Ah, good old Half-Life. I've beat this game like 20 times, so it really has started to wear thin on me, but Episode 1 comes out in five days so I'll tough through it. Sad thing is I pretty much know where everything is and where all the monsters spawn and what scripted sequence is going to happen next. Still, it's one of the best games I've ever played.
And what a game it is. Half-Life set a lot of milestones and introduced a lot of innovation into the genre. Short level transitions used to create a continious, first-hand experiance instead of being broken up into missions and briefings and cutscenes; skeletal animation for real-time model deformation, which compresses animation down (And, IIRC, is what finally axed the "vertex swimming" problem of the Quake engine) and allows for model parts to be swapped around: allowing enemies to have different weapons within the same model, or even different heads so they don't all look the same. Texture decals allowed one to make a impact on the gameworld in a era where terrain deformation was highly limited to scripted sequences. Even the little things like giving the player a flashlight, or losing keycards in favor of scientists with retinal access, or even the complete removal of the "cutscene" in favor of in-game scripted sequences and exposition coming from other characters in the game, not from texted briefings.
Half-Life did a lot of good for the genre. Hard to believe it was Valve's first game.
Ah, the old hazard course. Great means of introducing the players to the controls, but rather silly when you think about it. Sure, learning how to move, jump and duck with the HEV makes sense, but do they really need to suffocate, burn, irradiate and drop the poor scientists to teach them how the HEV handles damage? And why the hell does the HEV have weapon analyst tech anyway, let alone why does the Hazard Course for HEV users have weapons training. Security Guards I can understand, but WTF? :D Also, the BMRF must be pretty cheap, considering they turned random terrain lying around into the Hazard Course. :)
Oh, and the Long Jump Module. Good idea to teach the players to use it in the Hazard Course: bad idea to not give it to them until the last 1/4th of the game so they forget to use it. Took me forever to get it to work and even then it wasn't perfect. 'course now I've totally mastered it now.
Gina, the instructor for the Hazard Course (and one of the two main characters from Half-Life: decay) has a surprisingly well textured face for being a 1998 game (I'm not running the HD pack.) It isn't nearly as defined as anything that's come since (her eyes are flat textures, instead of being modeled like even the HD pack content was).
Ah, the crowbar: Icon of Half-Life and one of the more unique "last resort" weapons I've seen. (Though I hold that the Quake II blaster was more innovative, but that's just me). Fun to swing around and oh so neccassary considerin how many boxes infest the BMRF.
Man... the flashlight. Playing games without it is just hard these days. For those of you who bought SiN Episode 1: Try playing the original SiN. No flashlight will drive you nuts after awhile. Kudos for Valve for putting it into the game.
Again, I question the Target Range.. Why are they giving live GRENADES to shoot targets? And the let me keep the weapon too! The gieger counter is a nice touch, in retrospec. Gives the game more authentic feel and lets you know when radioactive stuff is around.
-Black Mesa Inbound-
The famous intro to Half-Life. I wonder how this came about? Instead of an introductory movie or just starting you off at the beginning of the game, you got a beutiful ride through Black Mesa. I remember people were actually fooled into thing it was cinimaticly readered as there was "no way the engine could look that good!" I remember reading a review who was amazed when he bumped his mouse and realized he could look all around during the ride.
The ride establishes the size of the facility, bits of the old cold war stuff lying around, and informs the player of the purpose of the place by way of an automated info/news broadcast being spewed out of the trams speakers. (Same VO as the one who played Gina, I think). Also of note is the first appearance of the Gman: Just a guy in a blue suit. Looks a bit odd and not like anyone else, but also nothing terribly unusual about him.
Heh, I love how the tram gets to the part about radiation exposure right when your moving above that bigass spill that the crab walker was walking down to. :D
Again we see how Half-Life broke the mold. Even after the relativly non-interactive opening tram ride, they still don't drop you directly into the fire. You actually get to run around the lab, interact with people (who are too busy) or various crap lying around. While the interactivity isn't at the same level as, say, SiN or Duke Nukem 3D was, and it suddenly dissapeared after this chapter, it did help to make the gameworld feel real. Being able to experiance the world before the accident is pretty intelligent in retrospec: it lets to see that something indeed has gone horrible wrong.
