The box art for Half-Life shows the title on a rusted orange background, below the Greek lambda letter. And behind it you can see the formula for half life.
|Distributor(s)||Electronic Arts (retail)
|Version||Windows: 188.8.131.52 (9/16/2001)|
Mac OS X
|Release date(s)||Microsoft Windows:
November 19, 1998
November 14, 2001,
Mac OS X:
|Media||CD, DVD, download|
|System requirements||133 MHz processor
24 MB RAM
SVGA video card
|Input methods||Keyboard and mouse, gamepad|
Half-Life is a science fiction first-person shooter video game developed by Valve Software and the company's debut product. First released by Sierra Studios on November 19, 1998, the game was also released for the PlayStation 2 on November 14, 2001. In Half-Life, players assume the role of Dr. Gordon Freeman, a recent graduate theoretical physicist who must fight his way out of a secret underground research facility, whose research and experiments into teleportation technology have gone wrong.
Valve, set up by former Microsoft employees, had difficulty finding a publisher for the game, with many believing that it was "too ambitious" a project. Sierra On-Line eventually signed the game after expressing interest in making a 3D action game. The game had its first major public appearance at the 1997 Electronic Entertainment Expo. Designed for Microsoft Windows, the game uses a heavily modified version of the Quake engine, called GoldSrc.
On its release, critics hailed its overall presentation and numerous scripted sequences, and it won over 50 PC Game of the Year awards. Its gameplay influenced first-person shooters for years to come, and it has since been regarded as one of the greatest games of all time. As of November 16, 2004, Half-Life has sold eight million copies. As of July 14, 2006, the Half-Life franchise has sold over 20 million units. In celebration of the game's 10th anniversary, Valve lowered the price of Half-Life to U.S. $0.98 on November 19, 2008 for three days.
Half-Life is a first-person shooter that requires the player to perform combat tasks and puzzle solving to advance through the game. Unlike its peers at the time, Half-Life used scripted sequences, which ranged from small events, such as an alien ramming down a door, to major plot points. While most contemporary first-person shooters relied on cut scene intermissions to detail their plotlines, Half-Life's story is put forth entirely through scripted sequences, keeping the player in control of his first-person viewpoint. In line with this, the game has no cutscenes, and the player rarely loses the ability to control Gordon, who never speaks and is never actually seen in the game; the player "sees" through his eyes for the entire length of the game. Half-Life has no "levels"; it instead divides the game by chapters, whose titles flash on the screen. Progress through the world is continuous, except for breaks for loading.
The game regularly integrates puzzles, such as navigating a maze of conveyor belts. Some puzzles involve using the environment to kill an enemy. There are few "bosses" in the conventional sense, where the player defeats a superior opponent by direct confrontation. Instead, such monsters occasionally define chapters, and the player is generally expected to use the terrain, rather than firepower, to kill the "boss". Late in the game, the player receives a "long jump module" for the HEV suit, which allows the player to increase the horizontal distance and speed of jumps by crouching before jumping. (The "long jump module" was first seen in the "Hazard Course" portion of the game.) This is used for platformer-style jumping puzzles in the later portion of the game.
For the most part the player battles through the game alone, but is occasionally assisted by non-player characters; specifically security guards and scientists who fight alongside the player, assist in reaching new areas and impart relevant plot information. A wide array of enemies populate the game including alien life-forms such as headcrabs, bullsquids, headcrab zombies, and Vortigaunts. The player also faces human opponents, in particular Hazardous Environment Combat Unit (HECU) Marines and black ops assassins who are dispatched to contain the alien threat and silence all witnesses.
