Does Half Life 2 Hold up?

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NO I AM NOT COMPLAINING ABOUT THE GRAPHICS AND I AM ONLY ON THE 3RD CHAPTER OF THE GAME

So... for various reasons I never played half life 2 when it came out, nor any of the episodes that followed in its wake. I dropped out of PC gaming in 2002 and I didn't have any money from 2005-2008 because I escaped from home. When I finally picked up The Orange Box I only had time to play the amazing Portal, the jewel that everyone was talking about.

Yesterday I bought the Orange Box again to finally get myself into half-life. However, so far I haven't enjoyed much of it. I liked the dude that gave speeches through a giant-ass screen when I arrived at City 17 but other than that the game has been actually pretty boring. The gunplay's not all that good and when I used a mounted machine gun I didn't got any satisfaction from the raw power of it (It's physics were actually pretty shitty). The characters that I was told were incredibly charming are actually pretty bland except for the scientist dude and his pet monster. And all of the weapons are generic guns, way less satisfying to use than their counterparts in other games. Finally I got to a section where I had to turn a valve(HAH) to release some water into the room and then I got stuck and went off to blow some shit up in Just Cause 2. That's not a problem, I will certainly go back and find the answer to the puzzle of the room but my question is... is it worth it? Is Half life 2 all that great today or is it just remembered fondly because it was the king in its time?

Oh man, is it this time of the week already?

Personally, I didn't play HL2 until 2010. Still enjoyed the hell out it. Love the setting, love the passive style of storytelling, like the characters, love the set piece scenes, love the distinctive sound design. The moment-to-moment gunplay is a little dated for my taste, but it was still fun. Graphics, obviously are definitely showing their age. Like the puzzles. Like the level design.

As far as I'm concerned, that means it's holding up like a champ.

If you're not impressed then that's fine, I can't be bothered jumping down your throat about it.

I think it depends on your exposure to other shooters, your knowledge of shooters around when it was released, your expectations of the game itself, and what you're actually expecting to get out of it when you go in.

The gunplay isn't all that satisfying and the Source Engine version it uses is showing its age, but the world is still built well and apart from Gordon "I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream" Freeman the characters all exhibit some semblance of personality.

Personally, after "Ravenholm" I got too bored to continue playing the game. But I can still acknowledge that it's a very solid title. Those driving sections left a lot to be desired, though.

Here we go again.. The game is 9 years old.

Why don't people bring up this argument about GoldenEye 007? Deus Ex? Metal Gear Solid? Classic games that were revolutions in their own right, but if they were released today (even with modern graphics and sound), they would be considered AWFUL based on their gameplay mechanics and design.

Half-Life 2 was, at the time of its release, top of the line. It was the first game to do what MOST modern games do. Even the things it did that had been done before, it did BETTER than any game before it.

Now you look at modern games and physics are just a given. Every game has good physics engine. It's not impressive anymore. Graphics have come a long way. Games have become far more cinematic, so Half-Life's "you ARE Gordon Freeman" approach is a stark contrast.

I don't see how something degrades over time. A 1970 Chevelle SS 454 gets terrible gas mileage, pollutes, you have to choke the carb and pump the gas to start it, it has uncomfy seats, terrible steering, terrible brakes, and even a run of the mill 6 cylinder family sedan of today could give it a run for its money... yet, it's still a beautiful example of that era of muscle car.

Why can't we just all agree that Half-Life 2 is a beautiful example of a video game of the year 2004 and stop trying to degrade it just because video game quality has *gasp* progressed in the last 9 years?

Are people going to make this argument about Portal 2 in another 7 years?

I never particularly thought the Half-Life series was terribly good at gunplay. It's solid and workmanlike somewhat elevated at the time with game-changing AI (which is also a bit on the dated side). Works well within the context of the game where you're not meant to be a mowing everyone down with ease, but the weapon changing system was always on the clunky side unless you're hot-keying your favorite weapons on the PC.

