December 17, 2001
Half-Life - Review
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Improved player detail impresses.
Despite being almost four years old now Half-Life is still one of the most played games on the PC, partially due to the superb Counter Strike mod for network games. While this Playstation 2 game doesn't include the Counter Strike mod, there is certainly enough here to keep gamers extremely happy. Half-Life on Playstation 2 is a perfect port of the PC game, and as PC gamers will tell you, this is quite possibly the best First Person Shooter ever. Although the storyline isn't all that unique, the way it unfolds throughout the game will capture your interest during the 20 odd hour play time.

Deep in the bowels of the Black Mesa Federal Research Facility, a decommissioned missile base, a top-secret project is underway. You play 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? Maybe. But that's a pretty low priority compared to saving your own skin.

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Cut scenes break up the action.
The engrossing storyline is one of the reasons why this game is such a success. It sucks you into the single player game and won't let you go. The characters are engrossing, and come up with some wonderful lines at times when you go up and talk to them. Fortunately, you will be pleased to know that the gameplay has ported perfectly intact to the Playstation 2. Indeed the game has some enhancements over the PC original. As well as the single player story mode the game now includes an all new Decay mode which is a 2-player co-operative mode through the Black Mesa facility. You can work together controlling two female operatives to dispose of the enemies. It's a lot of fun and a great twist on the usual Deathmatch gameplay found in FPS's. As you would expect however Half-Life also includes a Deathmatch mode which, sadly, is only a 2-player game. It would have been great to see a 4-player split screen Deathmatch, but that may have been pushing the system a little too far.

Control-wise the developers allow you to use either the Dual Shock 2 controller or a USB mouse an keyboard, the latter which adds a lot more accuracy and fluidity in control. The game moves super smoothly with almost no frame rate drops while the developers have included an auto-aim function, which still requires a lot of aiming to hit the target. Rather neatly the developers have implemented a quick save function so that at any point in the game you can do a quick 3-second save which you can return to. If you want to write to memory card for use later you can do that, which takes a little longer. Another impressive thing is the load times for the game. While each main level takes about 30 seconds to load the game includes several mini-loads during the levels (as with the PC game) which are only a few seconds each. It would have been nice if they could have been totally removed, but it never becomes an annoyance as it is.

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One of the many alien creatures.
There are very few disappointments with Half-Life. Probably the biggest is that the developers haven't included any online gameplay modes at all, even with USB modems available now, and broadband only around the corner. Adding in the Counter Strike mod would have been a brilliant move as well, although it would have required AI players with only a 2-player split screen mode. Perhaps Gearbox are saving their efforts for the fully-fledged Counter Strike 2 due out on PC (and hopefully PS2) in about a years time. As a port of the legendary PC game however there are almost no other disappointments with super slick gameplay, a great story and plenty of action.

Compared to the PC version the Playstation 2 has done a wonderful job with the graphics, and in fact have enhanced them over the PC version. Gearbox has increased the polygon count four fold while the textures have also been cleaned up. Despite the fact that the game is running on a low resolution TV (compared to a computer monitor) the game still looks splendid. The PAL version of Half-Life includes a 60Hz mode and the frame rate is rock steady, bar a few very brief frantic moments where it dropped for a few moments. Surprisingly, the game holds up very well compared to the latest Playstation 2 FPS's including Red Faction and Quake III Revolution which just shows how far ahead of it's time the game was 4 years ago.

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Letting loose with the machine gun.
Unlike the graphics, Gearbox don't seem to have played with the sound at all with no move from CD-ROM to DVD for this game. In fact, for some reason the sound seems a little lower in quality then the PC game with the voices a little more muffled. Perhaps it's just me or perhaps it's how the original PC game sounded (I haven't played it for about a year) but it's certainly not crystal clear as you would expect from the latest console game. One thing that is impressive however is the quality of the music. It fades in and out, becomes more upbeat and slows down according to the action on screen. The music really adds a lot of atmosphere to the game. Finally, the sound effects such as explosions and gun blasts are as good as any other console game has ever sounded.

Half-Life is quite possibly the best First Person Shooter ever and the Playstation 2 version doesn't disappoint. With improved graphics, all new Decay mode, a great story and plenty of action this is one game that is sure to get your heart racing. If you own the original PC version then there isn't really a reason to purchase this game, however if you've never enjoyed Half-Life then you certainly can't go wrong by checking out what is undoubtedly the best PC to console port ever.

GRAPHICSMore detail then the PC game, although at the lower TV resolution.
SOUNDWonderful sound effects, very atmospheric music, muffled speech.
GAMEPLAYClassic single player modes and solid 2-player Decay & Deathmatch.
VALUEAround 20 hours in single player, much more in multi-player modes.
OVERALLA wonderful port of a PC game that has stood the test of time.

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