Does Half Life 2 Hold up?

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If you want better graphics then install the Cinematic Mod (You can view comparisons at http://cinematicmod.com/cinematic_mod_12.php ). If you don't like the mod, you can delete it and play something else. There really is no point in complaining about free stuff (And NO analogies of any kind! They ALL miss the point! (Especially the burger one!)).

It improves several aspects of the game and reworks many of the maps for the better.

DISCLAIMER: The preceding statement was the OPINION of the poster and if someone interprets it as fact then they will be readily ignored

There are PLENTY of mods which enhance the graphics and gameplay to bring it more in line with modern stuff and AFAIK the modding community is still very active around the game.

Like many people I played Half-life 2 just a years ago.

3 am, I just finished HL1 and decided to take a short peek at its sequel. A couple minutes later, I was. Blown. Away.

Just how did they manage to pull of such good graphics in 2004?! Sure, Source had a few updates since then, but it still feels nothing short of a miracle. Gothic and Kotor 2 were released around that time and they look (by todays standards) like shit. Yet HL2 had great environments and amazing face animations (better than in most games these days), good story and much more.

HL2 is subtle and it's hard to explain whar makes it so good. Alien invasions are a topic done to death, but HL2 still gets praised for its story. Why? Because you got the feeling as if it's a very normal human dictatorship. It's real and horrible and people let do that to themselves.

There are no quest logs or trackable objectives, yet it always feels intuitive and obvious what to do next. What other game has done that? It has a special feeling that no other game managed to capture.

I have a very similar story to the OP. Picked up the Orange Box on 360 a few years back, started Half Life 2, was initially impressed by the atmosphere but got majorly bored around the first mine/antlions sequence, and ended up playing through Portal instead. A few months back I finally decided to give the Half Life 2 trilogy another crack, and I'm glad I did.

A lot of the time - especially in the first game - is spent wandering through increasingly lonely and decreasingly appealing crumbling architecture. The guns are a living, breathing example of everything that was wrong with the bad old days of PC FPS weapon design - over a dozen weapons, most of which are very samey grey pew-pew sticks, with a couple of obscure "joke" weapons thrown in. The level design is often confusing with a diabolical lack of signposting at times.

But, it gets better over time. Both in terms of accustoming yourself to the game and setting your expectations accordingly, and the gameplay and level design does get quite noticeably dragged into the current decade in Episodes 1 and 2. When the credits for Ep 2 started rolling, I was genuinely upset that there wasn't more content to play (Where the fuck is Ep 3, you lazy swines!?).

Half-Life 2 is the reason why the word overrated was invented.

Nomanslander:

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.

I replay the whole series, from the top down, maybe once every two or two-and-a-half years, and yeah, HL2 really does abuse its fancypants physics engine. In 2004, it was cute and adorable, but all those physics "puzzles" kinda get old on you.

The Episodes are much better in that regard.

And today we have Black Mesa Source, with a possible Blue Shift recreation on the way too, so I guess that's nice.

Yeah I think it kinda does. Yeah its old and things have progressed but its regardless still a solid game and not bad to look at. The gameplay is still fun and while the shooting is not amazing its still fun. While a lot of people claim their is no plot their really is a fun and it will immerse you if you let it. Plus the chapter "our benefactors" does ramp the gunplay up to 11.

TheBestPieEver:
... 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?

Half Life 2 and the episodes are one of my favourite gaming experiences and I have returned many times to replay them all.

But just like you I was bored by my first play through of HL2. I didn't see what was special about it either; it all seemed rather generic and shootery. But I gained a greater appreciation after my second play through when I started to see details in the world that I missed before. I really think the episodes do a far better job at giving you a reason to care about the characters though, especially Episode 2...

I played HF2 only two years ago and while I enjoyed it, I couldn't see what was so damn special about it. Ultimately it was a completely forgettable experience and I won't shed a tear if it would suddenly disappear from the face of the earth.

It appears to me that HF2 is the sort of game you had to play at the right time in the right place - namely when it launched and when it dazzled gamers with its then-new, but now-old features. To me, it's patently obvious that it hasn't stood the test of time and there have been many games that have completely surpassed the legacy of HF2. That is not to say that HF2 is bad - it's not bad, but there are better FPS games out there now. I don't think saying this is heresy or problematic - I think it's simply true.

Games like Contra or Link to the Past are examples of games that are truly timeless and can be enjoyed with the same vigour as in the past. HF2 just doesn't have that appeal to me.

Overall I never really saw what was that special about the series. There is some fringe quality or element that I clearly cannot see or don't understand.

al4674:
I played HF2

While that is well and good, the thread is about Half-Life 2.

