aka: Bantiao Ming, HL, Hλlf-Life, Quiver
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Description official descriptions

The Black Mesa Research Facility is an ultra-secret laboratory under a government contract to conduct top-secret and extremely volatile experiments. The scientist Gordon Freeman is a Black Mesa employee. One morning, as usual, he pits his way to the research facility for a run-of-the-mill experiment. However, Gordon comes to realize that it might not be as ordinary as he thought. Odd things happen as he makes his way to one of the Black Mesa test chambers. Even stranger things happen when he begins to move the test sample towards the anti-mass spectrometer.

At that moment, everything goes horribly wrong. Aliens from the dimension Xen suddenly invade the facility, injuring or killing many of the employees. Soon afterwards, marines arrive to contain the situation by killing the aliens as well as the surviving human witnesses. Gordon understands what that means: he will have to fight his way through both aliens and marines to get to the top of the Black Mesa complex and to freedom.

The story of Half-Life is told entirely in-game: everything is seen through the eyes of the protagonist. Most story elements unfold via scripted sequences, triggered by the player reaching a certain area. If other characters have information to reveal, they address Gordon directly. The Black Mesa complex in the game is made up of both distinct levels which progress in a linear fashion as well as hubs where backtracking may be required to unlock further areas.

The game's weapon arsenal mostly consists of realistic weapons like pistols, machine guns and explosives, but there are also futuristic energy weapons developed at Black Mesa as well as organic weapons acquired from the invading aliens. Most weapons feature an alternate firing mode.

Enemies fall into two categories: aliens and human soldiers. While most of the aliens are not very bright, the humans display some relatively advanced artificial intelligence: they seek cover, retreat when hit and try to drive the player from his cover by throwing grenades. Some of the alien enemies cannot be killed by normal means. The environment must be used against them instead, going with a general tendency of the game to alternate the combat with environmental puzzles.


  • 半条命 - Simplified Chinese spelling
  • 戰慄時空 - Traditional Chinese spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

79 People (57 developers, 22 thanks) · View all



Average score: 94% (based on 59 ratings)


Average score: 4.3 out of 5 (based on 512 ratings with 30 reviews)

One of the best/worst games I've ever played. Ambivalent? Damn right.

The Good
Half-Life is an odd breed. It is widely hailed as the best first person shooter ever, if not the best game to ever grace the PC. Being the first-person shooter fanatic that I am, I just had to give it a try. I write this review with mixed feelings; you will soon find out why.

So first, the good.

  • Game engine. The first thing to look at in a first-person shooter is its 3D engine. For a 1998 game, Half-Life certainly doesn't fail. I wouldn't say it brings unprecedented levels of visual fidelity to computer games (that title is reserved to Unreal), but with its modified Quake 2 engine, Half-Life certainly is nothing to sneeze at; the Research Centre looks exactly as it should: gray walls and red lighting where needed. Luckily Valve's engineers didn't skimp on the colours and lighting, so this game looks for the most part terrific (with some really amazing scenes, such as right at the beginning where there is a room with a scientist who's been taken over by an alien, right next to the locker room). I would say that visually the game is stunning.
  • Audio: the game features one of the best audio engines I've ever heard (although I haven't had the chance to play Thief yet). The "regular" audio implementation, that is without any positional audio extensions, is relatively good (for the most part it's easy to pinpoint from which direction voices are coming from and at what distance), but with audio acceleration it excels: despite generally lacking EAX implementation, the A3D 2.0-enabled engine is incredible and adds a sense of depth to the game I've never experienced before. This is very notable from the beginning (especially in the test chamber) and becomes very useful as the game progresses, since you can hear exactly where your enemies are, and with reflections coming from all around it's just as easy to pinponit where in the corridor you should aim. The audio reproduction is terrific, and the voice quality isn't lousy either (unlike a lot of other games).
  • The music, where there is any, is great; admittedly most of the ingame background music consists of short, atmospheric tracks, but it's good enough as it is.
  • The atmosphere in this game is one of the heaviest I've ever experienced, especially at the early levels. The suspense is incredible: things fall and blow up, catching the player surprised; an elevator with screaming scientists falling down and exploding on the bottom of the shaft... Half-Life heightens the sensations to points never experienced before. Unfortunately, this feeling doesn't last too long, and before reaching the middle of the game one becomes so accustomed to everything that it's difficult to be surprised again.
  • Half-Life's plot, while not deserving a Nebula award-winning book, is easily one of the best in any computer game to date. The only similar game I can think of off-handedly that has a better plot is the masterpiece System Shock. Half-Life's story evolves quite well (not as well as I would like though) and is executed to a science in the game, something that is missing in most other computer games (and is the main reason why Half-Life is considered such a good game).
  • Some things in Half-Life are incredible: the "dragon" monster (the big one with three heads) part is a stroke of sheer genius. The guy with the suitcase helps heighten what could've been boring-out-of-your-mind levels to interesting plot elements. That rocks.
  • I have to give credit where credit is due; although I do not necessarily agree with most people that say that the enemy AI in Half-Life is amazing, I will say that the marines are certainly the most challenging "monster" in a first person shooter game I've encountered so far. People say that they really act like marines; I disagree, as what chance does some science fellow have against squads of trained marines? I will, however, agree that they are much more intelligent than a typical enemy, what with them running around for cover and throwing grenades at you. Also, the little guys that run around real fast, shoot you and run again for cover are fairly challenging. But still, I don't think what a lot of people say regarding Half-Life's AI holds true.