Half-Life has a large array of weapons the player can use. The iconic weapon of the game is the crowbar which can be used for melee fighting as well as a tool for clearing obstructions and breaking apart boxes and crates, which often contain useful items. The game also features numerous conventional weapons, such as the Glock 17 pistol, SPAS-12 shotgun, MP5 submachine gun with an attached grenade launcher, Colt Python .357 Magnum revolver, and rocket launcher as well as abnormal weapons ranging from a crossbow to alien weapons such as Snarks. Two experimental weapons, the tau cannon (nicknamed the Gauss gun) and the gluon gun, are built by the scientists in the facility and are acquired by the player late in the game. With the installation of the High Definition Pack, the weapons' appearances are substantially updated, mainly due to a larger number of polygons in the models. Although their appearances have changed, they perform exactly the same as their original counterparts in terms of gameplay. The Glock 17, MP5, and SPAS-12 are the only weapons to be completely changed in appearance, being replaced by the Beretta M9, M4A1 carbine, and a version of the SPAS-12 with a stock, respectively.
Most of the game is set in a remote desert area of New Mexico in the Black Mesa Research Facility, a fictional complex that bears many similarities to both the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Area 51, between the years 1990 and 1999. The game's protagonist is the theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman, a graduate of the Institute for Experimental Physics and the University of Innsbruck, in Innsbruck, Austria, and Doctor of Philosophy in theoretical physics via MIT. Freeman becomes one of the survivors of an experiment at Black Mesa that goes horribly wrong, when an unexpected "resonance cascade" – a fictitious phenomenon – rips dimensional seams, devastating the facility. Aliens from another world—known as Xen—subsequently enter the facility through these dimensional seams (an event known as the "Black Mesa incident").
As Freeman tries to make his way out of the ruined facility to find help for the injured, he soon discovers that he is caught between two sides: the hostile aliens and the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit, a United States Marine Corps Special Forces division dispatched to cover up the incident by eliminating the aliens, as well as Dr. Freeman and the other surviving Black Mesa personnel. Throughout the game, a mysterious figure known (but not actually referred to in-game) as "G-Man" regularly appears, and seems to be monitoring Freeman's progress. Ultimately, Freeman uses the cooperation of surviving scientists and security officers to work his way towards the mysterious "Lambda Complex" of Black Mesa (signified with the Greek "λ" character), where a team of survivors teleport him to the alien world Xen to kill the Nihilanth, the creature keeping Xen's side of the dimensional rift open.
The game's plot was originally inspired by the video games Doom, Quake (both PC games produced by id Software), and Resident Evil (published by Capcom), Stephen King's short story/novella The Mist, and an episode of The Outer Limits called "The Borderland". It was later developed by Valve's in-house writer and author, Marc Laidlaw, who wrote the books Dad's Nuke and The 37th Mandala.
Gordon Freeman arrives late for work at the Black Mesa Research Facility, using a train system. He acquires his Hazardous Environment suit (or HEV suit) before proceeding to the test chamber of the Anomalous Materials Lab, to assist in an experiment. He is tasked with pushing a non-standard specimen into the scanning beam for analysis. This creates a catastrophe called a "resonance cascade," opening a portal between Earth and a dimension called Xen. Freeman is sporadically teleported there and catches glimpses of various alien life-forms, including a circle of Vortigaunts, shortly before blacking out.
Freeman awakens in the ruined test chamber and surveys the destroyed lab, strewn with the bodies of scientists and security personnel. Finding survivors, Freeman learns that communication lines to the outside world are completely cut, and is encouraged to head to the surface for help, because of his suit. His journey consists of sidestepping Black Mesa's structural damage and defending himself against hostile aliens randomly teleporting into the area. Other survivors along the way claim that a rescue team has been dispatched, only to discover that the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit, which has taken control of Black Mesa, is killing both the aliens and the employees there as part of a government cover-up. Freeman fights the Marines before reaching the surface of Black Mesa, where he learns that scientists from the Lambda Complex may have the means to resolve the problems created by the cascade. Gordon travels to the other end of the facility to assist them.
However, Gordon encounters several hurdles throughout the facility, such as reactivating a rocket engine test facility to destroy a giant tentacle creature, using an aging railway system in order to launch a crucial satellite rocket, and fighting a group of Black Ops soldiers, before he is captured by Marines and dumped in a garbage compactor. Gordon escapes safely and makes his way to an older part of the facility where he discovers an extensive collection of specimens collected from Xen, long before the resonance cascade.