I loved the hell out of HL2 when it came out, but I've had diminishing returns on the series ever since, largely because the plot ends up revealing itself as a series of convoluted objectives rather than a story. Again, this largely works in context because the levels themselves tell a story of what happened since the events of the first game, but the present day story is Freeman getting lead around by NPC through set-pieces.

The one thing which bugged me then and still bugs me to this day, getting locked in a room while NPCs talk at each other about what you need to blow up next, while your only contribution is jumping around like a mad man while they completely ignore your childish antics. Some folks find this immersive, I find it the opposite of immersive as it takes me out of the game every single time it happens.

No, not these days. For the longest time the gameplay was a standard that was held by HL2. Not particularly anymore.

And I still don't understand why people seemed to be creaming themselves over the story. What story?

"Mcbadass fights evil conquering alien force with military weaponry-OH-and there's a hot chick, a robot, some zombies, and a guy in a suit who sounds like a Speakn'Spell."

Like...there was never much story to begin with. Half-Life is very heavily driven by the action, which honestly has been quite outdone by many shooters of the past three or four years. The series is practically nothing more than a bad joke now because of whatever planning or lack there of that Gaben had. I can't even remember the last time anybody made a remark about Episode 3 coming out.

MichiganMuscle77:

Why don't people bring up this argument about GoldenEye 007?

Because the GoldenEye fanboys are in a special kind of denial about the how well that game stands up. Everyone else knows it doesn't even begin to hold up to modern standards.

That we can actually argue the case for Half-Life 2 says something about the game. It's dated, but it's not *that* dated. A lot of folks are going to be able to enjoy the game so long as they dial back the expectations a bit.

Zhukov:
The moment-to-moment gunplay is a little dated for my taste, but it was still fun.

It was dated when the game came out, the first game had better gunplay. Gameplay wise, I felt HL2 relied a bit too much on gimmicky stuff like forcing me to move around platforms to walk across or littering Ravenholm with sawblades and dropping cars. Gravity gun was still awesome though.

Netrigan:

MichiganMuscle77:

Why don't people bring up this argument about GoldenEye 007?

Because the GoldenEye fanboys are in a special kind of denial about the how well that game stands up. Everyone else knows it doesn't even begin to hold up to modern standards.

Of course it doesn't, it CAN'T, and that's my point. I still love GoldenEye and I remember how mesmerized I was by it the first time I saw it, but I don't expect it to be held to the same standard as your basic modern shooter.

Honestly though, the GoldenEye mod for Source is just... it's pointless to play for me. There's the nostalgia factor, but it doesn't feel right. Nothing will ever BE GoldenEye 007 no matter how many times someone tries to emulate it (and i don't mean emulate as in port it to computer), and i think that speaks for itself.

I would argue that it's the same case for Half-Life 2. There are things about that game that make it entirely unique, and nobody could reproduce it.

The Black Mesa mod is fantastic, but still, even IT doesn't capture the magic of the original Half-Life, because the magic is playing it for the first time when it's new and fresh.

How many incredible games of the past do you suppose nobody will ever enjoy again because they're unplayable by todays standards?

I'm glad I was able to experience GoldenEye, Metal Gear Solid, Deus Ex, Half-Life, etc when they were new.

Descent II is STILL one of my favorite games ever made, and it's basically Wolfenstein with better 3D modeling and 6-axis movement. Just because video game technology and production values have progressed, it does NOT detract from the original quality of a game.

Zhukov:
Oh man, is it this time of the week already?

Personally, I didn't play HL2 until 2010. Still enjoyed the hell out it. Love the setting, love the passive style of storytelling, like the characters, love the set piece scenes, love the distinctive sound design. The moment-to-moment gunplay is a little dated for my taste, but it was still fun. Graphics, obviously are definitely showing their age. Like the puzzles. Like the level design.

As far as I'm concerned, that means it's holding up like a champ.

If you're not impressed then that's fine, I can't be bothered jumping down your throat about it.

