Half Life 2
Watch it: Tall walking striders skewer insurgents with telephone-pole legs, camera-eyed bots follow your every footstep, and turncoat collaborators shepherd you through turnstiles like human livestock. The alien visitors in visionary single-player PC shooter Half-Life 2 are not our friends.
In his efforts to send earth's off-world oppressors packing, geeky hero Gordon Freeman loses the lab coat for a crowbar, and later, a gravity-manipulating gun that can suck in and shoot out grenades, saw blades, garbage, you name it. Why the fuss over one weapon? It's as much a sidekick as it is a sidearm--use it to shield yourself from bullets, flip alien bugs onto their backs, and right your ride (an open-topped, turbo-boosting buggy) when bad driving overturns it.
How was it:
A bit of bad news first: The PC powerhouse pushes the Xbox's limits even on its least processing-intensive levels (the part I played suffered screenfreezing fits and starts when an army of flesheaters attacked, and again when barrels blew up). On top of that, strafing control still seems sort of slippery and could spell trouble where precise jumping puzzles are concerned.
Now for the impressive part: If developer Valve polishes its port up, Xbox owners can look forward to one sizzling late summer with an ambient adventure as good as it gets--a game where power lines shudder and sway under the downwash of passing dropships; where critters tunnel through soil, tracking the telltale fall of footsteps (later, you'll learn to control them with pheromone pods harvested from the corpses of their queens); where uncannily clever shocktroops coordinate search patterns, pin you with fire, then put pressure on your flank; and where each lifelike level has a feel all its own. Plus, what else are you going to buy for your Xbox this year?
We've been waiting for five years.
I mean, what else can I say? This game ranks equal to Halo 2, perhaps better in marks for anticipation. I'm happy to say that it was well worth the wait, as Half-Life 2 is one of the prettiest, most immersive sci-fi games I've had the pleasure to review. Valve has delivered on most of its promises, including absolutely stunning physics based gameplay.
I should take a moment to talk about the gravity gun. This is the coolest feature in the game, and in fact, may be the coolest in any game ever. You can pick up any manner of small objects in the game, and in many cases, fight purely using the manipulation gameplay this gun provides. Far and away, this is my favorite feature in Half-Life 2.
Sadly, in contrast, one of the least entertaining things in Half-Life 2 is the weaponry. With the exception of the gravity gun, this game features the same boring weaponry that we've seen time and time again. Fortunately, the basics, pistol, shotgun, and in this case two rifles, are well represented. In particular, the RPG is satisfying, especially since you'll be using it against those frightening strider walking tanks that you've seen in the trailer.
Visually, Half-Life 2 is just as pretty as advertised. The graphics are as good as promised, and while they still aren't perfect, this title features some of the most well done faces in any game ever. Motion capture is good, and I've got to say my only real complaint is the rag doll physics. Like every game with ragdoll features, bodies go completely and totally limp on death, which looks more or less totally and completely unrealistic.
All in all, Half-Life 2 is a really good game with just a few weaknesses, all of which are minimized by this game's incredible quality. You may not like the endgame of Half-Life 2's storyline, but it's still a good single player experience. Now, Half-Life 2 doesn't actually have multiplayer in and of itself, but it does come packaged with Counter-Strike CS, which more than makes up for the experience. And for sake of all of you without top end systems, mine is good, but not really great. My system is an Athlon 2400 XP with 1 gig of ram an ATI Radeon 9700 Pro. Good luck, and enjoy one hell of a game.
Picking up after an undetermined length of time from the first title, our hero Gordon Freeman is dumped into alien infested territory. Bad guys, both alien and human are everywhere as are allies. But if Gordon is going to get through this mission it's going to take, guts, determination and that unique quality that our hero possess above anything else, luck.
OK, this is the reason the Xbox was made to begin with; stunning storyline, kick-ass graphics, screaming sound effects and full-on action. To say you have never heard of the Half Life titles is to say you aren't familiar with games themselves. These are the games to have if you like your action lean and mean. The A.I. in this title is fantastic. Monsters and opposing military work together in tandem to try and out flank you and out gun you.attack in waves while soldiers toss grenades over the items you're hiding behind. If you are looking for a game that's even remotely close to being easy, this isn't it.
The graphics featured in HL2 are as good as the Xbox can deliver, the face animations are spot on and the in-game physics are clean and realistic. The architecture and creature design is both inspired and fully immersive. In fact, the monsters from the original Half Life are back, new and improved. It's as if they have had time to adapt or some outside genetic mutations has been going on with their new human allies. Still, the graphics are really nice to look at and more then once I really did get freaked out and jumped in my seat. The only thing even worth mentioning in a negative light, is that the game takes a few seconds to get going whenever a new scenario is loaded, so there is a little stutter as the level gets good and ramped up. But afterwards, it's all good.
The sound can also be described as fantastic, pumping this title through my surround sound is like watching a big budget Hollywood action flick. Gunfire, massive explosions, warning noises coming from you H.E.V. suit warning you that you are getting hit and of course the creature noises. All of it is slick, and I loved every minute of it.
Look, this is probably the last really big, slam-bam mega hit that is going to come out on the original Xbox. All the new big titles will be breaking on the 360, but that's no reason to let this slip by, the game is absolutely fantastic. If you are passionate about your games then you cannot afford to miss what is arguably one of the three best Xbox titles ever made. Get it now.