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Half-Life 2

aka: Bantiao Ming 2, HL2, Hλlf-Life², λ²
Moby ID: 15564
Windows Specs
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Description official descriptions

Following the period of instability caused by the events described in Half-Life, an interdimensional organization known as the Combine invades the Earth, defeating the human forces in the Seven Hour War. A Combine Citadel is erected in City 17, a town in Eastern Europe reminiscent of World War II ghettos. Dr. Wallace Breen, a human scientist, rules the city on behalf of his new masters. An energy field prevents humans from procreating, and no new children are born. Earth is turning into a grim, oppressive police state.

Meanwhile, Gordon Freeman, the man who was at the center of the events that took place shortly before the rise of the Combine, awakens from his stasis and is inserted into a train to City 17 by the mysterious G-man. Gordon is soon brought into a resistance group and makes a seemingly futile attempt to bring down the Combine and liberate the Earth.

Half-Life 2 is a linear first-person shooter with light puzzle-solving elements and many setpieces, similar to its predecessor in concept. The player guides Gordon Freeman through City 17 and the wilderness that surrounds it. On his way, he'll encounter a few friendly characters, but also fight dangerous foes. The game features a realistic physics system: Gordon can pick up objects and toss them freely, and many of the puzzles are physics-based - for example, at one point the player has to weigh down a seesaw with bricks at one end to turn it into a ramp.

Gordon's enemies, apart from alien wildlife which found their way to Earth, are mainly Combine forces, which utilize a variety of firearms, gadgets, and vehicles. Policemen and foot soldiers work along with helicopters, gunships, and gigantic walking machines to hunt him down. To defend himself, Gordon has a range of weapons available: from the iconic crowbar for close-quarter fighting, through pistols and rifles, up to grenades and a rocket launcher. One of the most notable weapons is the gravity gun, with which Gordon can pick up objects, hold them in the gun's anti-gravity field, then hurl them at the enemy with great force.

Setpieces in the game include coordinated assaults on enemy bases, fighting gigantic boss enemies, bringing down aircraft with the rocket launcher, and others. A few levels require the player to navigate buggy-type vehicles. Some of the more exotic stages involve the player summoning an army of antlions to unleash on unsuspecting foes.

Included with the game is Counter-Strike: Source, a version of Counter-Strike made with the new Source engine which powers Half-Life 2, and Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, an online multiplayer game featuring the same physics and weapons as the single player game.

Spellings

  • 半条命2 - Simplified Chinese spelling
  • 戰慄時空2 - Traditional Chinese spelling
  • 하프라이프 2 - Korean spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

252 People (226 developers, 26 thanks) · View all

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 93% (based on 121 ratings)

Players

Average score: 4.2 out of 5 (based on 517 ratings with 24 reviews)

The most innovative, 'life-like', immersive game ever created

The Good
The game makes you feel like you actually live in the world. You feel you are Gordon Freeman, not someone punching keys watching someone move. The environment is so life-like, thanks to the Havok Engine physics, that you can do almost everything you would do if were inside this universe, from moving objects to using whatever you see for achieving your goal. The graphics are truly amazing. Maybe not as life-like as the Unreal 3 engine demo shown in E3, but the best there is out there today. The sound is equally impressive.

The Bad
There are just two problems you may or may not face. The sound shuttering bug, which is fixed by now (though you still may face it once in a while), and the fact that the loading times can be long which somehow affects the immersion effect. Other than that, it is perfect.

The Bottom Line
The most amazing game ever released.

Windows · by Mark Papadakis (35) · 2004

Fun, and innovative on a small scale, but not the "greatest game of all time" as some would have you believe.

The Good
Half-life 2 starts out with a very well put together speech from G-Man, the shady business man inhabiting the first Half-life game. Before you know it you end up in City 17, a post-apocalyptic, war-torn city. The game progresses pretty similarly to the original Half-life. It works like an interactive movie, in that you'll meet people that tell you what you should do next and it all takes place within the game's engine.

The levels are well varied, incorporating vehicles and team based action at points (more on this later) and there are some awesome action set-pieces which could come out of any movie. Many of these are very memorable and will warrant being replayed from time to time.

