November 12, 2001

Half Life - Preview

Release Date Publisher Developer Rating Players Price
November 2001SierraGearbox1-2$99.95

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Player detail is impressive.
Around 4 years ago Sierra released a little FPS called Half-Life. Little did the company know that the game was to become one of the biggest successes on the PC, both in terms of critical acclaim and sales. Pushed along by a strong mod community, and in particular the brilliance of the Counter Strike mod, the game is still one of the most played games at any LAN party. Surprisingly, it's taken a long time for Sierra/Gearbox to port the game to consoles. The Dreamcast game was seemingly only weeks away for about a year before being canned, while this Playstation 2 port has been promised for several months now. But the game is nearly upon us, and should be released by the end of the month. For those of you who are unaware Half-Life includes one of the best storylines in a FPS.

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Cut scenes break up the action
Deep in the bowels of the Black Mesa Federal Research Facility, a decommissioned missile base, a top-secret project is underway. You are Gordon Freeman, a young research associate in the Anomalous Materials Laboratory. You have limited security clearance and no real idea of just how dangerous your job has become, until something goes horribly wrong. Is it sabotage? An accident? Or is it something you did? All you hear is screaming; all you see is spacetime shattering. The next thing you know, the entire Black Mesa Facility is a nightmare zone, with sirens wailing and scientists fleeing in terror from the things their co-workers have become. Hordes of creatures from the far side of the portal are pouring through rifts in the local fabric of reality. Monsters are everywhere. Madness rules. Save the Earth? Well, maybe. But that's a pretty low priority compared to saving your own skin.

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One of the many alien creatures.
Those of you who have played Half-Life in the past, which should be almost anyone with a PC, should slip right into this game. The PS2 version includes the familiar orange HUD (Head Up Display) which shows health, weapon, ammo, HEV suit levels and the organism meter to show friends and foes. As you would expect all the weapons remain intact including the crowbar, 9 mm pistol, assault rifle, rocket-propelled grenade launcher, crossbow, and trip mines.

Half-Life isn't just a straight port of the PC game however, the Playstation 2 game has been build with some modifications and enhancements. The most noticeable of these is the graphics where the characters are more detailed and seem to have touched up the level and character textures. Gearbox has also included an all-new Decay mode where 2 people can play cooperatively through a series of levels. Sadly, the developers have scrapped earlier plans for a 4-player mode although 2-player deathmatch remains with 10 varied levels. Finally the game includes an all new skirmish mode which allows you to simulate a deathmatch. According to the press information it will also be possible to explore the never-before seen areas of Black Mesa. Exactly how many new areas remain to be seen. The game also includes support for a USB mouse and keyboard.

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Letting loose with the machine gun.
With a solid 50fps frame rate there is absolutely no reason why Half-Life can't eclipse, or at least match, the PC version visually. Gameplay wise Half-Life has well and truly passed the test of time on the PC and while many of you may be concerned by yet another FPS using the Dual Shock controller you will be relieved that Gearbox included USB mouse and keyboard support to emulate the PC game as accurately as possible. With Gearbox having worked on the title since April 2000, and knowing the company won't settle for second best is very reassuring. This is one game that should be on the top of every PS2 owners Christmas wish list.