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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)

Light and fun FPS game

The Good
The gameplay here is very fun. You don't really need to use a lot of brains, there is almost no dialogues... this is my type of game! For me, a game should make me feel relaxed, not using my brains too much.

Each level is different. Some look as if you were in some communist country. The last level is so different, like science fiction... not something that would happen in a communist country. Some of the places are very spooky. Zombies and headcrabs always appear... and try to go into my brain!

And in each level you do different things. Sometimes you have to build a bridge to pass through, sometimes you shoot a lot, sometimes you should change your weapons all the time. There is a great weapon, gravity gun. Gravity gun is always good. If you want to go to some place or to get things, you only need to use your gravity guns, you can move everything and build bridges. It's interesting to see the next level when you're playing the current level, because you know each level is different and you will not be disappointed.

The graphics are great, but the best thing is that you can take and throw everything you see, it's like in real world.

It's very cool to drive cars, especially when you can zoom and shoot at the same time... I'm always very careful in those things.

It was very fun to call those antlions. Actually, in the beginning I wasn't used to it. When I turned around and suddenly saw such a face!! I wanted to kill them. But then they sacrificed themselves for me...

In some levels you fight alone, and in others you have your soldiers, who help you to fight. And you can send them to kill enemies for you.

And I like the Dog! He is so cute. Especially when he hugged Alyx. I want to have such a dog at home to serve me!

The Bad
Story? I don't think there is a big story here. The important thing is the gameplay. It's just for fun.

Oh, and another thing I don't like: those soldiers (those who fight for you) and really so weak! I hate them! And they shout "follow Freeman", if they are so bad why should they follow Freeman? They should go and train instead.

It's a little bit annoying to fight the striders, it's not that fun when humans fight big machines. The machine is too smart and is always chasing you, you can't avoid it. It would be cool to have such a machine on your side, but not on their side...

The Bottom Line
It's a cool and fun game. Follow me, my faithful antlions! I know you won't betray me!

Windows · by Melody (48) · 2008

Eternal masteriece #2

The Good
- Gameplay and environment shifts from chapter to chapter while remaining true to overall direction. - Lots of interesting gameplay situations with physics, AI, vehicles and environmental puzzles. - Fast and good looking engine with great modding capabilities. - Good characters writing, elevated by the voice acting. - Unique audio and art direction.

The Bad
- Story is pretty bare bones and most of the exposition chapters (1,2,5) feels dragged and not very interesting. - Same could be said about AI and the gunplay, so most of the chapters where you fight human enemies exclusively (9-11) at times are annoyingly dragged and not very interesting.

The Bottom Line
With all the flaws, it's still one of the best video games so far.

Windows · by SanfordMorgan · 2023

Super-Gordon vs Dr Breen

The Good
Valve uses a design process called the "Cabal" in which small think tanks of designers, writers and programmers come together to cook up new game concepts and ideas. I can vividly imagine such a meeting taking place soon after Half-Life's completion. A big, empty white board and one huge question in the room: What should Half-Life 2 be like?

Well, of course Gordon Freeman and his HEV suit have to make a comeback. The iconic crowbar must be included, too. Then the mysterious G-Man should be part of the story. And let's not forget about Barney, the security guard...

At one point this list of "must-haves" had to be hundreds of items long, since most of Half-Life's most famous weapons and enemies can be found in the sequel at some point. But something was missing. All those things are nice, but if you look back to see why the first game has been such a legendary title, it is not just because of the smart enemy AI or a laser-guided rocket launcher... no, Half-Life was such an outstanding achievement, because every single enemy, weapon and gameplay idea was new! Fresh and exciting, something that had never been seen in game before! You couldn't possibly recreate that feeling just by importing old ideas with better graphics (although, admittedly, the beautiful water-shaders helped...).

Valve tackled this problem from mainly two angles: First, the story and setting. City 17, an Eastern European metropolis overrun by an extraterrestrial force called the "Combine" was a stark contrast, compared to the Black Mesa desert. While in the first part, friendly NPCs have been nothing but nameless, talking heads, Valve's star writer Marc Laidlaw could run free with new, more lively characters and a more epic storyline. Not least because of the new animation system which allowed in-game actors to actually act on a level that has hardly been seen before in FPSs or games in general.

The second pillar of Half-Life 2 is a major gameplay innovation: Physics. The Havok physics engine licensed for Valve's new Source engine allowed an eerily realistic simulation of real-world objects. While other companies had already discovered physics in the years before Half-Life 2, it was this game that invented the gravity gun. A weapon idea so radically different from everything we've seen in games before, it basically carried the entire gameplay. Suddenly every in-game object became a shield, a projectile and... a toy. All at the same time.

Some of the best new enemy ideas are built upon this kind of physics gameplay: Turrets can now be knocked over or even be reprogrammed to be friendly and placed freely in the level by the player. "Manhacks", small flying rotors with saw blades can be picked up in mid-air and held in front of you as impromptu chainsaws. Majestic, 5-story high "Striders" now roam the streets, elegantly moving their long, spidery legs around even the most complicated terrain. Zombies now fling objects towards you (and if quick enough to catch them in mid-air, you can fling them right back at them). Throw in a few physics puzzles and a giant, magnetic crane that allows you to drag around heavy freight containers as they were made of Styrofoam and you have countless physics-related moments that are breathtaking and memorable.