Unfortunately, Half-Life's fantastic qualities are severely crippled by it's less appealing ones. Read on.

The Bad
I guess the single thing that bothers me the most in Half-Life is the poor execution of great ideas; the level design is incredible, but at times I almost tore out my hairs in frustration because of such stupid design mistakes that should've never been. Seriously: Half-Life is the single most frustrating game I've ever played to date. Playing Half-Life is not a pleasurable endeavour at all. Moving along the game is, for the most part, not a test of wits, not even a test of sheer playing ability, but rather a completely frustrating trial-and-error ordeal.

I do not enjoy having to play something over and over again until I can figure out what I did wrong and fix it, and unfortunately Half-Life fails miserably in that area. Want examples? Alright. For one: the dragon monster I mentioned in the previous section. Once you get past the terrific concept, you will find that this part is utterly frustrating! I had to load a game at least a dozen times just to complete this part, because: 1. There is no gurantee that walking slowly around the monster will make it ignore you; it happened many times that I walked slowly around the wall, and still got killed. And it only takes one or two blows for the bloody thing to kill you! 2. Once you DO get across the monster, it happens twice I think that the bridge under you will collapse. Of course that in retrospect it was obvious that it will happen, but how the hell are you supposed to know that the first time you play?!

That's exactly what I mean: trial-and-error gameplay. That's not the way it should be.

I decided I will finish this game out of sheer resentment for the parts that are stupid and mind-numbing, and it was not an enjoyable experience at all. I had a load of fun up until about third of the game (I would say, up until the giant robot you have to electrocute just before the rails), and afterwards the entire game was painful to play. Constant reloads were bad enough, but what truly pissed me off is the poor control system. It's fine for the most part, but for example having climb down ladders can drive you crazy. It happened at least a hundred times during gameplay that I fell off a stupid ladder because of it and had to reload. And who says you can't strafe or jump off a ladder midway? Why should you have to do it a few times just to get it right? That's frustration.

Another thing that bothers me about Half-Life, in regards to its highly acclaimed AI, is that while enemy AI is for the most part good, the AI of the guys you're supposed to work with (guards and scientists) sucks royally. They are completely impossible to work with. They walk around doing stupid things, and will constantly forget that they're supposed to follow you. The guards will shoot you at the back because you're accidentally in their way, and the scientists wlil run around you while you're furiously fighting an alien or another, getting shot in the process. Stupidity reigns.

And the final nail in the coffin: Half-Life is literally PLAUGED with bugs, beginning with small, annoying ones (a missing polygon wreaking havoc in the scene) and ending with abysmal ones that will literally hold you back from finishing the game: When I finally got to the Lambda complex and the scientist there was supposed to let me in, he simply forgot. Why do I mean by that? Well, he said what he was supposed to, agreed to come with me, and... nothing! He wouldn't touch the bloody retinal scanner, and I couldn't even kill him out of frustration because that would forfeit the game. Eventually I had to resort to the "noclip 1" cheat in order to get past that particular section. Why?!

