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Half-Life Games
What can I say!?  Probably the greatest games in PC gaming history.  If you haven’t played these, you must really hate First Person Shooters or, else, you have a huge treat in store!

The original game spawned two successors “Opposing Force” and “Blue Shift”.  They all cover the same incident at the Black Mesa Research Facility.  The original is from the view of everyone’s favourite theoretical physicist, Gordon Freeman.  O.F was from the view of one of the first troopers sent in to contain the “problem”, Adrian Shephard. B.S. Was from the view of one of Black Mesa’s security guards, Barney Calhoun.  

Opposing Force was easily as good as it’s progenitor, especially in its use of NPC cooperative AI.  Blue Shift was a rare “drop off” from Valve and it just felt short and unfinished.  The three are usually bundled together as “Generations” and worth a play even with their dated graphics.  That said, Valve revised Half-Life to use the Source engine built for the later games - Half-Life:Source.  This is the one to get if you want a preamble to Half-Life 2.

Half-Life 2 didn’t just meet expectations, it blew them away.  The original game ends with Gordon Freeman being put into some kind of suspended animation by the sinister “G-Man”.  H-L2 opens with Gordon “waking up” on a train.  Over a decade has passed and the problems at Black Mesa have lead to some “unforeseen consequences”.  Earth is dominated by malevolent aliens who are imposing an oppressive regime to wipe out the human race by attrition.

This is the most cinematic game ever published.  There are no cut scenes.  The characters are the most believable ever assembled  in a digital world.  The Resistance is lead by scientists, many from Black Mesa.  Barney Calhoun returns as a resistance “commander”.  Gordon gains one of the few believable women in gaming, Alyx Vance, as his side kick.  And, of course, there’s the “Grav Gun”.

Valve claimed that they were going to follow the main game with a series of short, sharp and sweet “episodes” extending the story.  However, each of these have taken an age to appear.  To compensate, the two released to date have been perfect little jewels of gaming.  The final fight in Episode 2, stopping Striders from taking out the White Forest base before our rebel scientists can launch a rocket to stymie The Combine is just the best “boss fight” of any game I’ve played.  And the subsequent events are pretty damn astonishing as well!  As I type this, the world awaits Episode 3 (“it’s done when it’s done ...”)

Surprisingly, I haven’t done much around these games in terms of media.  Here are a couple of video’s I made to show the flexibility of the game design and engine (and that I’m a complete coward :) )  They’re both from Episode 2.

Boss Antlion -  Using the Grav Gun to move some crates around to keep out of the way of the big Antlion.  You’ll notice a strange cut.  If you play the game ‘normally’, when you jump down from the small room, the next thing you see is Alyx up on the walkway opposite.  You assume she’s dropped down with you and climbed there.  In fact the game spawns her on the walkway.  If you use this method and climb back into the room, she may or may not have respawned.  Either way, it can cause chaos with the subsequent program logic.  So I spliced together the best examples of the climbing back and the killing of the Boss Antlion.

Zombies Attack (but not me!) - Another bit of jumping aided by the Grav Gun.  This drew on all my experience of moving crates and barrels around in Painkiller :)  An extremely ungentlemanly thing to do, leaving Alyx down there, but I blame Gordon!