Recently, I was browsing Half-Life Library and on the frontpage I noticed a link to somebody called Kevin Bowen. I have to admit I had never heard of him, but I was curious. I read a little about him and followed the link to his Top Ten Reasons Half-Life is Still #1.
Having quite enjoyed the piece I felt it was time for me to write something similar. So, here are my 10 reasons why I love the Half-Life series of games.
Reason 1: Gordon Freeman, the guy we can all relate to.
Don’t get me wrong, Gordon IS a super hero but not in the traditional sense.
I was watching the trailer for Crysis 2 yesterday and thought how cliched it was. The Hero, I don’t even know his name, is standing there and it’s clear that the concept behind him is this kick ass, military guy. Gordon is a scientist for goodness sake, thrust into the hero role, not by choice but by circumstance. That profile fits at least 95% of all gamers. We are “wanna bes”; Joe public with goofy glasses.
During the game we use planning and intelligence, not just brute force. Sure, some of the weapons we have are very powerful but we only get them when we need them and that’s important. There’s very little overkill in the games or the characters.
Gordon kinda reminds me of Clark Kent. The unassuming type, until the need arises. His modesty is important. No Duke Nukem or James Bond style quotes or quips.
Coupled with the fact that Gordon, although inadvertently, started the whole thing off, makes Gordon the playing character perfect. We threw the excrement that collided with the air modulation unit (“shit hits the fan“) and we have to clean it up.
Reason 2: We lost the 7 Hour War
Yes, we did. Humans suck against alien invaders. Face it and get over it. It’s hard for me to believe that aliens would travel all the way here and pick a fight with us if they didn’t think they could win easily (yes, there are probably lots of scenarios where that might not be the case but forget those). I find situations where humans fight against aliens and win unbelievable. If we don’t get our backsides kicked, it doesn’t seem real to me.
We lost and now we have become their bitches. There are a few underground resistance fighters left to uphold our moral ground, and that seems just about right in the circumstances.
The fact we are only just surviving makes our small victories even more sweet. We have a long way to go before we finally win. Don’t forget that the time between HL1 and HL2 is quite a few years, so humans have been fighting for a while.
Being part of the resistance is one aspect of what makes the story interesting. Not every civilian is against the Universal Union, so we have levels of co-operation and resistance. Actually, I would have liked to see a few citizens work against Freeman, simply because I feel that would be realistic.
Reason 3: The Gman
Is he good or evil? Does he really want to help Earth but is doing it in a way that is hard for us to see? What’s the significance of the briefcase? Those and many other questions have yet to be answered. This keeps us wanting more and I doubt we will ever learn the complete truth about him.
From a gaming point of view he could almost be considered a Deus ex machina. He can get Gordon out of situations that would be impossible otherwise (End of HL2?). Not only that but he provides an interesting twist by occasionally being helpful and sometimes not. Those sightings have become a minor but fun aspect of all the games.
He also seems to be more important as each game or episode is released. Will Episode 3 reveal even more details? Will his role be finally explained. Does he only have one suit?
Reason 4: The Enemies
What I love about the enemies that Valve throw at us is the depth of thought behind them. Actually, what I love is the idea of the headcrab. I’ve discussed it before but I love how they took the basic headcrab and zombie and evolved them into varying forms.
Not only the Xen ones but the Combine enemies are pretty damn cool too. The white padded uniform of the Elite Guards is a touch of genius. It’s basically saying “I am so bad ass I don’t need to hide. In fact I WANT you to see me coming!”.
Sure, every game has enemies, it would be pretty boring without them, but the HL enemies have enough variety to keep me interested, with the challenge being different for each one. In so many games I’ve played the enemies seem too “samey” and repetitive.
Reason 5: The HEV.
The HEV is often forgotten as we rarely see it due to the fact we are wearing it. It can zoom the vision (although don’t ask how, since there’s no helmet), it has a built-in flashlight, it protects from hazardous material, can inject morphine, is silver and orange (okay, not really important but it looks cool and geeky at the same time. None of that braided carbon stuff.), it talks to you. In short it’s the mother we wished we had.