Team based, and Ant-lion sections of the game have excellent 3D pathfinding for the NPC characters - probably the best I've seen in any FPS. This makes these sections work wonderfully. If the pathfinding had been sub-par, these sections could have been extrememly annoying.

Half-life 2 is powered by the Source engine. The graphics that this engine renders are pretty damn special, with some really nice and subtle shader effects on most surfaces. Water in particular is beautiful to look at, as are laser fields and the like. Sound is pretty good, however has been done better by many recent games. In-game enemies and characters are incredible to look at, while not being has stylised and varied as in Doom 3, they are more comic-book like and this really adds to the atmosphere. In game cut-scenes are excellent and could not have been done much better (graphically) even with pre-rendered sequences.

Half-life 2 innovates in one major area - physics. Or more specifically physics integrated into the gameplay. It does this by providing the player with a "gravity gun". This weapon allows you to pick up and place or throw any object from the environment you are in. It can be used for stacking, hacking or even as a weapon. For example you could barricade a door up so bad guys can't get to you, or you pick up a fridge and hurl it at an enemy. The gravity gun is the most integral item in the game, and Valve has really made the most of it, moving it beyond just a "gimmick".

Some of the games puzzles are physics based also. For example you might have to weigh down one end of a board over a pipe so that you can walk to the other end to get to a higher part of a level. There are several weight based puzzles in the game.

The last section of the game is extremely fun (albeit far too easy) and I won't spoil the surprises in store for players in that section. Suffice to say, the physics engine really has a chance to shine and will warrant replaying more than most of the rest of the game.

The Bad
My major gripe with Half-life 2 with its game play mechanics. The first Half-life was linear from start to finish, however after being spoiled with games like Grand Theft Auto and Far-cry in the six years since Half-life's release most gamers have come to expect some level of freedom in their shooter. Half-life 2 essentially does not allow for any freedom of choice in progressing through the game. Most puzzles have only one solution, and there is only ever one available path through the game. This really limits replay value, much the same as in Doom 3. There are secret areas and areas that can be skipped, however these have no impact on the actual progress through the game, and often times don't warrant the effort involved in completing them. Sometimes it's not obvious where the game designers wanted you to go next, and its at these times that the linear nature of the game really becomes an issue, because thinking outside the box and doing things the designers did not expect, usually leads to instant death - punishment for not doing what the designers wanted you to do.

Next, are the vehicle sections (which are welcome), however there are only two main sections which involve vehicles. These sections get a bit boring after a while and seem to last a little too long. I feel the game could have benefited from having shorter and more frequent vehicle sections since these could have been used to more effectively break up the gameplay.

There are also team based sections where you can command up to four friendly team mates. These work well to enhance the atmosphere and the team mates have excellent pathfinding, however they are useless when it comes to combat. This detracts from the usefulness of these sections as sending your team mates into combat often leaves them shooting at anything but the enemy. Mostly the only real purpose they serve is to provide you with health when you get damaged.

My other major gripe is the way levels are delivered. The original Half-life pioneered the "seam-less" world idea, where levels were linked and after a short loading period you would just continue on with no break in the action. Half-life 2 uses the same technique and doesn't recognise that technology has changed in the past six years. With high-resolution textures and models loading times have increased exponentially and so often these "seam-less" level loads will happen in the middle of an action sequence in Half-life 2, completely ruining the tension that has been created. Loading times vary from 20 seconds up to 3 minutes depending on system specs. Valve would have been much better off to have fewer and longer loading points or the best option, to stream each level off the disk as it's required, not breaking the the gameplay at all.

I felt that the music in Half-life 2 while good, was not implemented all that well. It kicks in during certain action sequences, however it never seemed to kick in at the right times for me. It would either come in early leaving you thinking "what's the big deal?" or kick in late, after you're already half way through a situation. Compared to Far-cry's dynamic music system the scripted Half-life 2 approach is pretty primitive.

Half-life 2 shipped with a "sound skipping" bug, in which entering new areas or turning corners cause a pause of 1-2 seconds in the gameplay. Different people seem to experience this to different degrees, some every couple of seconds, others less so. For those that have had this problem, it is a major distraction breaking all continuity in the gameplay. It's a pretty major bug for the game to have shipped with, and difficult to understand why Valve didn't find it before release.