Reaching the surface once more, Gordon finds that the area has become a warzone. The alien soldiers are overwhelming the Marines, despite calling for reinforcements. Through scaling the cliffs and navigating destroyed buildings, Gordon reaches safety underground.
The Marines begin to pull out of Black Mesa and airstrikes begin, while Gordon goes through underground water channels and encounters alien soldiers picking off the remaining Marines. Freeman arrives at the Lambda Complex, in which scientists developed the teleportation technology that allowed them to travel to Xen in the first place. After meeting the remaining personnel, Gordon is told that the satellite he launched failed to reverse the effects of the resonance cascade because an immensely powerful being on the other side of the rift is keeping it open. Gordon must kill this being to stop the wave of Xen aliens. The scientists activate the teleporter and Gordon is transported to Xen.
At the border world, Gordon encounters many of the alien species that had been brought into Black Mesa, as well as the remains of HEV-wearing researchers that came before him. He fights against Gonarch, a giant headcrab with a huge egg sac, fights his way through an alien camp, and arrives at a huge alien factory, which is creating the Alien Grunt soldiers. After fighting his way through levitating creatures, he finds a giant portal and enters it.
In a vast cave, Gordon confronts the Nihilanth, the creature who was maintaining the rift, and destroys it. As the creature dies, it explodes in a giant green blast which knocks Gordon unconscious. Gordon awakens, stripped of his gear, in the presence of the G-Man, who has been watching over Gordon, appearing at least once in each chapter. The G-Man praises Freeman's actions in the border world. He explains that his "employers", believing that Gordon has "limitless potential", have authorized him to offer Freeman a job. He is also given a choice to refuse, but is told that he will be given a battle where he has "no chance of winning". While this is taking place, the scenery they are standing in warps to various Xen locales, ending in one of the tram cars from the beginning of Freeman's day, flying through space. After accepting, the screen goes black and the G-Man is heard to say, "Wisely done, Mr. Freeman. I will see you up ahead." Players who decline G-Man's offer find themselves unarmed and surrounded by hordes of hostile creatures, as G-man says, "No regrets, Mr. Freeman".
Half-Life was the first product of Kirkland, Washington-based developer Valve Software, which was founded in 1996 by former Microsoft employees Mike Harrington and Gabe Newell. They settled on a concept for a horror-themed 3D action game, using the Quake engine as licensed by id Software. Valve eventually modified the engine a great deal, notably adding skeletal animation and Direct3D support; a developer stated in a PC Accelerator magazine preview that seventy percent of the engine code was rewritten. The company had difficulties finding a publisher at first, many believing their project "too ambitious" for a studio headed by newcomers to the video game industry. However, Sierra On-Line had been very interested in making a 3D action game, especially one based on the Quake engine, and so signed them for a one-game deal.
The original code name for Half-Life was Quiver, after the Arrowhead military base from Stephen King's novella The Mist, which served as early inspiration for the game. Gabe Newell explained that the name Half-Life was chosen because it was evocative of the theme, not clichéd, and had a corresponding visual symbol: the Greek letter λ (lower-case lambda), which represents the decay constant in the half-life equation. According to one of the game's designers, Harry Teasley, Doom was a huge influence on most of the team working on Half-Life. According to Teasley, they wanted Half-Life to "scare you like Doom did".
The first public appearances of Half-Life came in early 1997; it was a hit at Electronic Entertainment Expo that year, where they primarily demonstrated the animation system and artificial intelligence. Valve Software hired science fiction author Marc Laidlaw in August 1997 to work on the game's characters and level design. Half-Life's soundtrack was composed by Kelly Bailey. Half-Life was originally planned to be shipped in late 1997, to compete with Quake II, but was postponed when Valve decided the game needed significant revision.
In a 2003 Making Of... feature in Edge, Newell discusses the team's early difficulties with level design. In desperation, a single level was assembled including every weapon, enemy, scripted event, and level design quirk that the designers had come up with so far. This single level inspired the studio to press on with the game. As a result, the studio completely reworked the game's artificial intelligence and levels in the year leading up to its release. At E3 1998 it was given Game Critics Awards for "Best PC Game" and "Best Action Game". The release date was delayed several times in 1998 before the game was finally released in November of that year.
