It’s redundant now to declare Half-Life 2 among the finest PC video games of all time. It’s like saying, “The Godfather; good film, proper?” Twenty years on from Half-Life 2‘s preliminary launch, this stays as true because it ever was.
Replay it in 2023 – the yr by which the FPS recreation itself is about – and also you’ll be handled to numerous iconic, hair-raising moments and set items every underlined by the beautiful technical achievement of Supply engine, freshly unveiled alongside Half-Life 2. Past the groundbreaking developments, visuals, and gameplay is the story, itself expertly crafted as if created by some grasp of dystopian science fiction.
Amid all this, it’s all too simple to neglect that Half-Life 2’s opening chapter, Level Insertion, was – and remains to be – excellent. And also you don’t simply must take our phrase for it: we’ve got the proof.
As you and Gordon Freeman journey by way of this primary chapter, you’re met with a shocking mix of worldbuilding and introductory gameplay mechanics. Taken individually, these are typical of a videogame opening. Nevertheless, the way in which by which Half-Life 2 silently integrates the 2 is its crowning achievement.
Within the first Half-Life, Gordon Freeman’s waking nightmare begins with a monorail experience into a traditional day at work; a gradual and natural introduction to the story’s world. Half-Life 2 opens in a lot the identical method.
Plucked out of enforced stasis by the G-Man after the catastrophe at Black Mesa, Gordon Freeman is re-deployed into Metropolis 17 after an extended, 20-year relaxation. His hour “has come once more”. Positioned on an almost empty prepare, the second half of Gordon Freeman’s story additionally begins with a traditional day, although you won’t assume it.
As you step off the prepare Physician Breen’s voice rings out, echoing between the empty partitions of the station at which we arrive. Vortigaunts – previously one in every of your biggest foes – are actually shackled in chains, sweeping litter-strewn flooring. Breen describes Metropolis 17, this apparent hellscape, because the “best” remaining city centre, telling all who arrive “it’s safer right here.” Even because the phrases depart his mouth, if you happen to wander too near one of many masked Civil Safety Officers you’ll be cracked over the top with one in every of their sunsticks.
Upon exiting the station you’re confronted with the Citadel: an unattainable constructing so tall it reaches far into the clouds, its tip past sight. It’s the bodily manifestation of the unfathomable energy of Earth’s new, unseen oppressors. Floating cameras observe your each motion, watching and recording. Graffiti is a part of town’s essence, etched into its partitions, whereas hushed executions are enacted down unhidden alleys and thru half-open doorways. A way of downtrodden resistance lingers within the air.
As Half-Life 2 submerges you on this world of open claustrophobia, small gameplay moments are peppered all through too. As you try and exit the station one of many metro cops blocks you, presenting you with a alternative. “Choose up that may,” is, in fact, iconic, and for good motive. It acts each as a storytelling second, demonstrating the petty tyranny of the oppressors, and an introduction to the groundbreaking physics of the Supply engine, an engine which is now transitioning into its newest part with the upcoming Counter Strike 2 launch date.
There are different moments while you’re directed to work together with this world straight too, establishing its boundaries and guidelines. You dash alongside wonky planks which join rooftops, duck as bullets fly previous you, and stack packing containers to entry open home windows. However whereas studying the mechanics of Half-Life 2 as you’re launched to its story, the most important miracle is you by no means really feel the burden of the sport’s invisible, steering hand.
Organically blocked or organically open (with no goal markers or arrows pointing you in the correct course) you’re feeling as if you happen to’re making your personal selections: exploring town’s slender streets, working breathlessly up stairs in an residence block underneath siege, wobbling alongside rooftops whereas being pursued. The instructions you’re taking really feel of your personal selecting. That is solely the phantasm of alternative in what’s a wholly linear narrative, however it’s masterfully carried out.
Within the closing chapters of Half-Life 2, after escaping the clutches of the Mix, we return to Metropolis 17 in a conclusive confrontation. The participant is introduced again to the principle sq., and walks the identical streets: now a warzone. Liberating Metropolis 17 and storming The Citadel wouldn’t really feel so private – and pressing – if you happen to hadn’t skilled the oppression of the place first-hand for your self. The triumph of the top is solely supported by the unforgettable reminiscence of the start.
By the eyes of the participant there’s nothing regular about this distorted setting we discover ourselves in. However, the moments we witness are solely regular to the exhausted, terrified inhabitants of Metropolis 17. From the beginning, this alone tells us a lot in regards to the story which is about to unfold, whereas additionally balancing a gentle introduction to new gameplay parts. We aren’t instructed: ‘Earth has been occupied by some terrifying exterior pressure.’ As a substitute we see that for ourselves in each single passing element.
Immensely evocative with out being overbearing, Half-Life 2’s Level Insertion stays an ideal first chapter, and a masterclass within the precept of ‘present don’t inform,’ each by way of story and gameplay. There are novels, TV sequence, and films which purpose at one thing comparable, which might study a lot from the absolutely realised storytelling on show right here.
Each single element is intentional: we see explicitly with our personal eyes what has occurred to the world with out it ever being spelled out. Half-Life 2 trusts your intelligence and your abilities of remark as you soak up this world whereas uncovering gameplay mechanics by way of instinct.
When you watch for the Half-Life 3 launch date, ought to it ever come, you would do a lot worse than dusting off this two-decade previous recreation. You’ll discover every part you would ever want from a single-player recreation, and all in its first chapter. For extra on the very best PC video games, take a look at every part we all know to this point in regards to the potential GTA 6 launch date in addition to our round-up of all of the upcoming PC video games resulting from launch quickly.