Half-life 2 has no multiplayer component, which is a shame, since it would be great fun to duel with the gravity gun in multiplayer. Counter Strike : Source is included which is a welcome addition, however new players may find it difficult to get into, due to closed and somewhat immature attitude of some players in the large and existing Counter Strike community. I've never played a game where I've been sworn at and insulted (stuff that I couldn't write in this review), simply because it's my first time playing the game. Instead of helping new players learn the ropes, this seems like a community that would rather that everyone else would just get lost. It's only a game isn't it? Counter Strike : Source also recycles content from the original Counter Strike, not really adding anything new, making it even harder for new players to be welcomed to the community.

My final thought is just to express my wonder at the amount of hype and praise that Half-life 2 has recieved in the past couple of weeks since release. I've never seen more comments of "this is the best game ever made!" ascribed to any single game ever. I find this odd, since the game is clearly less innovative than many other games released this year, confining innovation to several small gameplay areas, rather than breaking the mould of the genre. Half-life was a genre breaking game, it changed the format of every FPS to follow it. You're kidding yourself if you think that Half-life 2 is the same.

The Bottom Line
A well implemented, compelling game play experience with plenty of on-rails action. Innovative in areas of the FPS mechanics, most notably in integration of physics into gameplay. It's one of the best FPS games available on any platform, but don't get too caught up in the hype - it's just another game.

Windows · by Tibes80 (1542) · 2004

Just what I needed!

The Good
The Source engine is a lot of fun to play around with. It's quite stable once it's booted up, switching between weapons is easy and you can jump very well. Those three qualities pretty much mean that the engine is tailor-made for the Half-Life series. Thanks to Source, I played through the entire game with barely any problems whatsoever, only the occasional crash while impatiently tapping buttons while the game was booting.

The gameplay is also very challenging and combines the shooting from games like Medal of Honor, with running and jumping that is most reminiscent to the Mario games. Both of these vastly different mechanics start off just as easy: You shoot some slow enemies with a pistol and then continue to jump across some platforms, but nearing the end I was having massive squad-based battles with huge enemies while making jumps that would instant-kill me if I slipped. What remained consistent though is that I never felt like I could just play without paying attention, there was always a degree of challenge and I I always felt satisfied after making it past another section.

Early on in the game you will get your hands on the Gravity Gun, which is one of the main items you will be using. This weapon can pick up objects and fire them away, which is insanely satisfying to do against the Combine. It also pulls double-duty as a puzzle-solving device, as it allows you to reach objects you couldn't normally reach. Another weapon I find criminally enjoyable to use are the beetles. At one point in the game you obtain a little ball that constantly summons beetles, throw it at something and they will go there and kill everything inside. I love it when games give me weapons like these :)

There are also a few vehicle sections spread across the game that were really fun diversions from the normal gameplay. The boats and cars you will be controlling have really smooth controls and are therefore very fun to drive. When they have a gun on top of them, it gets even better!

The world is brilliantly designed and it really makes the story more compelling than it would have been in any other game. From the moment you arrive in City 17, you will notice just how vastly different it is from anything you are used to. It has a linear path that you must follow, but you can never predict what you will see or be faced with next. Valve also totally nailed the atmosphere and I really started caring about the people, not just because of the characters, but because I saw how they treat everything first-hand.

The story focuses on a small group of core characters and their design is also really great. They also have some great writing and voice-acting backing them up, which in the end leaves us with some of the most memorable characters in a video game ever. Hell, when the credits rolled, I was suddenly a lot more interested in buying Half-Life 2: Episode 1, a purchase I had specifically planned not to make.

The Bad
I am going to be honest with you guys: I never finished the first Half-Life. I got to like 80% of it, but in the end I grow a bit bored or I just get myself saved into a corner and can't progress. Going into Half-Life 2, I didn't think I needed any sort of explanation, but once I started playing I was just completely confused. Who are these people? Where are we? Who the heck are these Combine? Some kind of explanation would really help here, but I was given none and just had to make do with what little I could extract out of the dialogue. I also find it peculiar that every plot-point from the first 80% of the first game is seemingly abandoned and that this must mean everything worth mentioning was crow-barred into the last few hours of the game.

