Economy of Effort

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Half Life: Completed



Finished the original Half-Life again. I was interested to see how it would stand up, 9 years after the first (and last) time I played the game.

The Good: Wonderful pacing through most of the game. Action sequences were broken up with some nice environmental puzzles. Many sections had good freedom of movement, allowing the player some flexibility as to how they approached an area, rather than funneling them down a tight and unforgiving path. The array of weapons was a highlight, I had forgotten about the Hive Hand (pictured right), which slowly but continuously replenished its own ammunition. The High Definition Pack replaced the MP5 submachine gun with an M4 carbine model, which was kind of interesting (though the weapon retained the same behavior, and felt more like an SMG than a carbine rifle). The AI, while not holding up well overall, still displayed some great characteristics. I particularly like that the soldiers had the chutzpah to throw grenades at the player (often completely blindly, and even into vents and crawlspaces).

The Bad: Some anachronisms, such as the spawning enemies, really stuck out like sore thumbs. The much-touted AI, while still great grenade lobbers, is pretty shaky compared to today’s games. Enemies got stuck trying to run through objects on more than one occasion. I found it somewhat annoying that the enemy soldiers could soak up an inhuman amount of damage before dying. Having to unload on aliens or even armored humans is one thing, but repeated headshots not taking a human enemy down just strikes a wrong chord. Xen, the alien homeworld, was just as poor as remembered, particularly the jumping on floating platforms “puzzles”.

Perhaps the biggest praise I can offer is that the game, on the whole, didn’t feel 9 years old. Games like Jedi Knight and Hexen II are only a year older, but feel ancient in comparison. Half-Life is clearly a model that shooters have followed over the past 9 years, and as a result, the original doesn’t feel quite as removed from today’s games as its age might indicate.