Two official demos for Half-Life were released. The first demo, Half-Life: Day One, contained the first one-fifth of the full game, and was meant only for distribution with certain graphic cards. The second demo was released on February 12, 1999. Entitled Half-Life: Uplink, the demonstration featured many of the weapons and non-player characters in Half-Life. Set 48 hours into the game, Uplink's levels are heavily revised variations of levels cut during Half-Life's development phase, and are not present in the end version of the full game.
The titles of Half-Life and its expansion packs are all named after scientific terms. Half-Life itself is a reference to the half-life of a quantity (such as a radioactive material), the amount of time required for the quantity to decay to half of its initial value. The Greek letter lambda, which features prominently on the game's packaging, represents the related decay constant, as well as the Lambda Complex featured in the game. Opposing Force, while it could be named because the player assumes the role of one of the enemies in the original game, is also a reference to Newton's third law of motion, while Blue Shift refers to the blue shifting of the frequency of radiation caused by the Doppler effect or Special Relativity, in a similar parallel reference to the name of the shift your character takes. In Half-Life: Decay, the title again references the half-life equation with the lambda symbol being the decay constant. It has also been speculated that the Lambda symbol was chosen as it somewhat resembles a very simple picture of an arm holding a crowbar, the first weapon acquired by Gordon Freeman, and a weapon the Half Life series is famous for.
Half-Life was ported to the PlayStation 2 by Gearbox Software and released in 2001. This version of the game had a significant overhaul in terms of both character models, weapons, and more advanced and extended levels and general map geometry (see Half-Life High Definition Pack for a model comparison). Also added in is a head-to-head play and a co-op expansion called Half-Life: Decay that allowed players to play as the two female scientists Dr. Cross and Dr. Green at Black Mesa. Another interesting feature allowed players to use a USB mouse and keyboard, a feature previously unmatched on the platform.
Versions for the Dreamcast and Mac OS were essentially completed, but never commercially released. The Dreamcast edition was eventually leaked onto the internet. The Dreamcast version uses the same models as the Half-Life High Definition pack.
Gearbox Software was slated to release a port to the Dreamcast under contract by Valve and their then publisher Sierra On-Line near the end of 2000. At the ECTS 2000, a build of the game was playable on the publisher's stand, and developers Randy Pitchford and Brian Martel were in attendance to show it off and give interviews to the press. However, despite only being weeks from going gold, it was never commercially released; Sierra announced that Half-Life on Dreamcast was canceled "due to changing market conditions" onset by third-party abandonment of the Dreamcast. That year Sierra On-Line showed a PlayStation 2 port at E3 2001. This version was released in North America in late October of the same year, followed by a European release just a month later. Around the same time, Half-Life: Blue Shift, which was intended to be a Dreamcast-exclusive side story, was released on Windows as the second Half-life Expansion Pack.
Two expansion packs by outside developer Gearbox Software have been released for the PC version: Half-Life: Opposing Force (1999) and Half-Life: Blue Shift (2001). The former returns the player to Black Mesa during the events of Half-Life's storyline, but this time from the perspective of Adrian Shephard, one of the Marines in the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit sent to cover up evidence of the incident. It introduced several new weapons, new non-player characters, both friendly and hostile and new, previously unseen areas of the facility. The expansion is shorter than Half-Life, having 11 chapters to the original's 19.
Blue Shift returns the player to Half-Life's Black Mesa timeline once more, this time as Barney Calhoun, one of the facility's security guards. The expansion was originally developed as a bonus mission for the canceled Dreamcast version. Blue Shift came with the High Definition Pack, that gave the player the option to update the look of Half-Life, Opposing Force, and the new Blue Shift content. Blue Shift had relatively little new content compared to Opposing Force: aside from a few variations on existing models, all content was already present in the original Half-Life.
Half-Life: Decay was another expansion by Gearbox, released only as an extra with the PlayStation 2 version of Half-Life. The add-on featured cooperative gameplay in which two players could solve puzzles or fight against the many foes in the Half-Life universe.
