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SummaryIsn't it nice to become the enemy for once?
The GoodAnyone who has already played Half-Life and jumped straight to Half-Life 2 probably have no idea that there were two add-on expansion packs. The first one of these add-ons is called Opposing Force, and it is by far the best one that I have played in the old HL era. Before writing up this review, I read two that are already on there and each one recapped what happened in the original game. All of them are summed it up quite nicely, so here is my version of what happened.
Gordon Freeman is a scientist working at Black Mesa Research Facility, and his first task is to get to the Anomalous Materials lab and push a specimen into the scanning beam for analysis. This causes a portal to open between Earth and an alien planet called Xen. After this, Freeman has to defend himself against several types of aliens that randomly teleport in from Xen. Later, he encounters HECU soldiers that have orders to contain the alien threat and silence all witnesses. One of these soldiers is Corp. Adrian Shephard, and it is he who you get to control in this game.
That's right. You become the enemy rather than a good guy, and that means you can shoot any scientists and security guards on sight. You may not be able to get in locked doors that require a retinal scan or a certain code to open, but who needs them anyway when you've got your own team of engineers and medics to get the job done for you?
Shephard has access to weapons a real soldier should have including knife, pistol, machine guns, trip lasers, and grenades. Later, he will be able to use more advanced, alien weaponry. Shepard can carry more in his arsenal than Freeman could. The weapons are divided into seven groups, so there is quite a variety to choose from. The alien weapons are much more interesting than those found in Half-Life, and I enjoyed playing with some of them. I had to use each one sparingly as ammo for these weapons are scarce.
The early chapters have Shephard fighting the same enemies that were present in Half-Life, but it is not until later in the game that you get to meet those dubbed “Race-X”. This alien race are a lot more aggressive than their other counterparts. They look excellent, especially in outside scenes. The only bosses in the game are huge and take more than just bullets to destroy. Like Half-Life, you have to fully explore areas looking for switches to push and valves to turn, that could possibly have an effect on the bosses. But using switches and valves are not just confined to bosses. More often than not, you need to push switches and move valves in order to get some machinery going or take you up to higher places, like you do in Half-Life. What's new in this game is the fact that you can access CB radios that can often be found on crates or on a shelf, and doing this will cause your captain to assign you with new tasks.
The environments in which the character walks through are rather nice. I like the way that you have the opportunity to revisit some of the locations that were in the original game, along with the gadgets that adorn each wall. Some of the hallways you walk through look futuristic, and one could be fooled for thinking that you are actually walking through one on board a space vessel. There are some underwater scenes where you walk through a building surrounded by underwater. There are windows all the way round, and you can see what creatures lurk on the other side, as well as the various debris and seaweed that has found its way there.
The soundtrack is well composed. Most of the tracks in the game have a military theme to them, and some of them reflect the situation that you are in. They are CDDA tracks so you can listen to your favorite ones outside the game
Before I started playing the game, I joined the Boot Camp, to see whether I would pick up some new skills. Most of the skills you learn there were previously taught back in Half-Life's Hazard Course. Some sections, however, have you perform tasks a real soldier accomplishes, including navigating vertical rope ladders and putting your new team to good use. The one thing I like about being in Boot Camp are the instructors themselves. If you go up to them and start hitting your Use key, they will hurl insults at you, calling you dirtbag or maggot in the process. Also, you can get them to take a hike just by having Shephard repeatedly bump into them.
The BadThere are a few maneuvers that I found difficult performing:
Navigating a rope ladder is somewhat difficult. One section of the Boot Camp has your climbing one, then jumping to another. I tried this, but I kept on falling in brown water about ten times. You have to gather some momentum to perform the jumps properly. Outside Boot Camp, there are sections of the main game where using rope ladders is crucial to reaching a platform above you. I had difficulty in doing this, even if I climbed to the top.
I expected more from the barnacle gun, which is an alien weapon that you pick up later in the game. Unlike the ceiling ones that you frequently encounter in this game and in Half-Life - where the barnacle will suck you up to its jaws when you walk under it – the gun is only good for pulling Shephard to pods attached to a wall, in an attempt to get to a platform nearby. Again, this is difficult to do.
It was easy to get stuck in elevators when they arrive at another floor, and this usually happens if you stand on the edge of the elevator. I could only turn around and not go any further. I believe that this was a bug that has not been address by Gearbox.
In the end, I found that using the noclip cheat helped. I disable the cheat when I'm done with the maneuver.
Initial versions of the game require you to install Half-Life before installing the game, otherwise the installation would fail. Starting with Blue Shift, Sierra removed the requirement of installing original games before installing add-ons, which is quite a good thing.
The Bottom LineIn Opposing Force, you play Corp. Adrian Shephard rather than Gordon Freeman. You do the same tasks that you perform in the original game – killing aliens, flipping switches and turning valves to make things happen, and walking through beautiful locations (both inside and outside). There are a few differences: a) you have a bigger arsenal than Freeman's; b) a new, much stronger, more aggressive race of aliens scatter about the corridors to give Shephard a headache; and c) you can access CB radios sitting on crates or shelves which will give you new objectives. The graphics are beautiful, and the soundtrack is excellent.
Also, you can do anything you like when it comes to dealing with people. An example is where one of your team members hold the scientist at gunpoint. You have two options: do you watch him as he continues to trap the scientist inside a room, or be a traitor to your own team and shoot the soldier, releasing the scientist in the process. The best thing about these options is that you don't get punished for the choices you make. Just don't end up killing either the engineer or the medic.
I played the Steam version of Opposing Force and it works quite well. The soundtracks are comprised of MP3 files rather than CDDA tracks. I believe that a bug allows the game to play CDDA tracks whenever a MP3 is about to play, and I made a mistake of leaving my Grand Theft Auto: London 1969 CD, so instead of hearing the soundtrack, all I could hear was old '60s music. Thankfully, I still have the Opposing Force CD so I don't miss out on anything.
Bottom line: Opposing Force is an excellent add-on from Valve , and an add-on that is worth replaying. I hope that Valve will release a Source version of it, just like they did with the original.