Saturday, June 17, 2006

Half-Life: Source Review

When Valve Software released Half-Life 2 in November 2004, they also released a digitally remastered version of the original Half-Life entitled Half-Life: Source. Half-Life: Source features all the enhanced physics and effects brought to the sequel via the Source Engine, however the real question is if it's worth the $9.95 (US) price tag.

If you've played through Half-Life, then you've played through Half-Life: Source. The layout of the levels are exactly the same, however don't expect the exact same experience. Despite a few bugs, this is the definitive version of Valve's original masterpiece.

First and foremost, the game is harder. I played through on Hard, and unlike Half-Life (or even Half-Life 2), this was hard! The enemies now dish out a substantial amount of damage, but they can also take it. Most enemies that used to take two shots from the .357 Magnum to drop now require 4, and often head shots aren't even one-hit kills! The biggest AI change though is to the Marines. Overall they've been improved, and while they don't use Grenades as much, they work a bit better in squads, but combined with their enhanced damage and durability you'll be hard-pressed in some of the larger battles.

Friendly AI has also been improved, in that allies following you tend not to stop or get "stuck." You can also have more than 2 people following you know, which is a good help.

The enhanced physics that was the spotlight of Half-Life 2 compliments the gameplay nicely in Half-Life: Source, which, if you ask me, is what something like physics should do: add to the game instead of becoming the game. Half-Life: Source also features greatly enhanced lighting, so I must admit it's too bad Valve couldn't have improved the illumination of Gordon's sub-par flashlight.

Now for the bad. I've noticed some audio doesn't play, such as many Headcrab sound effects. While not a big deal, missing sounds do suck. I also found that underwater is way too dark, even with the flashlight, however thanks to the great new translucent water, I could take my time and kill all the Ichthyosaurs from the safety of regular ground or walkways!

Finally, though the environments look better, I must say I'm disappointed that Valve didn't use the High-Def models for the game; instead they used the originals featured in the 1998 release. While not game breaking, it did leave me scratching my head a bit.

Of course, as I mentioned, the big question is if Half-Life: Source is worth your money, and I have to say that, even though $9.95 (US) isn't a lot, it's not worth it if you've already played through Half-Life. I got it for free along with the PC version of Half-Life 2: Game of the Year Edition that I got for my father, otherwise I would never have played through it.

If, for whatever reason, you missed out on this amazing shooter, then I say yes, pick up Half-Life: Source and see where the modern shooter got its roots from. Just don't start on Hard.

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