In 2000, a compilation pack titled the Half-Life: Platinum Pack was released, including (with their respective manuals) Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress Classic, and Half-Life: Opposing Force. In 2002, the pack was re-released under the new titles Half-Life Platinum Collection and Half-Life: Generation. These new iterations also included the Half-Life: Blue Shift expansion pack. In 2005, Half-Life 1: Anthology was released, containing Steam-only versions of the following games on a single CD: Half-Life, Half-Life: Opposing Force, Half-Life: Blue Shift, and Team Fortress Classic.
The sequel, Half-Life 2, was merely a rumor until it was finally revealed at E3 in May 2003, which ignited a firestorm of hype surrounding the game. The player again takes the role of Gordon Freeman, this time several years after the Black Mesa incident in the dystopic Eastern European "City 17" where he must fight as part of a rebellion against an alien regime. After a series of controversies and delays, Half-Life 2 was released on November 16, 2004.
To experience firsthand the processes mod-makers would have to go through with the new engine, Valve ported Half-Life (dubbed Half-Life: Source) and Counter-Strike to their new Source engine. Half-Life: Source is a straight port, lacking any new content or the Blue Shift High Definition pack. However, it does take advantage of vertex and pixel shaders for more realistic water effects, as well as Half-Life 2's realistic physics engine. They also added several other features from Half-Life 2, including improved dynamic lightmaps, vertex maps, ragdolls, and a shadowmap system with cleaner, higher resolution, specular texture and normal maps, as well as utilization of the render-to-texture soft shadows found in Half-Life 2's Source engine, along with 3D skybox replacements in place of the old 16-bit color prerendered bitmap skies. The Half-Life port possesses many of the Source engine's graphical strengths as well as control weaknesses that have been noted in the Source engine. Half-Life: Source is available with special editions of Half-Life 2, or separately on Steam.
Half-Life: Source has been criticized for not fully utilizing many of the features of the Source engine found in Half-Life 2, as it still uses textures and models from the original game. Due to this, a third-party mod remake called Black Mesa is also under development.
On June 10, 2005 Valve announced through their Steam update news service an upcoming port of Half-Life Deathmatch, the multiplayer portion of the original game, much in the same fashion as the earlier released Half-Life: Source. No exact release date was given, simply the words "In the coming weeks..." On July 2, 2005 Half-Life Deathmatch: Source was released.
From its release in 1998, Half-Life saw fervent support from independent game developers, due in no small part to support and encouragement from Valve Software. Worldcraft, the level-design tool used during the game's development, was included with the game software. Printed materials accompanying the game indicated Worldcraft's eventual release as a retail product, but these plans never materialised. Valve also released a software development kit, enabling developers to modify the game and create mods. Both tools were significantly updated with the release of the version 184.108.40.206 patch. Many supporting tools (including texture editors, model editors, and rival level editors like the multiple engine editor QuArK) were either created or updated to work with Half-Life.
An SDK for Half-Life has been released and is being used as a base for many multiplayer mods such as Counter-Strike. Other multiplayer mods include Team Fortress Classic (TFC), Day of Defeat (DOD), Deathmatch Classic (DMC), Adrenaline Gamer (AG) Action Half-Life, Firearms, Science and Industry, The Specialists, and Natural Selection. TFC and DMC were developed in-house at Valve Software. Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, and others that began life as the work of independent developers (self-termed "modders"), later on received aid from Valve. There was even a free team-based multiplayer mod called Underworld Bloodline created to promote the Sony Pictures movie Underworld.
Numerous single player mods have also been created, like USS Darkstar (1999, a futuristic action-adventure onboard a zoological research spaceship), The Xeno Project 1 and 2 (1999-2005, a two-part mod starting in Xen and again including spaceships), Edge of Darkness (2000, which features some unused Half-Life models), Half-Life: Absolute Redemption (2000, which brings back Gordon Freeman for four additional episodes and another encounter with the G-Man), They Hunger (2000-2001, a survival horror total conversion trilogy involving zombies), Poke646 (2001, a follow-up to the original Half-Life story with improved graphics) and Heart of Evil (2003, Vietnam war with zombies).
