A baby? The final boss is a baby?
Players are cast as Gordon Freeman, a scientist working at the Black Mesa Research Facility. He is traveling on a tram to his destination, the Sector C Test Labs. This part serves as part of the introduction to the game, but the game lets you move around the train. Unlike first-person shooters before it, the player can interact with the surroundings, moving around the train. What I love about doing this is standing by one of the windows, looking at environments such as construction areas and exteriors.
When players are at Sector C, their next task is to find the Hazard Environment (HEV) suit, so that they can get access to the test chamber. There are scientists walking around and security guards at their post, wishing Gordon a good morning but refusing to help him until he completes his task. Instead, they have to read signs on the walls of the corridors. These signs are self-explanatory and I had no problem finding the HEV suit. This suit does more than show your health and armor – it also indicates where damage comes from and what danger is causing health to decrease. With the HEV suit, I then could proceed to the test chamber where all hell broke loose.
You see, Gordon is asked to help his fellow scientists on a experiment – by starting the rotors and placing a specimen into a beam for analysis, causing a portal between Earth and Xen to open up. Freeman is briefly transported there, allowing the player to get a glimpse of what's to come later in the game, before blacking out. When he comes to, he finds out that aliens have taken control of Black Mesa. The rotors are nicely animated as they turn around repeatedly.
The aliens that Gordon first encounters include headcrabs, vortigaunts, and houndeyes. These three are my favorite enemies, and you encounter these throughout the course of the game. All these enemies make such impressive sounds. When the houndeye sees you, for example, it sounds like as if a door is opening. The player will encounter more aliens as they progress. There is a wide range of weapons that they can use to destroy them, both man-made and alien-made. I believe that the alien-made weapons do far more damage than the man-made ones. At some point in the game, you even get to destroy them with a mounted gun.
There are about nineteen chapters in the game, and most of them require restoring power to certain areas, a task meant to distract the player from just running through the chapter, like they did in early first-person shooters. More often than not, this is important for killing the huge bosses because whatever weapons you are carrying is useless against them. By pushing a few buttons here and there, the bosses will die. What's funny about these bosses is that they are only resurrected at some point in the game and you only have to avoid coming into contact with these. There are only five chapters I enjoyed playing, and these are titled “We've Got Hostiles”, “Surface Tension”, “On a Rail”, “Xen”, and “Interloper. In the third one I just mentioned, the player travels on a railcar all throughout the chapter, altering the direction of the rails so that it leads them to different directions.
You will encounter both security guards and scientists in each chapter. By interacting with them, they can follow you and get you into locked areas, but what they won't do is climb up or down ladders, follow you through vents, or enter very dangerous areas. Both characters have little conversations with themselves if they get bored.
In most chapters, the environments in which the player explores look amazing, especially the exterior in “Surface Tension”. For example, the player has to fight HECU soldiers along a cliff. The view of the New Mexico desert is breathtaking, with a little stream at the bottom and huge rocks surrounding it. “Xen” and “Interloper” are outside scenes, and the view looks really good. I enjoyed exploring the planet, shooting alien grunts in the process. In earlier chapters, offices and computer rooms can be entered while players are walking around Black Mesa. I was amazed at how much technology got crammed in the compute rooms, and how good it looks. Furthermore, the offices are clean and haven't got trash lying on the floor. They look better than my bedroom.
The music is well composed, having that beat to it. It just suits the environment that you're in. As for the sound effects, they are quite impressive.
A hazard course is available for those that are new to first-person shooters. In fact, I recommend the hazard course to everyone as you learn how to accomplish new tasks such as performing high jumps, using ladders, recharge your HEV suit and health at wall stations, and go around in the dark with a flashlight.
Finally, the bosses that you enter are mean and take more than just weapons to defeat, as I mentioned above. One boss that I had a laugh at was Nihilanth. He looks like a baby, but his legs were already amputated and he has the ability to throw projectiles at you, projectiles that send you to another place.
I noticed a few bugs in the game, mainly concerning the non-player characters. In some situations, when they finish walking to wherever they want to go, they tend to do a little tapdance, but when they don't do tapdances, they suddenly collapse to the floor as if everything around them gave them a heart attack. Also, I remember in “Blast Pit” when I opened a door. It seemed to drift out into space as long as it remained open.
The Bottom LineHalf-Life
is a fantastic game. There is so much to do here - destroying aliens; restoring power to some areas; and interacting with both scientists and security guards, to make them get you access to locked areas. Most of the graphics are breathtaking, and an excellent soundtrack is heard while you play. There are certain aspects of the game that the player might enjoy doing.
I played two versions of the game – the original and Source versions – just to compare the two. The Source version has more attractive graphics, mostly the translucent water in some areas. At the start of the game, you can select the chapters players want to start at, so if they previously played a chapter and enjoyed playing it, they can play the same chapter again. They can also view the ending. There are two disadvantages of the Source version. One is any idiot can play the chapters out of sequence, and another one is due to the music tracks sitting on the hard drive instead of a CD, the music cuts off wherever the game loads the next bit.