Half-Life (PC) Review

By Athanasios 18.11.2018

Review for Half-Life on PC

Create a list of the biggest videogame legends, and there's high chance that Half-Life will be there. Inspired by FPS daddy Doom, Gabe Newell's creation wasn't just successful, but loved with a passion. With good reason? Well, like with all extremely popular titles, before understanding why something was successful, or to who it was targeted at, it's also important to take the element of time into consideration. Long story short: does Valve's Half-Life still hold up after 20 freaking years?

Questionable science experiment, dimensional portals, attack from otherworldly beings, and a lone hero left to fight. No, this isn't Doom, despite the very strong similarities with it, as the enemies aren't blood-hungry demons, but aliens that are aggressive because they sort of have to (and soldiers that try covering things up), and Gordon Freeman isn't really a muscle-bound space marine, but a nerdy scientist who would die in a matter of seconds if it weren't for his high-tech suit. Whereas id Software's creations were basically pure, arcade experiences, Half-Life, like Unreal before it, mainly wants to tell a tale.

Screenshot for Half-Life on PC

As such, levels tend to be much more realistic in look and structure, with simple labs and industrial sections instead of abstract worlds that "make no sense." As for the narrative technique used, this is an experiential, non-obtrusive, show-not-tell kind of deal, and one that was masterfully done for the time it was created. The purposely mundane environments at hand are definitely not as imaginative as Doom's Phobos, Deimos, or Inferno, but Valve's creation can be quite atmospheric in its own unique way - not to mention that the "boring" look of it all, makes the final stages (which take place in the 'Other' dimension) feel reaaally alien.

Everything is perfect? Well, the ride towards the final, alien big bad is (mostly) an enjoyable one, but it's also painfully linear. As the granddaddy of the modern FPS, this focus in realism and "storytelling" ends up putting some things aside, whereas the abstract worlds of past shooters were successful exactly because their focus was simply fun. Sure, Half-Life was revolutionary for its era, but that doesn't excuse some of its flaws, like the, literally, tons of boring crawling inside air ducts, unpolished platforming, and occasional chore-ish puzzle-solving. Oh, yeah, this less of a first-person shooter, and more of a first-person-jumping-puzzler.

Screenshot for Half-Life on PC

As for the puzzle-solving, it's another example of how something that felt great back then has sort of lost its magic. In fact, most puzzles, weren't even that… puzzling to begin with. See a puddle of electrified liquid? Push a few crates over it and use them to avoid getting hurt. See an unbeatable monster who sits underneath a rocket engine? Turn the engine on and watch it burn - and so on and forth. Again, it's great that things are more unconventional from what you would found in a "mindless," old-school FPS, and many of these obstacles increase the realism/immersion thing, but, meh. What about the shooting, though? This is a shooter after all, right?

Well, here's the deal with Half-Life. This never opted to be the next Quake. So, those who came in expecting a high-octane, run-and-gun deal are in for a rude awakening, as shooting at bad guys kind of feels like an afterthought in here, with levels not exactly filled with foes to aim your gun at. Thankfully, when Gordon gets to finally shoot some baddies, things definitely get fun, as the weapons are varied, and have a strong, "meaty" sound and feel, and some of the enemies can really test your mettle, due to their, very impressive for 1998, AI. Once more, however, things are far from the perfect experience that everyone is claiming this to be.

Screenshot for Half-Life on PC

Aside for the occasional moronic friendly NPC who won't open that damn door for you, or the plenty of glitches and bugs (yes, even after all these years), the combat chess on offer is not that great - not to mention that it can get pretty annoying at times, first, because some foes are such pieces-of-cake that don't do much besides wasting your ammo, and secondly because of lightning-fast hit-scanners like the marines, who will surely lead to lots of immersion-breaking, quicksave spamming. The main reason, though, is that, as mentioned before, this game was mainly about immersing you in its world, and not running and shooting at stuff.

…But, to be honest, engrossing or not, Half-Life's magic doesn't hold up as much as it did back then. Sure, the journey does indeed feel like a journey, and less like an assortment of loosely connected, videogame levels, and the environments are much more interactive than the ones in [Insert Random '90s Shooter], but, in the end, Valve's firstborn hasn't really stood the test of time. Some might say that this was unbelievably innovative for the time it got released. Is that correct? The answer is: Surely! Definitely! Abso-freaking-lutely!!! The legend called Half-Life is, without a single doubt, a pioneer... but so is Pong.

As for the mods, not enough room on this site to write about them...

Screenshot for Half-Life on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Half-Life is "realistic" instead of game-y, it wants to tell a tale and not just make you shoot at things, it's highly engrossing, and, generally, it's the answer to the simpleminded FPS scene of the early-to-mid '90s. However, while a piece of software that was way ahead of its time, at its core, it's just a decent-to-good shooter, with some decent-to-good puzzle-solving, and lots of... acceptable platforming. Is it bad or mediocre? Far from it - but, maybe its influence is valued more than the actual game.






First Person Shooter



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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