Same here. I first played in 2011 and I still can't keep from going back to it at least once a month to piddle around in some level or sequence. Of course the graphics aren't as sharp as games today and it plays like you'd expect a game on the Source engine to play, but it's still a very well designed and crafted game and definitely worth your time.

I wanted to flesh out the point I was making about the GoldenEye mod a bit more...
With modern technology, it should be an absolute piece of cake for someone to recreate GoldenEye 007 in its entirety.

Hell, I've played the emulators, and yes, it's still GoldenEye, but there's a lot missing from it... It's really hard to explain. The game was released when I was 13 years old, and it changed how I looked at video games. It was the only game that had me skate board to the Funcoland to play on their in-store N64 (after waiting in line because of all of the other people who were doing the same thing).

I could only raise enough money to buy an N64 and ONLY GoldenEye 007. It's the ONLY video game I had for 3 years (Descent II wouldn't run on our new computer), and even after I bought Perfect Dark, GoldenEye still got tons of play time from me. Half-Life drew me away, and now I have TWO games that were just incredible to me. Then I got a PlayStation and Metal Gear Solid, so on, so forth.

Half-Life 2 came out in 04, and it took me a year to save up enough money to build a computer that could run it. That first time I fired it up is very memorable to me. The graphics blew me away, never seen anything like it. The world was so detailed, so "lived-in"... just incredible. The characters had.. personalities! The facial animation to this day is still some of the best.

I mean, is it some sort of backwards Butterfly Effect sort of thing, where just because a new game comes out with better graphics, better sound, better design, better everything, that the countless hours that countless players spent completely enjoying and being amazed by the games they were playing at the time, somehow are retroactively transformed into bad experiences?

That's ridiculous. That's illogical.

An old game is either good, or it's bad. It doesn't matter how far games progress, it doesn't make an old game WORSE. You take it for what it is, respect the context of its era, and then you have a fair judgment. But to say "Battlefield 1942 is a shitty game, it looks like shit, plays like shit, sounds like shit, Battlefield 3 is way better" is just illogical.

Eh, kinda.

The guns suck, except for the combine assault rifle, the SMG and the gravity gun they REALLY suck.

The story is...alright I guess, pretty generic. That said the setting is pretty good, its to bad we spend so much time playing a super hero to properly explore it.

Barney is a good character, Alyx is alright, everyone else exists.

Also the silent protagonist thing just annoys the piss out of me, there's a difference between "allowing me to insert myself" and "breaking my suspension of disbelief by having there be a fucking romance in the game".

So in summary, sorta, but its not the god game everyone makes it out to be, at least not anymore.

The game was amazing compared to what have come before that, I mean i think space invaders is pretty boring today but that doesn't make it any less good. It just means that its gotten relatively worse compared to what else has come. Its not a story driven game(which are games that are eternal) its a technology one and as technology improve the star children stops sparkling.

I know it's kinda offtopic, but your post was more about your personal life than about Half Life 2...

IllumInaTIma:
I know it's kinda offtopic, but your post was more about your personal life than about Half Life 2...

Yeah... I let myself ramble sometimes. I have deleted most of it, thanks for pointing it out.

There are a few ways to "look" at Half-life 2, however in my opinion it stands up in all of them - feel free to disagree.

In terms of First Person Story telling, Half-life 2 remains the champion. It's story is less told through lazy cut scenes and more through the world and incidental details present therein. The lack of children and pets, the deep philosophical ramblings that bombard the citizens, even the furnishings in the houses tell a story better than some pathetic shock-value opener. The trips to Ravenholm and Nova Prospect towards the middle of the game dip the world in a dark and terrifying vibe that supplants most full fledged Horror titles because it doesn't SAY anything. It just puts the details in the world and lets them speak for themselves.

In terms of Gun Play, Half-life 2 isn't as visceral as it's modern day counter parts, however the moment-to-moment gameplay is still well ahead of basically everyone in the industry save for perhaps Halo. The A.I. drives the scenario based combat, meaning it reacts to the player and allows them to employ wildcard strategies that the A.I. adapts to. Most modern shooters all but ignore A.I. in favour of scripted battles - Half-life 2 weaves it's scripting amongst the on-the-fly scenarios. The first real battle against the Combine drop ship on the freeway, the fierce firefights through the City during the game's final chapters, and even the moment-to-moment use of the gravity gun allow for a more varied and immersive experience.