Hell I played it for the first time in, I think, 2011 or 2010, and up to this day I believe it to be one of the genre's finest.

I think It holds up fine. Sure there are other games that have better gunplay, level design, facial expressions or maybe enviromental storytelling, Half Life 2 is the complete package that balances it all into a fantastic little trip. I would recommend it to anybody who has an ounce of patience to get them through the intro sequence.

god, what's up with this site and hating half-life 2?

I didn't play the Orange Box until about 2 years ago and enjoyed it all thoroughly. I can see where you coming from with the gunplay aspect, it might not be the best but it's still damn good. As for the physics...really? I thought they were awesome, in-fact I don't think I've heard anyone say they were 'pretty shit' before.

However, each to their own.

I played it for the first time in 2009 and thought it had aged poorly even back then. Comparing it to older games I can easily see why it's held in such high regard, but many later games do all the things HL2 did right better than HL2 did.

TheBestPieEver:
Okay... Before you go answer to the text you're about to read, I want you to know that I'd appreciate not receiving any orders to go suck on someone's reproductive organ.

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?

Finished Half-Life 2 for the first time literally last week. I think it holds up pretty easily. If you don't enjoy it, perhaps it just isn't for you. I think it is one of the most substantially "thick" gameplay experiences ever. Most on-rails shooters are 6 or 7 hours at most and Half-Life 2 had very enjoyable sections that were almost half of that time on their own. Alyx Vance and Dog are fantastic characters and I think the game is wonderful. The Ravenholm sequence alone is better than 99% of games.

corneth:
god, what's up with this site and hating half-life 2?

I think you get a badge for it. I suppose the badge is just not finished yet because I don't see it in anybody's profile, I dunno, it seems the most logical thing.

The overwhelming approval of Half Life 2 shows that it is a great game, and to say otherwise is to say that the enjoyment of most is trumped by your personal opinion. That being said, every one of us likes some terrible things and hates some good things, because sheer chance means that occasionally the good won't resonate with one of us, while the limited bad is particularly irksome. Much like how everyone probably likes a game that's generally considered bad because it happens to do something interesting that is particularly intriguing to you, and the huge amount of bad just happens to not bother you. A games quality isn't a point on a graph, its a bell curve, and there are always outlier. If it doesn't appeal to you, that is not a bad quality in you, but it DOES mean that you are an outlier. Its fine to be an outlier: There are no fines involved, and no one has any right to criticize your taste, but it might be edifying to understand with as much objectivity as possible WHY it is so appealing.

Half Life 2 Was impeccably designed, and innovative for its time. The Graphics were incredible when it was first released, and the physics were like no one had ever seen. In particular, the facial expressions were amazing, probably unmatched until LA Noir. And when released, the Physics was unbelievably robust. Sure, that stuff looks less impressive over time, but HL2 falls back on some timeless design that does stand up. It is not as over the top bombastic as other games, but it does construct its story and setting with impeccable skill, and perfect use of the medium of games.

It's difficult to explain, since its amazing design is the product of thousands of little things working together: Id recommend the developer walkthroughs (At least the episodes have them) to appreciate the thought that went into the construction. For example, take the scene that introduces Dog: in a few short minutes, we introduce a iconic character, we show a bit of Alyx's past, we deepen her relationship with her father, provide a break to improve the game pacing, show a happier side of living in City 17 that raises that stakes of the narrative, all while providing a variation to gameplay AND providing a tutorial for useing the gravity gun. The walk there foreshadows ravenholm, you start to strengthen the attachment between Gordon and Alyx without resorting to shallow sex-pandering, and manages a character interaction without breaking the immersion factor of playing a silent protagonist. The mechanics working just below the surface are vast, and if you happen to be open to the experience, you feel the effect of every design choice they make. That's why people like it. Theres many reasons why people give it so much praise. If you don't see that, well you have no shortage of other fun games to play, and my enjoyment isn't threatened by your taste, and neither of us have any reason to be upset at each other.

Xanadu84:
The overwhelming approval of Half Life 2 shows that it is a great game, and to say otherwise is to say that the enjoyment of most is trumped by your personal opinion.

The earth is flat, and we're sticking with it.

