental sound effects. The same problem of the reused models occurs with the reused voices for scientists and soldiers.
WEAPONS: 10/10 There is a wide selection of weapons to choose from, and best of all you can carry them all around at once! All the weapons have their use and unless youíre really bad at aiming you shouldnít have to worry about running out of ammo.
ENEMIES: 10/10 This game has a wide variety of alien creatures from the slight annoyance to the super deadly. There are also a few human soldiers to fight. I feel the human soldiers could have used a little more variance because even though the different types use different weapons they all basically fight the same. Though there is a certain class of human enemy that are very different from the rest and quite deadly. The aliens all vary and require different tactics to most effectively kill them. The bosses, especially at the end of the game, are fun and challenging to fight. It doesnít happen often but soldiers and aliens will fight each other and even a certain type of alien doesnít like another.
LEVEL DESIGN: 10/10 The level design is more akin to old school FPSs where itís not a straight corridor to the next room to fight more enemies. Instead there are often little hidden areas you can access if you explore a bit which contain useful health and ammo. It is quite common to have to climb and jump around to progress where you need to go. Sometimes you get small puzzles which generally arenít a big deal to figure out. The level environments are very well done and do what theyíre supposed to. The last level is my favorite, but I canít reveal why without giving spoilers.
LENGTH AND REPLAYABILITY The game is fairly long for an FPS being about 10 hours plus especially if you take your time. Iíve replayed this game over 5 times over the 7 years Iíve owned it so Iíd say it has lots of replay value. Whenever Iím in the mood for an old school FPS I check out this game.
FINAL SCORE: 10/10 It should be noted that Iím using my own slight variation of a scoring system where 10/10 does not necessarily mean flawless and perfect in every way, though this game gets pretty close to that impossible goal. If you have even a passing interest in FPSs you should check out this game on Steam and at least give it a shot. Although there are FPSs that are slightly better in certain regards, this game still holds the title of best FPS ever made because it was here so long ago and is the one that set the bar for fully 3D FPSs.