|Half-Life 2 Artwork|
|Release date(s)||PC - November 16, 2004|
XBOX - November 15, 2005
XBOX 360 - October 10, 2007
PS3 - December 11, 2007
|Available on||PC, XBOX, XBOX360, PS3|
|Rating||ESRB: Mature 17+|
Half-Life 2 is a critically acclaimed First Person Shooter, is the sequel to the equally successful Half-Life, developed by Valve Corporation, and was released on November 16, 2004. Heralded as a masterpiece and a breakthrough in modern gaming upon its release, the game was awarded over 35 separate "Game of the Year" awards and universally positive reviews. The game is based on Valve's new Source Engine, including the heavily updated "Havok" physics engine. This game is viewed by some as the best game ever created, as seen on the game's boxart.
Set several years after the cliffhanger on which its predecessor finished, the player is immediately dropped into a passanger train scene after an uneasy introductive cutscene of sorts involving the G-Man, an important and unexplained character who featured heavily in the original Half-Life. From here on in, the player is immediately aware of the oppressive presence of the Combine, a new enemy group consisting of trans-human soldiers and an array of bizarre "vehicles", some of which are seemingly organic. Eventually, by experience and some in-game easter eggs, the player becomes aware of the "7 hour war" waged after the collapse of The Black Mesa Research Facility in Half-Life, ending in the defeat and surrender of the Earth to these alien enemies and ultimately in their tyrannic control of the planet. Half-Life 2 revolves around Gordon Freeman and the Resistance's struggle against this oppressive presence, as well as the more sinister creatures they appear to have inadvertently brought with them from Xen.
Playing once more as Gordon Freeman, the player must navigate several linear chapters, with most of the action consisting mainly of combat with Combine troops or alien creatures, wherein the player is often aided by Human Resistance members. An assortment of weapons, ranging from basic human-made shotguns, SMG's and pistols to Combine produced Overwatch Assault Rifles, as well as New Human Technology such as the "Gravity Gun" (or Zero-Point Energy Field Manipulator), are provided to aid the player in this task. There is also the opportunity to control two separate, armed vehicles (a hovercraft and a buggy), and many puzzles (often showcasing the game's advanced physics engine) are interspersed between action sequences; for example, in order to cross a see-sawing ramp, players must pick up and place surrounding cinder blocks on one end, hence countering their character's weight and allowing access to higher levels.
As with most First Person Shooter games, the entire game is conducted from the perspective of the main character, with a HUD (Heads-up Display) at the bottom of the screen, displaying key statuses such as character Health and Armor, and Weapon Ammunition. All of these values are recharged by picking up the necessary items or accessing wall terminals: for example, ammunition can be harvested from a fallen enemy's weapon or a crate of supplies, and Health and Armour are restored by healing points built into the walls of some areas as well as pick-ups. Though many other games employ cutscenes to more easily give the player background storyline information, Half-Life 2 does not, instead relying on in-game real-time events to grasp the player's attention (for example, an enemy firing on the player will cause them to look in that direction, in time to witness a key event take place in that area). This style of play has been both praised and criticised; though it gives an extra level of immersion, making the player feel part of the storyline, it also allows some key events to be missed depending on the player's awareness, and limits the progression of the entire plot to events that apply to Gordon Freeman directly.
An entirely separate dimension of the game is created with the addition of the Gravity Gun, or Zero-Point Energy Field Manipulator. This item can be used to pick up inanimate objects such as cinderblocks, chairs, and even tables and wardrobes from a fair distance away, at which point the player can blast the object at high speeds over a long distance (a technique used to inflict damage on enemies), drop the item on the floor lightly or carry it around in suspension. Such realistic physics simulation, allowing for varied and highly tactical gameplay, had never been seen before the release of Half-Life 2, and was one of the reasons for its success. It is implemented not only in a combat environment, but also as a tool for solving puzzles: in one area, the player must build a makeshift bridge across a beach infested with Antlions; should the player touch the sand itself, they are immediately attacked.
Otherwise, the gameplay in general is much the same as it was in Half-Life, though more focus has been placed on the storyline than in its predecessor.
