|Half Life 2|
Publisher: Vivendi Universal
Release Date: Out Now
Game of the year…. Not an easy award to get but Half-Life managed to get it from 50 publications around the world. Naturally there was bound to be a sequel, and naturally it’s one of the most anticipated games ever (seems to be a trend this autumn). So it’s finally here after years of waiting. And it was definitely worth the wait.
You once again play the role of scientist of few words, Gordon Freeman, who awakens on a train inbound to the mysterious European city known only as City 17; a city under the control of a group called the 'Combine' who run the city like a prison. Gordon soon finds himself joining the resistance... and that's where I will stop as I really think that each person should have the right to enjoy every morsel of the game by themselves – suffice to say that it’s a great story. Like Half-Life, the story is told entirely by the events around you as you play, with no cut scenes stopping the gameplay - it’s a simple thing to do but immerses you into the world so much better.
I say that you should ‘feel’ what happens in the game, because it's not just what happens in the game, it's the way it happens – people in the game really emote – the acting is excellent and backed up by the groundbreaking facial expression system – groundbreaking not just in games, but for computer software in general – happiness, sadness, panic, fear are all shown by characters in HL2 like no piece of consumer software has ever done before. Whereas Gordon was an accidental hero in Half-Life, the others around him see him more as a talisman – a 'real life' action hero that represents their greatest hope for freedom. Many characters are resurrected in some form from Half-Life - you’ll bump into to scientists you knew from Black Mesa, another surprising person and the notorious suited G-Man. There are also some new faces - one of them being Alyx, the daughter of one of the scientists.
Vehicles also make an appearance in the form of an Air Boat and a Dirt Buggy (NB: Some people have complained of motion sickness while using these vehicles, I wasn’t affected though).
A quick note on the technical side of things. Half-Life 2 has had a few problems here and there – a lot of people have experienced the game 'stuttering' regularly - a bizarre problem that doesn't seem to be related to the spec of the user's PC. Others have had trouble with Valve's distribution/anti-piracy system, 'Steam'. Steam is installed with the game, and the game is from then on run from Steam. You have to 'activate' the game online first of all, and log into Steam at least once before you can play HL2. If you don't have an internet connection on your PC that you can activate HL2 from, then you will not be able to play HL2. Steam does download any patches/fixes automatically for you, not to mention giving you access to a whole load of other Half-Life/Half-Life 2 'mods', so it's not all bad, but quite a lot of people have had problems with it.
Graphically the game is right at the top of the class, there have been some good looking shooters this year with the likes of Doom 3 and Far Cry, but HL2 beats them both hands down. Using Valve’s own Source engine the world is brought to life with amazing effects, which add so much believability to City 17. Astonishing looking smoke, sparks, explosions and the most realistic water yet seen. The engine also utilises all the latest Direct X 9 shaders, allowing for bumpy shiny surfaces that look incredible. Valve have done a lot of work to make sure the game runs on a range of system specs. The system I used was AMD 2500xp, 756mb Ram and a Radeon 128mb 9800 Pro, the game ran excellently with all graphical settings on high.
Overall… well… it’s my game of the year for sure. You can really tell the development time was so worth it, everything just oozes quality. And as soon as I finished it, I fired up a new game…
- The looks, the sounds, the quality.
- It’s ruined a lot of future FPS by being so good.