Lastly, it's setting is incredible, though lacking the awe of something akin to Bioshock's Rapture. It's eschews the realism of the modern shooters, leaving behind your glocks and M14s for more inventive and "fun" firearms. Instead of simply killing "The Non-Americans" as is the norm for the industry today, you're fighting monsters and alien soldiers, not because they "Hate Freedom for [reasons]" but because they're simply trying to wipe out humanity, turning them into zombie soldiers for their army. It's escapism, pure and simple - and for the dreamer in me, it wins out over the endlessly boring Military Shooters of today.

All my opinions, of course.

You just bought the game and have started playing for the first time recently yourself.

Honestly you're in a better position to answer your own question than anyone else, and if you say you don't enjoy it just accept you don't enjoy it.

Zeh Don:
Snip

Well... to be honest I haven't reached any of that sections myself. I am on the 3rd chapter and the onlye that I have seen (The AI) has not let me impressed... but hey, I am really sick and Can't do much else. I gave worse games a longer chance.

DazZ.:
You just bought the game and have started playing for the first time recently yourself.

Honestly you're in a better position to answer your own question than anyone else, and if you say you don't enjoy it just accept you don't enjoy it.

Guess you're right, but I shouldn't judge games on their first hour. My favourite games tend to start out really shitty.

It's an older game. And just like playing any older game, you have to go into it with the right expectations. The first person shooter genre has advanced considerably since Half-Life 2 was released. Many of the things that were pioneered by Half-Life 2 have been done in so many games since that it can be hard to imagine why it was a big deal in the first place (the use of physics is the big one, although there are others). You need to go in knowing that this game is not a modern game, and base your expectations accordingly. Although it should be noted that Half-Life 2 was ahead of it's time, so it's not as bad as other games from the period.

However, if you can get past the fact that this is an almost nine year old game, it is still well worth playing. I would say the primary reason for that is because nobody has made a game that's Half-Life 2 but better. Yes, other games have taken individual elements from Half-Life 2 (some more blatantly than others), but it's all of those elements put together that make Half-Life 2 special.

Also, I want to add that I'm not a terribly big fan of the first couple of levels after the introduction. They have a few good moments, and they're important to introduce all of the gameplay and story elements, but I don't think the game really becomes great until after Water Hazard. Basically, stick with it, it gets better.

Funnily enough, I played it for the first time since about '07 last week.
The way that the story is told (not in your face, yank control from you cutscenes everywhere) really feels nice/natural, but the story itself is rather cliche.

There are some excellent characters (Barney, Alyx, Lamarr), but then there's also pants on head Freeman.
Just can't take him seriously, and it feels like some kind of sick joke when you're supposed to "project" yourself into this guy. It would work a lot better if it was like Zelda and there wasn't actual voice work done with other characters, is what I'm getting at.

Gameplay and level design isn't anything particularly special. Just a mostly standard (albeit retro feeling) FPS affair with vehicles that feel like beachballs and loading screens separating level segments. But I'd much rather be experiencing this game (or something similar) than a lot of more modern FPS titles. To cut HL2 a little slack, it's very close to being a decade old so a few of the more technical issues are semi-forgiven (to me).

TheBestPieEver:

However, so far I haven't enjoyed much of it.

almost note for note i had a similar experience.

Half life has always underwhelmed me and i dont think being dated protects something from a critical lense.

i do disagree on the points of character and narrative, but aside from that yes half life has never really wowed me.

I have however felt that maybe the robust nature of the source engine tends to make alot of incredible games seem devoid of emotion and this seems the case in half life 2, though it is to an extent remedied with a more natural feeling world later down the track in the episodes.

but i still finished it so its worth following though with, most older titles i just cant finish.

It holds up for me.