Some Half-Life modifications eventually landed on retail shelves. Counter-Strike was the most successful, having been released in five different editions: as a standalone product (2000), as part of the Platinum Pack (2000), as an Xbox version (2003) as the single player spin-off, Counter-Strike: Condition Zero (2004), and the newest addition, Counter-Strike: Source, which runs on Half-Life 2's Source engine. Team Fortress Classic, Day of Defeat and Gunman Chronicles (2000, a futuristic Western movie-style total conversion with emphasis on its single player mode) were also released as stand-alone products.
|PC Gamer US||97/100|
Half-Life's public reception was overwhelmingly positive in terms of reviews, acclaim and sales. As of November 16, 2004, eight million copies of the game had been sold, while 9.3 million copies had been sold by 2008. The game has won over 50 Game of the Year awards.
Half-Life was critically acclaimed, earning an overall score of 96% on review collection website Metacritic. IGN described it as "a tour de force in game design, the definitive single player game in a first person shooter." IGN has also respected the game as one of the most influential video games. GameSpot claimed that it was the "closest thing to a revolutionary step the genre has ever taken." GameSpot inducted Half-Life into their "Greatest Games of All Time" list in May 2007. In 2004, GameSpy held a Title Fight, in which readers voted on what they thought was the "greatest game of all time", and Half-Life was the overall winner of the survey. In the November 1999, October 2001, and April 2005 issues of PC Gamer, Half-Life was named "Best Game of All Time"/"Best PC Game Ever." The popularity of the Half-Life series has led way to an array of side products and collectibles. Valve offers Half-Life-related products such as a plush vortigaunt, plush headcrab, posters, clothing, and mousepads.
The immersive gaming experience and interactive environment was cited by several reviewers as being revolutionary. Allgame said "It isn't everyday that you come across a game that totally revolutionizes an entire genre, but Half-Life has done just that." Hot Games commented on the realness of the game, and how the environment "all adds up to a totally immersive gaming experience that makes everything else look quite shoddy in comparison." Gamers Depot found the game engaging, stating that they have "yet to play a more immersive game period."
Despite the praise that the game has received, there have also been some complaints. The Electric Playground said that Half-Life was an "immersive and engaging entertainment experience", but said that this only lasted for the first half of the game, explaining that the game "peaked too soon."
Guinness World Records awarded Half-Life with the world record for "Best-Selling First-Person Shooter of All Time (PC)" in the Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008.
A short film based upon Half-Life entitled Half-Life: Uplink, was developed by Cruise Control, a British marketing agency, and was released on March 15, 1999. However, Sierra withdrew it from circulation, after itself and Valve had failed to resolve licensing issues with Cruise Control over the film. The critical reception of the film was very poor. The plot of the film was that a journalist infiltrates the Black Mesa Research Facility, trying to discover what has happened there.
Half-Life is a science fiction first-person shooter computer game developed by Valve Software and published by Sierra Entertainment in 1998, based on a very changed Quake game engine. It was first published for PCs running Microsoft Windows, and was later ported to Sony's PlayStation 2 video game console.
Half-Life, often shortened to HL, has been thought to be very great by computer game critics for its gripping in-depth storyline, which has influenced the development of many other first-person shooters after it. It became very popular after it was released and still has many fans.
The story of the game revolves around a research company in the United States named Black Mesa. In the game, you are Gordon Freeman, a scientist who works at Black Mesa. A test goes wrong, causing portals to open to another world (the other world is named Xen). Then, aliens from Xen come through the portals. The aliens kill many scientists and workers at Black Mesa. Gordon Freeman (the player) must escape Black Mesa and get help.
In 2004, the sequel to Half-Life, Half-Life 2, was released. Half-Life 2 was followed by two other games, Half-Life 2: Episode One and Half-Life 2: Episode Two. Half-Life 2: Episode Three, the next game, is currently in production. A related game, Portal, was released in 2007. Portal, Half-life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, and Team Fortress (an unrelated game) were put together into one package for sale in 2007. This package was called the Orange Box.