Valve Software’s Half-Life has been hyped for the past three years, claiming that it has the most advanced artificial intelligence (AI) found on any first person shooter. It was supposed to be the AI that would surpass Half-Life form its competition. Fortunately, I am able to say that as far as the main game goes, that hype is proven to be true, as the final release provides the most challenging, involving single player action there is to offer.
Half-Life, published by Sierra, centers on Gordon Freeman, doctor of Nanotechnology and Charlie Sheen look-a-like. What appears to start off as a typical day of work at the secret underground Black Mesa facility turns out to be one hell of a journey. While running tests on a new supercollider, an accident occurs, causing a "resonance cascade" that transports various aliens into the base.
A majority of the scientists and security guards are killed, and the few that survive send out a distress call to the military to help them escape. Gordon is asked to reach the surface and let the military know what has happened and help out those imprisoned in the complex.
However, it turns out there is a lot more to the "resonance cascade" than originally thought. And, when the military arrives at Black Mesa, they aren’t here to help; they are there to eliminate any human presence and return with information about the project to their superiors. Only Gordon stands in their way, suited up in his H.E.V. suit and wielding tremendous firepower, from both human and alien sources.
Half-Life might look at first like your typical first person shooter (it is based on a modified Quake 2 engine) but once you play it, FPS takes on a whole new mission. The whole game takes on a "Quake meets Aliens with a touch of X-Files" motif to it. Starting with the long intro sequence (which is a tramcar ride where you can actually move around), you don’t feel encased in just a normal shooting game. Everything you see and hear, makes you believe you are in a real top secret complex.
The weapons are also very realistic — at least the human weapons. Ammunition is counted "Goldeneye-style." What that means is that you have a total amount of ammunition for that weapon, as well as the amount currently loaded in the clip. That way, you’ll know when you need to stop and reload before you get ambushed. The alien weapons on the other hand get pretty outrageous. My favorite are the critters you send speeding toward your foe to leap out and attack without warning.
And finally, we’ll get to the most important part of the game: the computer AI. The hype is correct by saying it’s the best AI in any corridor shooter. Enemies don’t wander around like idiots waiting to be killed; they are out for your blood. They will sneak around corners, hurl grenades to flank you out, even call support to surround you. In addition, friendly guards will help you out, providing cover fire while scientists will either open secret doors for you or offer a life-saving injection when you need it most. It’s obvious that Valve took a lot of time to perfect this AI to make Half-Life an amazing single player experience.
I do stress "single player" though, because multiplayer is the game’s weak spot. As of the moment, Internet game play is slow and laggy, a very strange occurrence for a game using the Quake 2 engine (which screams at 56K). Even worse, for some strange reason, Valve forgot to add a Botmatch mode (which is a standard since Unreal.) If Half-Life is supposed to use this amazing AI, why couldn’t they add deathmatch games with it? Hopefully Valve will release a patch to relieve this, or add it with their Team Fortress 2 release.
Even with this flaw, Half Life is an amazing game. It sets the new benchmark that FPS games will be judged upon. I’m going to go out of my way here and give 2 different ratings. The single player game without a doubt deserves 5 Gems, while the multiplayer mode gets 3 1/2 because of the lack of a botmatch and some issues with lag. This averages out to a respectable 4 1/2 Gems.