For many Half Life was the greatest FPS ever made, the way scenes were played out in real-time in front of your eyes without the game having to switch back and forth between cut-scenes and gameplay hadn’t ever been done that well before, and the way it all worked added a great atmosphere to the game that made you feel as though you really were stuck in a scientific research facility where a dimension warp had occurred and this made you feel genuinely worried about what was around the next corner, scientists would be dragged into air ducts and you could do nothing but watch as they screamed.
Then Half Life 2 came along and PC owners were having to upgrade their machines all over again thanks to the games fantastic graphics and physics engine. It was the first truly “next generation” game we’d seen, so how ironic that the same month that the first of the next-gen consoles, the XBox 360, is released, its predecessor receives its own port of the FPS to own a PC for. And to look at it you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a first generation XBox 360 title, minus all the Mr Sheen that those games seem to be covered in. This is proof, if needed, that developers are only just getting the most from the 128-bit systems and that the next-gen has come a little bit too early.
The biggest issue with PC to Console conversions seems to be in the controls department, but with the sheer amount of FPS titles that are on the XBox this should never be a problem for any developer, in fact the only real problem most have faced is getting the sensitivity of the controls right, and Half Life 2 seems to hit the nail on the head here, although when you switch from running around to driving one of the games vehicles it does feel a little odd at first, but this was reportedly a problem some had with the PC version of the game, and in all honesty it might have been done on purpose as looking at the vehicles, they appear to be made of scrap and wouldn’t handle too well in real life so its been made this way within the game. The controls in the vehicles too, add to the games tension, especially when your in battle with creatures, helicopters or anything else the game may throw at you. For instance at the end of the hover bike section of the game, you have to take on a helicopter and due to the handling of the vehicle you really are the underdog in this battle, but once you do overcome this particular section, the sense of achievement is so worthwhile that you feel the game cannot challenge you anymore.
But its not just in terms of difficult sections that the game challenges you with, one particular area will have your nerves on edge so much you’ll question through it, it really is that scary and is where you are introduced to some new creatures.
This particular area is Ravenholm, and for me personally it was scarier than any Resident Evil, Silent Hill or Project Zero game created is farm and this isn’t even a survival horror title. The Poison Headcrabs and Fast Zombies in particular are what make this area especially scary, especially when they come at you at the time. But theres some fun to be had here too, although in a sadistic way, said fun involves throwing circular saw discs with your gravity gun and, my particular favourite, setting alight the gas tank traps while zombies are chasing after you.
This is one of the areas where you notice the quality of the sound, with the zombies moans transferring to the screams of those trapped beneath the headcrabs as they burn alive.
I could really go on forever about what makes Half Life 2 so great, from the physics (you can play on a roundabout in a park near the beginning) to the lighting of the areas and how natural the controls and how they respond feel. But I’d end up giving too much away, and probably boring you to death. I will say, however, that Valves only mistake was to not include any Multiplayer modes, offline or on. But considering what they’ve achieved here anyway, its really not needed.
Half Life 2 receives a 10 purely because it is the XBox’s most complete single player experience, it also scores higher than its PC equivalent because of the fete that Valve have achieved in transferring the game to the XBox in such good form. If your after a game to play on your own, without having Live there to distract you, look no further, I really can’t recommend this game enough.