The Order to Play HL Games

7th August 2013

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

I’m working on a Half-Life FAQ page that would answer the most common questions posted on the half-Life Reddit page.

Since I’ve been a regular there, about 6 months, I’ve seen a lot of the same questions asked, especially around the Steam sales times.

One such question is Shall I play the games in chronological release order?

In the past I have always said a resounding YES!, but there was one answer that I thought was very insightful and deserved a new audience and hopefully some intelligent discussion.

In answer to a question similar to the one above it went something like this:
Play Half-Life first and then Blue Shift and Opposing Force in any order, followed by HL2, Ep1 and EP2.

The part I found very interesting was the “Blue Shift and Opposing Force in any order“. In many aspects, it IS completely irrelevant which order those games are played in and I wondered whether from now on I would specifically say Half-Life, Blue Shift then Opposing Force.

Here is my thinking:

By playing Opposing Force after Half-Life you are setting yourself up for slight disappointment when you play Blue Shift. Opposing Force is almost as good as Half-Life. It contains a lot of new content that really sets the game apart. Blue Shift is essentially a continuation of Half-Life.

I feel that if I had played Blue Shift immediately after Half-Life I would have been happy with it. Once I finished Half-Life I just wanted to continue the game – whether it had new content or not. I just wanted to extend that feeling.

After I had played Opposing Force, I couldn’t help but expect Blue Shift to be something as good or at least with plenty of new content.

So from now on and on the page I am working on, I will mention that personally I recommend play Blue Shift after Half-Life and before Opposing Force, even though it breaks the chronological release order.

What are your thoughts on the matter?


  1. bobdog

    That actually makes sense. Blue Shift is the lesser of the packs and playing it before Opposing Force would set it like a 2nd act to OF’s more superior conclusion.

  2. Anon_860055

    What about Decay then? That is canon to the HL1 universe.

    1. Good question, but since you can’t seem to currently run Decay, I’m not sure it’s important enough to worry about. That coupled with the fact that it’s pretty difficult to complete alone make it moot I think.

  3. AI

    I agree with the above, I have my “Original” HL(1998) and my Blueshift(2001) game install CDs. The Blueshift CD does not list Opposing Force, but in the install menu, it shows with the High Def selection. I have an old W98se machine with these currently installed!

    1. JG

      Y’know, and this is totally random but your mention of the old CDs reminded me of it, I miss the original Half-Life 1 title screen. The one with the shifting, pulsing “Half-Life” title graphic. Maybe it was just too “90s” and so they changed it, but I liked it. 🙂

      1. Ade

        🙂 I remember that, it might still be in the WON version

  4. Profbeaker

    Whilst I agree with the general idea that blue shift should be played before opposing forces, I would like to suggest that you play neither! They add very little to the storyline and were not written by valve, but as extensions to add extra life to the original. They are little more than good mods, so should be missed out.

    The real question is do you start with half-life or black mesa instead? That way you get a consistency of graphics that makes all the games play in a more seamless way. Those of us who remember half-life from when it was first released will find this difficult to stomach, but it does make some sense.

    1. JG

      Given that Black Mesa is incomplete, however, you’re not going to get the whole story from it.

      Not that you really NEED to. I think people can jump right into HL2 knowing just the basic outline of HL1. It’s more that your HL2 experience is enriched the more you know about HL1, but it can stand on its own.

    2. I don’t think do you start with half-life or black mesa instead? is the real question. But it is another one on the list that will be added to the page.

    3. Prof, you are absolutely incorrect: they MUST be played after HL1. And HL1, given that BM is not complete, can be played using Source, or as original, but it’s way too critical to the story to ignore.

      Yes, BS and OF were “mods”; but they were official, and an integral part of the story arc.

      And I agree with Phillip: BlueShift second, OpposingForce third. Otherwise it doesn’t make good sense.

  5. MisterAddy

    I would go with the view that there is a choice of either playing just the core games (HL1, HL2 and Episodes) or playing them all in chronological order, depending on whether the player wants the whole experience or not.

    In terms of the in-game chronology, isn’t most of Blue Shift taking place before Opposing Force?

  6. Purely in terms of gameplay experience, I also vote for

    1. HL
    2. BS
    3. OF
    4. HL2
    5. EP1
    6. EP2

    ..also for the same reasons Phillip previously mentioned. It is, after all, all about the gameplay I say.

