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Old 02-25-2012, 04:46 PM   #1
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Please Rate This Review - Half Life 2

Half-Life 2: A Blast From The Past

HIGH: Everything, especially using the Gravity gun to decapitate zombies

LOW: An overclichéd plot.

WTF: Who is the Gman????

Half-Life 2 is a game that came out… 7 years ago. 7 years ago, you might think; everything about it must be old/ancient/sucky! I mean, 7 years ago. Iphones were a thing of science-fiction, Steam had barely taken its first steps, and Youtube hadn’t even been born yet! Shock! Which is why I was a bit hesitant when I purchased Half-Life 2.

But I bought it, and played it. And here is my conclusion: Half-Life 2 is to games what Lionel Messi is to football.

It deserves to be in a class all by itself.

It isn’t just that it’s a great game, it is the very definition of what a great game should be. An astounding gameplay experience, a well-crafted plot, intense firefights, a perfect dystopian world, puzzling challenges, complex boss fights and an unparalleled sense of realism make it one of the best games I have ever played.

In this first-person shooter, you are Gordon Freeman (incidentally voted best videogame hero of all time – yes, even above Mario), who awakes in a dystopian earth taken over by Aliens. You then join the resistance, and proceed to overthrow the Alien oppresion and free people from their evil rule. On the way you must fight Combine soldiers (soldiers bearing striking resemblances to Storm Troopers), zombies, and other creatures such as giant insects who stand in your path to freedom.

At first sight, this game would score “typical” on your ranking of video games; a soldier with unique abilities and seemingly-endless health, going on an “all solo” mission to save the world. But if something has characterized Valve, it is its love for innovation, reinvention of old formulas, and perfection; and here, it is no exception. Unique, engrossing, diverse, exceptional are but a few of the words you could use to describe this game. It is simply brilliant.

The most eye-catching aspect of the game is its gameplay. It is as varied and innovative as it is intense; one minute you’re mowing down soldiers with a machine gun attached to your airboat, next you’re sniping off Zombies with your crossbow, and finally you have to escape the jaws of man-eating insects in a rudimentary car. Puzzles are also a major component of this game; unique, physics-based puzzles, guaranteed to vex you. Because they ARE complicated (for example, finding and using floating barrels to lift a plank, which will in turn allow your car to pass over a ramp), unlike the garbage ones you find in other games whose difficulty extend to finding an “oh-so-secret” button. This game flows seamlessly from puzzle to action, level to level, each one with a certain gaming style, creating an experience you’ll love.

Another noticeable thing is its realism. You don’t play as Gordon Freeman. This game is so immersive, it makes you feel as though you ARE Gordon Freeman, in a real-life situation. A lack of cutscenes, a great physics aspect, having to be aware of sounds which can mean the difference between life and death, realistic enemies and allies… The AI is flawless. Despite the fact that it’s quite dated, it impressed me. Enemies will not rush at you wildly; they’ll plan, think, ambush. You throw a grenade, they will run out of the room and call for reinforcements. Shoot them, they’ll duck, wait for you to reload, and then shoot. Snipe at them from a distance, they’ll lob a grenade in your general direction and wait for results. Each battle is different, each soldier, zombie, turret and insect a threat. The intensity of it all will keep you on your toes, keeping your body pumped full of adrenaline throughout the whole game.

Valve has also reinvented the weapons – no surprise there. Oh sure, you have your “typical” guns (shotguns, smg’s, grenades), but trust them to come up with something completely different to change the game around. Weapons firing energy balls of death, pheromones to command an army of giant insects, waterized motor boat with a rechargeable machine gun, and what is uniquely the best thing of the whole game, the Gravity Gun. This gun gives full rein to your imagination, allowing you to pick up anything you deem deadly and hurl it at 100 mph at your foes. Propane tanks, saws, enemy grenades, and (why not) paint-cans can all be used to dispatch your enemies. Not only that, but there are levels in which you can use this gun to lift your very own enemies in the air and use them as shields, or toss them at foes. Utter brilliance.