Here is the only bathroom in the entirety of Half-Life 1, IIRC. Maybe that's why there was a hundred toilets in HL2: they were making up lost ground. :D
We get the HEV suit for the first time, along with a gigantic startup sound as it loads everyknown thing under the sun. Yeesh. Cool music though. This is also the second time we see the Gman. From this we can tell he's involved more directly with Freeman's work, but to what level and what end is unknown. Still, no reason to particularly notice him as of yet. There's bound to be some beurocrats running around a top secret facility anyway.
The test chamber.. Surprisingly iconic considering it's only seen at the beginning of the game, and then never again until Half-Life 2's opening. Heh, I like how they put Gordon into a probably several million dollar protective suit so he can hit a button and push a cart. Our fictional tax dollars at work, ladies and gentlemen. :) Anywho, I'd like to take this time to say the "beam" energy effects in this game were pretty stunning for the time. I don't think I had ever seen anything like that before.
The resonance cascade is friggen awesome. Still is. The sheer "Aw hell" feeling and the brief glimpses of Xen were very cool. Heh, there's occasionaly a bug where the alien slaves that drop from the sky and then dissapear, don't. And so you start the next chapter with a alien slave in the room and no weapon, so you have to high tail it out of there. :D
One of the things I like about this chapter is that one of hte first things you see is a scientist giving CPR to a fallen Security Guard. It's a very simple scripted sequence but its one of those things that really adds to the world. Seeing the trashed Sector C was pretty cool. Hard to believe that six years later, that black scientist that opens the door for you will become one of the major characters in the Half-Life series. :D
The first sighting of a headcrab in this chapter... What can you really say about the headcrab that hasn't already been said? Deceptivly fast when they fly at your head, otherwise pathetically slow and easy to kill; right up until one unsuspectingly pops out of air vent.
'course you can't talk about the Headcrab without talking about the Zombie. While not particularly scary or bright, Zombies provided decent fodder, and a little bit of horror at the thought of your collueges turned into monsters. Later in the game Zombies are laughable but early on they can be tricky: especially when all you have is a crowbar or you want to conserve ammo. Doing the crowbar dance is a well rehearsed move of any Half-Life venteren.
This level also has the cool scene where the scientist fights against the headcrab and crushes it under a file cabinet, only to get taken from behind by another one. Nearby this area is something I didn't find until probably my 17th or 18th playthrough. If you get close enough to the fallen ventilation shaft, a headcrab will break out of it. Can't believe I had never seen that before.
You get the pistol from the corpse of a guard that dies right before you eyes (Unless you slaughter a previous guard and steal his gun :), and while it's not the best of weapons, it does shoot underwater and has a rapid fire spastic alt-fire. An interesting factoid of the glock is that original release version of Half-life, it worked like a real glock wherein if you had a bullet in the chamber, and then reloaded, you'd have 1 bullet in the chamber plus 17 in the clip for 18 total. This was removed in subsequent versions but I still miss it. It was always nice to have that extra bullet in multiplayer firefights. :D
We see the Gman for the first time since the incident here, and it is here where we first realize there's much more to him than previously though. Attempting to shoot him will result in a ricochet and him just walking off. The houndeyes in the area don't faze him either.
Speaking of Houndeyes: probably the cutest critter in the game. Originally they were supposed to have more pack like abilities instead of just being monsters that are found together, oh well. The sound attack was rather unique in the game in that it was a localized effect around the houndeye instead of a projectile or a melee attack. The houndeyes made for good variety amoung the enemies.
Not much to say about grenades. Throw 'em right away or cook 'em. The Alien Slave is an interesting monster: it's the first sign of an alien intelligence involved with the incident; though they're still pretty weak monsters (The "always hit you" lighting can be a pain though, especially when you don't have cover and you're fighting multiple monsters.) Kind of funny how they went from low teir monster to kick ass allies in Half-Life 2. :D
The long ramp with all the headcrabs jumping down at you was a pretty memorable moment. I actually found out that if you slide down the right side of the ramp thingy, you can slide all the way down to the bottom without getting hurt and without having to deal with the crabs. 'Course a real man takes on the crabs!