It's still quite possible to get yourself saved into a corner, though it's a bit harder this time around. The first time I had to restart the game was during a vehicle section with a boat, where you had to jump over a fire that almost always hit you. I took a lot of damage early in the section, got past three checkpoints and never found any more health, so when faced with the fire, I had no chance at survival and nothing to reload from. Like I said though: it's a lot harder to mess up now.

One section in the game has endlessly respawning enemies, which is a game-design sin I simply can't overlook. It's just ONE moment in the entire game, but it mystifies me how somebody can possibly think we can do proper puzzling and platforming when there are zombies who throw headcrabs at you spawning right around the corner. There is also no indication that you are entering a zone with endless amounts of enemies, so the first time I wasted an insane amount of ammo trying to keep the buggers at bay, until I realized I had to advance, only to be faced with a Fast Zombie and no weapon that could kill him.

The Bottom Line
Every once in a while I get a bit tired of games. I play a lot of RPG's that last 60 or more hours: Zelda, Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy (more recently), which aren't really games I can just boot up two hours before work. During these times I just sit at my laptop and do nothing. Eventually I pop in a good FPS and I feel really spirited again, so when I did this with Half-Life 2, I was pleasantly surprised that the game was more than "just an FPS". Possibly one of the best, if not the best, in its genre, Half-Life 2 neatly combines deadly firefights with equally as deadly platforming.

The characters are very enjoyable, the atmosphere is amazing and the game plays very well, Because the story seems to leave new players in the dark, I recommend this game mostly to the fans of the franchise. If you are new to it though, there is no real reason to skip out on this one, aside from the story not really filling you in on some stuff. Only if you prefer your shooters in a more realistic way, without platforming in them, or you just don't like shooters in general, then you should probably find something else to play.

Windows · by Asinine (956) · 2012

[ View all 24 player reviews ]

Trivia

1001 Video Games

Half-Life 2 appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Characters

Almost all the characters in Half-Life 2 are modelled after a real person's appearance: * Barney's face in the game was provided by Valve's CEO Scott Lynch. * Alyx Vance is modelled after American actress and television host Jamil Giovanni Mullen. * Eli Vance's is based on Larry "The Count" Heard, a local man holding a sign indicating that he was looking for work. Valve found him on the corner of Highway 520 and 148th Avenue in Redmond and hired him as a model. * The G-Man's Half-Life 2 model is based on Frank Sheldon, an Alexander Technique practitioner. He was originally slated to be the model for Dr. Breen.

City 17

City 17, the main location of Half-Life 2, strongly resembles Eastern European and Soviet cities of the communist era; the architecture style of suburb districts is nearly identical to what can be see (even until now) in East Berlin, Prague, Moscow, etc. However, there is also more direct evidence to the "Soviet" nature of City 17; several times some Russian words can be spotted. For example, during the mud skipper chase there are large gates with the words ПОРТ written above; "порт" is Russian for "port" (pronounced roughly the same way as the English word).

Closed captions

Valve designed Half Life 2 with closed captioning for the deaf. Sounds are bracketed. Each character has a color assigned to their dialogue.

Cut levels

According to the book Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, the original storyline spanned four in-game days instead of just three. Among the parts cut are an antlion cave, a train ride through a dried out sea bed, a ship called the "Borealis", the underwater "Kraken Base", a Combine weather control station, a chapter set in arctic regions and a skyscraper. Many of these places show up in pre-release screenshots and press material.

Some parts were recycled for existing Half-Life 2 chapters, many others are making a comeback in the Half-Life 2 episodes.

Distribution

The PC version of Half-Life 2 was the last game that Sierra distributed for Valve at retail. Electronic Arts was quick to scoop up the retail deal, but their Steam digital distribution service remains independent.

As a result of a settlement in a lawsuit between Valve and VU Games, VU Games ceases distribution of retail packaged versions of Valve's games (including Half-Life 2), effective August 31, 2005.

Engine

Despite the complex graphics, including ragdoll physics and pixel shaders, the Source engine was designed to support cards that offer only DirectX 6 hardware support. The original Source engine code would run by using the software emulation encoded in the DirectX 9 library. That means that the game can be run even with an Intel 846g card or a Nvidia TNT chipset. To give some perspective, The TNT chipset was introduced in 1997.