A dystopian/1984-based city, a reservoir, a godforsaken village, are all but a few of the places I visited throughout Half Life 2. The setting is incredible on two parts; firstly, the dystopian feel this game has is just incredible, one of the best dystopias I have ever seen actually. And also, (like the gameplay) the setting and tone of the levels change almost instantaneously; one minute you’re trying to hold off 3 helicopters at the same time in a dark, sandy beach, with bullets flying around you and tons of action. Next you’re in Nova Prospekt (an underground prison), your heart pounding in your ears, trying to creep softly so as to not wake up gigantic monsters. Half-Life 2 will have you running from place to place, enjoying a wide selection of maps and areas, each with a distinct setting; gothic and dark, action packed, plain scary, plain fun.

The story is beautiful, engrossing and extremely well developed, featuring a wide range of characters (including the double-crosser and the hot love interest), and keeping you hooked until the very end. The only flaw is how extremely clichéd it is. You are a soldier, a legendary hero, who arises from the past to bring hope for a resistance that’s all but in shambles. A soldier who must battle evil, face overwhelming odds, destroy every soldier, zombie and man-eating insect that gets in his path in order to save humanity from extinction. A great plot. One that is repeated in Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Eragon, Braveheart, King Arthur and countless other films and books. This game features many original concepts, but an original plot isn’t one of them. A pity really. Also, whilst featuring many connections to the previous game (as all sequels should), you are a bit lost if you’re a new player. Questions are left unanswered, even for experienced Half-Life players; namely, how the aliens have invaded, why everyone regards you as a hero, and who the hell is that floating suited business-man that keeps talking to you.

Overall? One of the best games I have ever played, and a definite recommendation. Everything about it is amazing; the way it flows, the gameplay, the AI, the weapons… Everything. It will be pointless to try to describe it in words. You’ll just have to experience it for yourself.

9.99 / 10

Disclosures: This game was bought for PC via steam retail. About 35 hours were commited to gameplay. Game was completed twice.

Parents: Game was rated 16+ by ESBR. Rightly so - blood and death is constant throughout the game.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: Game features an excellent subtitles, which do not only encompass dialogue, but also ambient sounds, meaning you won't miss out at all.
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Old 02-25-2012, 06:13 PM   #2
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Re: Please Rate This Review - Half Life 2

wow man, can you scale those pics down? Makes reading this hard.

A few things-

this game has been covered 2X on this site:

and here: http://www.gamecritics.com/mike-dool...second-opinion

so, if the intent is to get published, here, you really need to look at these reviews and what's been said already and try to find something to say about Half-Life 2 that hasn't been said already.

HL2 is the kind of game that is regarded canonically by video game reviewers. Most people you talk to loved this game. I've never met anyone who played it who HATED it.

So: finding some kind of CRITIQUE of HL2 is really the way to explore what hasn't been said. Because this game has been loved, hard, and long. But what could it have done better?

Some themes worth investigating-

is HL2 is showing it's age?

Why are HL2's characters so endearing?

Is HL2's story full of holes?

How does self-referencing mythology involve the player?

What historical settings does the game reference?

Just for some examples

anyway, good luck!

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Old 03-15-2012, 06:55 AM   #3
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Re: Please Rate This Review - Half Life 2

I agree with RandomRob re: picture size, it sort of dominates your review Now for my main point:

As pointed out above, it's very difficult to retroactively review a game, especially one as famous as HL2. I don't want to discourage people from attempting this, since it can serve as great writing practice, but as RandomRob correctly points out, you need to pay extra attention not only to what other writers have already said about it, but also to subsequent patches, add-ons and other aspects of the game and its release.

Your review is also a bit too glowing - if it is pointless to describe it in words, why are you trying? Try going a little bit more in depth: for example, when you discuss gameplay - talk about the way vehicles are incorporated in the game, rather than just glossing over examples of ones the player comes across. Does the AI react well to your actions? Is the combat truly as realistic as you describe? In a relatively long complex game like HL2, you need to show why it outclasses other games from the same genre, and what influences it has passed on to future games/franchises.

One thing shone through in your review, and that was your enthusiasm for the game. Spend some time reviewing your piece to make sure it has a good mix of depth and accessibility, and you'll be in business Good luck!
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