Published on Dec 29, 2019

Half-Life Background Images

License Info: Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC
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Half-Life is a series of first-person shooter games developed and published by Valve. In most installments, players control Gordon Freeman, a physicist who battles an alien invasion. The games combine shooting combat, puzzles, and storytelling.

Half-Life was a revolution. In a genre dominated by mindless sci-fi blastfests, Valve’s debut title took first-person combat to the (vaguely) real world with the thrilling story of research assistant Gordon Freeman and his rise to alien-shredding earth-saving MIT-educated badass. With a beautifully told storyline, revolutionary tactical combat and astonishing levels of AI and environment interaction, Half-Life secured its place as a classic almost instantaneously.

Half-Life 2, on the other hand, is an evolution. We’ve waited 6 long years for this game, and now that it’s here we find that it delivers nothing new. Don’t be disappointed; HL2 is, rather, the culmination of six years of action gaming growth, delivered with the kind of maturity and panache that we would expect to wait another half-dozen years for. For this, we have only Valve’s design skill and genre savvy to thank.

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Far Cry’s cunning AI and dizzying scope; Max Payne 2’s realistic physics and character-enriching scripting; Halo’s massive squad battles and vehicle action – HL2 takes these influences, and outdoes each and every one of them, creating an utterly-seamless, endlessly-changing experience.

Yet despite all these advances, it’s still Half-Life. It’s still a perfectly-paced always-linear FPS, as thrilling and atmospheric as before. In the beginning, when the game fades in and you find yourself mouselooking once more, even newcomers will find the Half-Life condition immediately clear; you are Gordon Freeman, in body and mind and soul, and absolutely nothing will take you out of this experience. He knows what you know: very little, aside from the fact that it’s another day, and you’re riding another train, pulling into another station. Another passenger remarks that he didn’t see you get on, and you know exactly how he feels.

The train grinds to its halt, and familiar controls work easily as you step into the lazy sunlight filtering into the crumbling station. Smoothly, the world of HL2 begins to slide into focus. You are in a major European city, and, from a massive telescreen, a smiling, Big-Brother-esque man welcomes you to City 17. The Administrator smiles warmly as he explains that his city is a place of wonderful technology, complete safety and boundless prosperity – the evidence suggests that only one of these statements is true. Ubiquitous gasmasked metrocops bully the citizens (grimness evident in their convincing expressions). As you leave the platform, a man is needlessly beaten into a luggage cart (scattering suitcases, which tumble realistically). Blocking your exit, a particularly smug officer knocks a can to the floor with his electric nightstick, before demanding you pick it up and bin it (with the E key). You finally leave the station, and see the skyline; a death-black skyscraper pierces the heavens from the center of the city, wordlessly declaring itself the source of all corruption here. Half-Life 2 is set in a violent dystopia – but it’s one as tactile and malleable as can be.

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