Whilst I love it, I am surprised that nobody has made a mod with some new features. It seems ripe for adding a rocket pack or built in defensive weapons. Come Kliener, surely you could have come up with some Q-style gadgets by now.
That said, we wouldn’t want too much else we lose the feel that it’s the man not the suit that is the hero. The suit allows us, the player, to be non-military yet still have some cool abilities. It’s an under-rated piece of gaming genius.
Reason 6: Alyx.
WOW, a love interest, who would have thunk it? (English learners please note: the past particple of think is thought but thunk is used when attempting to sound funny)
Personally, I don’t like her but she allows Valve to make the time difference between his last apperance in Half-Life 1 and his first Appearance in Half-Life 2 more personal. She is also a wonderful story-telling device and a little eye candy at the same time.
Not only does she save Gordon’s ass right at the beginning (re-enforcing the idea that he is just a normal guy) but she is also pretty handy with a pistol too. In fact, she is a gentle introduction to the idea of squads.
Why the hell haven’t we had mods with her as the playing character I’ll never know.
Reason 7: The Locations.
Black Mesa was a complete dream for me; secret bases with industrial and science settings float my boat, there´s no doubt about that.
Walking out of the station into City 17´s main square was a joy and I kinda wish that Valve had not released any sort of screenshot or media for this. That way the shock and WOW factor would have been increased.
The beach areas of Half-Life 2 were gorgeous and also had great gameplay. The Citadel also brought back a feeling of grandeur that some of the sections of Black Mesa had. Large architecture also brings me joy, especially in gaming. Episode 2 was a delight with is forest and mountain region feel.
The locations change constantly and this keeps it interesting and fresh.
Reason 8: The Gravity Gun
Has a weapon ever inspired such surprise as this? In fact, has a weapon ever inspired a whole mod? A mod that is perhaps the best mod ever made?
It´s so versatile; you can open ventilations shaft covers, carry large and heavy objects and then not see where you are going, fling buckets of paint hundreds of feet into the air, skim doors across the sea, in fact almost anything you can imagine. Oh, did I mention you can kill enemies with it?
The Crossbow is fun for a while, the shotgun keeps you amused for melee zombiefests and the alt fire of the AR2 allows you to play breakout with Combine Soldiers, nothing and I repeat nothing, keeps you amused for hours like the Gravity Gun.
Hell, pretty much all the weapons in Half-Life are available but the GG won´t been around for a few decades at least. Honestly, put your hand on your heart and say you wouldn´t wet yourself if on your birthday you opened a present and found this puppy in the box.
In fact, I reckon that William from Podcast17 would wet himself if it was just a replica. Actually, so would I.
Reason 9: Portal.
How can I use another game as a reason to love Half-Life? Well, easily, really. Playing Portal reminded me of all those little details I love so much about HL. The posters, the graffiti, the non-nonsensical melons, the gnome from Amelie, the list goes on. Some of those details were in Portal and connected both games.
Portal 2 will take it to a new level and as long as it’s SP I will be the happiest man in my trousers.
Reason 10: The Maps and Mods
Last but definitely not least, the maps and mods! There´s little doubt I would adore the Half-Life games without the community maps and mods, but I wouldn’t run away with them to get married. They would be more like an illicit affair while I played on Na Pali or other Unreal planet.
Community made maps have changed my life. They changed a hobby; playing games, into a passion; running this site.
Some mods just remind me that some people are so creative and I aspire to have half their abilities. Some maps make me more excited than Christmas morning and other mods frustrate me more than I thought possible. But I love them all, even the crappy ones because they are all part of our community!
Well, there you have them. 10 Reasons why I love the Half-Life series of games.
I can´t imagine myself ever being so taken by a computer game. When the series dies then I will go from being a serious gamer to a casual gamer. I know many will have trouble understanding that viewpoint, but I can’t see myself doing what I do for any other game. If I ever learn to map I will probably be one of the few mappers still making mods for Ep3 in 10 years time.