I never bought into the, "well it was great for it's time!" argument. I'm sure it was, but it misses the point. I'm not playing it "in it's time" (even if I did when it was released), I'm playing it in the here and now, after playing newer and better games. And in the here and now, no, Half-Life 2 isn't that great. The only aspect of the game I can say is really exceptional is the way the story and the gameplay are one solid piece. Apart from that? The gunplay is boring as all hell, the platforming segments didn't work then, and they don't work now, the gravity gun was fun the first time around but has since lost its novelty, the story itself is fairy generic, the characters are annoying, the art style feels dead to me (especially after playing games like Mirror's Edge) - though admittedly the map design is pretty exceptional, if a bit linear. Is it a bad game? Absolutely not. What is there is polished to a mirror finish. It's just not a particularly amazing game, either. Easily the second most over-rated FPS of all time (behind Call of Duty 4, of course).

EDIT: Now, that being said, one thing it does do exceptionally well is support mods. SMOD Redux is probably my favorite mod for any game ever, and with a few easy tweaks to some weapon script files, it probably has the most realistic gunplay of any shooter ever. Gmod is also quite fun, especially when you settle down on a server for a while and get to know people.

Xanadu84:
The overwhelming approval of Half Life 2 shows that it is a great game, and to say otherwise is to say that the enjoyment of most is trumped by your personal opinion.

False appeal to popularity. The majority of the population approved of slavery at one point in history, so therefor, slavery was justified.

I still play it once a year, and enjoy the hell out of it. Just to get something different instead of regenerating health and very gray pallet. However if it holds up could easily be my rose tinted glasses, but it still definitely hold up for me.

Half Life 2 is the perfect example of an "Average shooter".
Any game worse than it is bad, any game better than it is passable.
You should play it simply to have a baseline to compare all other shooters to.

Panorama:
I still play it once a year, and enjoy the hell out of it. Just to get something different instead of regenerating health and very gray pallet. However if it holds up could easily be my rose tinted glasses, but it still definitely hold up for me.

Even today HL2 has tons of atmosphere, and great artistic design.
I also love the level design, the shooting mechanics aren't very visceral, but the way places are laid out make them a joy to fight in.

As far as I'm concerned its one of the first fps games to really take strides to try and make you feel immersed in the world. Walking around city 17 and listening to Dr. Breen. Going out into the street and looking up at the imposing Citadel, you can't even see the top of it since it is obscured by clouds. The propaganda posters. It influenced so many developers that are around making games today, to deny that is asinine. Games like Dishonored, Bioshock, and Bioshock: Infinite are evidence of this.

Also, and I'll spoiler this just in case...

Xanadu84:
That being said, every one of us likes some terrible things and hates some good things

"No, what I like is the best thing, everything either sucks or is mediocre at best (so...it sucks). The fact that you like something I don't is a clear sign of your inferiority. As is disliking something I do like. It is my duty to call you out on either of these points and to inform you you are wrong, so you can become better."

Signed: the majority of people who argue back and forth in these threads.

corneth:
god, what's up with this site and hating half-life 2?

I'm guessing there are some people out there who didn't play Half-Life 2 when it first came out and they still hear great things about it and decide to give it a shot, only to find it doesn't live up to modern "standards", which of course has nothing to do with it being released nearly 10 years and everything to do with it being a bad game, because it's the internet.

Also yeh, this thread again. Posting lots of these won't make the technological singularity happen any sooner people, so lay off it already.

Also, the gravity gun (as someone stated) cannot be said to suck by any stretch of the imagination. Hell, that was the only weapon I ever really used in multiplayer - served me incredibly well too. A gravity gun and a filing cabinet is all you will ever need, trust me.

The only thing I can add in support to the Half Life games, that hasn't been said by others, is pacing.

Seriously, It was almost unheard of for an action orientated FPS to have pacing back then, let alone do it well, and even now most FPSs completely forget to set a good pace.

Most modern military shooters, and much of the FPS genre, have this issue of cramming as much action as possible into the game, meaning at the end of the relatively short 3-5 hour campaign you feel burnt out. There is no escalation in the conflict, there is not contrast to the action... there is no variation. They are fast and loud and incessant.

HL2, for its time, did pacing wonderfully. You game escalates from being pursued by corrupt authorities. with peaks and lulls in the action and climaxes at an impressive aerial battle, then after a brief sequence for exposition enters a horror themed environment where you are scrounging for ammunition and fending off hordes of undead husks (very memorable segment, a little short, but brilliantly done). The final moments of this section puts most attempts at zombie horde games to shame.

After this you end up on a journey across a vast stretch of road on approach to a prison facility. While the driving mechanics are awkwardly dated, the pacing of this sequence is superb. Periodic firefights at small settlements (some which can be avoided, but generally it's good to stop and resupply) and regularly being accosted by underground dwelling aliens (who are also aggressive towards other humanoid combatants leading to intense 3 way conflicts), makes the relatively long segment pass fluidly. There are a few intense "boss" fights that make the peak moments pretty memorable. The conclusion of this segment foreshadows the final segment of the game, with you and a band of rebels hold off against a Combine strike team at a lighthouse.

