Blog: So, I just started playing Half Life 1…
Wait, so it’s not a cover-based tactical shooter?
When Half Life was first released, I didn’t give it much thought. Even though all my gamer friends were raving about it, I wasn’t much invested in first person shooters, and having played Wolfenstein, Doom and Duke Nukem, I didn’t see how this game would bring anything new. Of course, gaming websites and online gaming communities weren’t as well known throughout the internet as they are now, and so I had no one to tell me how the game was considered the BESTEST GAME EVER.
A few years later, Half life 2 was released, and although it really intrigued me, I didn’t play it since I hadn’t played the original, and so I would’ve been lost plot-wise. To my chagrin, the game soon became labeled as BESTER THAN THE BESTEST GAME EVER. Now gamers would sooner wish for Half Life 3 than world peace, and I am constantly reminded of how uncool I am for missing out on one of the greatest pc gaming experiences.
But as they say, better late than uncool, and I decided to buy both Half Life and Half Life 2 and catch up on series I have missed on. Thus I have started playing the first Half Life, and here be my thoughts:
It is strange playing Half Life in this day and age; for a game that was touted as being revolutionary, it is hard to see what exactly was revolutionary in it, given that it has been copied and emulated endlessly since its release. Same goes for its flaw. It is difficult to tell which of the games flaws are expected given the limitations of game development during its time, and which flaws are inexcusable. However, the most noticeable element in the game that points to its age is the graphics. Half Life was made in a time in the distant past where game graphics looked like they were made out of cardboard boxes. For a game that is hailed for its immersive qualities, outdated graphics can really hinder the enjoyment. Story-wise, the limitations are also obvious. Most NPCs in the game have around 15 lines between them, and being around 5 hours in to the game, my understanding of the plot is limited to “Aliens! Kill Kill Kill!” and “Government cover up! Kill Kill Kill!”.
Yet, the game is strangely compelling. It is a great example of how level design can make or break a game. The game’s level design is fun, varied and interesting. Exploring new areas in the game is always fun, and the feeling of glee you get upon discovering a crate full of ammo goodies or a room full of baddies to be taken down never diminishes. Puzzle solving is rarely tedious, and while most missions constitute of “press the switch to disable the laser to go into the hall to pull the lever to open the gate to go into the control room to launch the rocket”, the aforementioned level design makes it all feel fresh rather than mundane.
Strangely enough, playing the game can get quite immersive. The ambient sounds do an excellent job in preserving a certain atmosphere, and it is easy to forget that the graphics look dated after a few minutes of playtime, that is until a new monster shows up for the first time, reminding you that the graphics are indeed made of cardboard boxes. And while the story isn’t much expanded upon (yet), the game still provides little bits and pieces about the story to keep the player invested.
Suffice it to say, the game holds up quite well. It is difficult to still be amazed by it, especially after games like BioShock and Half Life 2 updated what the game has accomplished. Yet the game still provides a healthy dose of fun and excitement, and hopefully in the future, can be used to teach kids about the joys of run and gun gameplay and linear level design. (Seriously, why does everything have to be open sandbox? With great freedom comes great tediousness).
By the way, Gordon Freeman runs really really fast.