Reviewed on PC

Half Life 2

Reviewed By: Dan Harrison

Computer Platform: PC
Produced by: Valve Software
Price Range: $45-55
Age level: Teen
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

Overall Rating:
Genre: FPS
Christian Rating: 4 of 5
   (slightly offensive)
Gameplay: 5 of 5
Violence: 3 of 5
Adult Content: 4 of 5
   (barely present)

Half Life 2.  Illustration copyrighted.
Where do you begin with a little game called Half-Life. You could say that the original Half-Life won over fifty game of the year awards, but that wouldn't be justified by the fact that three different mods were picked up by Valve themselves. Counter-strike, Team Fortress, and Day of Defeat are hugely popular add-ons to Half-Life. Counter-strike still dominates the online gaming arena and I myself played it for three years straight. At the time of writing there are almost 65,000 servers playing various mods of Half-Life! Over two million unique users play Half-Life each month. There is a total of three and half billion player minutes logged each month in Counter-Strike alone, and another seven hundred million in Counter-Strike: Source!

Half-Life was a marvel of a game when it was released back in 1998. Living up to this tremendous expectation would be something that can only be expressed from the founder of Valve, Gabe Newell, himself, "You can really burn people out on projects like this.sometimes they never come back." Does this game live up to the expectations or does it fall short? Is it better than Doom 3? Read on to find out.

The story takes place in City 17, where an untold amount of time has passed between you and Black Mesa. The Combine control the city and have been forcing the humans into submission. That's where you come in, Gordon Freeman, you are to basically lead the resistance against the Combine. Most of the resistance is made up of a rag tag bunch of humans, but you will find several of your old friends from Black Mesa and some new ones as well. Barney Calhoun the security guard, Dr. Isaac Kleiner, Eli Vance, and his assistant Dr. Mossman (Judith) all return from the original Half-Life. The new characters are Alyx Vance (Eli's daughter), Alyx's robo pet named Dog, and a crazed priest named Father Grigori. The story is every bit what you have been hoping and more. The game isn't too long, about half as long as the first, but continues to keep pace so it never gets dull. The physics engine is used quite extensively and sometimes can be quite obvious to use to solve a puzzle. There are minor hiccups in the game where you have to drag and drop crates across the sand. Which tend to make no sense, but all in all it's superb. I found myself addicted the minute I heard the music. Once again, I knew it was Half-Life time all over again.

The game progresses well and new characters are rarely added. You mainly fight certain types of monsters in certain areas. I would tell you which ones, but that would be giving away too much. The end of the game has a slight twist, but has been played many times before so you might not be surprised. However, the end of the game ends quite differently and you will just have to see it. You will either like or hate the ending, but Half-Life 2 comes off more like the middle of a good book then the end to one.

One minor gripe regarding the story is the frequent loading time that is experienced. It happens every ten minutes and lasts up to twenty seconds. I've heard that adding up to a gigabyte of ram could reduce it by half, but most readers don't even have 512MB let alone 1GB.

Valve has done something awesome with the Half-Life 2 engine, dubbed Source. Take most of what you liked about the Far Cry and Doom 3 engine, put them together, add physics, and just like magic it's Valve's new Source engine. Being able to interact with the world is so much fun you just have to do it over and over again and laugh. You can blast down doors, throw mattresses, blow up propane tanks, break apart wooden boxes, push crates, and many more objects you will have to just see to believe. It's incredible how each object in the game has its own physical properties and sounds. Doom 3 can't touch this game when it comes to interacting with the environment. I remember how incredibly frustrating it was to see a chair in Doom 3 and not be able to beat it apart. See a computer screen, you can read it, but no don't touch. In Half-Life 2 just about everything blows apart, and I'm thrilled to see someone finally do this. It just makes the world all that more believable. No cut scenes with third person views, only makes you believe more that you really are Gordon Freeman. On the sour note character models are not as good as Doom 3, nor can the Source engine do per pixel lighting affects. But come on you got to be excited about what Source does.

Although this shot is in Directx 8.0 mode the water is still very convincing.
Although this shot is in Directx 8.0 mode the water is still very convincing.

One thing to note is if you have an older video card such as the Geforce 4 I'm using you will be pleased to know that the games run great on older machines. Even if you have as low as a Geforce 4 MX series the game will run great. Source is scaled to use either DirectX 9.0, 8.1/8.0 , and 7.0 so you will pleased to know just about anything will run Half-Life 2.