Some of the featured weapons in Half-Life made returns in Half-Life 2. They are as follows:
Aside from returning weapons, new ones were implemented as well. They include the:
- Gravity gun or Zero-Point Energy Field Manipulator
- H&K MP-7 PDW (Personal Defence Weapon)
- AR2 Combine Overwatch Pulse Rifle
- Antlion Pheropods
Other weapons include:
 Characters and Creatures
Through out Half-Life 2, Gordon Freeman predominantly fights alone. At certain points, however, allies come to assist. Gordon is mainly helped by human members of the Resistance, but is also found being assisted by the Vortigaunts who can recharge his HEV suit besides fighting. Notable friendly characters that feature in the storyline include:
- Gordon Freeman
- Alyx Vance
- Eli Vance
- Judith Mossman
- Barney Calhoun
- Dr. Kliener
- Odessa Cubbage
- Father Grigory
The main Antagonist of the game is Dr. Breen, the old CEO of the Black Mesa Compound. As he negotiated the surrender of Earth with the Combine forces or - as he refers to them - "Our Benefactors", it is he who is in charge of the human side of the Combine rule. Apparently in direct contact with the Combine themselves, Dr. Breen features predominantly in his propoganda broadcasts on the many television screens dotted around City 17 and the surrounding area.
Notable enemies include:
- Combine Soldiers and their weapons and vehicles - there are Elite Combine soldiers, garbed in white, and normal combine soldiers, generally wearing grey/blue, drab uniforms.
- Xen Aliens - Including Headcrabs, Barnacles, and Antlions.
- Infected Humans - victims of headcrabs usually introduced by Combine shelling of the area.
- Gunships and Dropships
Note that, though the G-Man is as yet not identified as either friend or foe, he is possibly the most important character in the game besides Gordon.
 Plot Synopsis
 Warning: Contains Spoilers
The game begins with an eerie, almost dream-like sequence in which the mysterious G-Man introduces Gordon Freeman to his new environment: City 17, in a world under the control of the Combine. Here, Gordon is placed on a train, apparently by the G-Man, and left to his own devices. He is quickly noticed by suspicious Combine guards as he enters the city, and is soon forced into a dark cell with a single Combine Metro-Cop Guard. This guard reveals himself to be none other than an undercover Barney Calhoun, a security guard at the Black Mesa incident, who then assists Gordon in his escape to the secret laboratory of Dr. Kleiner. Along the way, Gordon meets Alyx Vance, daughter of brilliant Black Mesa scientist and head of the revolutionary Resistance movement, Eli Vance.
It is here that Gordon is told to travel to "Black Mesa East", a hidden Resistance base of operations. To get him there, a new teleportation system designed by Kleiner and Vance is unveiled, and Alyx and Gordon are invited to use it travel safely and quickly. Unfortunately, due to interference by Kleiner's pet Headcrab, Lamarr, only Alyx makes it through the process successfully, and as such Gordon is left to make the journey on foot, pursued by the now-alerted Combine forces. Using the drained Canal system of city 17 and the surrounding area, he manages to procure a quickly improvised Resistance hovercraft and arrives safely at Black Mesa East, where he is met by Eli Vance and Alyx Vance, as well as Dr. Judith Mossman and members of the Resistance.
After a brief update on the happenings since the disaster at Black Mesa several years ago, Gordon is given the Gravity Gun. As Alyx introduces Gordon to her large "pet" robot, Dog, the facility is attacked by Combine forces and Eli Vance is captured. Gordon is forced to escape, reluctantly via Ravenholm, the abandoned town on the other side of Black Mesa East. The town itself was shelled into destruction by the Combine, and the resulting infections of the populace by headcrabs was too much for the Resistance to handle, resulting in the swift retreat of surviving citizens and the infestation of the area. Here, Gordon meets Father Grigory, a priest and apparently the only surviving resident of the town, who has apparently gone insane due to his constantly dangerous living conditions and the lack of other people. This man helps Gordon quickly escape the city via an abandoned mine with which it is connected. Later, Gordon must make his way through a beach of deadly "Sand-Traps" - Antlion nests - towards the ominous Nova Prospect, where Eli Vance is being held.
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 System Requirements
Taken from Steam.
Minimum: 1.2 GHz Processor, 256MB RAM, DirectX 7 level graphics card, Windows 2000/XP, Mouse, Keyboard, Internet Connection
Recommended: 2.4 GHz Processor, 512MB RAM, DirectX 9 level graphics card, Windows 2000/XP, Mouse, Keyboard, Internet Connection