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 Half-Life® 2 by SIERRA Entertainment
by 
Zynon (Ludic)



   Disclaimer: I attempted to keep all spoilers out of this review, so if I seem vague, it's because I'm trying not to ruin the game for someone who hasn't played it.

   Set 10 years after the original game, Valve Software attempts to recreate the FPS genre with its sequel to the highly successful HalfLife, aptly named Half-Life® 2. Originally scheduled to be released over a year ago, Valve delayed the release to the dismay of Half-Life fans everywhere. When Valve began allowing subscribers of its "Steam" network to begin preloading the game onto their hard drives, anticipation began climbing to a feverish level. All of the rumors and anticipation were put to rest on November 16th, at midnight Pacific Standard Time, when all of the preloaded copies and retail copies were allowed to "unlock" and finally begin to play the game so many had waited so long for.

Price:

Newegg price $49.99 Purchase Link      

Specs:

Minimum System Configuration

  • 1.2 GHz Processor
  • 256MB RAM
  • DirectX 7 capable graphics card
  • Windows 2000/XP/ME/98
  • Mouse
  • Keyboard
  • Internet Connection
  • CD or DVD rom drive (retail version only) 

Preferred System Configuration

  • 2.4 GHz Processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • DirectX 9 capable graphics card
  • Windows 2000/XP/ME/98
  • Mouse
  • Keyboard
  • Internet Connection
  • CD or DVD rom drive (retail version only) 

 

Review:

 Well, at least most people were able to play. Forums around the world instantly filled with angry people who had problems unlocking and playing the game, due to the sheer amount of traffic that the Steam servers were subject to in the day of the release of the game. Even with 10000Mbps of bandwidth and a cluster of servers, Steam was unable to keep up with a lot of the traffic and it caused many people problems installing the game. However, I was lucky enough not to experience the severity of the problems in installation. I purchased my copy of the game at 4pm on November 15th via Steam, took about four and a half hours to preload the game onto my computer, and was able to unlock my files the following days over the course of about 10-15 minutes. 



   I was a little skeptical about buying a game that didn't come with a physical copy of the game, in a box, with a manual. My skepticism has since been alleviated, as there are multiple ways to garner the tangible assets that you normally would get from purchasing a game. There is a built in backup function in Steam that allows you to backup your Steam games, complete with patches, to multiple CD's or a DVD. People have also wondered what they can do if they are unable to connect to the internet, and therefore the Steam servers for any reason. Valve also implemented an "Offline" mode, that allows you to play Half-Life® 2 when you are not connected to the internet, assuming that you've initially registered and unlocked the game.

   There are 3 different packages if the game is purchased from Valve directly, and 2 different retail packages (published by Vivendi Games).

The Steam Bronze Package includes:
▪ Half-Life® 2
▪ Counter-Strike™: Source™

The Steam Silver Package includes:
▪ Half-Life® 2
▪ Counter-Strike™: Source™
▪ Half-Life 1: Source
▪ Day of Defeat™: Source
▪ Valve's back catalog available on Steam

The Steam Gold Package includes:
▪ Half-Life® 2
▪ Counter-Strike™: Source™
▪ Half-Life 1: Source
▪ Day of Defeat™: Source
▪ Valve's back catalog available on Steam.
▪ HL2 posters, full strategy guide, soundtrack, hat, collector's box, & postcard

   Vivendi's retail packages come in two versions, the standard retail version, and the Special Edition DVD.


   Counter-Strike™: Source™ is the updated version of the wildly popular mod for the original HalfLife. Since Half-Life 2 has no native multiplayer mode, Counter-Strike™: Source™ was included for those people who want multiplayer. Half-Life 1: Source is the original Half-Life, ported to the new physics engine. There are some visual upgrades to the original game, but overall, it still looks and feels like Half-Life. Day of Defeat™: Source is an upgrade to another mod for Half-Life.


   When you fire up Half-Life® 2, the introduction movie attempts to explain what's happened since the end of the first game, and then drops you into the game. I was immediately impressed with the graphics of Half-Life® 2, as they are highly detailed and sharp. Easily as impressive as Doom 3. The first 10-15 minutes of the game, I was content just to play around with the physics engine by interacting with items in the level. It's really impressive how Valve was able to accurately represent how weight, buoyancy, and gravity work inside the game. The performance of the game engine on my system (Athlon 64 3400+, 1GB RAM, GeForce 6800 GT OC) was very good.



   The levels were well design and varied. I did not grow bored feeling that I had to grind through levels. Although there are highs and lows, the general pace was good and kept me interested. People who have played Half-Life 1 will recognize a lot of what's going on, but the game is also accessible to those who have never played the first game. The weapon selection was good, and ammo management is required to make it through. I would have liked to see a little more ammo capacity for some weapons. The puzzles you come across are well thought out, but not so difficult where as people will be pulling out their hair and screaming at the screen.


   The sounds in the game are very well done. There is music used at times, and it helps ramp up the parts where something important is going to happen. I would have liked to have seen more music used, but there's no real detraction from not having it. Sound effects are done very well. I especially like some of the little touches, such as what you hear when you kill a soldier, or when soldiers group up and give out commands.



   Aside from the Steam requirement, there is very little to dislike about Half-Life® 2. There were some bugs that I encountered that I'm sure will be addressed by Valve, such as draw distance problems where I wouldn't be able to see part of a level that I should be able to see until I'm practically on top of it. There is constant loading and saving. I would have liked to see the levels load either faster, or in-line while you're playing so that there's no wait. The save system I liked, because it didn't require me to quicksave very often, and if I died unexpectedly, there was always a save that was relatively close to where I was. 



Conclusion:

   If you enjoyed Half-Life 1, or FPS's in general, I highly recommend you get Half-Life® 2. This game is an incredible experience that you will not find in any other game on the market right now, and definitely one you should not miss. The world that Valve has dropped you into is immersive, well designed, and makes you feel like you are actually involved in a revolutionary uprising. Based purely on the game itself, I give Half-Life® 2 6 stars out of 6. Depending on the burden of having to have Steam installed, and the internet connection requirement, you may be turned off from the game. However, for most people with a broadband internet connection, this should not be an issue. But after playing this game, I am really looking forward to Half-Life® 3.

 

Rateing 6 out of 6 stars Perfect Score!!!!!

Review Date 11/24/04

Reviewer Zynon (Ludic)

 

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