Undoubtedly fantastic -- but why does it have to be impossible?
Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere! The settings, simple puzzles, locales, and especially sound effects were 110% accurate and believable. Overhearing radio transmissions that give away plot points, manipulating environment controls to kill enemies or overcome obstacles, and witnessing army grunts work together to take you out is riveting to watch. I found myself completeing certain sections over and over again, not because I had screwed up or lost too much health, but because the outcome was just so friggin' cool to watch.
Having a good graphic engine doesn't hurt, either. With any TNT or Voodoo card in OpenGL mode, graphics are very fast and very nice.
I don't consider myself a newbie at gaming, especially action gaming. I'm an above-average deathmatch player, and while I don't ruLe N-E-1's w0rld, I'm not terrible either. So why did I find the last third of Half-Life so damn frustrating? Maybe it was the jumping puzzles, which seemed ripped out of Super Mario Brothers. Maybe it was the alien world puzzles, which defied logic until trial and error pointed out the right solution. Maybe it was a combination of the two, such as the Insane Jumping Time-It-Right Teleporter Puzzles of Death. I don't know. All I know is that once I entered the Lambda complex, my enjoyment of the game dropped considerably. I eventually became so frustrated that I had to rely on not one but two
cheat codes to complete the game. A game shouldn't have to force the player to become a levitating demigod just to get through a level.
Many people have complained about the ending being a disappointment. I disagree -- I think the ending is probably the only possible ending(s) that could have existed.
The Bottom Line
You don't become unanimously voted Game of the Year for nothing, so this is a title that belongs in everyone's library. But unless you can control computers via telepathy and can predict the future, plan on having some cheat codes around and quicksaving every 2 minutes.
There is also another reason to own Half-Life: Player Mods. Half-Life has one of the most customizable game engines on the market right now, and tons of deathmatch, team play, and custom scenarios exist to extend the life of the product for years.