We encounter Barnacles and Bullsquids in around the same area. Bullsquids fill in the fast and powerful niche with a fairly nasty ranged attack. The best part about them, IMO, was the sound work. They really sounded nasty when they took a chunk out of you. Barnacles... Well, we've all gotten snacked on by a barnacle; though they're rather useless since a crowbar whack will kill them. Just look up and hold down the attack key, and you'll never get munched.
You get the shotgun for the first time in this section. It's the first really beefy weapon you get and the secondary fire was a great addition, allowing for both single and double shots without getting stuck with two shotguns. Although you get a LOT of ammo for this thing.. like over 15 reloads worth if you have max ammo. That's a lot of ammo. :D
Man, scientists get WORKED in this game. Always getting pulled into vents and eaten and jeeze. I love the one where one scientist is trying to pull another into a vent, but then he gets grabbed from behind and they're both whisked into the vent to their deaths.
By the way, if you hated herding around your allies in HL2 (I never had a problem with it) don't play this game again. Not only do your allies get in your way (And unlike HL2, they don't try to move out of the way either) they get stuck on doors and geometry and are a general pain in the ass to heard around. HL:source fixed this, plus removed limits of how many people you could have following you, so I at one point had 7 scientists and 4 security guards. :)
One of the things Half-Life did is instead of giving you missing briefings or objectives, the experiance was much fluid. The accident happens and logically the best thing to do is to head to the surface: Nobody says "Gordon: Your objective is.." they say "What are you doing down here? Get topside! I hear troops are coming in to save us.)
Also of note in this chapter is one of the more elaborate secrets; going through a vent behind a door you can wind your way around part of the level and unlock a room with lots of goodies in it. Half-Life had a lot of these; sort of "incidently secrets" that made sense within the level and gameworld, but still provided people something to look for.
The Gman sighting in this chapter is one of the more memorable. Seperated by bulletproof glass and a firedoor, the Gman smuggly adjusts his tie, brushes the dust off his shirt and turns his back on you as he walks off and around the corner.
This chapter ends with "the jump" At first I thought I had missed getting the long jump module at some point as I could never make the jump to the other side of the elevator shaft. Took me forever to master, but now I can do it without thought. Can even get up to the scientist before he falls, occasionally.
-"We've got hostiles!"-
And here it is, the worst kept "secret" in videogaming history until the Quake IV stroggification. The military arrives and they're going to kill everyone to contain the event. What a bunch of jerks. The soldiers represented some of the most advanced and difficult enemies seen in games; though looking back that's not surprising. Most enemies just ran towards you trying to kill you. They didn't attempt flanking or flushing you out with grenades. Good times.
One of the weird things about the soldiers is that they always spoke in pseudo-garbled radio chatter, even though several of them were wearing no visable transmitters. If I were remaking Half-Life, I'd probably add some sort of mouthpiece to those guys.
Along with the soldiers, this chapter marks the arrival of the MP5. Weaker per bullet than the glock (Seriously: it takes five MP5 bullets to kill a branacle, but only 4 glock bullets, even though they're the same ammo.) this was none-the-less the defacto weapon in the game. Weirdly, it's the only weapon you pick up that doesn't have full ammo in it. Also, this MP5 is a bit imaginary, as it has an attached grenade launcher, which from what I've learned, the real mp5 did not have. Still, the grenade launcher was awesome, so I ain't complaining. You also see a lot of tripmines, but you don't get any for your inventory quite yet.
Also, this chapter really brings out the "crate overload" in full; even more than the previous two chapters. I blame E2M2 from Doom 1, personally.
Heh, I remember the first time I got to the flooded area near the elevator: go go frictionless surfaces! *splat* The gman is nearby, as is the big twist. I wonder if it was intentional to put the gman so close to the first living marine you encounter.