That being said, it's been surpassed gameplay-wise by pretty much everything; it's mostly the design and the atmosphere that keeps me coming back, something about Viktor Antonov's design is supremely enthralling to me, probably one of the reasons that I loved Dishonored so much. I really like source engine games as well, even if they all are basically slight modifications of Half Life 2.

Well if you don't like it then we really can't change that, the "I like the giant-ass screen guy but not the others" makes me think you missed the plot but again that is for the individual to piece together.

Anyway the game is old and yes the graphics will be old, sounds however were made for iconic appeal, ergo if you are not from the Half Life fandom they will be rather lame but at least every gun finds its place.
As for story and characters... well that is really a personal thing, I liked it but if you didn't take to it then this can't be helped.

I played it last year and it quickly became one of my favourite games of all time. Having played a lot of other shooters from that era, I have to say that it's flaws now were flaws back then, too. It never had particularly visceral gunplay, for example. Quake, Soldier of Fortune, Unreal, Riddick, Black and many other games all had far more visceral and satisfying gunplay than HL2 (and, to me, a lot of modern games, too). It's not so much aged badly as people are willing to admit it's flaws.

It still had some intense as fuck moments. The last part of episode 2, where you have to defend the base was the single most adrenalin pumping section of a game I have ever played. And I loved how so many cool things could come out the engine, organically. I remember being pinned down by a Combine soldier in a machine-gun bunker with almost no health left, when one of my Antlion buddies slowly crept up behind him and pushed him over the ledge into the rocks below. Unplanned and unscripted shit like that just doesn't happen in linear modern games.

I much prefer HL2 to every modern shooter I've played, but maybe that's why I like it. Modern shooters have gone in a direction that just isn't for me so I don't feel like HL2 has been bested yet. People who do enjoy modern shooters will probably find it dated but I still loved it 8 years after it's release.

Quite simply put, HL2, at its release time, was out of this galaxy because of the sheer awesomeness. And it remains among my favourite games to this day. I play through HL2 and all its episodes at least once in two years just because I get the urge to and I never get bored.

To those dismissing the story, Half Life has never been about that, at least not in the way you're thinking. It's about using atmosphere and immersion to weave a narrative as opposed to the pages of text or rambling exposition speeches we've gotten used to in gaming. A 'story' doesn't need to be either direct or complex in order to be good, nor does it even need to be original, there's much more to how well a tale is told than just those. And in terms of using the environment to weave together a narrative experience for the player even today there are few games that can match Half-Life 2 in that regard.

Which isn't to say there's not room for improvement, not by any stretch, I just really wish people would stop equating exposition to story as though the only good way to make a 'story' is through a dozen pages of scripted NPC banter explaining a minimum of three generations backstory with the mandatory half-dozen plot twists and a few sob story thrown in for good measure. You can have a good story with all those, they're not necessary, it's just what we've gotten used to equating with 'good' in the gaming industry.

Citizen Kane, often considered the best movie ever made by cinema critics, has a shit simple plot to it. But the presentation, the way in which characters react and in which things are presented are what makes it amazing. Which isn't to compare Half Life 2 to Citizen Kane, it ain't that good and I doubt it'll be considered as much a classic ten years from now whereas Citizen Kane will continue to hold critics attention, but HL2 does use a similar trick where a simple plot is made meaningful through its presentation rather than relying on complexity to carry it through so don't be quick to dismiss HL2.

Just some food for thought. Obviously well done or no story is one of the most subjective things out there to gauge, but even so it's something to consider.

I too came to HL late, about '10. I set it aside as a "gaming weekend" title and played through the game and both episodes.

I know it's been said but you cannot allow yourself to compare it to say Bioshock (which I just finished). Adjust expectations.

From what I can recall, gameplay was a little underwhelming but not broken and I still giggle like a school girl when I effectively use the gravity gun. and any time I fire the magnum, I love firing that gun.

