Developed by Valve
Reviewed by Adam, added on Feb 19 2005
At the end of the original "Half-Life," the G-Man left you with a choice: work for him, or be destroyed by a horde of angry aliens. Seeing as there is a "Half-Life 2," it should be obvious which choice Dr. Gordon Freeman made. Choosing to work for the G-Man, Freeman stepped through a portal; this is where "Half-Life 2" begins. Freeman ends up in City 17, a war-torn ghetto, controlled by the Combine - a government system installed by conquering aliens. Things are oh-so cheery... The people of City 17 revere Freeman almost as a messiah - his coming heralds the destruction of the Combine, yada yada. You don't really need to know much more of the story; and besides, I don't want to ruin it for anyone.
What you really need to know is just how good the game is - and oh holy hell, is it ever good. Like the original, "Half-Life 2" is like an interactive Hollywood blockbuster. There are no cutscenes; the story unfolds before and around you. Damn near everything is capable of manipulation (meaning you can blow it to a thousand pieces). A barrel that in other games might just sit there, even if you hit it with a rocket launcher, will move even if you just bump into it. There's a real sense of physics in this game, unlike most. This helps to heighten the sense of realism, which is important in this type of game.
The weapons are standard FPS fare, with one big exception: the gravity gun. With this bad-ass, you can pick up most objects, and either move them, or shoot them at enemies. There's not much greater joy in a FPS than picking up a giant metal desk, and flinging it at a group of marauding aliens. There are vehicles this time around, but they don't add much to the mix. It's fun to zip around in a jeep, blasting bug aliens left and right -but only for so long...
The visuals are superb, especially facial animations. Even at low graphics levels, the facial animations are incredibly detailed and life-like. The sound is pretty good, too, but nothing spectacular. The game does a great job of immersing the player in the game, making the player feel like they're really actively involved in this struggle. You'll see large groups of Combine soldiers battling City 17 citizens, giant dropships firing upon innocent men and women... Ah, the nerd in me is in love...
There are two sore spots, but they aren't too terrible. The story is only so-so, and a bit anti-climatic; also, the enemy AI isn't so great. I saw Combine soldiers make some pretty stupid choices. For instance, I lobbed a few grenades at an entrenched group of soldiers. Most games these days, the enemy would lob the grenade back at me. Not so here - they just sat there, and went boom. That was cool for me, because it allowed me to survive. However, I would have preferred a bit more realism.
All and all, "Half-Life 2" is a plenty fun FPS romp. If you enjoyed the original, you'll dig this. If you're just an atypical FPS fan, you'll still dig it. Oh, and need I remind you of "Counter-Strike"? It's upgraded with the new "Half-Life 2" game engine. Take it for a spin, kill some newbs, and blow shit up. You'll enjoy your nerd self plenty.