Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2
Half-Life 2 Cover
Platforms Windows, Xbox, Xbox 360, PS3
Genre Blockbuster FPS
MtAMinutes to Action 4
Score 9  Clock score of 9Gameplay: 9
Fun Factor: 9
Gfx/Sound: 10
Story: 7
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Half-Life 2 is one of those games that just delivers. Hyped up beyond imagination, Valve fulfilled their grand promise and gave gamers one of PC's greatest games. Delayed, leaked, and delayed again, Half-Life 2 was in the oven for a while, but many people would agree it came out perfect. But how were those first few bites, how was the first hour of Half-Life 2? Let us enter the world of City 17 and find out.

I should probably make it clear that my computer isn't that great, and the loading times are probably longer than what an avid PC Gamer would own. However, this review isn't targeted to such a small audience and my computer (Athlon 1800+, 1GB RAM, and Radeon 9800 Pro) may well be representative of the average reader. Anyways, on with the game!

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I click New Game and the loading begins. The clock continues running though.

01 - Still loading after the first minute, and then the opening cinematic starts. Not a typical cinematic, however, as we're staring right into the face of an elderly looking man. His computerized voice gives him a very creepy feeling.

02 - I can see the inside of a train behind the man's head, and he gives me his final words: "Wake up, Mr. Freeman. Wake up and smell the ashes." Guess I should have plugged in my iSmell. I'm able to move around the train now, I walk up to a man and he looks at me and mumbles something. Credits begin fading in and out of the screen.

03 - The train docks and I get off. There's a giant video board above me of a bearded man. He's welcoming me to the city, how nice! Masked guards on the floor shove other civilians, and I guess I got too close to one of them as I get shoved too!

Half Life 2 Welcome City 17 Doctor Breen

04 - There's trash all over, and I'm able to pick stuff up and chuck it! Seems like a good time to note that the action has started. I throw bottles and they shatter and objects realistically bounce around on the ground.

05 - I throw a bottle at a guard and he runs at me with a taser! I get zapped and my vision blacks out for a moment. Interesting effect. A guard tells me to follow him, there's no where else to go so I do. I'm able to peek into another room where a man is arguing with a guard before he shuts the peephole on me.

06 - I enter the room and the guard babbles at me in his garbled voice. There's blood on the floor and more trash. The guard takes his helmet off, it's Barney, from Black Mesa. I supposed this is Half-Life 2 so Black Mesa must have been the first game. Our past is left off at that. I notice his lips match his voice well as I throw things at him.

08 - Barney kicks me out of the room and I need to maneuver a box to continue on. As I head into the next room, a loading screen kicks in, I kick back to wait. And wait, and wait. Three minutes later, I've decided that my computer has frozen on me. I restart and find out it never auto-saved or anything, so I have to start over. Man, all eight minutes again!

09 - I'm back! A guard yells at me to throw some trash away that he just threw on the ground. Jerk. But it's these little things that really get me immersed in this police-state world.

10 - I head out a pair of double doors and find myself in an open courtyard. I'm surrounded by Eastern European architecture but in the distance is a huge tower that disappears into the clouds.

Half Life 2 City 17 Guards Doctor Breen Citadel

11 - I explore the square, trying to follow citizens into their respective buildings, but forcefields hold me back. Flying robots zoom around me, and take my picture! The flash temporarily blinds me in a very cool effect.

13 - I wander into an alley and see a walking machine that looks like a mini AT-ST out of Star Wars. I climb up a ladder to get over a fence and make my way down another alley.

14 - I see a man getting interrogated by some guards and another man sprawled out on the ground. The guards' crackling radios/speech creeps me out. I wander into a playground complete with teeter-totter, swings, merry-go-round, and cinder blocks. I mess around with the cinder blocks and teeter-totter for a while. The physics in this game are great.

16 - I enter an apartment - loading.

17 - Guards knock loudly on an apartment door and then kick it down violently. I hide in another room.