The next major segment of the game puts you on the attack, completely changing the flow of gameplay. Enemies aren't dropping in and harassing you as they did before. Instead you attack entrenched positions that have to adjust to your actions as you catch them unawares. This leads to the next horror themed sequence though the horror is more subdued as the scope and purpose of the alien incursion becomes apparent.

The second last segment of the game ramps of the combat to 11 as you battle your way through a city that is now undergoing an uprising. Rebels and Military combat each other, with alien monstrosities create havoc all around.

Finally the last segment dials the action back but empowers you, becoming a death dealing machine.

And this is just HL2. Episode 1 and 2 have completely different pacing structures that improve on HL2s forumla, though are significantly shorter over all. Each sequence of the game flows organically into the next, so much so you hardly notice the transition but feel the change in other ways. Lulls and peaks of the game make every sequence memorable, contrasting intense firefights with eerie exploration and tension building.

HL2 is a masterpiece when it comes to pacing, an art that truly makes a good game great, but if ignored can make any game shit or average regardless of technical achievements and ambitions. Of all the things modern shooters borrowed from HL2, pacing is the one thing not acknowledged or adapted despite it being exemplary (for games in general, not just FPSs). All the flashy gimmicks that HL2 pioneered mean nothing but that, gimmicky, without the expertly crafted sequences to showcase them.

This is why HL2 feels so good, but why people find it hard to articulate why without sounding hypocritical. Its not all the physics, which are done better now, or the narrative, which there are more interesting of now, or the characters, which were adequate vehicles for the narrative but nothing special, or fundamental gameplay, which most modern games trump handedly.

Its the cohesion... how all of these things, no matter how dated, hold together as one piece. The pacing is the adhesive that ties all these things together to form a memorable experience.

Valve are the grandmasters at this. More narrative heavy games still fail on such a simple concept, but valve nail it EVERY time... even in games with roughly no narrative like Left 4 Dead.

MarsProbe:
Also yeh, this thread again. Posting lots of these won't make the technological singularity happen any sooner people, so lay off it already.

I so love that reasoning! :D I shall adopt this response for future threads I disapprove of "Hurr durr don't post if you don't like it" "No, this thread is hampering the technological progress of mankind, so stop it."

while it may not hold up graphically, The mechanics, gameplay and story are infinately better than say , Aliens colonial marines :D

Dense_Electric:
I never bought into the, "well it was great for it's time!" argument. I'm sure it was, but it misses the point.

As someone who loves HL2, I agree with this sentiment but for different reasons. I, and a few other people in this thread, played it for the first time very recently and loved it. I think nearly everyone here has plenty of experience with more recent games so, in our case, it hasn't "aged badly." Honestly, looking at the problems people have with it, they probably wouldn't have liked it at the time, either.

The gunplay, for example, had already been surpassed years before HL2 was even released. About the only bit that's aged badly is the way it uses it's physics engine.

Ragsnstitches:
Snip

Indeed, the game's pacing is basically unmatched, imo. One of my main problems with modern shooters is that they just don't stop. I can't play them for more than 15 minutes without getting really, really bored/burnt out.

Short answer: Yes

Long Answer:Yes, but here's why

Gameplay: The gun-play in Half Life 2(in my opinion) is tight and controlled. While it's certainly not innovative the controls are tight and the guns themselves are good, but not great. While the gun-play may be a bit underwhelming when comparing it to the praise it receives, ultimately Half Life 2 is about the narrative.

Atmosphere: This area is where the game really shines. One example is in the beginning of the game, during your first tentative steps into City 17. If you walk up to a city watch member they beat you with an electrified club. That moment, for me, sends a message of how oppressive the Combine Regime is. Ravenholme, while my least favorite part of the game,has an extremely creepy and unsettling atmosphere. Constantly seeing severed bodies and hearing the screams of not so distant zombies ends chills down my spine.

Narrative: The game has an uncanny ability to tell a narrative without hours of exposition being tossed at you. You see the direct damage the Combine have done to Earth, you see how oppressive they are, but without a character directly saying so. The game's story flows seamlessly from chapter to chapter, with new information added to the story without any real feeling of the pacing being changed. The characters (especially Eli and Alyx Vance) are people you want to fight for. This is the real strong point of the game as well.