This chapter features the most extensive series of backtracking in the game, I think. After making it to the surface, you have to start heading back down through the ventilation shafts, and if you explore you can find lots of goodies that were previously unattainable. You can also find perhaps one of the most memorable moments in the game: "I've killed 12 dumbass scientists and not one of 'em faught back -- This sucks!" I'm sure we all enjoyed dropping a grenade on his head. :D
At the end of the chapter, Freeman gets a change in objective. Rescue is out of the question so the catastrophe is the next logical course. This is the first mention of the Lamda Labs. In order to get there, of course, Freeman has to find transportation..
Not many people realize it, but there's actually THREE crowbars in HL1. The first two are obvious but the third is located at the beginning of blast pit in the room with the explosives. Because you already have the crowbar, you can't pick it up, so it's really just decoration.
After riding the rail cart and getting flung into radioactive waste, there's a section where you have to jump on pipes. I remember sucking at jumping from one thing ot another so bad. Now it's easier than pie.
Man, what an enterance for the Tentacle. "Destory the damn thing before it grows any larger!" the loud banging noise, and bursting through the blast screen to nab the scientist "Get it off me! Get it off!" Then you hear the Security Guard "Quiet: This thing hears us!" and we all thought back to the Hazard Course and how to shift our suit into stealth mode.
The grenades though: Were we supposed to blow the sucker up? No matter how many times you shoot it, it wouldn't die? Then it hits you: Distraction. A great moment in FPS gaming: Using a weapon for a purpose other than killing or destroying. :D
There's an interesting part in the power section. People talk about how in HL2, the physics allowed them to take different paths (Building a ramp over wall instead of opening a door to get the car past) but this is present in Half-Life as well. After turning on the power, there's a pool of water that is electified. There's also a big insulated wire running across the wall and a bunch of boxes. What I did is use the boxes to get onto the wire and walk over the water; but other people used the boxes to build a bridge over the water. Cool stuff. :D
The giant fan was cool; and finally getting all the pieces together watch the tentacles writh and die was well worth the effort. Tumbling down the path the roots took, we're rewarded with the Colt Python and some ammo and upon ruther running, the tripmines. The python is excellent for taking out grunts with headshots and killing bullsquids, whereas the tripmines are useful for when you don't want to waste a satchle and need more precise timing than a grenade. Plus tripmines can be used as stairs :D
Rather funny how you start the level watching a Gargantua slaughtering some marines while the Gman watches. Gargantua has some bitching theme music and is a pretty nasty critter to boot. When you first meet him he's pretty much out of your ability to kill (Enough grenades and tripmines will do it, but it takes some pretty skilled play in order to pull that off) So he remains a huge obstacle for the entire chapter.
The neat thing about the Gargantua in this chapter is dispite the fact that you don't deal with him that much (Just at the start and the end) his presence is maintained throughout by the way of scripted sequences. His stomping causes rubble to fall and whatnot. Good way of keeping it on the players mind while he goes about starting the generator. The sprint with the Garg on your tail when you try and activate the generator is awesome, eclipsed only by the garg later in the game.
-On a Rail-
This chapter starts off with one of the more obscure parts of the Half-Life story. The Satellite. Until Decay, nobody knew what the satallite was used for, nor why the military aborted the launch. Decay later revealed that it was needed for a Resonance Reversal, but it's still one of the more mysterious parts of the game.
On a Rail is a sort of precurser to Water Hazard and Highway 17; while your vehical is stuck to a rail, you still are able to make choices in where it goes and it sticks with you for most of the chapter. Flying by grunts and popping them before they can shoot rockets at you is always fun.
One of the cool things about this chapter is that as you go up the rail complex, you get repeated opportunities to look at the rocket; until you finally launch it when you hit the surface.
This chapter probably has the most nooks and crannies to explore than any other in the game; little caches of ammo and whatnot, and the ever present mispelled grunt grafitti (YORE DEAD FREEMEN!). While this is probably my least favorite bit of Half-Life, it does show some really clever level design as you wind your way through the complex. Strangly with all the secrets, there's no Gman sighting that I have found, or at least that I remember.
