Half-Life 2
Half-Life 2
Released n/a
Details
Half-Life 2 is a science fiction first-person shooter computer game and the sequel to the highly acclaimed Half-Life. It was developed by Valve Software Corporation and was released on November 16, 2004, following a protracted five-year, $40 million development cycle during which the game’s source code was leaked to the Internet. The game uses the Source game engine, which includes a heavily modified version of the Havok physics engine. Originally available only for Windows-based personal computers, the game has since been ported onto the Xbox, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 video game consoles.

Taking place in and around the fictional City 17, Half-Life 2 follows the adventures of scientist Gordon Freeman. Dr. Freeman is thrust into a dystopian environment in which the aftermath of the Black Mesa Incident has come to bear fully upon human society. Freeman is forced to fight against increasingly unfavorable odds in order to survive. In his struggle, he is joined by various allies, including former Black Mesa colleagues, oppressed citizens of City 17, and the Vortigaunts.

Half-Life 2 garnered near unanimous positive reviews and received critical acclaim, winning over 35 Game of the Year awards for 2004. The game has been critically praised for its advances in computer animation, sound, narration, computer graphics, artificial intelligence (AI) and physics. As of June 8, 2006, over four million copies of Half-Life 2 have been sold. Exact numbers for digital delivery service Steam and retail have not been revealed, but in general, the former accounts for 25% of Valve’s business and is significantly more profitable per unit. As of July 14, 2006, the Half-Life franchise has sold 16 million units. As of February 28, 2007, Half-Life 2 is the second most played online computer game (excluding MMORPGs), behind Half-Life, according to GameSpy.


Gameplay

In Half-Life 2 the player takes on the role of Gordon Freeman, as in the original Half-Life. Armed with numerous weapons, he has to make his way through a series of levels, encountering both "trans-human" troops, also known as the Combine, and hostile alien creatures. As in Half-Life, the gameplay is broken up by a series of puzzles; however Half-Life 2 also includes physics-based puzzles. For example, one puzzle requires the player to either turn a seesaw-like lever into a ramp by placing cinder blocks at one end, or to stack the cinder blocks into a crude stairway.

The use of physics extends into combat with the Zero-Point Energy Field Manipulator, or "gravity gun". This unique weapon plays a crucial function throughout the game, granting the player an unprecedented amount of creativity in its use, such as picking up and throwing objects at enemies, holding objects indefinitely for use as makeshift cover, grabbing med-kits and ammunition from out-of-reach places, pulling plugs, returning enemies' grenades, building makeshift bridges, making crude stairs out of crates, flipping over an overturned buggy, or manipulating objects through Combine forcefields.

Vehicles are another major gameplay addition. The player has the ability to drive two vehicles during the single player campaign; an air boat, which Gordon uses to navigate through the "Subzero" canal network, and a dune buggy which Gordon uses to get to Nova Prospekt. The air boat is initially unarmed, but is later mounted with a Combine weapon from a downed hunter-chopper. The buggy is armed with a Tau Cannon that functions very similarly to the one found in the original Half-Life. It, however, does not overload if the secondary fire is held for too long.

The game also integrates tutorial-like tasks in the storyline itself and includes on-screen instructions on game controls (but no longer includes separate tutorial levels featured in the original) to allow familiarization of the game’s mechanics and weapons for players as they go. Several such examples include an early incident in the game where a Civil Protection unit orders the player to "pick up" a tin can and "throw it" into the trash can (if the player "throws" the can at Civil Protection unit, the Civil Protection unit will give Gordon a beating for punishment) and Alyx Vance’s introduction of the gravity gun at Black Mesa East, which incorporates an impromptu game of "catch" with her robot, Dog.

Characters and creatures

Although Gordon battles through much of Half-Life 2 alone, he is at times assisted by allies. For the most part these are human members of the resistance, but Gordon is also helped by Vortigaunts, who have the ability to recharge his HEV suit's battery, and later Antlions. This latter insectoid species is new to the Half-Life universe and is encountered first as a fiercely territorial foe, but is later co-opted into acting as an abundant and obedient ally through the use of a pheromone pod, nicknamed "bugbait". At several key locations, Gordon also meets up with, and fights alongside, more significant non-player characters like Alyx Vance, Barney Calhoun and Alyx’s robot, Dog.

Many familiar enemies from Half-Life return in this game, such as headcrabs, barnacles, and headcrab zombies. However, the majority of the game is spent fighting the Combine, who wield large military forces against Gordon and the people of City 17. Combine forces are varied and consist of modified humans, biomechanical creatures, robotic weapons, including the use of headcrabs as biological weapons.

In many locales throughout the game, the mysterious G-Man can be spotted watching over Gordon. Before the player can investigate further, G-man disappears into the environment.

Weapons

Several of the weapons featured in Half-Life 2 are carried over from Half-Life, including the trademark crowbar for melee fighting, and the conventional firearms of a SPAS-12 shotgun, a .357 Colt Python, a crossbow that fires superheated rebars, and an RPG launcher as well as the tau cannon, an experimental particle weapon that is mounted on the dune buggy. Several new weapons are also introduced: an MP7 submachine gun, a 9mm USP Match, the AR2 Combine Overwatch pulse rifle; 'pheropods' which grant control over Antlions, and most significantly, the Zero-Point Energy Field Manipulator, or gravity gun.