One more enemy worth mentioning is the antlion, a creature nearly identical to the "bugs" in the Starship Trooper movie. Antlions arrive in huge packs and later in the game, you get the ability to command a never-ending horde of them to fight on your side. It's ridiculous amounts of fun, and probably the most all-round well-designed creature in the game.

The Bad
There are two things, however, that make me think of Half Life 2 as inferior compared to its predecessor.

First there is weapon and enemy variety.

You will notice quickly, that a vast majority of Half Life 2 enemies are just variations of enemies from the first game. There are 3 types of headcrabs, 3 types of zombies, 2 types of helicopters and 3 types of soldiers. Some are faster, some are stronger, have different weapons... but ultimately, you will fight nothing but variations of the same type of enemy for entire chapters. The improvements do not really make up for the lack of originality compared to the colorful armies of completely new and fresh enemies found in Half Life 1. I was especially disappointed when I read that the "assassin" (one of my favorite enemies in the first part) was cut in favor of the "fast zombie", which is nothing more than a creature running towards the player, really fast, nearly identical to the "Licker" zombies from Resident Evil 2.

Also there is a lack of a distinct "3rd faction". In the original Half Life you would often find tactical fights between aliens, marines and Black Mesa personnel. It allowed for a fun strategical variant of hiding in safety while a group of, for example, alien slaves and marines are fighting, only to come out to take on the rest. Now most fights are between hordes of "rebels" fighting on the player's side and combine soldiers which usually keeps you busy trying to protect your teammates most of the time.

Similar can be said about weapon variety. While the gravity gun easily trumps most other weapons ever invented in the history of computer games, it is the only truly new device in your arsenal. A lot of weapons make a comeback: The RPG, the crossbow, the magnum... But far more were cut without replacement. The alien hornet gun, trip-mines, the gauss... all gone. Instead Valve decided to give us a second machine gun which has a nice alternate fire but really... a SECOND machine gun?

In defense of this move in gamedesign, one could argue that a lot of tactical options of multiple enemies were "merged" into one. But that doesn't make up for all the little gameplay details that were lost in the process.

My second gripe with Half Life 2 is the direction the story is taking. Half Life 1 was a fun, wacky science fiction action adventure. Half Life 2 is a wannabe drama and science fiction epic.

The ways fights are staged, now usually feel more like a scene from Saving Private Ryan (with aliens), using the same gray, war-torn cityscapes, black, dirty explosions and human drama as it became popular with WWII-style FPSs around the time Half Life 2 was released. Not really what I was looking for in a Half Life game. A good junk of the story now involves Gordon's show being stolen by Alyx, a cheeky young woman who apparently is the daughter of Gordon's former colleague, Eli Vance. She constantly fears about her father's life (for good reason, one has to admit), asking Gordon to help her while apparently being a better fighter and more agile than Gordon himself. Why didn't they give the HEV suit to her instead?

Instead of an unlikely anti-hero, fighting for survival, you are now Gordon Freeman, international superstar. A boring, classic hero, eagerly awaited to save the world. Suddenly, everyone's your old, best friend and seems to know more about the Black Mesa incident and your role in it than yourself. You're the center of attention, which makes the whole concept of Gordon not speaking kinda pointless. While in the first game, you could accept the lack of 3rd person scenes and voice acting for Gordon as a technique to make the player feel more in power of the main character, that concept is pretty much thrown out of the window for Half Life 2. You are not an over-qualified intern who happens to save the day, you are a space marine-- with a PhD in physics. As strange as it may sound, in a way, Gordon Freeman is out of character for the entire game.

And why in the world are rebels spraying lambda-signs everywhere? The incident in the lambda lab was what caused all this horror, and even Gordon has apparently been strikingly unsuccessful at containing it. Rebels worshiping Black Mesa is about as likely as Iraqi insurgents painting their faces in stars and stripes and celebrating great liberator general David Petraeus.

There are moments of genius in the new acting-heavy kind of story telling for Hal Life 2. Kleiner and Father Grigori are fun and likable. But there is generally too much drama, too much would-be epicness thrown into a series that has always been more about exploring abandoned military bases carved into rocks rather than pretentious, Star Wars-style architecture and uniforms (like preferred by the combine forces).

The Bottom Line
Nevertheless, because of the excellent pacing and battles, Half-Life 2 is one of the, if not the best shooter of this decade. If it just weren't such a decade of disappointing sequels. Despite being much shorter, I felt more of the "spirit" of the original game in the latest Episode 2 and the seemingly unrelated game Portal. Both brought back some of the witty self-irony I loved about the first game. With a little more variety in environments, enemies and weapons, Half-Life 2 could be the best shooter ever made. But even the lovely gravity gameplay cannot place this game above its predecessor - or most FPSs from the 90ies.

2010 will officially bring a new decade to gaming. I wonder where things are moving. As I'm writing this, I'm waiting eagerly for Episode 3, the final of the Half-Life 2 episodes which supposedly answers all remaining questions. About the G-Man, the Combine and Gordon himself. I hope, however, that it will answer this question first and foremost: How can I make a FPS that topples the original Half-Life?

Windows · by Lumpi (189) · 2009

[ 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.

Identifiers +

  • MobyGames ID: 15564
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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.