Half-Life: Blue Shift
Those of you who have played the original Half-Life probably remember the intro tram ride. An atmospheric scene, your tram quietly rode through the Black Mesa complex, on the way to the Anomalous Materials Laboratories. On the way, you saw a lone security guard stranded on a ledge, desperately trying to get into a locked door. In Half-Life: Blue Shift, you play that man, one Barney Calhoun, security guard on the Blue shift, section 3 on the Black Mesa security force. Trained as a basic security and maintenance officer, you’re expected to pick up the slack and keep Black Mesa safe and clean.
Half-Life: Blue Shift gives you the chance to play out the events from the original Half-Life from the perspective of a lonely security guard. Creatures from Xen (the alien dimension that caused all the trouble to begin with) abound, and nearly all of them want to eat you. Along the way you’ll see elements that made the other games so entertaining, and occasionally cross paths with characters from Half-Life and Opposing Force, the Half-Life expansion pack. Armed with a few new weapons and a fresh perspective on the game, you’ll see what it really means to be a ‘Barney.’ Gearbox, the company that developed Blue Shift, was also responsible for the popular Opposing Force expansion pack, wherein you take the role of a soldier trying to survive the chaos of the Xen Incident.
As an added bonus, Blue Shift comes with two extra items. The first is the high-definition pack; an add-on for Half-Life that allows it to take advantage of newer video cards, with new, highly detailed textures and skins. Although the pack is free for download from Valve, the makers of Half-Life, it is still convenient to have a copy on CD. Along with the high-definition pack is a full copy of the Opposing Force add-on, the first expansion pack made by Gearbox. If you don’t have a copy of Opposing Force, the Blue Shift CD takes care of all your troubles.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Much like other add-on packs, Half-Life gameplay isn’t improved or even changed by the Blue Shift expansion pack. I’d like to take a moment to say that this is usually the most disappointing thing about expansion packs, something I’d like to see remedied. Gearbox has managed to produce an engaging, detailed storyline yet again (see Opposing Force for more details), but hasn’t added anything new to the basic Half-Life engine itself. If we could see a new style of tactics, vehicles, or perhaps just a modular weapon system, it would add months to the life of this PC classic. With the Half-Life engine becoming eclipsed by newer, sleeker next generation FPS games, a slight change from the norm could help revitalize this game.
Don’t get me wrong. All the gameplay you know and love is still there. It just gets a little old now that the second expansion pack for Half-Life is out. Blue Shift is fun to play and adds a lot in the way of the single player storyline. You’ve got a few new weapons and the way the storyline plays out is as entertaining as ever. Sadly though, even with Opposing Force included, there isn’t much reason to purchase Blue Shift unless you’re a really big fan of the original storyline. Without a more engaging gameplay style or any innovation (aside from the High Definition pack), I don’t see Blue Shift as being a strong expansion.
Requires: Windows 95/98/NT/2000/ME, 32MB RAM, 2x CD-ROM Drive, Windows Compatible Soundcard, Pentium or AMD K6/2 233+, 400MB HD Space, SVGA High Color (16-bit) Display, 32-bit ISP with 28.8+ modem or LAN (for net games).
Reviewed On: Windows 98SE, 512MB RAM, AMD Athlon 100mhz, Creative Soundblaster Live!, Geforce 2 MX.
All in all, if you don’t already own a copy of Opposing Force, I’d recommend purchasing Blue Shift. The lower cost and added value make the game a steal, and give you much more than the few hours of gameplay you’ll get from Half-Life. If you’ve already got Opposing Force, I’d be hesitant to get Blue Shift unless you really, really enjoy the Half-Life single player storyline. If Blue Shift were more than an additional story, it might deserve better, but as is, I’m ranking it at 72.