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Game Profile
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
Xbox
PUBLISHER:
EA Games
DEVELOPER:
Valve Software
GENRE: First Person Shooter
PLAYERS:   1-8
RELEASE DATE:
November 15, 2005
ESRB RATING:
Mature
IN THE SERIES
Portal 2

Portal 2

Portal 2

Half-Life 2: Episode Three

Portal: Still Alive

More in this Series
 Written by Nick Doukas  on June 30, 2003

First Impressions: 2 Halves make a whole!


In 1998 Valve Software revolutionized the First Person Shooter genre with Half Life. Featuring impressive production values and seamlessly integrated cinematic events, Half Life went on to become one of the most popular games of all time, and established a hardcore fan base of epic proportions.

Five years in the making, Half Life 2 comes to a PC near you this September. Good news to be sure, but even better news (for console gamers anyway) is that it's coming to Xbox sometime in the near future. Gamers everywhere rejoice; because as demonstrated at E3 this year, Half Life 2 is poised to set the gaming world on its ear, with incredible visuals, stellar play mechanics, and unprecedented physical realism.

HL2 sees the return of Gordon Freeman, the hero scientist from the first game. Plot details are scarce at this point, but what we do know is that the game takes place in a hellhole called City 17, and is penned by author Mark Laidlaw. HL2 will see the return of characters from the first game, including everyone's favorite security guard Barney, as well as introduce new faces, like Gordon's partner Alyx Vance (the daughter of one of your fellow scientists killed at Black Mesa Labs in the first title).

The developers at Valve are passionate about bringing something completely fresh to the table this time around, and their enthusiasm is well warranted. From what I've seen, HL2 looks to not only stretch the envelope in terms of realistic visuals, but its physics and gameplay mechanics look so completely over the top, they virtually defy description.

Using a home brewed game engine named Source, the artists and programmers at Valve are crafting gaming for the new century, with a huge emphasis placed on reactive, realistic environments and scripted events that are completely subjective. In other words, the team has enabled the AI to integrate scenarios and reactions that are completely dependent on the player's course of action. In this way, even the more cinematic moments of the game will be rife with player choice and freedom of interaction.

The full 23-minute demo shown at E3 2003 is nothing short of mind-blowing. As Gordon moves through stunningly realistic environments, we see a shootout in progress. From the rooftop, Gordon looks down into a freight yard. Seeing 6 or 7 guards milling about the area, he targets a huge steel beam that's hanging against a wall on the far side of the blacktop. Scoring a hit, the beam proceeds to sweep across the yard, knocking over scaffolding, fuel barrels, and smashing most of the guards into pulp. Any that remain standing are floored when the beam swings back across. All stunningly rendered, with completely realistic physics evident in every frame.

Another astounding sequence shows Gordon escorting allies through a raging street-to-street battle in the ruins of City 17. As he advances down the pavement using demolished cars, piles of rubble, and bombed out buildings for cover, Gordon blows away foes with eerie realism. Using weapons ranging from a wicked looking assault rifle, to devastatingly powerful hand grenades, he protects and covers his AI comrades, all the while choosing the path for them to follow. Shooting one soldier from atop a 20-story observation platform, the Source engine's command of physics is fully realized, as he plummets with utter realism to the ground below.

Everything from an electro-magnetic gun that can be used to pick up and hurl all manner of metal objects, to a rocket launcher Gordon uses to dramatically battle a flying hunter-cruiser on a lonely highway (culminating in the smoking husk of the downed ship hurtling straight toward you) are yours to wreak havoc with. The ability to commandeer vehicles and take them for a spin presents itself at various points in Half Life 2, and these sequences also prove to be an exercise in gaming nirvana. Every movement, every bump, every spinout, is presented with the utmost clarity, and gamers are in for a wild ride they most likely haven't experienced since they grabbed that first Warthog in Halo. Something to look forward to, no doubt.

Half Life 2 will span 12 missions set in and around City 17. Of course, as in the first game, these will be presented as one long series of seamless events, with scripted sequences propelling the narrative along. At this time, details are still somewhat scarce, so look for more information here at Gaming Target as further confirmations regarding the Xbox version are announced. Considering the powerhouse that Microsoft's console is, Xbox gamers everywhere should get a version of HL 2 just as cutting-edge as its PC counterpart.

Final Thoughts
Half Life 2 is a huge score for the Xbox library. Along with Doom 3 and Halo 2, Half-Life 2 represents a turning point in the evolution of the FPS. All 3 are set to appear by the end of 2004, and as we enter the latter half of the current console generation's life cycle, these will be the titles pushing the envelope. Games that look and play so well, they appear poised to usher in a new age of interactivity. In no uncertain terms: Half Life 2 looks to be a defining moment in the history of gaming. Don't miss it.


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