Poll Question 281 – Is it important to play the HL games in order?

7th August 2012

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

I saw this question on Reddit, which by the way has some very interesting discussions about Half-Life, and thought I would repeat it here.

The question is whether it is important to play the Half-Life games in order.

Putting aside the obvious difference in graphics and physics, it really comes down to the story and details. How important is knowing context and what has happened before?

Let’s consider movies or books. Is it important to watch the Matrix movies in order? Only if the story is important. If you just want to see action and effects, then no, it’s probably not that important.

But it’s also hard not to discuss the obvious difference graphics. Players nowadays generally laugh at the blocky nature of Half-Life compared to Episode Two. For some, that change is just too great, in which case playing the older games may have a negative effect on the series perception.

Personally, I recommend people play them in order. For me it would be like playing a levels of a game out of order.

What do you think.

Your Chance to Vote!


  1. Any game should if they have a overarching story. Not only that but if you play the later ones first, when you come around to play the ones before you will probably underrate them because usually the gameplay and visual etc are of lower quality.

  2. MisterAddy

    I would say yes, although new players may want to start with Half-Life 2 as they may be put off by HL1’s difficulty and graphics. The story is definitely a lot more effective if you play in the right order, I have a friend who played Episode 2 first and was completely clueless about what was happening!
    I’ve heard lots of people ask the same question about the Assassin’s Creed games, because the first one is generally considered to be the weakest but it sets up so much important stuff.

  3. I think that you should play them in order, but it’s fine if you skip OP4 and BS.

  4. I’d say, it don’t matter if you play HL1 or HL2 first, but the episodes need to be played in order for you know what’s going on.

  5. Unq

    To each his own. I think you’re missing out if they’re played out of order or any are skipped, though.

  6. Hec

    For me, i’d say, Absolutely, I mean, is important because I think it’s hard to get into the inmersive seductive powerful environment HL has as a whole universe, if you play it in an unorganized way, I think from my own experience that if I would have played HL2 first and then the HL1, I just wouldn’t be the fan of this universe as I am now…

  7. Herr_Alien

    Although the story line is more coherent if you play them in order, each game must be able to stand on its own two feet.

  8. I played the “Half-Life” games as they came out, so they, in turn, pushed my PC’s and graphics cards all the way!
    I have still not finished “Half-Life”, but I did do all the “Xen” levels, because I moved on to “Opposing Force” when it came out and completed that instead! I did not return to HL until “Blue Shift”. Without a good grounding in HL lore those two games would have seemed rather confusing, but switching back would have been easy due to the similar nature of the graphics.
    I think you could play HL2 “cold” as just a “rather average FPS”, my nephew’s opinion,
    But the added back-story enriches it so much more and becomes more relevant the deeper in you go. Especially in the two sequels, episodes one and two, where even more Black Mesa stuff comes out and some rather humorous in-jokes!
    Newer players could ” go back” with mods like “Black Mesa Fallback” and the looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong awaited “Black Mesa Source”, without the drop in visual quality.

  9. No, you don’t have to play 1 before 2.

    Basically the only really important bit of HL1 was the first level with the Resonance Cascade after that the series gives a nod to it (“Yes, that happened maybe possibly, but we can add things as we need them.”) but never brings up anything. And saying the question is “Oh well of course you can’t play them out of order! Playing Episode 2 first then going back would make no sense!” means you really didn’t understand the question.

  10. ghostygfd

    “For me it would be like playing a levels of a game out of order.’

    I don’t think that playing the games out of chronological order would be like shuffling the levels of a standalone game.
    I can’t say if this it is such an important issue, but it’s certainly interesting to play the HL games in order, making comparations and so on.

  11. A good game is not only shooting down various enemies. it’s got to have a story to hook me up. Being without a story is OK for a racing game or a small browser- or iPad-game. But for a long game like the Half-Life triology I need a story go get me to the end.

    Half Life has a story. And though it may not be the most imaginative one, it is good enough for me. And it evolves only fully, when the parts are played in order.

  12. If someone hasn’t experienced Half-Life by now, I wouldn’t recommend it unless they’re specifically interested in the history of video games and they want to experience the first attempts at a lot of storytelling aspects used in games today. Without the sense of nostalgia, and with the storytelling techniques it introduced being more common, I can’t imagine someone being as impressed with the first Half-Life game as someone who played it in 1998.

    However, the events in the episodes are more closely related to each other, and to Half-Life 2, so I would recommend to someone that the Half-Life 2 games be played in order.

    Depending on the quality of Black Mesa: Source, I might find it important in the future for anyone to play that mod before Half-Life 2.

    1. Ade

      But when you see someone under 20 going “why don’t the make games like hl these days”, it’s really worth making a fool of yourself mentioning such dusty games to younger generations, most of the time 😀

  13. I feel that questions like these are really difficult to answer when taken at face value, especially with the Half-Life franchise. I feel like it’s important in a historical standpoint to play the games chronologically, only to see how rapidly PC gaming has evolved over the years.

    Look at Half-Life, a game that came out fourteen years ago. Back then, FPS gaming was a much tighter niche, with games like Quake practically dominating the marketplace. Home technology during these times was essentially infantile when compared to modern PC hardware. The internet itself was a completely foreign concept to most people. I feel that games like Unreal and Half-Life really stood out as some of the greatest story-driven FPS at the time (I’m positive there are others as well, these are just the two that came to mind) and because of this, really shined a light at just how amazing PC gaming could become.

    I could go on and on about how Half-Life was one of the greatest examples of gaming history, but it would take forever.

    So flash forward to 2004, and the release of Half-Life 2, probably one of the most highly anticipated sequels of all time. I was absolutely amazed the first time I booted up HL2. Never before had I seen a game that looked so stunning visually. Here we had a game that had an insanely long development cycle behind it, and the final product blew everyone away. The biggest thing about HL2 was, similarly to it’s predecessor, it’s storyline. The characters felt real, and it made you feel like an integral part of the story in a way that I had never felt from a game before.

    While the game itself is starting to show its age visually (it is an eight year old game, to be fair) the characters themselves and the quality of voice work is still some of, if not the most, incredible advances in story-driven video games.

    But to answer the question of whether or not it’s important to play the games chronologically, it’s too difficult to say. It all depends on what kind of gamer you are.

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