Even though this game is almost 15 years old and uses a modified Quake engine, it is still one of the most FUN and best shooters ever to be made. In fact all other first person shooters and games in general can learn from Half Life 1. The game world is extremely immersive. There are no level ends, there is no text to read, there are no scores and everyone talks to you without freezing you into a cut scene. All of this makes you feel less like you are a player playing a game, but you are indeed the hero Gordon Freeman. Characters recognize you, talk to you, and you can have them come with you or stay put. Security guards that come with you will shoot enemies (slowly).
The story is that you are silent protagonist Gordon Freeman (you’ll feel like him by the end) and you work for Black Mesa, your standard super secret facility. Something goes horribly wrong and uh. The formula is very simple, but they execute it so well that other games have copied it and failed (Doom 3). Needless to say you need to fight your way out through the facility, on the desert (being chased by a helicopter), and everything else would just be a spoiler. There are no levels, no loading screens. Loading is seamless and happens during downtime.
Half Life 1 has simple controls and an optional tutorial level. There are buttons for jumping, crouching (sneaking), using your flashlight (that needs to be off to charge it), shooting, secondary shooting (for machine guns) and “using” things. The game is always in run mode and character speed seems to be fast. Too fast sometimes, but there is that sneak button that will slow you down.
But how is the first person shooting? There is a wide variety of guns and each has a certain joy and usefulness to them. Even the simple pistol is useful for lesser enemies 8 hours into the game. There is a shotgun, a machine gun with grenade launcher, grenades, explosives you detonate, wall sensors with explosives, a harpoon, a laser guided rocket launcher that once it launches you point your cursor and it will turn accordingly, lasers, homing missiles, head crabs and more. An amazing array that you continue to get even up to the final levels areas. To swap weapons you push 6 number keys and press some keys twice to access some weapons like the shotgun / machine gun / harpoon.
You start with a crowbar good for breaking grates, and destroying boxes. Destroying boxes is how you will find most items and ammo. Instead of just finding things scattered on the floor, on shelves or on a desk you need to bash open boxes to find the good stuff. You can also push or pull the boxes too which is nice for puzzle solving and platforming.
The enemies are just as diverse and each one requires you to think and act differently. Since I don’t know the name of any enemy I’ll fumble through this. The start enemies are lesser creatures that will start on the floor and jump at you. 2 shots from a pistol take them out. There are zombie-ish aliens that take a shotgun or two, but they are easy enough to avoid. Aliens that teleport in and beam electricity at you will cause you to hide, pudgy little alien crawler / hoppers will make you shoot from a distance because they will send out a small shockwave. Standard soldiers that will shoot machine guns, throw grenades and coordinate attacks against you like flanking. Ceiling huggers that are yucky red globs on the ceiling with long rope like tongues that when they catch you, you’ll be pulled up and eaten… if you don’t shoot them. Giant aliens with homing missiles too. There is a wide variety of enemies and bosses. I can’t list them all.
The game also shines with its tricks and traps and will throw a puzzle or challenge at you to keep you thinking. But in this game it doesn’t feel like a puzzle or a challenge. It seems natural. There can be a hidden turret where the fun is making your choice how to take it out… Grenade, explosive, shooting it and getting shot in the process, running by it or just not hitting the trip wire to start it in general. Wall sensor explosives, push and pull box puzzles, pushing buttons, hopping hanging boxes over a pit, conveyer belts, using a sky cannon to destroy walls, using turrets, on rails vehicles that you have a lot of control over, water puzzles, high jump pads and so on. There is a lot of variety and it’s never the same thing twice.
To sum it up, this is a diverse and VERY FUN game. It has a sense of humor to it and you’ll feel like you are Gordon Freeman through the game’s well crafted immersion. Puzzles, shooting and challenges all melded together into one fantastic game and I can’t say that too often.