Friday, October 5, 2012

Half-Life, Blue Shift, and Opposing Force

I grabbed the Half-Life Complete Pack during the Steam summer sale and decided I'd play Half-Life and the two side stories, Blue Shift and Opposing Force.  This post is in effect three reviews in one.


I could have played Half-Life: Source, but the Source engine carries a hefty hard drive footprint, and the original has a much smaller install size.  So I played the original instead.

This is where it all begins.  This is the Black Mesa incident referenced by the sequel.  Basically, Gordon Freeman and his team of scientists accidentally open a portal to another dimension and all kinds of weird aliens are now able to enter our world.  It's up to Gordon to kill them all, as well as the military who have decided to eradicate both the aliens and everyone who works at Black Mesa.

Overarching gameplay consists of working your way from the surface to a point deep within the Black Mesa facility, experiencing an event or fighting a large battle, then working your way back to the surface and repeating.  Once you've done that enough, you get to go through the portal to Xen, where the aliens came from, and this is where the end of the game takes place.

The final boss is a bit counter-intuitive to what you've been taught as you progress through the game.  Any other time there's something big, you either avoid it or there's an environmental method of taking it out.  But here, you just fill it with bullets after taking out the crystals on the walls that give it firepower.

Blue Shift

This is a side story that follows a security officer through the events of the Black Mesa incident.  You mostly run around rescuing scientists and occasionally receiving assistance from other security officers.

Overarching gameplay is more of the same, go down, go up, repeat.

However, here you're suffering from two constant crises: ammo and health.  I never had quite enough of either to feel secure.

Opposing Force

In this side story, you're a soldier in the military, sent to Black Mesa to kill everything that moves.  Except you seem to be less of a heartless asshole than all the soldiers that Gordon and our security officer encountered, so you actually end up helping a fair number of them.

The "go deep within Black Mesa, go back to the surface, repeat" thing is in full force here as well.

Just like with Blue Shift, you're suffering from the same two constant crises.  At one point I started to actually feel good about ammo, but then I had to use a bunch of it.

High point: getting a barnacle to use as a weapon and grappling hook.

Common Points
  • Graphics are notably dated, but not bad.
  • Everything feels slippery because you don't stop when you release movement buttons like in a normal FPS.
  • Switching weapons is incredibly awkward because you have to click to select the weapon.  In a normal FPS, you scroll to it with your scroll wheel or press the number key and that's it, you're changed over.
  • Some jumps are irritating because they're ever so slightly taller than your regular jump, so you have to do a weird crouch-jump thing to jump up onto a crate and get where you need to go.
  • Can't jump while running downhill, either that or it's very difficult and incredibly timing-dependent.
Specific points relating to Blue Shift and Opposing Force
  • These side stories were developed by Gearbox, not Valve.  Which probably explains why they feel kind of weird, and don't seem to have the same production values.
  • At least with Valve games, if there's a big enemy there's going to be a reasonably large open area to fight it in.  None of this "close quarters combat with an enemy that can take you from full health to dead in two or three hits" crap.
  • You often see scenes, hear audio, or visit locations from the main game.  That's how they tried to tie it in and drive home the fact that Blue Shift and Opposing Force take place simultaneously with respect to each other and Half-Life.

Half-Life is worth playing.  Blue Shift and Opposing Force, not so much.

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