This Half-Life is a little odd. Gearbox Software and Valve Software are credited as co-creators of the game, but the game does not live up to the quality level set by the original Half-Life, or even the Half-Life expansion Half-Life: Blue-Shift of which I am a big fan. You reach a point in the game where you are fighting against are very strong aliens who don’t die easily, and you can’t even replenish your ammunition. Also during these moments, health pick-ups are rare. You’re facing marines more powerful than you. You pour bullets into them, but they’re still standing and shooting you. Though it seems alright at the start, the expansion pack really isn’t worth loading.
You are the a member of the Black Mesa team of Marines Gordon Freeman faces during the original Half-Life game, which is a clever premise. Off the bat, you get night-vision googles, which are super cool. You will quickly come to realize, however, that this is much more challenging than the original game. This makes some sense, as the marines in Half-Life were possibly the most difficult enemies in the game. The enemies of the marines in this game, are three fold: an opposing team of armed forces, aliens that take human shape, and aliens that are comical in shape and size.
Again, health pick-ups are rare, and so are ammo pick-ups. There is the ability to save anywhere (common to many PC games), but often I would save with little health, one time with 1 out of 100 health, and I thought “Gosh, I hope there isn’t an enemy in the next five seconds.” While the original Half-Life had serious puzzle solving, there is basically one puzzle in this game, though it was fun to solve. The final boss is neat, although amazingly, the game will not finish with OpenGL graphics selected. I was playing on Linux, and switched to the Windows machine to see the ending because the end of the game just doesn’t happen on Linux. I would have expected much better bug testing for such a high-profile franchise. Surely they could have made a patch?
Also disappointing are the lack of good music tracks. The original Half-Life was ahead of its time with quality techno / electronica, but I remember only one half-decent track, and that was all. Graphics are on par with the original, as you would expect. Mouse and keyboard, as always, prove to be a great input method for first-person shooters, though I still believe analog directional movement is lost on a keyboard compared to a controller.
What’s surprising is although Gearbox did a fantastic job on Half-Life: Blue Shift, here they’re just phoning it in. I’m glad the Half-Life 2 expansions were handled by Valve; both are superb. Most interesting is that the Valve / Gearbox connection would continue to last. Valve asked developers to port software to Linux for the Steam platform, and Gearbox was among the first (and only) to take on the challenge. Whether or not Opposing Force tarnished the relationship, I imagine the game is still selling in bundles of Valve games, so I doubt it. Just bear in mind, this is my least favorite Half-Life.