Despite the fact that I’ve been playing games for pretty much all of my life (a Sega Master System was placed in front of me at the age of three years old) there’s only a rare few which I consider to be some of the greatest games ever made. For me it’s not necessarily whether or not a game is polished or critically acclaimed, but often if they’ve simply have had an emotional or personal impact on me – be it for what they represented at the time or the advances they made for the industry.
One such game is Half Life 2 – Valve’s ground-breaking epic which redefined first person shooters and introduced gamers to complex physics puzzles and truly immersive storytelling. It’s a game which I hold very dearly and had an immense effect on me when I played it on PC back in 2004. To this day it remains one of the few games which I’ll go back to play in its entirety every couple of years.
However, as a recent article on What Culture pointed out, not everyone feels that way. That’s fine of course – everyone has their own tastes when it comes to games, and there’s valid criticisms to be made about Half Life 2, so it’s not my intention to poo-poo anyone. Instead this is merely a different opinion from someone who does feel that Valve’s critically acclaimed first person shooter lives up to its reputation as one of the greatest games ever made.
Without further adieu, here are 10 reasons why Half Life 2 is still a masterpiece.
10. The Weapons
Something which can make or break a first person shooter is the selection of weapons on offer, and whether or not they’re actually satisfying to use. If there’s a limited selection of weapons, or if they don’t feel suitably weighty and powerful, a first person shooter can fall at the first hurdle of actually being able to maintain 10 hours of nothing but shooting things in the face. In Half Life 2 all of the weapons are masterfully designed and incredibly satisfying to use.
Gordon’s trademark crowbar returns and it says a lot about the craftsmanship of Valve that they managed to turn a generic tool used by cliché burglars into one of gaming’s most iconic weapons. Along with Gordon’s classic crowbar, Half Life 2 features some of the most satisfying guns ever seen in a first person shooter. The basic pistol is poppy and pleasingly loud, while the Magnum delivers a mighty blow which can send enemies satisfying flying backwards. Machine guns are also pleasingly powerful and alternate fire modes include a devastating plasma ball.
Best of all is the Crossbow – which can gruesomely pin enemies to walls and ceilings with a satisfying thwack noise – and the genius of the laser designated RPG, where players can move the rocket in mid-air by aiming the laser.
And yes, there’s a very special weapon which we’ll come to later.