Developer: Half-life
Publisher:  Sierra Entertainment

If you've never heard of Half-life then chances are you stumbled onto this website by mistake or you're reading this review twenty years after it's been written and we live in a bleak, dark, grim world where people don't know what Half-life is, I say this because EVERY gamer, even those that aren't fond of the FPS genre have at least heard of this series.

You play as a Gordon Freeman, a silent theoretical physicist employed in a massive Area 51-like secret research installation hidden in the Nevada desert, while conducting an experiment, he unwillingly creates a dimensional portal, which results in the installation being overrun by aggressive alien creatures.

Okay, so the plot isn't anything noteworthy, though, in this regard Half-life separated itself from the pack by conveying it to you without interrupting the gameplay, meaning there are no cutscenes or FMVs, it's all told through in-game conversations, this may not sound like much now, but back then, games often shipped with two or more discs due to all of the previously mentioned videos.

The gameplay is still very fun, you have the usual set of weapons such as the handgun, shotgun and grenades, but you also get some alien weapons like the snark which will eat the flesh off your enemies, speaking of which, I love the enemy variety when fighting the aliens, there's several races, big and small all of them with different abilities, which really help spice up the gameplay, you'll also find yourself facing human soldiers, but I found them rather boring, they all feel the same and they're not very smart, unfortunately, halfway through the game, you'll be seeing more and more of them.

I like how there aren't any 'levels', at least not in the strict sense, instead, you're continually travelling through this huge research compound as the layouts gradually change, a lot of attention was given to details, but I felt it was bit inconsistent at times, for example, at the start of the game you get to goof off and mess with the alarms or ruin someone's microwave oven meal, but towards the end of the game's midpoint you just sort of loose this interactivity. Along the way you'll also meet fellow scientist and security guards, these will follow you if you ask them, the guards will help you in a fight whereas the cowardly scientists will heal you, but again, after a certain point friendly NPCs become more and more uncommon.

Overall Half-Life is still a great game and hasn't aged as much as I feared, the alien A.I. isn't the best but that's understandable as they tend to act like mindless beasts, it's when fighting humans that these faults become more apparent. I also felt that towards the end of the game it loses some focus, but nothing too serious.

- Gameplay holds up remarkably well for the most part
- Good use of alien enemy variety
- Exploring the Black Mesa research facility is a blast
- For the most part, the game has a nice attention to detail
- Leading Guards and scientists to safety/danger is pretty fun
- Human enemies aren't very fun or engaging, there's also too much of a focus on them in some areas
- Attention to detail is a bit inconsistent

Final Grade: A-

The game comes in a large orange box (so that's where they got idea for the sequel) with a lambda symbol on it, I... am neutral about this box art, it's not catchy but it does motivate me enough to want to read the back of the box, of course it could just as well produce the opposite effect and get the gamer to ignore it all together.

Inside you'll find the game, a manual and a Sierra games 'Catalogue', the manual starts out promisingly enough with a letter of employment from the Black Mesa research facility to Gordon Freeman, it makes for an interesting, if short, read, unfortunately that's the only interesting aspect of the manual, the rest are just basic game instructions, each page has a different concept art as a background, but most of these are obscured by said instructions, making it feel like more of a tease.

The Sierra 'Catalogue' (not sure why it's spelled like that) is actually pretty interesting, it advertises both famous and unknown PC games, some of which, like (namely Warcraft Adventures) never even saw the light of day, interestingly enough, the advertisement for Half-life seems to be using screenshots from the Beta.

Final Grade: B-


  1. Now how did I find this site? I was trying to research radioactive decay, and all of a sudden I'm reading about microwaves and aliens...the internet sure is a funky place.

    And that's how you act facetious. *folds arms and smiles smugly*

    Aaaaaaaaanyway, I remember seeing Half-Life for the first time when my brother borrowed the game from a friend. I didn't know what to make of it at the time, but I'm surprised that to this day I have some pretty strong memories of the opening. Maybe not in grave detail, but more than you'd expect. And the same goes for some of the other moments in the game. I guess that's just a testament to the genius at work.

    Though in all honesty, I played Team Fortress Classic more than anything else. I was the "crazy scout", on the grounds that the first (and only) kill I ever got was with a crowbar. Justice was served that fateful day.

    1. Don't you know? All roads lead to my blog, lol.

      I wasn't sure if I should include Team Fortress in this review, ultimately I decided to consider it as its own separate game

  2. Have you played Black Mesa, the fan remake? Really, really well done.

    1. I have, it looks really great, no wonder it took so long to develop it.

      Though for PC reviews, I try to play them without mods, worst case scenario, I'll download some fan-made patches if the game is completely broken or if it doesn't run at all

  3. I've heard of this game so many times its really a shame i haven't picked it up. this is a very solid review that makes me want to play the game even more now. Nice one.

  4. Oh the memories of being much too young to play this game. Great memories though I was scared at the time. This is one of real classics video games, not playing this game is like not reading Catcher in the Rye or Huckleberry Finn and so forth.
    About that catalog versus catalogue -thing, the first is the American spelling the second is the British/international spelling.

    1. Ah, that explains it, thanks for that bit of info.

      As for Half-life, yeah it's a classic, though many people who grew up with consoles never got to play it.