I haven’t updated this website in a long time quite literally because I was completely addicted to Half Life 2. In the history of game technologies this game will go down as being a bold step forward. Just as the Half Life 1 was finally dying, Half Life 2 will take its place online for a long time.
Visually, Half Life 2 looks exactly like the incredible screenshots we saw. In many instances it does look like a photo. What is really amazing is that there seems to be no limit to how far or how big an area you can be in, and there is no loss in framerate looking out over long distances.
This combines with an incredible physics engine to give a very realistic experience. Without playing this game, it is hard to appreciate what a big difference a good physics engine creates. But when wood splinters, barrels roll in complex archs, explosions send objects flying into the air, it dawns on you just how artificial other games have been and how their scripted sequences have been exactly that. Half Life 2 includes many scripted sequences which will play out differently depending on how the physics are calculated. Like when a sniper shoots a truck full of logs and they roll off it, but in a different way each time.
Facial muscles move very realistically and the characters genuinely show emotion. This allows for a rich storyline, and things that had to be previously left up to cutscenes can now be displayed in game. Another barrier is eliminated and the player feels can enjoy watching scripted sequences any way they like and doesn’t have to feel like they have stopped playing.
Vehicles with full out door environments. It has been said of San Andreas, the other massive game this summer, that it incorporates what would have in the past been many separate games. Half life 2 follows the same route, at one point you are driving a buggy, in another you drive a jetski (and even a crane!). You are able to command an army of strange man eating creatures, then later an army of men. My main criticism of Half Life 2 is actually that these features are added on to compliment the main game, shooting people, but shooting people has been happening for a long time now. You get the feeling the developers are just having a wank when they added these areas, whereas I would have made them a more central focus of the game.
Likewise, Counterstrike: Source is a huge amount of fun but is essentially Counterstrike with better graphics. Some things have been tweaked and there are new maps, but is basically the same game.
This games is mostly a technological achievement. It has a great story and excellent gameplay, but I think it will be someone else who releases the more amazing game using this engine. Like San Andreas, on the PS2, it takes a very long time to reach the full potential of a piece of technology. I enjoyed every god damn moment of this game and I eagerly await any mods on it or new games using the engine. It is a shame I think they didn’t use the physics engine a bit harder or push the vehicles in more interesting ways, but this is easily game of the year and next. Five leamas.
Just a side note about Steam. I bought this game over Steam which is a new way of getting games where they are downloaded. I found it really good, it downloaded pretty fast (it downloads incrementally and you can play it before its finished downloading). It also distributes patches automatically. If you are going to buy this game Steam worked well for me.