The Bottom Line
A potentially fantastic game, marred by frustrating gameplay and far too many bugs to mention.

Windows · by Tomer Gabel (4539) · 1999

A first person shooter with a plotline.

The Good
The scientists/guards talk to you, and help you. The game has a really scary atmosphere to it (play it late at night with the lights off). The weapons are realistic (no BFG 15000's here), you find ammo and weapons in realistic places like on bodies and in gun racks (not hovering above the ground). It's quite a challenge too, so you'd better save often. The multiplayer function runs pretty smooth even if your ping is terrible, and the multiplayer modifications for it are really impressive.

The Bad
At certain points it gets too damn hard, makes you want to cheat. The multiplayer community (like all gaming communities) has some idiotic people in it. You need a top of the line video card to play it optimally.

The Bottom Line
Not another DOOM or Quake, should be in it's own genre. If you've ever wanted a FPS that had more behind it than "Save the earth", then get half-life.

Windows · by ZombieDepot (40) · 2001

The average shooter on rails with wonderful PR

The Good
If there is anything good to say about Half Life, it is this: weapon feedback. Half Life is first and foremost a shooter, it is your method of interacting with the world, and for the most part, the weapons look solid, feel solid, and sound quite good. The weapons were varied but kept well with the theme of the game and were placed logically, and just as you needed them. Specifically the .357, the shotgun and the gaus cannon provide great feel, sound, and do a good job of killing your enemy.

Half Life flows well from one region to another, with quick loading transition spots that are barely noticeable, save for a subtle change in the lightmap on occasion. You move through several environments which are mostly labs, warehouses, utility centers and the outdoors, along with an alien environment. Half Life does deliver in giving a sense of physically moving from one place to the other.

Memorable moments can be had a few times, particularly the Ichthyosaur and the encounter with the Tentacle in the missile silo, along with much smaller scenarios.

The world is fairly detailed with mild touches reminiscent of Build era games, details like the microwave in the waiting room which can have the power go up higher and higher, until it ruins a meal, and the soda machines which produce cans.

The Bad
Half Life fails mostly on where they claimed their strengths to be. It is billed as the thinking man's shooter, yet there is little thinking required, merely trial and error. You are guided through the entire game on a mostly linear path, where every action you take, save a few exceptions, is required to progress, if it is the wrong action, you are punished by an arbitrary obstacle, or worse, pain or death. Every puzzle encountered, every scripted event, every new weapon and every enemy is placed in such a way that you have to find it then and there, and every other player of the game experiences it in the same order with the same effects. There is no way to own your experiences in Half Life as it can be adequately followed with a walkthrough.

Half Life's storyline is that of Doom's, only with marines coming in as a third party. Scientists tinker with technology, a portal appears and aliens invade, however instead of military being on base to help stop it as in Doom, they come in later and do a cover up. The only true spin on this is that you play a scientist and thus must face both groups. At first it is cool to see marines duking it out with aliens, but replaying scenarios reveals that due to the low level of variance in the ai, it usually turns out exactly the same. Half Life in terms of story plays like Doom where the former marines are instead current marines, and you have to sit through cutscenes (true you never stop being able to move, but you're locked into an area for the duration of an NPC speaking).

Half Life is a cold world, the NPCs have little personality and do little to garner sympathy, in comparison with Unreal's nali, or in opposition the civilians of Blood 2 which are actively made to be disliked. The NPCs serve mostly as mobile keys for the typical locked door.

The artificial intelligence is superficial, but looks great at a glance. Marines seem to take cover and seem to want to live, until you realize that they behave nearly the same regardless of your approach style. It is rewarding to toss a grenade at a group of soldiers and hear them scream "Grenade!" and duck, but the ducking seems to happen regardless of the grenades position, and Ive successfully taken out a squad with a single grenade, as they all ducked right around it. Half Life's ai can be summed up with being on par with Quake 2's in the use of basic breadcrumbs, and stylized with scripted events.

The level design though linear was fairly solid, up until Xen, the alien planet which functions mostly as a jumping puzzle with nuisance enemies. Throughout the game the levels serve mostly as a way to kill time until the next scripted event by mowing down mindless Vortigaunts and Headcrabs.

