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2009/11/19

Apocalypse Then: Half-Life


11 Years of Half-Life

Well, recently I covered Half-Life 2’s five year anniversary. Today is its older prequel’s 11th anniversary. I would have covered it last year, but I only started the blog this year.

Half-Life, a sci-fi FPS title, was developed by Valve Corporation, published by Sierra, and distributed by Electronic Arts for retail and Steam online. The game initially had trouble finding a publisher seeing as people claimed it was too ambitious. Originally for PC, it was later released on PS2 along with Half-Life: Decay, a PS2 exclusive addon, until recently when a team ported the addon to the PC. An unofficial Dreamcast port was leaked onto the internet, and there was also a Macintosh port too.

Released on the 19th of November 1998, it was Valve’s first game, in development since 1996 when Valve was founded by Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington. The game has since been praised several million times as revolutionizing the FPS genre in areas such as AI, gameplay involving puzzles, and story, written by Marc Laidlaw. The game was hugely influenced by Doom in story and otherwise. It’s naturally won many “Game of the Year” awards, and scored high in reviews, to say the least.

It involved the player taking the role of Gordon Freeman, a man in his late twenties, graduate from University of Innsbruck and MIT, and scientist involved in Theoretical Physics at the Black Mesa laboratory, an abandoned missile base out in the desert, in New Mexico, USA. Gordon gets involved in a teleportation experiment in the anomalous materials department, and “things go awry”, and creatures from another dimension start pouring out in to the base. Gordon’s main aim initially is to fight his way to the surface, and after that make his way to the Lambda Complex whilst fighting the aliens and zombies all the way, as well as marines and black-ops assassins whose main goal is to kill everyone, even the marines. You get to team up with security guards and other scientists who will help you along the way, and not to mention you are aided by your HEV suit which provides protection as well as access to your HUD, and a boost while jumping.

Many people think that the game used the Quake II engine, when in actual fact it was mainly a heavily modified Quake engine, with some elements from Quake II, called GoldSrc. The game also had no cutscenes and employed scripted sequences, unlike most FPSs of that time. It came with a level editor, WorldCraft, which was notoriously hard to use. Unlike most games, especially of the build era of the mid-late nineties, Gordon didn’t speak at all.

The game received two expansion packs for the PC and one for the PS2, namely Opposing Force, Blue Shift (originally meant o be packaged with the Dreamcast port), and Decay for the PS2. And the sequel, Half-Life 2, which I covered the other day, came along a few years later, taking about double the amount of time to develop, and has been followed by the episodes which chronicle what happens after the fall of City 17.

Half-Life has also spawned many mods over the years, some of which have since been ported to or recreated in HL2's Source Engine. Valve is also very pro-modding, and Gabe Newell claims that half of Valve is made up of former modders.

Interesting things and my experiences with the game:

• Memorable moments while playing the game many times over the years include the tram ride at the beginning through sections of the base, the Surface Tension level with the marines, and the ending with the G-man in the tram. A few of the earlier levels weren't really to my liking, and neither were some of the later levels either. Some of the best parts were in-between.

• Best weapon in the game, besides the crowbar- probably the MP5 (later M4A1 with the HDP), which could shoot grenades from the attached launcher, and probably the crossbow as well, which could kill most of the low to mid enemies with one shot.

• Favourite enemies were the marines, in all their different forms.

• The entire series contains double meanings when it comes to titles, such as Half-Life, Decay, Opposing Force, and Blue Shift.

• The lambda symbol almost looks like a crude drawing of an arm holding a crowbar. This I never really knew or thought about before.

• The scientist models that were pretty common (only about 4 all in all), came back in Half-Life 2 as Isaac Kleiner and Eli Vance. The other 2 still need to be made into characters in HL2 as far as I know.

• The one variation of the security guard came back as Barney Calhoun in HL2.
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