this week i finally finished the long game i’ve been playing, which is half-life, widely regarded as a landmark FPS (see this write-up at 1up.com for a sample of the effusions). i’ve been slowly working my way through the history of FPSes, and this game was definitely a step up from goldeneye, which i strongly disliked. (incidentally, i played the original PC version although the game is readily available on steam.)
overall there was a fair amount i enjoyed about half-life. i appreciated the lack of cutscenes, although it astounds me that the protagonist, gordon freeman, would rank so high in video game character popularity polls because he doesn’t have any personality beyond what the player gives him and what he accomplishes in the game. the downside to this, though, was that near the beginning i missed crucial information because the game doesn’t prevent you from wandering away when someone (usually a scientist) is talking, and i didn’t realize that this was one of the main mechanics used to point the player in the right direction. once i got over the hump of adjusting to the game’s setup and pacing i generally enjoyed its mix of exploration and shooting, although the platforming remained a very low point throughout (tip: if you’re not able to make a jump over a box or something that looks like it should be possible, do a crouch jump even if it looks like you wouldn’t need to). some parts are incredibly tedious and frustrating, but perhaps this is more understandable given that on a PC you have the ability to save at any time (which makes me wonder how the sole console version, on PS2, fares). at times i was also hampered by glitches that forced me to re-load a save due to being stuck in walls or on elevators. the progression of areas, objectives, and weapon upgrades is also fairly well done and i also appreciated the inclusion of a powerful female enemy, although i was left with a similar feeling as when i played resident evil 4 that the game had an admirable number of situations and locales, but that as a whole it would’ve benefited from more-judicious editing.
anyway, i’m glad i was finally able to cross this one off my list. a game that i admired more than enjoyed, so not one of my favorites, but it’ll be interesting to see how the series developed.
prolonged half-life links:
– the game was part of racketboy’s retro game club. check out the forum thread for candid reactions to the game.
– great walkthrough at strategywiki.org
– video of speed run in 29:41