The first person shooter genre has seen several revolutions since it was created. Wolfenstein, Doom, Half Life, and Halo. Though it has been six years since it came out, Half Life 2 is still one of the most dominant and popular first person shooters in existence.
Half Life 2 does not re-invent the FPS, but it comes close to improving on every it in every way. The graphics of Half Life 2 are stunning, and were the first of their kind. The complex lighting effects used have only been fully taxed by computers that have just come out. In effect, Half Life 2 still has some of the most impressive visuals of any game for the PC. For the first hour of the game, the only weapon the player will have will be a crowbar. Elements of the game are introduced gradually, and a player does not even make it out into the wide open world for several hours into the game. The sound as well as the graphics are stunning. For the first time on a PC game was 5.1 surround utilized so well. All possible sound effects combine with the impressive graphics to create an assault on the senses.
However, once the player gets the pistol, the physics engine of the game shines. The bullets effect many things throughout the environment and hit the enemy causing a multitude of different results. All the enemies increase in strength as things progress as well, so the player has to develop a strategy and tactics for fighting them. The battles almost never play out the same way, and give the player a real feeling that they are fighting thinking, living enemies who react dynamically. There are no automated responses, but rather the physics engine filters through all possibilities and lets objects interact. The best way to understand the fabulous physics engine is by looking at the gravity gun. Initially players will likely use the gun to throw barrels at enemies, but as time goes on, all the possibilities become apparent. Nearly everything that is not attached to the environment can be grabbed and thrown. Once the player gets outside and starts moving cars around, the potential of this gun is revealed. Simply speaking, the game would have been great without the gravity gun, but it adds a totally new dimension that was previously unseen in any other game.
The plot keeps the player on the edge of the seat as well. An estimated 16 hours of gameplay turns into a lot more if anyone decides to explore the massive levels. The enemies are so plentiful that as the climax of the story approaches you are fighting 3 story tall creatures in an urban environment outside, and once these battles are finished, the final level leaves the player feeling extremely satisfied. Besides all this, the engine used for Half Life 2 has been used in many other Valve and non-Valve productions and fuels many of the most popular multiplayer games today. The only reason HL2 lost a half point is because there was not enough deviation from the original plot line. While it was fantastic overall, it stayed very closely linked to the original.
Rating (out of 5):