I would love to hear whether you agree with my points or if you have other reasons of your own for loving Half-Life. Please be sure to post a comment.
Good post and I agree with all of those, but I would add some points.
The story is simply so awesome. Best story I have seen on any game.
Everything just works. Movement, weapons, etc.
This is part of the movement and maps and mods. But without good engine, half-life would never be half-life.
And I really recommend to try mapping 🙂 It is bit hard at first, but I believe that you would learn mapping easily because you have played so many maps/mods. Atleast you know how to make a GOOD map 😀
Absolutley agree with you: here are my 10 reasons:
1)story apocaliptic mankind stage.
2) gordon the rebel, gordon the man,
3)a whole universe of mods to play and still to be created.
4) Pulzes even if they broke your head theay are simply a delight to solve.
5) special vehicles to ride
6)Mistery halo on all the game, and its conetions
7)Weapons unique, also I love mods with new weapons
8)Other games perish, HL, will be a clasic forever
9) alien creatures are just vital to the story
10)aperture sience vital conetion to the plot
Ultimately everything boils down to accessibility.
Pretty much ANY PC can be used to play. Half Life could probably run on today’s netbooks without problems. Its going on 12 years old now and STILL runs all but flawlessly on today’s computers. My laptop is running up on 3 years old now but it’s still powerful enough to run Portal and TF2 smoothly (though it requires the lowest settings to get through the more intense scenes without noticable framerate loss)
Pretty much ANY control setup can be used. Mouse + Keyboard, Gamepad, even my personal use of Mouse + Gamepad.
Pretty much ANYBODY can create mods for the game. If you have enough sense to be able to play the game in the first place then you’re probably smart enough to learn how to get a mod up and running, even if it is only basic.
Things are kept simple so that ANYBODY can understand where to go and what to do. I never get confused as to what I’m supposed to be shooting at, and I rarely ever get lost.
It has a variety of elements that allow ANYBODY to enjoy playing. It has combat for the challenge junkies, it has puzzles for the intellectuals, just enough places that allow cheaters(legit ones) to feel like they’ve beat the system, vehicles for the racehogs, some stealth aspects for the MGS and Theif fans, and plenty of other ways that the game can be played.
If you’ve seen some of the new info on Portal 2, you find out it takes place hundreds of years after the events of Half-life 2. From some of the screens I’ve seen, it looks like Freeman might not have saved the world after all.
But this is all just speculation but I think it would be interesting to find out that humanity ultimately lost the war.
Bah, I meant to say
This is all just speculation, but I think it would be interesting to find out that humanity ultimately lost the war.
Wish we could edit comments.
Interesting this post. I like Half-Life so much maybe for thar reason it is find to say why.
I want only to write this: from the first minutes when I was playing Half-Life I was having a strong deja vu feeling. I am crazy also after all adons becouse when I play them I fell like half-life it never ends…
The things inside the game that I like very very much:
– The incredible story.
– The locations and the graphic very good realized.
– the Feeling of Exploration and I think this balance between fight and exploration attracts me also very much.
– The HEV
Another thing that it interesting: I was talking about the game with other people that not like half-life becouse they told me you can use HEV or find health and scout on the floor or you can recharge by using devices on the wall. But for me I am not bother by this things even I also like very much realistic games….. why?
Half – Life Series all of them and adons for me are the best maked games in the world and I think will remain like this always. Thats why I play even now also adons for half-life 1!! And I anjoy them!
Nice topic this. Long Life Planetphilip!!
It takes place in a world gone mad. and it has (the real world). So do the mods and maps. There are places in the world that look like this.. I’ve seen them. Like Chechnya and other places wars have taken place.. That makes it real enough.. I’ve have seen some of these shelled out places in person..Modders from these areas have it pretty close to the bone on locations though none of them are named.
Very good reasons. I agree. Ah, yet I hope it goes on longer then just Episode 3…
“None of that braided carbon stuff”
Actually, you can see that in some of the black parts in the forearms. It’s a bit faded looking.
