Written by  :  vicrabb (7304)
Written on  :  May 28, 2008
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars3.2 Stars

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The Making of Barney Calhoun

The Good

In 1998, a new game who would leave its print on the FPS world is released. It lets control a scientist, Gordon Freeman, in a devastated research center, just after an experiment which turned to be a disaster, allowing an alien race, coming from a world called Xen, to invade the Earth... well, the Black Mesa Center, given the fact that Half-Life 2, released later, told basically the player that the invasion was much extended than believed.

In 1999, an add-on is released, allowing you to play through the eyes of Gordon's human enemy, a Marine whose name is Adrian Shepard. Sent to kill our favorite scientist, his plane crashed. He was trapped in Black Mesa by a certain G-Man (who were watching in the same time Gordon) and had to struggle in order to stay alive.

In 2001 is the making of Barney Calhoun. Barney was the nickname for all the guards in Half-Life. Blue Shift makes Barney an unique human being, one of Gordon's friends, trapped in a lift when the disaster striked Black Mesa. Him too had to struggle for his life but like Gordon (only hope to stop the invaders) and Adrian (only hope to stop... well another alien race), Barney is the only for some scientists for freeing them and making an old machine work. The reason? It was the same given to Gordon: the fact that they were wearing protection. Well, Barney hadn't the famous HEV but still, when surrounded by scientists in white coat, when you have a sort of armor, you have no choice but to go to dangerous locations. If you know what happened in Half-Life 2, you already know that Barney is a leader figure for the Resistance...

Blue Shift is probably the weakest link in the Black Mesa Era. But will I find positive points? Yes.

Storyline, despite being classic, is, in HL universe, important. You're playing a security guard, making it the third point of view of the Black Mesa Incident. And with a new storyline comes new locations, even if some are familiar. Barney is just your average guard but he will become the most resourceful and strongest of his colleagues.

Gameplay hadn't change and I don't complain about that: it's Half-Life, I mean, you have to climb ladders, find a way to kill enemies when your weapons aren't sufficient, you have to be careful when nearing toxic areas and when you're jumping on Xen...

With an established universe like Half-Life, Blue Shift couldn't forget to make some references to the two previous games: you see Gordon in his tramway when you're trying to enter to your department for work (a scene present in the original Half-Life) or just before he's entering in it. You're seeing him in the Sector C, walking to his destiny, you're seeing the famous crystal that will triggered the portals being carried to its final destination and last but not least, the professor you're rescuing is thinking that Gordon will not solve things, that it's a foolish idea to believe in him. Oh, have I mentioned that the last you'll be seeing Gordon is when he's captured by the Marines? Next time, it would be years later, in City 17 train station. Well, Blue Shift is taking place at the same time of the first part of Gordon's story, so, it's normal to have a lot of references to Half-Life. For Opposing Force, the only mention of Adrian Shepard is made by a Marine when throwing Otis, the fat guard, in a pit you're climbing.

Graphics are still the same if you don't install the High Definition Pack. If you do so, the HDP is making the characters less angular, your environment is less sterile and a new skin is given to your weapons. Anyway, Blue Shift's graphics are good if you're not allergic to "old" engines.

Soundtrack is good. Yes, I love HL's soundtrack. It's immersing you in the story.

You don't need HL to make it work. But a lot of gamers are tending to think of it as an add-on instead of a stand-alone and I can really understand why. Even me, I have the same opinion. You'll understand in the next part of the review.

The Bad

Blue Shift, despite enjoying it, has a lot of flaws.

First of all is the famous problem of the flashlight which wasn't working. It's was such a problem when you have to crawl in obscure areas with headcrabs trying to suck your brains out. Well, fortunately, a patch was released for this problem but this is not really funny to discover that you'll be probably lost because of that.

Second is the lack of novelties. Blue Shift isn't bringing something new besides the story. Barney only uses Half-Life's weapons (no Opposing Force did make it) and worst of it, he has less than Gordon. No more experimental weapon, no more crossbow. Then, the enemies are reduced to what Gordon encountered (less the giant boss like Gargantua), so, no Race X from Opposing Force. And last but not the least (for me), soundtrack is good but isn't renewed like in Opposing Force. No new tunes, no new sounds, well, it's kind of frustrating for me who loves soundtrack, particularly when a game set in an universe has a different music than the others.

One huge negative point is the fact that you can't use HEV device for increasing your protection... contrary to Adrian Shepard who can use them, despite not being a Black Mesa worker! It's kind of frustrating for a player not to be able to use something useful for the hero's life.

Well, another disappointment for some will be the absence (safe for the beginning) of G-Man. Well, no more sighting hunt, a trademark of the HL series was put on hold. Has it a particular meaning for the story?

And give me back the nice woman in the training! The guard that gives instructions is too... well, not as nice as her and not as funny as the sergeant in Opposing Force.

Finally, Blue Shift, for a stand-alone, is shorter than the add-on Opposing Force... who was shorter than Half-Life. Five hours of playing (and more if your flashing is buggy) isn't enough for Half-Life. Well, the episodic games set in HL2 universe are as short as Blue Shift but the content is more extended than Blue Shift's. Here, we're in 2001, players were waiting for HL2 and well, they're in the right to expect much more for HL. It was like the game was rushed for giving something to impatient fans.

The Bottom Line

Blue Shift is your average FPS, set in HL universe and showing what happened when you're trying to give something to impatient players waiting for the second part of the series. It could have been a reference but the lack of novelties, the flashlight bug, the lifetime and the useless HEV devices makes of it an average or mediocre game. Yes, I've enjoyed it. But if it wasn't for the story, reference and the intuitive gameplay, I would have thrown it accross my room by frustration. Some players have made their own mod (Azure Sheep), with a guard named Barney (but not Calhoun) and his fiancée Kate, also a guard, trying to survive in the Black Mesa devastated center. Note that Gordon and Adrian are also present in this game and that Azure Sheep is considered by their creators as what Blue Shift should have been.

I don't know if I must recommend the game or not. Being a HL fan, it would a pity to miss Barney's story. But for others, it would be more an average FPS you don't need in your collection. Do what you want and if you're playing it, try to enjoy it.