Half-Life 2 Review

Most weapons have made it into Half-Life 2 from the first game including the crowbar, shotgun, and machine gun. New to Half-Life 2 is the gravity gun, something that puts the gameís physics engine to good use. It can be used to move objects, hurl things at the enemy, and figures into some of the gameís puzzles as well. Youíll also get to wield a pulse rifle and a pheropod, which is something that allows you to summon alien beasts to fight for you. Speaking of doing some fighting for you, there will be occasions in the game in which you will be fighting against the Combine alongside human allies. These sequences are exciting as they broaden the scope of the conflict beyond a one man crusade to wipe out the Combine. The AI is competent enough, although your comrades can be quite annoying in cramped quarters as they seem to have a little trouble getting out of your way.

The infamous Combine.

Vehicles also come into play in the game, and youíll spend some time behind the wheel of an airboat and a speed buggy. The vehicle sequences can be a lot of fun as the battles are high-speed and intense. Control is pretty easy and responsive so youíll be able to concentrate on your enemies and your route more than on steering the vehicle.

Playing Half-Life 2 is a great experience, but it is not a perfect one. The first problem comes with the installation of the game. The installation is very time consuming and will fail about three quarters of the way through if you elect not to install Counter Strike. Once it is installed, a new background application is launch that will go out on the internet to enable your copy of the game. Once this is completed, the game goes through a second installation phase which takes a nice chunk of time to complete. Donít expect to be playing the game any time soon after you get it home. Also, you canít do any of this without an internet connection, so those of you who like to keep a gaming machine free of all the trappings of internet use such as firewalls and virus checkers are out of luck. Yes, I know of someone who returned the game because he could not run it on his gaming computer without hooking it up to the internet. The background process that installed itself with the game will load every time you boot your computer and periodically check for patches or pop-up messages from the gameís developer. I can understand developersí desire to prevent illegal copying of their games, but this is ridiculous. Iíve never seen so intrusive a protection scheme that seems to punish legitimate users more than it discourages pirates.

The game uses a checkpoint save system that saves your game at regular intervals and serves to load the next level on the fly. This system works pretty well in the saves department, but the on-the-fly loading could use some work. Load times can be quite long and it seems to vary by system and is not a factor of system speed. Some computers also experience audio stutter with the game. Hopefully these issues will be corrected in an upcoming patch, because they really detract from what is otherwise an amazingly immersive gaming experience.

Half-Life 2ís multiplayer component comes in the form of Counter Strike. While this is a godsend to Counter Strike fans, it is disappointing to those of us who would have liked to play multiplayer games in Half-Life 2ís universe. Counter Strike also suffers a bit from the fact that it has a real hardcode following. Gamers new to Counter Strike will be quickly frustrated when trying to compete with players that know the ins and outs of the game and are familiar with every square inch of the maps. However, this is not to knock the game itself, which is an excellent team-based shooter pitting terrorists against counterterrorist forces.

Half-Life 2 is as much an experience as it is an excellent first-person shooter. It is certainly a worthy sequel to Half-Life, and its innovations, atmosphere, and exciting gameplay make it one of the best games of the year Ö and it will probably remain one of the best first-person shooters available for quite some time.

In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 94%. If you want to lose yourself completely in a game or need a reminder of why you enjoy gaming so much, Half-Life 2 is exactly what you need.

System Requirements:  Pentium 1.6 GHz; 256 MB RAM;  128 MB Video RAM; 4.5 GB Hard Drive Space;  Mouse.


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