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Half-Life 2

The reputation of Half-Life precedes all conversations about Half-Life 2.  You see, Half-Life set a new paradigm for PC gaming and video game development in general when it was released on an unsuspecting public back in 1998.  It didn’t just make a splash in the industry—it cannon balled at light-speed and created a tsunami that swept across the whole world.

What made Half-Life so great?  It was the first-ever gaming achievement to achieve total immersion in an environment.  Though HL did rely heavily on scripted sequences, players felt they were right there in the game.  The opening sequence alone was extremely entertaining despite the fact that it took about 10-20 minutes before the real action started.  People would hold conversations with each other, players could walk around a fully functioning research lab, and most items in the environment were interactive.  As the game progressed, gameplay was unique in that the levels had a very non-linear design that encouraged players to take advantage of the environment.  The single player campaign was an engrossing story that took many hours to complete.  By the end of it, players were starving for more, but they’ve had to wait until now to see the sequel!

Of course, in the meantime, Half-Life was revolutionary for other reasons.  For one thing, Valve actively encouraged the modification scene by providing home users with development kits that could be used to create ’mods’ of the game.  Popular modifications include the #1 multiplayer game of all time: Counter-Strike.  CS was a simple idea spawned from early mods of Quake II like Action Quake 2.  Players were pitted against rival teams and could choose from a wide variety of weaponry to destroy each other.  Each level had objectives, like disarm the bomb, kill the other team, or blow up sometime.

Ah, but I’m rambling now about Half-Life when I should really talk about Half-Life 2.  HL2 promises to shake the foundations of the PC game industry once more by taking the whole story one step further.  This time, a revolutionary new graphics and physics engine promises to create a true virtual world where EVERYTHING is simulated correctly.  Players will experience full interactivity for the first time in any video game.  Every single object is movable, and is modeled exactly for the kind of material it’s made of.  Light objects tossed into the water will float, while heavy objects will splash around and slowly sink.  You can even push a table up against a door to barricade yourself against the enemy while you watch them try to smash through or get through a nearby window.

Computer AI is also touted to be extremely smart and dynamic in responding to changing situations.  The graphics just look amazing too.  All player models are photorealistic with proper speech-lip synching and a full range of facial expressions.  Half-Life 2 comes out on November 16, and while it may not rack up as many sales as GTA: San Andreas or Halo 2, I’m sure it will make an entrance worth remembering.