The chapter also features a couple of great grunt moments as well. The first is the "So who is this guy, Freeman?" conversation where two grunts discuss the myth surrounding the man who was at ground zero and has slaughtered grunts en masse all the while Dr. Freeman is right behind them. The second is the grunt in the launch facility. "I didn't sign on for this shit! Monsters sure, but civilians? Who ordered this operation!" almost makes you feel bad for killing the guys who are just following orders. Almost.
Heh, it's not until the end that you realize the chapter title has a double meaning. There's a lot of water in this level, which makes it one of my less favorites. With all the water, this is of course the first appearance of the Ichthyosaur, one of the nastier critters in the game. Because he roams the water, most of your weapons can't be used on him unless you take potshots at him from above. In addition, he's very deadly underwater, and can take a lot of damage. Luckily you get the crossbow nearby, which is perfect for killing Ichthy's.
There's also an important revelation in this chapter. The nearby scientist mentions "They say it was pulled from the challenger deep, but I'm positive that thing wasn't swimming in terrestial waters until a week ago..." putting the first bit of doubt about the accident having actually been an accident.
At the end of the level, you witness a Security Guard being shot in the back before he can tell you something, and then go up against some of Half-Life's hardest enemies: the assassins. They're especially difficult on hard mode because they can cloak themselves. Tripmines are useful against those suckers.
The gman returns in this chapter, but it's a "blink and you'll miss it" sighting. IN the generator room he'll be at the far side on the balcony, but as soon as you get in range to see him, he'll start walking off and there's a bullsquid in the room to distract you. Tricky sighting.
Finally, this chapter has the greatest moment (IMO) out of all the Half-Life games: You fight these extremly fast, extremly hard to hit, and deadly assassins in this maze of crates. You kill 3 or 4 and are not sure there's more, as you head out the surface access. There you see a medkit. You're probably low on health at this point, so you creep towards it just in case another assassin is out there and POW! The light goes out and you get jumped. I must have jumped a mile when that happened. I think I actually starting clapping my first playthrough when that happened. Awesome scene.
So you hit the obligatory "lose your weapons" stage of the game and get dumped into a trash compacter. Interesting thing about this area is that you don't need to get the crowbar to get out of the compactor: if you jump on the grate you'll break it with your weight. 'Course you'll have to beat the rest of the game without the crowbar :D
So you start the ardius task to regain your weapons. This is probably my least favorite chapter in Half-Life. It has lots of platform, not nearly enough ammo, and the locals are pretty bland. Luckily it goes pretty quick.
Probably my favorite chapter in the game; while you start off with VERY little ammo, you learn that there's a lot more going on than previously though. Not only are there alien soldiers in observation tubes, but it's quite obvious these things were being studied well before the incident.
The Alien Grunt makes its appearance in this chapter. They have a lot of armour, hit points and their ammo is heatseeking. Luckily the Tau Cannon is very good with dealing with them. Snarks are also first seen in this stage.
This Chapter also starts the tradition of "Warning Sign" puzzles, wherein you find a warning sign, do what it tells you NOT to do, and then do it. This is seen throughout the Half-Life series.
Damn this a long chapter. Twice as long as any other, I think. Full of crazy battles with soldiers all the way through. You also meet the apache early on. When I first played half-life I ran and hid from the helicopters, but now I just shoot them down with the Tau Cannon. :)
The cliff is a memorable part of this chapter, as is the first fight with the RPG with the laser sight. After you finish the cliff, Valve attempts to scare the pants off you by sticking a headcrab into the pipe you have to go into. Show of hands: How many people tried backpedaling only to fall backwards off the cliff? Yeah, I thought so. :)
I think we all remember turning the corner in that one building and seeing all the tripmines around the explosives. :D Also, we first start seeing a more organized effort by the aliens. No longer are they just alien animals teleporting in at random, but they're sapiant alien soldiers being strategically dropped into battle.
I never quite liked how they gave the player the hivehand. You just find it in a tunnel and there's not even any Grunts nearby. I think it would have been cooler to see a grunt that was blown to bits and his arm was torn off his his body and lying nearby.