18 - The people here seem so desperate and sad. They're crowded around a window so I look out too, just some guards running around. The residents mention that they knew they would be coming. One man is listening carefully to a radio.

Half Life 2 Guards Interrogation Bloody

19 - The environments are incredibly detailed: peeling paint, stained floors, and rusted pipes. One guy motions me to enter his apartment, but the guards follow me! They start beating the residents so I hightail it out of there and head for the roof.

20 - Loading.

21 - I'm on the roof now, and I can still hear the guards causing trouble below. Some large maneuverable planes fly over me and start taking pot shots at me. This is getting serious.

22 - Shimmying! Well, I'm sure the guy I'm playing would be shimmying at this moment but I just quickly jog along the rooftops. I'm a little too careless as a moment later I splat on the ground.

23 - Loading my save, at least I saved, right? I continue on and as I enter another building from the roof, some guards surround me, all seems lost as I black out.

24 - A woman's voice appears and she saves me from the masked men. She seems friendly enough, so I follow her into an elevator. Turns out her name is Alyx, and she's quite pretty. She mentions that the bearded man I saw on the video before used to be my administrator at Black Mesa.

Half Life 2 Alyx Symbol

25 - Loading.

26 - We wander through a basement and then head through a secret passageway - through a vending machine!

27 - We enter a laboratory, there's tons of stuff to look at so I look around the room as the other characters talk. Someone mentions teleportation and my ears perk up, sounds like fun! Barney, the undercover guard appears, and lets me know that I've "stirred up the hive".

28 - Barney heads over to a security station and I'm able to watch no less than 10 TVs with different videos on them, very cool. Suddenly a monster appears, must be a head crab. The little guy scurries around and causes mayhem.

29 - I take advantage of the moment and hop into a sweet looking orange suit. Suddenly my health appears, I think I liked it better before when I was invincible!

30 - We all head into the teleporter room and Alyx hops into the machine. I'm suddenly having flashbacks of the beginning of Chrono Trigger. A power cord comes loose as the machine is whirring which gives me a chance to practice my E key tapping skills.

Half Life 2 Electrical Plugin

31 - Alyx is successfully teleported (I know this because I can see her on a TV - a remote view of wherever this teleporter goes to). I jump in, and await the bad stuff!

32 - Much the opposite of Chrono Trigger, it is I who get into trouble with the teleporter and I start seeing scenes from around the game I'm assuming. I even land for a moment in the bearded man's office freaking him out!

33 - I land directly outside the lab and immediately get my picture taken by one of the flying machines. I think it's time to get out of here before the lab gets compromised.

35 - Barney yells down to me and throws me a crowbar. Thanks Barney, not like you could have given me your gun or anything, right? Well, a crowbar does the job on the flying camera, very satisfying. Techno music begins beating and I can see hundreds of birds (maybe cameras?) flying out of the citadel tower.

36 - I'm getting shot at, can't really fight back with this crowbar.

37 - I feel a little lost, and there's a train heading right towards me. I end up getting squished in the confusion of getting shot. Whoops!

38 - I reload and head through a parked train. So obvious afterwards.

39 - Out of the train area, and into an alley. I turn my flashlight on and the game starts loading the next area.

41 - I turn the corner and hear a woman's scream! I head towards it to see two guards harassing a pair of ladies, I charge at them with my trusty crowbar! Their heads cave in easily to the hard metal. Ouch.

Half Life 2 Guards Crowbar

42 - I pick up their guns and try it out on the next guard I see. Works nicely. Next thing I see is the exploding barrel, not very original, but very fun. Explosions are even more fun in this beautiful land of physics.

43 - I jump onto a moving train, and then off it right away to get across. I feel like a real adventurer.

45 - Guards start rolling flaming barrels at me, nice A.I. I shoot the barrels quickly but get hurt by the shrapnel.

46 - The techno music starts up again.

47 - I jump in some dirty water to avoid being shot at and wade my way through it. I meet up with a man and an alien in an abandoned train car and they inform me they're part of the Underground Radio. The situation in City 17 must be pretty serious, if you haven't realized that already.