This shot demonstrates just how affective even older cards, such as a Geforce 4 are at Half-Life 2
This shot demonstrates just how affective even older cards, such as a Geforce 4 are at Half-Life 2

The lighting is top notch.  Here you can see the shadows of light coming out of the building
The lighting is top notch. Here you can see the shadows of light coming out of the building

Although scaling is great in the video card department, running a slower processor will give you quite a few hiccups. Anything slower than an AMD 2100+ or Intel P4 and you might be in bad shape. Half-Life is more CPU bound than any game to date. So make sure that you have a some what up to date machine.

Another thing noted about the graphics is the absolute spectacular particle affects.  Shown in the image below you can really see the detail of the explosion and smoke.  Poor Alyx
Another thing noted about the graphics is the absolute spectacular particle affects. Shown in the image below you can really see the detail of the explosion and smoke. Poor Alyx

The sound in Half-Life 2 is top notch from the score of music that helps set up the mood in particular points to sound affects and voices, it all works together beautifully. The voices used in the game are from Robert Culp , Robert Guillaume , and Lou Gossett Jr. A lot of the sounds that could be brought over from Half-Life came into the new game. So if you didn't like the crowbar sound it's back. If you didn't like the underpowered sound of the machine gun it's back. I believe Valve chose this to continue some sort of familiarity with the first game, but I wish they would have changed things up a bit.

So with all this sweat talking about Half-Life 2 where does it fail? Well it fails big time in the multiplayer department. Half-Life 2 has NO multiplayer to speak of. Valve relies solely on Counter-Strike: Source. Which in my opinion is a bugged out beta version of the original. There are a handful of maps to speak of and cheaters are rampant among servers. New hacks such as the one used to spam the server to take it down, or old ones such as skywalking and clipping are all back. It's actually difficult to find a server without one cheater. Valve has really done a poor job of throwing things together in a hap hazard fashion. A year ago Valve introduced VAC and at the time with all the cheating in the original, gamers thought it would be an end to the hacking. Not so as VAC almost did more harm than good. Now all the third party software support couldn't run with VAC. So what does CS:S have? Nothing at all not even VAC is present. There has been a scrambling of third party software to try and get rid of at least some of the cheats, but nothing can get rid of them all.

I read numerous forums that continually stipulate the utter frustration with Valve that server admins have. Not only does Valve not fix the problems, but they almost seem to promote it by not even including VAC into CS:S. It's a sad state of affairs.

Good news though if you were looking for deathmatch and you were disappointed it wasn't in the game, there is two different groups working on one. Hopefully that should be out by the beginning of next year, but who knows. As well as Day of Defeat: Source, which is also coming soon. So not all is lost, but it sure has started rockier than what we would have liked.

So with all this information put together does it have a Christian value? Half-Life 2 is very violent in nature as you could say all first person shooters are. Where Half-Life 2 takes a different street, is that it's not demonic like Doom 3. Half-Life 2 is a very enjoyable game, has very minor swearing, and no spiritual demonic affect. So should you be concerned if your child plays? I would argue that violent games have a very minor affect on children that are well mannered and responsible. To know when a game is becoming too much apart of their lives and affecting them, is something a responsible kid will see. So what age group should play this game? The ESRB gave it a M for mature rating which is 17+.

Half-Life is still an awesome game even if it has a few drawbacks. The multiplayer will come around once the full SDK tools come at and modders are able to finally ensure a long life to Half-Life 2.

Year of Release—2004

Positive—This game stands out in my memory as one of the best I have ever played. The fact that nearly everything can be picked up and moved is amazing. In relation to the lack of multiplayer and having to rely on CS:Source, Halflife 2 does have its own multiplayer program called, Half-Life 2: Deathmatch. My Ratings: [4 / 5]
   —Josh, age 14

Positive—This is a game that will go down in history. The gameplay is some of the most fun I've had with a game, plus it varies in type, from shooting aliens to throwing objects at zombies. Graphics are beyond anything I've seen. The Doom 3 engine was cool, but it was so dark you couldn't see it. This game brings it outside and brightens it up, and creates a very believeable world. I am still blown away that I can max out all graphics with AA and everything with my geforce 6600 GT agp. It still looks better than games that eat my system alive such as quake 4 and battlefield 2. Since the release Source has been improved, and I have no problems with it. Overall a great game. My Ratings: [4 / 5]
   —Garrett Fangmeyer, age 16

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Christian Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Films for Christ or the Christian Answers Network.

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