  7. I definitely think it’s Blue Shift before OP4. And though only pseudo-canon because they’re not Valve’s doing, they DO add quite a bit of fun to the full experience.

    Decay…. I really wish that someone OTHER than the folks who did the currently available garbage port would do a proper port for it for single player Windows / Mac. The excuse that the guy over on the steam forums always uses when confronted with the unplayable aspects of the port (the lack of a save system, the impossibility to play it WITH someone through Steam, the absolute crap controls) is “it’s an accurate port and those things didn’t happen there”.

    …. So, hey – anyone? Bueller? Make a new port of Decay and we’ll love you for freaking ever.

  8. Ade

    In all honesty I’m happy I played the officials in order, many times in a row. It is interesting to play these mods, they extend the experience, but they can be cut out and not miss anything of great importance, so I say, for first playthrough, just the Valve titles. For the next ones, whatever order you guys decide to place the 2 mods between HL1 and HL2.

  9. Falconer

    I cast my vote like this:
    1. HL
    2. BS
    3. OF
    4. HL2
    5. EP1
    6. EP2

    For me, BS felt the most analogous to an HL2 “episode” for HL1. Sure, you play as a different character, but it’s a similar length to an episode, and there is a similar lack of new features (weapons, gameplay elements and the like). By contrast, OF is a full-blown expansion.
    This brings me to an intriguing point. BS, despite being generally considered inferior and an afterthought to the HL universe, is ironically more integral to the overarching canon of the series than OF, for the reason that you play Barney Calhoun, the same character listed in the credits of HL2 and ep1. Sure, his full name is not spoken aloud during either, but Valve seems to intend them to be the same person.
    Take OF, and in contrast you will find that there is no mention of Adrian Shepard, the destruction of Black Mesa by a nuclear device, the Black Ops teams which seemed to know a great deal about the aliens, and perhaps most importantly Race X, in any of the subsequent HL productions. You could throw away OF and it would have no impact on the overarching series whatsoever. Arguably you could do the same with BS, since its events aren’t mentioned either, but there is at least a connection with Barney’s specific name.
    This brings me to an interesting point… seeing as the mysterious Race X seemed to be a major player in OF and no other game, I always had it in my head that Race X was a group of Combine synthetics… perhaps an advance scouting party ahead of the main invasion. They noticed portals opening to Earth after Nihilanth’s demise, so they decided to go through and gather information on whoever was apparently strong enough to kill Nihilanth. I play OF like this is the case in order to better connect OF to the HL2 era. They both use biological weapons in combat (the Combine with their synth gunships and Striders, Race X with their handheld beetle guns and that eel RPG device), and their AI is by default set as an enemy to the Xen aliens, who by the time they show up are free of Nihilanth’s control (although there’s not much chance in OF to see them interact).

  10. I would always recommend to any new player they be played in the order they were released, just like I did naturally when and as they came out. HL1, non source, is the essential basic game and the story must be known. Then I played Blue Shift and Opposing Force. I played mods hard core for years, then HL2 arrived. I went back and redid the original HL 1 games when they were released with the source code. Now I play the heck out of mods. Azure Sheep was great as was the spectacular Sven Co-op. In order is the only way to do it right.

    As beautiful as HL2 is, the gravity gun and all that nice physics, HL 1 will always be my game, and no one should miss it.

  11. galocza

    i played them in the “right” order and I didnt mind blue shift.
    i knew it would be shorter, it was – I dont know, a good closing, wasnt disappointed, I just thought, well done.

    ps: I think I might have liked blues shift better than op but im not sure…

  12. Grey Acumen

    That is the order I subscribe and recommend to anyone, but not because of any sense of disappointment with Blue Shift; It’s simply because despite being developed and published in a different order, within the chronology of the game, Half Life’s story is the earliest to start in the universe’s chronology,Blue Shift starts soon after that, and Opposing Force begins almost after the end of Blue Shift.

    Though I will say that if you have someone completely new to the series, that HL2:Ep1 is a really excellent primer. It’s a little weird to come into the middle of the story that way, but getting the gravity gun, and being able to play with the super gravity gun, early on was a really fun experience.

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