Reviews From The Backroom: Half-Life: Opposing Force
Half-Life Expansions Part 2/2 Part 1 Here
Half-Life was undeniably the most successful game to come out of 1998. It set the standard for future games both in the FPS genre and outside of it, with flowing gameplay, highly interactive locales, character interaction, and the use of pre-scripted scene's instead of cut-scenes. 9.3 million copies and 50 Game Of The Year awards later, it is still receiving critical praise. So, as with many other highly successful games at the time, it was slated to have its own set of Expansions. The first expansion released was Half-Life: Opposing Force in 1999, with Blue Shift released later in 2001.
Opposing Force follows the story of Corporal Adrian Shepherd, one of the many marines sent to Black Mesa after the resonance cascade starts bringing in aliens from Xen. En route, his Osprey is brought down by a Xen "Flier", and crash-lands right in the center of the complex. After being revived by one of the scientists holding out in the near-by medical labs, he is sent back to the crash site to radio for help. Afterwards, the military starts giving Adrian orders via radio contact, and then the real game begins.
For the most part, the story does flow well, and keeps relatively close to the actual game-play, but the player will often feel that the driving story becomes a bit detached from what they're actually seeing. This is particularly apparent during the first areas of the game, which take place in the labs dedicated to researching creatures from Xen. While they play well and seem to fit with the rest of the setting, they tend to feel like areas just lengthened to help give the player two of the "Alien" weapons necessary for the rest of the game.
When you get past that, though, you're in for a real treat. While one of the main concerns for anyone who goes into this game is whether or not it will be "More of the same", there is no need to worry. In the time-line between Half-Life and its expansions, Opposing Force takes place during the latter part of Half-Life and beyond. This is made evident by a scene where Adrian sees Gordon Freeman entering the portal to Xen early in the game. As such, the player is shown Black Mesa in a far worse state than they did in Half-Life, and this lends itself highly to the game-play.
Gameplay revolves around the same basic core as Half-Life: platforming, using machinery, manipulating the environment, and fighting/fleeing enemies. Strategy abounds, tricks are numerous, and puzzles are complex. What makes Opposing Force stand out is how well it integrates puzzles and combat together into the new and altered environments around the Black Mesa complex. As a marine, there are other marines spread throughout the facility that you can order around, including Medics (who act as health dispensers) and engineers (often required to advance to new areas). While they help out on occasion with the more difficult fire-fights, they are spread very thin, and the player will only encounter a few of them throughout the entire game.
But, as you are yourself a marine, Xen creatures are too weak for the fire-power available, and you can't fight the other marines. To make up for this, two new core enemy factions were created: "Race X" aliens, and cover-up professionals called "Black-Ops". While the marines and Xen creatures from Half-Life were difficult, these two new factions were beefed up for the added fire-power available to the player, and it really shows. Not only are the enemies far more numerous in Opposing Force, they also soak up loads of your ammunition, sometimes even dropping things that'll kill you even after they've died. On top of this, they often work in teams, have really powerful weapons that can lay you out in one go, and move very quickly, sometimes even silently. All of this lends itself towards making Opposing Force one ass-kicker of a game, so be ready to die. A lot.
By far the most distinguishing feature brought out by this game is the number of altered game-play mechanics used. Instead of having a flash-light, for instance, the player is given night-vision goggles. Instead of having a tight beam, they cast a large diameter circle of light around the player and color the screen green. While this may not at first seem like a large alteration, it becomes more evident later in the game during a few short sewer areas, where the light doesn't go very far. The tunnels are not numerous, but they are filled with the most powerful of the Race X creatures, and the player is required to think carefully when approaching each situation. One wrong turn leads to the player being surrounded by these creatures. The short distance provided by the goggles makes these situations very harrowing and exciting, and it is a very nice touch.
On top of that are the weapons. Added to the list of available weaponry are several military weapons, but the most noticeable are the "Alien" weapons, which are aliens themselves used as weaponry. The two main ones include a long green creature which vomits explosive green orbs at high velocity, and a sort of large beetle that shoots electricity. The latter creature becomes a very good weapon to have during the water-based areas of the game, as it can electrify water to a certain distance. By far the most useful alien is actually one of the simplest, the "Barnacle". Throughout every game in the Half-Life franchise, these can be seen hanging from ceilings, and are more annoying than anything else. When it is utilized as a weapon, though, things get very interesting very fast. The barnacle can be used to pull yourself to an enemy and quickly kill it, but it is also used as a sort of hook-shot that can adhere to certain surfaces. While it may seem like a gimmick, it is actually a very good addition to gameplay, and even adds a sort of Portal-esque feel to many of the puzzles, including the boss fights.
Opposing Force was made to show a different perspective to the Black Mesa incident, by making you play as a marine. In the end, it winds up to be one of the best Expansion Packs ever released, with many arguing that it should be considered its own game. Gameplay is fantastic, and adds much to the original Half-Life formula, it's exciting, it's fresh, and there is absolutely nothing that can be considered wrong about it.
If you liked Half-Life, you'll love Opposing Force. I highly recommend it.
If you enjoyed this review, please tell me! And if you have any suggestions for future games to get for my back-room, let me know!
Nostalgia brought you to this game? It brought me back to it a few months ago, but a bug prevented me from going too far along in it. ;_;
I loved Opposing Force, and in fact beat it first before managing to grind my way through the original Half-Life. If nothing else, I loved it because it was a game where I could play an intense semi-futuristic military shooter game in the days before that genre got overloaded with countless titles. Oh, and those sewer sections you mention... creepy. I remember being really -really- scared as a kid going through those parts. ;_;
Good review! :3
I remember getting save-stuck on two sections of this game where I saved myself into a corner with low health and no ammo and my last viable save was 4 hours ago. The first section was those damn black tunnels. The second was near the end of the ninjas part. Hard as shit game and a good review.