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Half-Life 2 Review

Half-Life 2

Developer: Valve
Publisher: Built the Steam Platform
Released on Nov 16, 2004

Half-Life 2 is a sequel to the acclaimed Half-Life, the first FPS to employ plot-driven scripted events. It won the “Game of the Year” award in 2012, being developed next to Valve’s Source engine, spawning an endless supply of playable, fan-made mods and levels. Once again, Gordon Freeman, our brilliant Nuclear Physicist, is assigned to fight against the Combine forces by the mysterious G-Man.

Genre: A FPS with Tons of Action

After the disastrous Black Mesa Incident, you know, the one where the anti-mass spectrometer triggered a resonance cascade, blowing up the entire facility? It turns out, Gordon Freeman managed to escape, fighting his way past HECU soldiers, aliens from Xen, aka the whole nine yards.

Freeman meeting his old colleagues, Barney Calhoun and Dr. Kleiner.

20 years have passed, and he is finally removed from stasis, soon realizing that the Earth is being overrun by an alien empire, forcing the remaining humans into hiding. The G-Man has tasked him with aiding the resistance on the front lines, eliminating threats like the civil protection units stationed all around City 17.

Now Gordon can finally put that Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics to good use. After stopping an alien invasion with his assortment of military-grade weaponry, such as the iconic crowbar, he has gained the respect of the remaining survivors. But he can’t go out hunting aliens without that old HEV suit to protect himself from radiation poisoning.

Playing as Gordon Freeman, you’ll notice the big telescreens in urban areas, showing the face of Dr. Wallace Breen, the governor of Earth, who spreads propaganda in support of “our benefactors” (aka the Combine). Judging by all the beatings of civilians, it’s obvious that you’re in a police state. It doesn’t take long before you become the most wanted man on Earth.

Locking onto targets is a great way to check your surroundings.

You are then rescued by Alyx Vance, Eli’s daughter who has joined the resistance. Due to a freak accident caused by Kleiner’s pet Lamarr, you get teleported to some strange places and wound up at Breen’s office in the Citadel. These speaking cutscenes offer some context about what happened after the time skip.

Of course, you take the long detour around to meet Eli Vance, crossing underground railways while finding other allies; also killing CP officers and bladed scanners trying to chase you down. It’s honestly a straight shot to the end, but you are expected to survive by hiding in buildings or firing at explosive barrels to your advantage.

Resistance fighters will always supply you with free med-kits and ammunition at their bases spread out in City 17.

Resistance bases like these are a life-saver where you don’t have to fend off the Combine units, giving you a moment to relax before you jump back into all the fighting. Your allies are more than happy to lend you their weapons such as the deadly RPG launcher when you’re being targeted by dropships in the open. Definitely pick up those frag grenades to drive apart groups of enemies.

First-Aid charging stations are widely dispersed in military-controlled areas to help you stay alive.

It would be downright reckless to go in guns blazing without first checking your surroundings for ambush attempts. The Combine forces tend to hide between freight trains or shoot from a distance from above buildings and bridges. They will take advantage of the terrain whenever necessary to take down Freeman.

Keep an eye out for Lambda Locations, where you can find a device with some health kits and ammo.

I still remember this one chapter where Gordon receives an airboat to allow him passage through the canal to Black Mesa East. It was a very tense moment when a hunter-chopper pursued him relentlessly through the sewer tunnels, dropping bombs into the water. The chopper can’t be taken out until a Vortigaunt attaches a turret to the airboat.

Father Grigory hands you a shotgun after you make use of his zombie traps.

One of the best weapons is the zero-point gravity gun, which allows Gordon to pick up and blast most objects from a distance. This is especially useful in Ravenholm which is infested with zombies and fast-moving headcrabs. The gravity gun lets you hurl pretty much anything at the zombies, from razor-sharp saw blades to explosive propane tanks.

You can’t help but want to give those fast headcrabs a good thwacking before they inject you with toxic venom, reducing your health to zero. Wandering around Ravenholm gave me motion sickness, resulting from the field of view shaking too hard. It was still sad to see the refugees that had been killed or turned into zombies.

Approaching a seemingly abandoned building in the distance.