According to John Carmack himself, "there are still bits of early Quake code in Half Life 2".

German version

There are changes in some German versions: * Blood from humans (including Gordon Freeman) and blood which is part of the level design was coloured grey * Almost all enemies disappear instantly after being killed. This is not true for a level near the end where the corpses are necessary to proceed. * The cries of burning zombies were toned down * In the original version enemies get dragged with the buggy for a short time after driving over them. In the German version the buggy just drives through them.

A detailed list of changes can be found on schnittberichte.com (German).

G-Man

G-Man can been spotted in a few places throughout the game, as he is watching over Gordon or walking around.

Hydra

An enemy that was shown in early previews known as the hydra, which was a blue tentacle, was cut out of the final game. The developers said that it was good to watch, but when it came to kill you, you would just see a blue blur and you would be dead. They didn't think it would be fun to fight against.

Macintosh version

In September of 2007 Valve's Gabe Newell was interviewed by gaming website Kikizo's Adam Doree about the then shortly to be released Orange Box, asking, among other things, about the potential for a Macintosh release. Newell responded by saying that though they had been in conversations with Apple regarding the possibility "they seem to think that they want to do gaming, but there's never any follow through on any of the things they say they're going to do. That makes it hard to be excited about doing games for their platforms." Thus, there wouldn't be a Macintosh version of Half-Life 2.

A month later, in October, Tuncer Deniz, a Macintosh developer and owner of the news site Inside Mac Games, posted on his blog that while Newell's complaints likely weren't without justification, the actual reason for the lack of a Macintosh port was due to "Valve's insistence that anyone who wanted to port Half-Life 2 to the Mac had to advance $1 million to Valve. That's right, that's $1,000,000. That might be peanuts to someone like Valve, but no Mac publisher in their right mind would have given Valve that kind of money just for the rights to publish Half-Life 2 for the Mac."

A Macintosh version was finally released in 2010 when Steam, Valve's digital distribution platform, was introduced for Macintosh.

Menu

The background picture of the main menu changes based on what chapter you are at when you last saved.

Multiplayer

Counter-Strike: Source was the only multiplayer mode available at the release. Two weeks later, on November 30, 2004, Valve released the regular multiplayer mode (Deathmatch) through Steam, their online content distribution system.

Piñata

Several news sources first reported Half-Life 2 entering gold status, quoting an unnamed source within the development team. The source revealed the existence of a piñata doll (a traditional South American custom of a doll stuffed with sweets and toys for children to break) which was broken to celebrate HL2's official completion.

It was later revealed that this "piñata" was in fact a full-scaled Scanner model (the flying machines that take pictures of suspects in-game) and it was broken using a crowbar.

Rating

Even though the initial release of Half-Life 2 as part of The Orange Box compilation received a PEGI rating of 16+, the stand-alone release received an initial rating of 18+.

References

Dr. Kleiner's pet headcrab Lamarr is actually named after Hedy Lamarr (November 9, 1913 – January 19, 2000, born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler), an Austrian-Jewish naturalized American actress and communications technology innovator.

References to the game

Half-Life 2 was parodied in an episode of "Die Redaktion" (The Editorial Team), a monthly comedy video produced by the German gaming magazine GameStar. It was published on the DVD of issue 05/2006.

Source code theft

Sometime in September 2003 Valve's network - including Gabe Newell's own computer - was compromised by a hacker and the worst case scenario soon unfolded. The entire Half-Life 2 source code was released on October 4 and only 3 days later a playable version of the game surfaced. FBI was brought into the case, and Gabe Newell also posted a message on a Half-Life 2 forum, asking the community to help them find the hacker.

Months went by without any substantial progress, when finally on February 15 the hacker sent an e-mail to Gabe Newell, expressing both his compliments on Valve's work so far and his somewhat dodgy statement that he never had any intention to hurt Valve. Gabe Newell and the hacker, known as "Da Guy" from Germany corresponded over the next period of time, and came to the agreement that since Da Guy had been smart enough to compromise Valve's security, he deserved a job. Soon, a job interview was setup. This was of course a trick. FBI agents would be waiting for the German when he arrived. However, when the German government heard about the scheme they denied such activities, and instead they arrested him themselves.