“Personally, I don’t like her”
You don’t like Alyx? I mean, I’m not exactly in love with her, but she’s better than just being alone constantly. I’d prefer if they mixed it up with a few more characters in the episodes, but she’s still a nice character.
Alex rocks! A few more interactive female characters would be nice though
You want scantily clad females check out “Pieces like us”..I thought it was kinda dumb as far as game play goes.. A tyrannosaurus in the middle of things?! give me a break..lol
Philip and k00pa have this covered very well.
For me. it’s all those reasons with Phillip’s No. 10 being the Koh-i-Noor topping the pile of diamonds.
Community. The modding community and the playing community created by the modders is what lifts HL above the rest.
Thanks for the plug Phillip, I am glad somebody finds a use for my site from time to time 🙂
You are most welcome. Whatever happened to that idea you had for renaming the site, that I replied to ages ago.
I’m not convinced about the name change, in that, Valve doesn’t really describe anything anymore clearer than Half-Life for me, considering most of the content is not Valve’s, but from the user community; albeit, on a “Valve” platform, but only sometimes then. It’s a hard decision as I like the respect “Half-Life” commands over “Valve”. I might need to think about a third option, maybe something more metaphorical or incidental to the site’s focus.
Of course it’s your site but considering that it covers more than Half’life stuff, it seems limiting to me. Potential visitors may not visit if they are looking for TF2 or L4D stuff. You can have ValveCommunity.com if you want. I think that name covers everything you do. You cover community created through Valve’s games.
I feel the same about halflife2.net. They cover everything now.
Nice stuff. I was planning to do something similar before the release of Half-Life 2, but I wasn’t familiar with Wiki at the time, and got lost. I see there’s a page for Fragmaster. There’s even a page for dead mods.
I agree with the 10 reasons, the story is what sets it apart and will hopefully keep it going for many years to come. It makes you feel “part” of whats happening and why, not just shoot em up kill kill kill. I totally agree that this HL community is a great one to be fortunate enough to be part of, I applaud ALL the Authors for putting in their time effort and ability in making maps/mods for me to play and enjoy. Thanks also to all who post good,bad or indifferent, I for one appreciate everyones 2 cents. Thanks to our fine Host for giving this community a one stop shop for all that is Half-Life.
Opps sorry lol P.S. I like alyx, I think she adds alot to the story, I miss her lol lol 🙁
1. The great history.
2. Gordon is a simple scientist, no a super soldier.
3. The G-man.
4. The crowbar.
5. The HEV suit.
6. The military operation in Black Mesa.
7. We loose the Seven Hour War.
8. The Gravity Gun.
9. The Uprising against the Combine.
You forgot the psycannon LOVE that device. It’s from a mod. But it’s great fun.You can toss train cars and engines with it.
Well Half Life 1, from the Sierra days (man oh man did they ever suck!..lol) started it all for me. I didn’t care much for video games, but the HL series changed all that.. I was hooked and it just gets better with all the mods and maps available now. If you are looking for a place to find, find out about, check out feedback and recommendations. YOU are in the right place. The support here is top of the line and you can get all the help you could ever want on PlanetPhilip. This site is the best I have found in 10 years of gaming.
At some point in some mod to come..You should be able to splatter that G-man..I just want to riddle him like Swiss cheese with the machine gun..lol
Reason 3: The Gman: I think he represent the thing we all hate in government. Love my country, I’m very disapointed in recent events in the real world.. HEY could we put some dinkwad presidents face on him?….lol.. There are so many idiots that have screwed things up here.. the choices are endless..lol
In one of these mods/maps.. Alex and Freeman should get jiggy..lol.. at least once.. Hmmm baby Freemans..lol growing in this world gone mad up and joining the resistance..
Alex and Freeman should get jiggy: in real world situations, difficult time make for strange bedfellows and lovers.. Like in “Beyond Borders” a movie about a relief worker in war torn countries.. The two main characters fall in love..to the bitter end..
I agree with you totally, but I think HL 1 is a million times better than any game ever made in gaming history and I am sure that no game can beat hl 1. Half life 2 is great too.
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