I’m gonna play Half-Life, the first Half-Life. This Half-Life was really awesome back in the day; this was probably one of my favorite games, definitely one of my favorite games. I played the hell out of it. This seems like a good game to play because it’s not all that long.
There’s this meme going around by people who don’t know much about games that Half-Life 1 “ruined” (whatever that means) first-person shooters, or even games in general because (the claim being) it pioneered or created “cinematic” type video games. Personally, I view these claims as being purely false conjecture, and should be discarded as such. People who think Half-Life is cinematic have probably never played it. It doesn’t even have cutscenes! What it actually popularized was “realistic” environments and weapons. The former is only a bad thing when imitated by less talented devs. The latter does kind of suck though. At least they gave us the Gravity Gun in the sequel, which kind of gave devs an excuse to bring back crazy weapons.
It may come of an interest to you, but Half-Life was actually praised heavily at the time for NOT being a story-focused game, which was increasingly becoming a new standard in the C-D based console era (although story and scenario based games are demonstrably far older than the mid 1990’s, as anyone with a brain can figure out). Half-Life 1 gives the player full control throughout the entire game, and (almost) never breaks character from the gameplay, which is presented and introduced completely naturally to the player. Suggesting that Half-Life is bad because of the few mandatory speaking segments is just absurd – the game has less dialogue and waiting time than something like Ocarina of Time, which is also very straight-forward and old-fashioned game from the same time period. Half-Life 1 is incredibly arcadey, fast, free and truthful to classic video games, and its reputation as being otherwise is completely unwarranted.
Been playing through this game again on Hard this week. The Alien Slaves (that shoot lightning) are a bit too tough, they deal a lot of damage and their charge-up time is really fast. Although i could be biased, because they make my cheap laptop drop frames, when they charge their lightning attack.
The game is a real gem though, there are just a few sections where the level designer really made a “cheap” trap for the player. Like in “We’ve got hostiles”, there’s a part where you walk into a room with two sentry guns and several explosive barrels, and just when you enter two alien slaves spawn right behind you. The chance that either the turrets or one of the alien slaves explode the barrels, detonating you in a fiery blaze, is very high.
There are very few of those parts though. The best part of the game is fighting the marines, their AI is just so fun to engage with. When they lose sight of you, they go searching for you or toss grenades. There’s a lot of shenanigans that can happen, for example i fought 3 soldiers, defeated the first two but couldn’t find the third. Finally i found him being eaten alive by a barnacle monster. When you throw a grenade at the marines, and they can’t escape in time, you hear them call on the radio “Oh shi-” … That’s just an incredible little detail to me.
It makes the firefights against the marines feel really hardcore. Like you are really fighting trained soldiers. The most dangerous ones are the shotgun marines. They will destroy you at close range. You have to use your wits to take them out, for example luring them around a corner into a tripmine, as I like to do.
However, there is at least one part in the game that i could not imagine surviving on my first playthrough. It’s in “On a rail”, where you are riding on the train and suddenly a crate bursts, revealing 2 marines, one of which instantly shoots a rifle grenade in your face. That’s probably the worst section of the game, because when you know about it you can totally blow them up, but when you don’t know about it you are 100% dead.It’s all around about getting through the levels and trying to survive. I say it’s a little bit more like playing on a computer compared to when I played in the arcade. Some of this is a little off in how it’s presented, but I like the idea of jumping from one level to the next, but you never really learn the locations the way you do in an arcade game. I love the game controls for Half-Life so much I just wanted to do a little bit of a tutorial video on using them to my advantage. It’s really the biggest thing you really learn in Half-Life, when you play in the game you have these two control schemes where you have to be at exactly the right angle, and you can’t change direction. It’s super important and you have to do two things at the same time to get in the right kind of way.
Not a huge fan of the “oh look, a series of platforms in the form of industrial machinery that are conveniently placed to get me out of this building in the most elaborate way possible, yet I can’t go through a fucking door” sections. This starts to become an unfortunately recurring theme mid-game. The first few chapters feel more like you’re trying to survive in the aftermath of a disaster. Like you’re trapped in this giant underground place that’s almost unimaginably big and you just want to escape more than anything else. The times when the game feels like that are amazing and probably as incredible as anything I’ve ever experienced in a video game. Then all of a sudden it’s PLATFORMING. There’s a conveyor belt level, a water level, etc. A lot of bullshit that feels like the devs wanted to force you to do shit for the sake of doing it and not because it made any sense. Once it stops relying as heavily on this stuff it starts to improve again. Chapter 12 (Surface Tension), despite being hard and ludicrously long, is fun as fuck and one of the best chapters in the game and possibly the best in the latter half.
Overall some of the set pieces are among the most memorable in gaming ever. The rail-cart (whatever it’s called) level, the ride in to work at the beginning, the whole mad frantic panicked escape from the base after everything goes wrong and you have no idea what’s going on, etc. That last one in particular might be my favorite part of any game ever.
Overall it’s just one of the best games ever.