The second gargantua is at the end is taken out in a pretty good way. You have to flee while he tears ass behind you, upending cars and whatnot, and you eventually have to fling yourself over a huge wall to escape him: and what do you find? A map of the immediate area and a radio message telling you to mark some airstrike locations. Awesome moment.
-"Forget about Freeman"
Considered by many to be where Half-Life starts going downhill, mainly due to the military starting to pull out and a much larger alien presence taking over. Still, the "Forget about Freeman!" message is one of the more memorable of the game.
Honestly, this chapter starts a bit early IMO: Forget about Freeman really ends on a whimper and this one starts with a big battle with the assassins (Who make their second, and last appearance) and some alien grunts. Oh well. The marines are totally gone now and alien grunts and slaves make up the bulk of the enemies.
This chapter marks the final weapon addition to Gordon's arsenal: the highly overpowered Gluon Gun. Makes short work of anything and everything, so long as it's killable. :D
The gman makes a return in this chapter, having not been seen since Apprehension four or five chapters earlier. Here he's really showing off how unusual he is by hanging out with a bunch of headcrabs and then walking into a teleporter.
Speaking of teleporters, quite possibly the most important revelations are made in this chapter: that Black Mesa has been experiementing with teleportation and Xen for a long time now. Opening the portal was particularly hectic for me; not only is it the first introduction of the Alien Controllers (Xen Masters) but my aim weren't so good back then. Those SOB's are hard to hit, and with humans in the room the hivehand could possible hit them.
A lot of people don't like Xen, but I do. I like the idea and I think it provided an interesting local, and while it was a lot of platforming, in was interspersed between blowing up critters. :D The main thing is that I think most people forgot how to long jump by this point, thus making this chapter much more difficult.
Time to kill the giant walking testicle. I often wonder what the headcrab lifecycle is. Baby Headcrab -> Headcrab -> Zombie -> Bigger zombie -> Gonarch? If I had to guess, I'd say that the Headcrab uses its host to be able to catch and consumer larger and larger prey so it has enough biomass to gestate into a Gonarch.
The Gonarch Music kicks ass by the way.
Heh, Nihilanth doesn't sound to happy about the Gonarch dying. Man is the island with all the controllers and slaves hard as hell to get by. :S The next area with the garg is much easier (especially if you use tripmines and satchel charges to set a trap for it :D)
Which then leads to the factory: my least favorite part of Xen and the penultimate area. Looking back, I wonder if Valve meant for the Citadel to bear a resemblance in function to this factory, where Alien Grunts are being packages and it looks like Xen is gearing up for a major war.
At the end of Interloper, there's the portal to the Nihilanth. Not many people know this, but if you listen carefully you can hear bits and bobs of speech from the Black Mesa Incident "...we tried to warn them." "Rescued at last thank god you're here!" "Big day today, Freeman" "Someone get him out of there!"
This is an interesting boss battle; I'm sure we all shot the crap out of the Nihilanth at first, and then went "dammit" when he went and recharged himself. Now I just blow those crystals away the second I see them. (Trivia Note: Those crystals on the walls are supposed to be related to the one that triggered the Resonance Cascade: and the triangle thing inside the Nihilanth's head)
Getting teleported is a both a boone and a problem as you can use it to get more health, but you got to be careful due to having to battle enemies. Stopping a teleportation also means you have to deal with extra enemies. (Slaves or Controllers).
I was quite happy when I finally figured out what I had to do. (For the longest time I just kept shooting at the Nihilanth as he chucked single energy balls at me) Whacking the crap out of his head and sending him into his death throes was fantastic.
So here it is; your reward for beating Half-Life: You finally figure out what the hell is going on with the Gman: sorta. Lets go over what he says.
He takes your crap stating it's goverment property anyway; then he mentions that the Borderworld Xen is in "our" control. As he says this, there are marines strewn all over a crator in Xen. What the hell happened? His 'employers' (It sounds like he's using the term loosly) have authorized him to "hire" Freeman. Still no clue who the hell they are... And we're given a choice that isn't really that much of a choice (Do or die, as it were)
Wisely done. Status Hired. Wait time until sequel: Six Years. :D
Oh, and the music at the end rocks.