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Half Life 2 Review - PC

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Easily the most anticipated PC game of 2004; made all the more salivating by the frustrating last-minute delayed release partly due to the Sierra Entertainment - Valve legal battle. This is, of course, the sequel to the fantastically praised Half-life. Released, by the then largely unknown company Valve, back in 1998, Half-life was marked as a revolutionary achievement in FPS design, and comfortably set the new benchmark for single-player games. Considering it's a game that won an absolutely astounding 50 game of the year awards, it's no surprise that benchmark hasn't really been touched until now.

HL2 is the first blockbuster release that can be purchased via internet download: this is using a technology Valve call Steam. To further perpetuate the theory that Valve have a habit of coming up with slick names for things, the slicker-than-slick new engine for HL2 is dubbed Source, and free with HL2 comes a Sourced up version of Counter-Strike - the multiplayer realistic team-based FPS.

Here, ladies and gents, is Half-life 2.

Game Play

HL2 takes place years after the Black Mesa incident, once again featuring the player as the exceptionally talented engineer Dr. Gordon Freeman. It seems to be an on going in-joke with Valve that no-one actually knows why Gordon Freeman is such a hero; he just is.

The story begins as most FPS games; no weapons, and no idea of what's going on; with no clues apart from a dream-like sequence featuring illusive G-man muttering confusing prophecies. The world around pays tribute to George Orwell's '1984', and is incredibly immersive due to pristine design: intimidating black clothed guards push, shove, and shout things at you, while hovering cameras whiz around your head furiously snapping pictures.

The dystopian world of HL2 is controlled by a secretive totalitarian group called The Combine. Black Mesa now exists underground as an enemy of The Combine, and as an employee of Black Mesa, and a historical action man; it's not too long until you find yourself battling against the evil suppressors of humanity.

HL2, in true spirit of the original, has such a friendly gaming feel; there is nothing nasty about this game, its fun in a box. Old faces make an appearance to greet, such as Barney the security officer and Lamar the 'pet'. Gordon also gets to meet one or two new faces, such as the rather pretty Alyx Vance; who apparently finds Gordon's beard/glasses combo very attractive.

Gordon, of course, is a popular as ever with other characters in the game. Phrases such as, 'My god, it's Gordon Freeman', 'Freeman, I can't believe you made it', and 'It's such an honour to work with Gordon Freeman' are very regular during the game. Of course there's the usual aspect of the very special Valve tongue-in-cheek humour.

Valve have done a brilliant job with the involving levels of HL2. For example, shortly in to the ... (continued next page)