I actually found myself projecting onto Freemon a little, during chatty points I leaned gordon against the wall, put the controller down and sipped my tea, like I would IRL if I was listening to two people talk without contributing to the conversation. And in my head-cannon he talks. not much, but he talks.

I think it does get better, if a little repetitive but the games weren't meant to be played in the time frame I played them so that maybe my bias.

I couldn't put the controller down in the last few hours and when I got to the episodes. I was genuinely invested in the characters (instantly loved Alyx) and wanted to know what happened next. Still do, to be honest, stupid episode 3.

PS sorry if this rambled, it's 330am and I should have been asleep hours ago.

Considering the fact that I didn't play Half Life 2 until last year and found it to be one of the best shooters ever, I'd say that it holds up fairly well.

[quote="MichiganMuscle77" post="9.401217.16518430"]Here we go again.. The game is 9 years old.

Why don't people bring up this argument about GoldenEye 007? Metal Gear Solid? Classic games that were revolutions in their own right, but if they were released today (even with modern graphics and sound), they would be considered AWFUL based on their gameplay mechanics and design.[/quote

Because, the fact is, both of these games play better than the majority of games today as well. Which is why they've earn't the distinction of being timeless classics..

Having recently played MGS again, the design of the game is better than any of the sequels, or any game in its genre for that matter, as is the music and storytelling.

Only recently played GoldenEye 007 multiplayer, but that game holds up better than most multiplayer FPS as of today also. Multiplayer maps are better designed, and the characters move so well. Can't say that for current gen shooters, all of which feel like you've leadweights to your feet.

And so, my point is, it doesn't happen to those two games because they're still amazing.

It's interesting, I started playing the first Half Life a week ago, and sad to say, I didn't find that game to be very fun to play (only single player I'll add). It certainly doesn't have the atmosphere of FPS like Quake and Hexen before it, or the imagination. That being said, I've not completed yet, so here's hoping that it sudden gets very fun to play the more you progress.

Mr.K.:
the "I like the giant-ass screen guy but not the others" makes me think you missed the plot but again that is for the individual to piece together.

Well I haven't gotten all that far into it, and I think he is supposed to be the bad guy but that does not stop me from liking him.

Hell, even Half-Life still holds up. In fact I've recently played it and I still liked it more most shooters I've ever played.

Half-Life 2 is pretty much better in every way.

I first played HL2 at the end of 2011 and it's by far one the greatest games I've ever played. The game play is so fluent it's near perfect, the design and the sounds create it's own special atmosphere, the gun play felt fine to me and stapling enemy's to walls or throwing furniture into them is very satisfying, and then there is all the different challenges you come up against which are great.

What games are you comparing this to any way? I think you're just into different types of shooters with what ever raw power feel your speaking of.

As for the story and the characters, they aren't interesting. I was just happy they aren't stupid/annoying and get in the way.

MichiganMuscle77:
An old game is either good, or it's bad. It doesn't matter how far games progress, it doesn't make an old game WORSE. You take it for what it is, respect the context of its era, and then you have a fair judgment. But to say "Battlefield 1942 is a shitty game, it looks like shit, plays like shit, sounds like shit, Battlefield 3 is way better" is just illogical.

Yeah, I don't get how people jump to call these games dated straight away. Most of these games they call dated I still come back to with no problem, and some of them move even better than the games released these days. I reckon it's another stupid criticism just like when they crtiicise people who like older games more and tell them they have rose-tinted nostalgia glasses or some ignorant bullshit.

I think the graphics still look fairly awesome. Sure, I wish the textures were a bit more HD, but aside from that I don't mind how it looks. It has that very Source-y feel without trying to be photorealistic. I'm fond of it.

The gameplay itself is hit and miss for me. Some sections I love, such as Black Mesa East, Nova Prospekt. Others are just meh, such as the Sewers and the city fighting near the end.
The physics are still beyond anything I've seen in other FPSes. I can move cars and containers in Half Life 2 with the G-Gun, but a car side-mirror can still block my M1 Abrahams in Battlefield 3.

The other two episodes were better than the main game imo.

i played if for the first time in november and its fine

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