I remember in the next chapter, Gordon is told that he must go rescue Eli Vance at Nova Prospekt. But to get there, he will have to drive the scout buggy along Highway 17. The vehicle is hard to control, often throwing you off course. Here you will get attacked by aggressive Antlions if you don’t stay on the main road.

In a hurry to clear this area? Hit the turbo boost to run over the Combine soldiers and shoot incoming Antlions with your charge-up turret. The deadly Combine gunships will be targeting you; they are invulnerable to gunfire unless you shoot them with the Rocket Launcher. You then have to disable some force fields to cross the big bridge.

Blasting away electrically-charged Roller Mines

Amongst the wreckage of cars, are these roller mines that will attach to Freeman and electrocute him. Getting rid of them was tricky when they keep bouncing all over the place. They always latch onto the buggy so you have to use the gravity gun to pick them up and toss em’ into the ocean. By this point, you would’ve acquired a decent collection of guns at your disposal.

The Pulse Rifle’s alt-fire shoots vaporizing energy balls.

I have to admit, climbing over the bridge railing was a truly frightening experience. One misstep and Freeman would have fallen to his death. On the bright side, we can one-hit KO any unsuspecting overwatch soldiers with the Resistance Crossbow. Don’t miss a chance to charge up your HEV suit at the power-up stations.

A Vortigaunt teaches you how to throw pheropods to attract groups of Antlions.

The sandtraps were hands-down a real pain in the ass. You had to make a bridge out of wooden planks before it was safe to cross the beach. Stepping onto the sand triggered a group of Antlions, which are nearly impossible to get rid of. But once you obtain the pheropods, you can throw them at the Combine forts, watching the Antlions rip apart your enemies in seconds.

You reunite with Alyx and attempt to teleport back to the lab.

Unlike most sensible people, Gordon Freeman will be breaking into the high-security prison, Nova Prospekt, with an army of Antlions by his side. All goes well until an Antlion guard breaks down the door and starts smashing into things. You’ll notice Overwatch guys patrolling prison corridors if you watch the video feeds. Plenty of supply crates will keep you armed enough to take out the turrets.

The Resistance uprising begins, transforming City 17 into a complete warzone.

You and Alyx fight off waves of security forces using turrets as placeholders, then finally track down Judith only to discover that she was a spy for the Combine all along. The plot intensifies, so now it’s time to storm the city and free humanity from the Combine’s clutches. Dog lends a hand by destroying a dropship but you are alone once again.

It never hurts to have your guns ready. Still not as scary as being crushed by the big Combine wall.

Freeman arrives relatively unscathed at the lab while Kleiner and Alyx try to escape the city under lockdown. You team up with Barney to lead Resistance groups against the Overwatch Nexus, blowing up ground turrets before you can proceed. You shut down the Combine power generators but are caught in a ditch with invincible Striders, so you’d better bring out the heavy artillery.

In Follow Freeman, many squad members will join you in defeating the Combine units stationed in the city, usually in teams of four. Despite being more vulnerable to gunfire, they do a pretty good job of watching your back when you infiltrate buildings. There’s always a medic who carries unlimited health kits to heal injured squad members.

Squad members assemble!

They won’t hold off the snipers and the elite soldiers, but they do know when to take cover and reload. You can command them to stay put if you want to scout ahead. Of course, you’re not expected to save all of them so don’t feel bad if they do die.

Anyway, you take a transport pod into the Citadel, where you get a front-row seat to the inner workings of the Combine headquarters. You’ll also come to the horrible realization that humans were surgically modified into deformed Combine soldiers. Then, your guns are disintegrated and re-materialized into a single, supercharged gravity gun.

A skyline view of the Citadel before you confront Breen.

And when I say this gun is a beast, I mean it: Even the Combine Elite don’t stand a chance against a gun that could grab and hurl people as projectiles. The gravity gun can be used to deflect energy balls. Send your armies all you want Breen, but you can’t stop the one and only Gordon Freeman.

To end this review, I have to admit: It’s funny how after more than a decade, Valve still can’t count to three. Like we got parts one and two released but the story never reached its true ending. Fans were understandably upset because they bought all the spin-offs, extensions, but their lord and savior Gaben refused to reveal anything of substance.

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