So has the game held up? Yes. I played Half Life 2 just a mere 6 months ago, and yet it's still my favorite FPS to date

DoPo:

MarsProbe:
Also yeh, this thread again. Posting lots of these won't make the technological singularity happen any sooner people, so lay off it already.

I so love that reasoning! :D I shall adopt this response for future threads I disapprove of "Hurr durr don't post if you don't like it" "No, this thread is hampering the technological progress of mankind, so stop it."

Glad you liked it. As i posted that, I was conflicted as to whether to go for delaying the singularity or bringing it forward (these also being two of the ending choices for the next Deus Ex game - spoiler alert!) but eventually figured that the good folks here at The Escapist would look forward to the rise of intelligent machines and with our natural optimism, believe they would actually prove a benefit to humanity and not subjugate us/wipe us out entirely :).

Dense_Electric:
I never bought into the, "well it was great for it's time!" argument. I'm sure it was, but it misses the point. I'm not playing it "in it's time" (even if I did when it was released), I'm playing it in the here and now, after playing newer and better games. And in the here and now, no, Half-Life 2 isn't that great.

And renascence painters shouldn't be considered great since we have Wacom cintiqs and HD printers...

Dense_Electric:

Xanadu84:
The overwhelming approval of Half Life 2 shows that it is a great game, and to say otherwise is to say that the enjoyment of most is trumped by your personal opinion.

False appeal to popularity. The majority of the population approved of slavery at one point in history, so therefor, slavery was justified.

Strawman fallacy (see what i did there). Calling a piece of an entertainment "great" and reinforcing that by saying that the majority like that to, is valid argument when you are talking about something that is valued by subjective tastes

Yes it holds up, and it will always hold up. Valve games, Half-Life 2 in particular, have a very unique feel to them that no other game has been able to emulate. So even when the pixels become apparent and the controls become choppy, it will still retain its captivating identity.

It's already been said, but HL2 is one of those rare FPS' that paces itself. And brilliantly so. The gameplay is engaging even when it doesn't envolve shooting something. It's able to flesh out its world without the use of cutscenes or even a vocal protagonist. And gives you a terrific sense of place that makes you become aware of the dire situation this world is in.

And the sound design is still among the best in the business.

Ragsnstitches:

HL2, for its time, did pacing wonderfully.

Well I can see that. I started with no guns and nothing to do but listen to a charismatic dictator. Then I did some platforming and then I was on the run from authorities. Then I got a suit and a crowbar but I was still in no position to fight so I was still on the run but now more equipped for it. After that I got a gun but kept running because it was just one simple gun. Later I got some power ups and started to be able to stand some ground on the authorities, all the while still escaping but now in a more grandiose way. Following that I got to a sewer level where monsters where introduced and a helicopter started chasing me. I got an SMG and subsequently got to man a Mounted gun. So yeah, I can see that even on a smaller scale the pacing it's fairly well done.

Meatspinner:

Dense_Electric:
I never bought into the, "well it was great for it's time!" argument. I'm sure it was, but it misses the point. I'm not playing it "in it's time" (even if I did when it was released), I'm playing it in the here and now, after playing newer and better games. And in the here and now, no, Half-Life 2 isn't that great.

And renascence painters shouldn't be considered great since we have Wacom cintiqs and HD printers...

Except a lot of Renaissance artwork *does* hold up to modern digital paintings. The difference between them is negligible. But if you're going to tell that there's essentially no difference between Doom and Far Cry 3, I'm going to have to ask you to step outside.

Dense_Electric:

Xanadu84:
The overwhelming approval of Half Life 2 shows that it is a great game, and to say otherwise is to say that the enjoyment of most is trumped by your personal opinion.

False appeal to popularity. The majority of the population approved of slavery at one point in history, so therefor, slavery was justified.

Strawman fallacy (see what i did there). Calling a piece of an entertainment "great" and reinforcing that by saying that the majority like that to, is valid argument when you are talking about something that is valued by subjective tastes

image

No. That is not what a strawman fallacy is. A strawman fallacy is when the person arguing deliberately misrepresents or omits key parts of their opponent's argument - NOT when the person arguing merely changes the premise for the sake of analogy. People in general need to learn the difference if they're going to use that term.

As for the rest of what you say, the same can be said of slavery. Though I'm sure everyone here would agree that slavery is wrong, "wrong" is still a subjective value, and therefor the idea that slavery is wrong is subjective. Saying that a lot of people like or approve of something is not, in any way, shape, or form, a sound argument for the quality or value of that thing. Not even as a supplementary argument. A lot of people like Jersey Shore, but I'm guessing most people here will tell you it's the most horrible thing every created.

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