Half-Life 2
Game Info
Electronic Arts
Valve Software
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood, Intense Violence
The Good

• Amazing visual presentation
• Action offers a lot of variety
• Excellent story and well developed gameworld
• Fun weapons to use

The Bad

• Lots of load times
• No multiplayer


Honestly, there was a time where I wasn't even sure that the long awaited sequel to Half-life was going to make it to the Xbox. Some months after the release of the critically acclaimed PC version, the Xbox version finally comes out and while one can't help but wonder how the two compares, let it be known that Xbox owners will find an excellent single player story in the game that they have been waiting patiently for. While Half-life 2 does take a lot of clues from the original (as many other FPS games have), it does add more than enough new blood to make the experience feel worthy of the name.

Half-life 2 opens with Gordon Freeman, the hero from the original, arriving in the Combine-controlled City 17. While the propaganda states that the city is a haven, one quick look shows it to be a police state where the humans are herded about by the military force of the Combine, an alien force that has clearly taken control over Earth. Before too long, Gordon finds himself on the run, attempting to hook up with the human resistance. But, even when he does make contact, he's forced to keep on the run as he's a wanted man in a world where humans must struggle to retake their own world.

As with the original, Half-life 2 presents all the action in the first person perspective. All cut-scenes and conversations play out in real-time, with no cut to static camera angles, meaning that you can walk around and look where you want as the conversations and actions play out. And while the game is a first person shooter at its core, it doesn't use this as a crutch. In fact, a lot of work has gone into keeping the game varied, with different scenarios presented as the player moves along.

The game opens with the player unarmed and forced into running for their life. There is a certain level of panic forced upon you as you come under fire, running through the city in hopes of finding some safe haven, even if for a little while. Even when you do get weapons, including a pistol, shotgun, machine-gun and grenades, you have to be smart in how you handle your enemies, as rushing into a combat scenario is sure to get you killed. Fortunately, most areas in the game allow you to find cover or even look for alternate routes to flank your enemies.

As the game moves along, you'll be handed new weapons essential to dealing with the problems as hand. When you're being chased by gunships, you'll need the rocket launchers to put them down. And you'll be handed the gravity gun, which is fun to use as it allows you to pick up items around the area and shoot them at your enemies. When you get into Ravenholm, you'll find this gun turns the horrific location into a violent themepark. Later in the game, you'll gain access to Bug Bait, which allows you to control and use the antlions as teammates and weapons against your foes.

At times, you'll be given access to vehicle to travel between locations. These scenarios show how large the game really is. Don't mistake these portions as mindless roadtrips as you'll often have to find ways to get your vehicles through roadblocks or around impasses. And when you get weapons on these vehicles, be sure to use them to your favor.

Controlling Gordon is simple and easy, yet gives you all the options you'll need. FPS standards like crouching and jumping are all there. Gordon's suit allows him to swim underwater, perform short sprints and use a flashlight for dark areas. Players use the D-Pad to select their weapon and use the Right Trigger to fire. Some weapons have an alternative fire mode, which can be performed with the Left Trigger.

As stated earlier, there is a lot of effort put into keeping the game's scenarios varied. At times, you in an open-field firefight. Other times, your in a street battle or a corridor shooter. Ravenholm even presents you with a nail-biting survival horror aspect that will keep you running for the next area of safety. It's obvious that each and every location is well planned out to give the player excellently framed action pieces that will make them feel like they're playing through a sci-fi movie.

When it comes to the visual presentation, the overall experience behind Half-life 2 is to draw the player into a realistic take on a near future. A lot of ambient details are packed into each level and the use of visual and lighting effects give the game world as certain degree of life to it. When you're fighting your way through the game, you'll find many locations that look great and feature some really nice touches. Case in point is when you see a gunship fly over city streets and the powerlines flap about in the wind. One of the other nice touches is the excellent way character's faces are modeled, given them a good bit of personality as they speak. The only real drawback I found with the visual presentation was the presence of a number of blurry and low-resolution textures. While the Xbox version is definitely a step down from the PC version, it does look pretty good on its own.

The audio portion works as a great augment to the visual presentation. Sound effects are obviously handling with a great bit of consideration for how they would sound in the real world. Each of the weapons have a solid tone to them and the ambient sounds found in the gameworld as you progress do wonders to draw you in. Voicework is pretty sharp, leading you to feel a certain attachment to the characters. The music is not as important an element, but still works to give emotion to the player's progress.

I won't say that Half-life 2 is perfect. There are still a few hitches that keep it from perfection. First and foremost is the abundant presence of loading. You won't get far along in the game without the game coming to a stop for a few seconds while the next area loads. Because the game is pretty linear, you won't have to worry so much about loading as you go back and forth between areas, but do expect to see the loading screen often. Also, there is some frame rate issues, but this usually only pops up on rare occasion. Finally, don't expect the game to have the multiplayer options found in the PC version as the Xbox version only has the single player campaign.

The story and scenario presentation is more than enough to keep you playing through Half-life 2. While the lack of multiplayer does hurt the replay value of this game, the single player experience is something FPS fans should experience. If you're a Half-life fan, do yourself a favor and pick this one up.

- - Kinderfeld

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