Da Guy, aka Axel G now faces charges for compromising Valve as well as several other computer related crimes.

Special Editions

3 different Half-Life 2 packages are available: * Half-Life 2 Bronze includes the game and Counter-Strike: Source. * Half-Life 2 Silver includes the game, Counter-Strike: Source, Day of Defeat: Source and Valve's back catalog available on Steam at the time. * Half-Life 2 Gold includes the game, Counter-Strike: Source, Day of Defeat: Source, Valve's back catalog available on Steam at the time, 3 HL2 posters, HL2 hat, HL2 soundtrack, HL2 sticker, City 17 postcard, Prima's HL2 strategy guide, special collector's box and a chance to win a trip to Valve.

Vortigaunts

The Vortigaunts are voiced by Louis Gossett, Jr. It is mentioned in Raising the Bar that Gossett was chosen partially due to his role as the alien in the film Enemy Mine.

Awards

  • 4Players
    • 2004 – PC Game of the Year
    • 2004 – Best PC Action Game of the Year
    • 2004 – Best PC Direction of the Year
    • 2004 – Best PC Graphics of the Year
    • 2004 – Best PC Successor of the Year
  • Computer Games Magazine
    • March 2005 - #4 Game of the Year 2004
  • Computer Gaming World
    • March 2005 (Issue #249) – Best Music of the Year
    • March 2005 (Issue #249) – NPC of the Year (for Dog)
  • GameSpy
    • 2004 – #2 Game of the Year
    • 2004 – PC Game of the Year
    • 2004 – PC Action Game of the Year
    • 2004 – PC Game of the Year (Readers' Vote)
    • 2004 – PC Action Game of the Year (Readers' Vote)
    • 2004 - Best Graphics of the Year (PC)
    • 2004 - Best Character of the Year (PC) (for Dog)
    • 2005 – #7 Game of the Year
    • 2005 – Xbox Game of the Year
    • 2005 – Xbox Game of the Year (Readers' Vote)
    • 2005 – Xbox Shooter of the Year
    • 2005 – PC Mod of the Year (for Garry's Mod)
    • 2005 - The "It Shoulda Been on Xbox 360 Award" (Xbox)
    • 2011 – #10 Top PC Game of the 2000s
  • GameStar (Germany)
    • February 2005 - Best PC Game in 2004
    • February 2005 - Best PC Game in 2004
    • Issue 03/2005 - Most Annoying Copy Protection in 2004
  • Golden Joystick Awards
    • 2004 - Runner-up for "Most Wanted Game For Xmas"
    • 2005 - PC Game of the Year
  • PC Gamer
    • April 2005 - #4 in the "50 Best Games of All Time" list
    • It was the first game to tie PC Gamer's 98% rating of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, previously their highest rated game ever
  • PC Powerplay (Germany)
    • Issue 02/2006 - Best Game in 2005
    • Issue 02/2006 - #1 Action Game in 2005

Information also contributed by Agent 5, Apogee IV, B14ck W01f, Indra was here, James Isaac, LepricahnsGold, Lumpi, Mark Ennis, Mark Papadakis, PCGamer77, piltdown man, Scott Monster, Silverblade, Unicorn Lynx, VVP and Zack Green.

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Related Sites +

  • Half-Life 2 Hints
    This question and answer type solution guides you through the steps gradually, giving only as much information as you need before the final answers are provided.
  • The Boy Who Stole Half-Life 2
    article about the game's source code theft, on Eurogamer.net (21st February 2011)
  • The Final Hours of Half-Life 2
    Gamespot's extensive article about the production process of Half-Life 2.

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Zack Green.

Android added by GTramp. Linux added by Sciere. Xbox added by DarkDante. Macintosh added by Zeppin.

Additional contributors: Unicorn Lynx, Jeanne, Apogee IV, Sciere, n][rvana, Paulus18950, lee jun ho, VVP, Patrick Bregger, Plok, FatherJack.

Game added November 25, 2004. Last modified July 7, 2024.