Lastly, who coded this interface? Half Life seems to be using an external program for its menu, which leads to a lot of mode switching for your monitor. And what for? The mouse driven interface? I really don't understand why it was done this way, and it makes it a chore to do simple things like changing your controls or looking at your saved game list.

The Bottom Line
On the whole Half Life is a basic shooter that attempts a cinematic quality by playing to the weakness of cinema - linearity and lack of input. It is a decent first play through which loses itself as you move forward. Good for $10, but not for the awards it has received, and definitely not the original retail price.

Windows · by David Queener (6) · 2007

[ View all 30 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
Narrative, wait what? Donatello (453) Jul 15th, 2012
Sorry, Valve xroox (3892) Feb 12th, 2009


1001 Video Games

Half-Life appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.


Very early beta footage of the game, as well as interviews with some of the programmers, is available on the Diablo expansion pack Hellfire, released by Sierra a full year before the game ever shipped. Sierra already had advertisements for Half-Life in many of their products back then.

Cancelled ports

  • Half-Life, at one point, was completely finished for the Dreamcast console. Prima (the Official Strategy Guide folks) even had a Dreamcast-exclusive guide published. Unfortunately, the game wasn't published - probably due to the fact that SEGA announced that they would no longer produce new Dreamcasts. In certain circles of the Internet, a leaked copy can still be found and ran on a Dreamcast.
  • A Macintosh port was in the works from Westlake interactive and reached beta before being cancelled because of concerns about responsibility for tech support.


In its first finalized form, as it would have been published if the original release date was kept, Half-Life was nothing more than a total conversion of Quake with new enemies and levels. In the one additional year spent on development the game transformed into the form that led it to critical and commercial success.


Half-Life was released a full year after Quake II and it's a common belief that it was based on the Quake II engine. This is not true. It is based on the original Quake engine and it's more than fair to say that it was modified beyond recognition by the Valve team. Amongst the additions were built-in 3D accelerator support, skeletal systems and shadow casting (the latter didn't make it into the game). Valve now refers to this engine as "GoldSrc". This is probably how the "Source" engine from Half-Life 2 got its name.

German version

There is a special German version which features robots as enemies, green blood instead of red and innocent people cannot be killed any longer. The robot design was outlined by Sierra's Germany division, then sent to Valve in Seattle, where the artists created and implemented the tin soldiers. The changes in the game's code and art, together with the text and speech localization, served to delay the German version by full four months. By then, even casual gamers had already purchased the original version, which was freely for sale up to its ban. However, Half-Life proved to be so immensely popular that the German robo-version still sold over 50,000 copies, so the venture was ultimately successful for Sierra.

On December 16, 1998, the US version of Half-Life was put on the infamous German index by the BPjS. For more information about what this means and to see a list of games sharing the same fate, take a look here: BPjS/BPjM indexed games.

Gina Freeman

Apparently, Valve had written a part for Gordon's wife, Gina, to appear in the game, this idea got scrapped but she still made it to the game, her model was the one used for the holographic trainer.

id Software

When id Software saw what Valve was doing with their engine, they were reminded of their original idea for a seamless, story-based DOOM and thought it would fail. It didn't.


Half-Life was influential in many little ways, popularising several gameplay devices which have subsequently become standards, such as: * The between-episode text which appears, overlaid on the screen, before slowly fading out (adopted not just in other computer games, but in several different Linux windowing systems too) * A training segment which is presented as an integral part of the storyline * The practice of rendering cut-scenes with the in-game engine * Blood-splatters and other persistent stains * Semi-random NPC speech and 'interaction' in an otherwise straightforward action game * Weaponry which needs to be manually reloaded between magazine changes * Constant playflow: the levels directly connect to each other


According to Valve's Gabe Newell, originally Half-Life was inspired by Stephen King's novella The Mist. However the game evolved so much from the preliminary concepts that the only things that remained were the horror/technology combination and the designs for the Bull Squid and the blind tentacle.


Half-Life's lambda symbol is not the scientific symbol for half-life, but is instead the decay constant in the differential equation for exponential decay. The actual scientific symbol used for half-life is t1/2.


