Visually uncanny. Unparalleled. It demands a hell of a graphic accelerator, but it's only fair in comparison to what you get.
Sound was quite nice. Excellent voices, nice sfx.
Physics in this game are a huge leap forward in game programming. Great stuff.
The story is mind-numbingly boring (as a matter of fact: there IS no story!).
"Hi, Dr. Freeman. Here's your gun. Go trigger bum-bum. Shhh, not a peep, not a question ... just shoot and keep the questions to yourself".
The unanswered questions (and not the intriguing, mysterious ones that you could sometimes have in Half-Life, no), redundant gameplay and lack of absolutely everything but "mouse clicking" make this plot a behemoth of a disappointment.
The AI remains drop dead stupid. I've read some "specialized" websites claiming that the AI is "certainly impressive and that the NPC's react with lifelike aggression". Please.
Non-playing Characters are downright dumb. It seems that lately, erratic behaviour is mistakenly welcomed as intelligence to dodge, jump and retreat. Nothing further from the truth. The difference between the old Half-Life NPCs and the new ones is that these last ones now move to the sides a little, instead of staying put till their deaths.
Don't get me wrong: this is better that before. It makes for a, somehow, more "realistic", more challenging experience, but those people you relentlessly shoot at throughout the game will continue to come to their deaths like lambs in a slaughterhouse. I'll eat my hat if anyone challenges this paragraph.
The fights are ... well, so so. Sometimes fun, sometimes 1980's mediocre. The feel of the guns, the reaction to hits, the insane number of bullets needed to kill and be killed, it all screams YAWN.
The puzzles in the game are ... are ... well, whoever's responsible for this should be whipped and then stoned to death. They're nothing but moronic stepping stones in the gameplay. They add nothing new to the soup, they couldn't possibly be challenging for anyone with an IQ of eleven or more and they wither sadly in a most unfortunate attempt to add "some sort of variety" to the game.
The Bottom Line
Half-life 2 is a good game, but it doesn't remotely live up to the expectations.
Some seven years have passed since the release of Half-Life and the only thing that Valve could come up with after all this time was ... better graphics. That's it. Not an inch more than what's necessary. Not one light bulb went off in that company. They plain and simply relied on the advances of technology. Period.
All the hype, all the ridiculously generous ratings, all the momentum seem very dodgy, in my opinion. A phenomenal marketing and advertisement maneuver that had a large number of people convinced that this game was some sort of Messiah, when all it had was good graphs.
Big disappointment. Don't buy.