48 - Loading.

49 - There's a monster hanging from the ceiling hanging his tongue down... reminder not to get stuck in those.

50 - I turn the corner and walk into a courtyard - and a auto-machine gun. I hide behind some wooden crates, not very smart as those are quickly torn apart by the bullets, so I head behind something a little stronger.

51 - I take out the gunner and head into a sewer hole. Looks like I'm in another Underground Railroad station, but this one has been emptied out by the patrols. A radio is barking out communication between other Railroad stations.

52 - The machine gun! I line up behind the stationary gun and wait for my prey. Stationary guns are completely worthless without a bunch of dumb A.I. to run out in front of it - and Half-Life 2 delivers the goods.

Half Life 2 Exploding Barrel Pistol

53 - My fun is spoiled though as soldiers start rolling exploding barrels at me! Dang you gameplay man who ever invented exploding barrels! Once that threat is over, someone starts shooting rockets at me!

54 - I'm unsure of what to do for a moment as the rockets have disoriented me, but Flight takes control and I run out of the danger zone.

55 - When running, I end up getting picked up by one of the ceiling monsters! Ouch! I shoot it a few times and it releases me.

56 - I jump into a small room filled with about 20 feet of water. I'm unsure of where to go next but then the exploding barrels start falling again! I dive underwater and watch (and listen to them explode). It's a scary but very well done sequence!

57 - An exploding barrel opens my next path and I jump out of the death trap. I shoot another barrel in the distance and it nearly takes out an entire bridge.

58 - I jog into a room with a ton of ceiling monsters - there's a conveniently placed exploding barrel next to me, so I feed it to them and blow it up when one of them picks it up. Pretty resourceful if I do say so myself.

Half Life 2 Exploding Barrel Flammable

59 - I wade through some more water and dodge some more exploding barrels...

60 - Final minute and one final shootout with some soldiers. Also one final exploding barrel too. As the final loading screen appears, I can see a teeter-totter and cinder blocks in front of me...

The first hour of Half-Life 2 is up, now for ratings out of 10.

First Hour Scores

Minutes to Action: 4

Gameplay: 9
There's so much interaction and the advanced Havok phsyics engine makes the world feel incredibly realistic. All the "cutscenes" after the short opening still let you run around as the characters in the background talk. The two weapons in the first hour are quick and feel very natural in the game. The enemy A.I. seems relatively smart and kept me on my toes. There is an excessive use of exploding barrels though, and seem to be the answer to almost every situation that's presented early on.

Fun Factor: 9
The first 15 minutes move pretty slow but kept me interested through the amount of interaction. The last 45 minutes are almost constant action and explosions. The game kept me moving and it was fun the whole time (except for the five minutes total of loading...).

Graphics: 10
Not sure what else to give this, even my older computer renders this game beautifully. The textures are what stand out the most as they give so much to the atmosphere. The character models also look great. The game looked wonderful almost three years ago and still looks great.

Story: 7
This is a difficult category because there's really not a lot of story directly presented to you. However, there's a lot of background story on the city and its current situation available to the interested player. Various radios and TVs play propaganda and relay messages between the Underground Railroad creating a world that is desperate and foreboding. When I was in the apartments visiting the down-and-out residents, I was reminded of the main character in the novel 1984 and his illegal visits with a woman and the fear they had of being caught.

Overall: 9
Another great first hour, as was expected from a blockbuster like Half-Life 2. Valve knows exactly how to pace their games and their one game every five years is proof. There's about five minutes of loading in the first hour and some of the conversations that you have to hang around for can be quite dull. The downside of never having any real cutscenes is that you can't skip them or at least speed up the dialog. The voice acting is of course top notch and the graphics were groundbreaking for their time. Probably more groundbreaking is the amount of interaction Half-Life 2 offers, and people who have played the full game can testify that the first hour would barely scratch the surface in what's to come. But as far as first hours go, this is almost as good as they get.

Half Life 2 G Man