Counter-Strike was not a freak occurrence. Valve made the game editor immediately available, produced the mod Team Fortress Classic as an example of a finished mod, and also sponsored "Mod Expos", events where modders could present their work to other gamers and the press.


According to planethalflife.com: "the material that makes up the three green triangles protecting Nihilanth is the same as the crystal sample which you pushed into the beams to start this whole mess in the first place. Valve Software originally intended to make this connection more obvious but never did."


  • The security office is in sector 7G. Homer Simpson works in a sector with the same name.
  • The Gluon Gun was nicknamed "The Egon" after the Ghostbusters Character Egon Spengler. The Gluon gun projects a plasma stream similar to the ones used by the Ghostbusters.
  • The surnames on the lockers where Gordon goes to collect his HEV suit are of people from the development team. Gordon also has a book by Half-Life writer Marc Laidlaw in his locker.

References to the game

The game makes an appearance in season 1, episode 22 of Lost, a popular TV series. Some in-game action is shown, and the characters shortly discuss the use and the effectiveness of the crowbar as a weapon.


  • In 2004, Valve released a re-mastered version using Half Life 2's Source engine, called Half-Life: Source.
  • In 2012, a group of fans released a remake of their own, called Black Mesa. The team's goal was to provide a completely new and more modern version of the original experience, since according to them, Valve's remake "didn't fully live up to the potential of a Source engine port of Half-Life". In fact, most of the game's content remained unchanged: Half-Life: Source mainly added new water and physics effects, but didn't upgrade the game's textures or character models.


As of 2007, the game sold of over eight million since its release. (source)


There's a minor technical error with the shotgun. It's presented in the game as a double-barreled weapon, and the alternative fire mode shoots two shells at half the speed. However, the shotgun is modeled on a single-barreled weapon, the popular Franchi SPAS-12, which appears in several computer games. What looks like a second barrel is actually the under-barrel tubular magazine, which holds the shells.

Sound engine

Half-Life was one of the first games to utilize a software-driven environmental sound engine. Effects are applied in context of room size and surfaces of reflection. Reverb effects are calculated in realtime and applied on the fly as sounds are triggered.

University of Innsbruck

In the game manual, the first two pages contain a fictional letter from the administrative offices of the Black Mesa Research Facility to Dr. Gordon Freeman, concerning his upcoming employment. The address on the letter indicates that Freeman was a visiting fellow at the Institute for Experimental Physics, University of Innsbruck, before moving to Black Mesa. In contrast to the common practice of using fictitious addresses for storytelling purposes, the listed address is actually real. As confirmed by the official university website, "Technikerstraße 25, A-6020 Innsbruck" is the real-world location of Innsbruck University's Institute for Experimental Physics.


  • Computer Gaming World
    • April 1999 (Issue #177) – Game of the Year
    • January 2001 (Issue #199) – Introduced into the Hall of Fame
    • March 2001 (Issue #200) - #1 Game of All Time (Readers' Choice)
    • March 2001 (Issue #200) - #2 Game of All Time (Editors' Choice)
  • GameSpy
    • 2001 – #2 Top Game of All Time
    • 2012 – #1 Top PC Gaming Intro
  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 12/1999 - #17 in the "100 Most Important PC Games of the Nineties" ranking
  • PC Gamer
    • April 2000 - #1 in the "All-Time Top 50 Games" poll
    • October 2001 - #1 in the "Top 50 Best Games of All Time" list
    • April 2005 - #1 in the "Top 50 Best Games of All Time" list
  • PC Player (Germany)
    • Issue 01/1999 - Best Game in 1998
    • Issue 01/1999 - Best Shooter in 1998
  • Power Play
    • Issue 02/1999 – Best Action Shooter in 1998
  • Retro Gamer
    • October 2004 (Issue #9) – #38 Best Game Of All Time (Readers' Vote)

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by doj.

Macintosh added by Sciere. Linux added by Kabushi.

Additional contributors: Tomer Gabel, Adam Baratz, Unicorn Lynx, Jeanne, Zack Green, Apogee IV, Daniel Saner, DreinIX, Paulus18950, Cantillon, Patrick Bregger, Plok, lethal_guitar, MrFlibble, FatherJack.

Game added June 6th, 1999. Last modified August 14th, 2023.