Developer(s) – Valve
Publisher(s) – Valve & Sierra Entertainment
PEGI – 16
Following up on the immensely successful first-person shooter Half-Life, Half-Life 2 takes Gordon Freeman out of the lab and into the game’s outside world. Filled with more of the same alien-fighting and puzzle-solving action, the way I see it, it is a very worthy sequel to one of the greatest video games of all time in my own personal opinion.
Graphics – 8/10
The most visible improvements made to last time to me are in the sequel’s increased amount of variety in enemy design, as well as graphical quality. Though the scenery may not be quite as varied as in the first game, that taking place in an alien dimension as well as a vast research facility (indeed both games could be accused of having generic elements), the atmosphere is just as terrifically horrifying and imposing as its predecessor.
Gameplay – 9/10
Like the first game before it, Half-Life 2 is an exceptional first-person shooter, with some new physics added in for good measure. These new gameplay mechanics were revolutionary at the time and would go on to inspire the creation of Valve’s own Portal among many other future games. The combat sequences are just as challenging and enthralling as in the first game, and in lieu of Valve tradition, there is the element of outside-the-box puzzle-solving that the company has gained a reputation for, spanning almost twenty years.
Controls – 9.5/10
The only minor problem I had with the game’s control scheme was during the boat-riding sequences, whereby Gordon has to ride a speedboat to progress; it can be a little bit unnecessarily tricky to control at times and crashes can become frequent for those unprepared. But otherwise, it plays out just like any exceptional first-person shooter should play out.
Lifespan – 6/10
Lasting about 12 to 15 hours long, it only lasts about half the time as the original game, which to me was somewhat disappointing. It also seemed unusual to me, since how the game was just as satisfying to play as the original, and they could have easily drawn it out at least a little longer than how long it ended up lasting. I would recommend anyone looking to play this game to get The Orange Box available for both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, since not only does it contain the original game, but also its sequels; Half-Life 2 Episode One and Half-Life 2 Episode 2 (as well as both Team Fortress 2 and the original Portal game).
Storyline – 8/10
Taking place roughly 20 years after the events of the previous game, Half-Life 2 follows the series’ main protagonist, Dr. Gordon Freeman, now under the employment of the mysterious G-Man. Gordon is brought out of stasis by the G-Man and led to a dystopian metropolis called City 17. Freeman finds himself helping a resistance faction known as the Black Mesa East to stop a multidimensional empire known as the Combine from harvesting Earth’s resources, including humanity itself. Just like the first game, there are plenty of twists and turns before the end, as well as the omnipresence of the G-man himself, spoon-feeding players just enough information to make them want to find out more about who he is, what he is, and to possibly be able to better see the bigger picture. One major improvement to the game’s story, I found, was the more effective use of voice acting throughout.
Originality – 8/10
Though for the most part, this game can just seem to be a pretty standard first-person shooter, especially to newcomers to the series, the new physics introduced to the game would go on to inspire many different developers to create a plethora of different games, not only within the confines of the genre but across other genres too. To me, it had a very positive impact on creativity within the gaming industry; especially as the transcendence from the sixth generation to the seventh generation of gaming was just around the corner at the time.
To conclude, Half-Life 2 is most definitely a classic game and one that I would thoroughly recommend to any fan of first-person shooters. Though I personally greatly prefer the original game, Half-Life 2 is an excellent attempt to follow up on what Valve did with the first and is definitely worth playing through at least once.