Half-Life
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Story contains direct/suggestive references to explosion, aliens, death etc.

In computer industry, boy the time literally flies away, don’t even ask how fast. Every day a new technology comes and the old becomes older every passing day. We would say, hey, I just got a new PC with the world's fastest processor, but we won't say, look, my old PC, it has got like one of the slowest processor in there, without actually realizing that the new computer you bought is just an evolved form of your old computer. And without realizing that your old computer in its time was actually ground-breaking and set a lot of benchmarks.

Really, it’s about time. Now it has become a fashion to roll out a new game of your own and create a neck-to-neck competition with other game developers. I won't be talking about all these. Let's go back a little, in late 90s. Remember how many PC games were there? Just a few. How many of them were good? Almost all of them were exquisite. Then came the year 1998. I bet nobody even remembers that 1998 was the year, you could say the FPS genre was literally evolved forever, if not born.

 

You play as a theoretical physicist, Dr. Gordon Freeman. Throughout the game, even in Half-Life 2 and both the episodes of Half-Life 2, you encounter some human soldiers, some alien forces and a lot of puzzles. There are some helping hands but most of the time you are all alone, testing your physical strength, weapons and luck.

 

It’s a typical day at work. Freeman is already late and the rest of his team is conducting an experiment today. Freeman uses the metro train system of the gigantic Black Mesa Research Facility, mostly built underground in some desert in New Mexico. Freeman gets prepared for the experiment in an anomalous materials lab by wearing his special Hazard Suit. Freeman is the one who is to go into the test chamber and actually conduct the test. The test is basically to analyze some unknown specimen using an Anti-mass spectrometer scanning beam. Freeman is instructed to first start the beam and wait till it gets to its full power. Then Freeman is instructed to gradually insert the specimen into the beam. But when Freeman inserts the specimen into the beam, it creates a massive explosion and develops a big portal between Earth and a dimension called Xen. Initially, Freeman is himself able to see some strange creatures as he is standing amongst them. After a short video cut scene, Freeman finds himself tossed on the floor in the test chamber. He attempts to get out of the lab and he starts surveying fellow scientists. Most of them were already killed, maybe because of the huge explosion. Freeman quickly learns that all communication links have been broken and that he must get to the surface.

Throughout his journey, Freeman encounters strange alien species that kept attacking humans. Some of these aliens are also capable of randomly teleporting to places with the help of the inter-dimensional portal. Freeman almost makes it to the surface just to learn that a special armed force is now attempting to kill every surviving living being in the facility. Freeman combats the soldiers and finds out that scientists in a Lambda Complex may be able to help him cope with the situation. He hurdles through various obstacles and makes it there. In his way, Freeman has to reactivate a rocket engine test facility in order to kill a giant alien with three tentacles. After that, Freeman learns that he must launch a satellite rocket also in order to reverse the effect of the disaster.

Freeman is almost on a roll now but the Marines capture him and throw him in a garbage processing chamber. Freeman makes his way out to the surface back again and sees that the entire ground is now a battlefield. Human soldiers were fighting off alien forces but the aliens overwhelmed the humans. Due to an airstrike, Freeman quickly escapes to an underground water channel. Gordon makes his way out of the channel and finally gets to the scientists. By this time, the scientists are able to create a teleporting device. Gordon also learns that due to a massive rift being operated by a gigantic being, the satellite he launched earlier has also become useless. Gordon must now teleport to the Xen itself and attempt to stop this rift.

When Gordon reaches Xen, he immediately feels that the gravity here is much less as compared to the Earth. He also sees some dead soldiers and learns that these were the humans that were extracting Xenian species and bringing them back to the Earth. All of them were dead but supplying valuable ammunition and armor to Freeman. Freeman makes his way out of the riddles and puzzles of this dimension and confronts many alien forces in the way. Finally, he discovers a giant portal and steps into it.

Freeman now finds himself in a giant cylindrical shaped cavern in front of a gigantic alien, Nihilanth. Nihilanth is actually the one controlling the rift and Freeman makes his ultimate struggle and kills Nihilanth. While dying into a massive explosion, Nihilanth leaves Freeman unconscious. Freeman later awakens in front of a mysterious person, G-Man. He acknowledges Freeman's efforts in Xen and offers him a job. G-Man warns him though that if he doesn't take his job, he will be left in a place where he WILL die. Freeman then finds himself with G-Man standing in front of him in the tram that Freeman is travelling in at the day he was to conduct the experiment, probably meaning that either this was his job or that everything is back to normal again and that Freeman must pursue whatever he was doing, or that he was just having a horrible nightmare.

 

The story may not have received much attention but I think its amongst one of the best stories ever. It makes all the way more sense if you play the entire game in series one-by-one. Talking about the gameplay, there isn't much to talk to about, you can just say that Half-Life was the game which actually gave birth to the FPS genre. I am not saying that there weren't FPS games before it, I am just saying that this is where it actually started to make sense. You cannot ask a toddler to pick up heavy weight, teen to handle a country, but you can depend on an adult to do both. This is what Half-Life did.

There is a simple 1st person view, where you can see Freeman holding a gun. At the bottom are the normal armor, health, clip and ammo information. The HUD is informative and just about right. You have a torchlight which you can and rather must use in dark environments. There are many different kinds of aliens, some fast and some slow. Select a right weapon and aim for the head. You get many weapons, the most unique of which is a crowbar. There will be many places in which you will be using this crowbar. The game is not as advanced so don’t think that advanced tactics like prying opening broken elevators or jammed doors will work here. Just simple damage to the enemy is what the game allows. More importantly, the main usage of this crowbar will be to break/remove obstacles in your way. Of course then you have a pistol, an SMG, a shotgun, a rocket launcher and other weapons too to fill in the gap and make the fighting more intense, awarding and satisfying.

The thing I love about this game is the cleverly designed levels with endless puzzles. You will quickly realize after reading the story that it is short, and yes it is. But the puzzle filled levels and intense fighting will keep the climax a long destination to reach. Moreover, the atmosphere is excellent. Fighting in Xen is even more awesome in low gravity environment with black atmosphere. I wouldn’t at any time call this game ‘scary’, but the sounds and the atmosphere are good enough to intensify the situation.

At some times though, you will think why some kind of rooms/chambers were even made! They don't have any purpose, it’s like Black Mesa just built them to trap someone who is in them. But that’s ok, it’s just a game. About the AI, well, it’s pretty stupid. The best at that time but still far from reality. Commandos can apparently pick up noise, heat, electric and smell signals so they can even detect in the next room even when you are standing still. Originally when the game was released, it had the best graphics. It was revolutionary, the next level in gaming.

 

Standing here today and judging this game, you will at the very first instance, point out the hideous graphics and busted animation and sound effects. But the point here is not to look at it that way. The game is brilliant with a unique idea. Of course now is not a good time to play this game, but then there are sequels to this series and you can play them. Half-Life 2 and its episodes have much better graphics and gameplay. In any case, if you identify yourself as an FPS gamer and you have missed this game, ponder upon your identity once again!!!