November 16th, 2004 was a red letter day for nearly all of us in the PC Realm. The original Half-Life which dropped in 1998 was a reminder that First Person Shooters can be something more then just shooty-shooty-bang-bang and redefined the FPS genre. City 17, the game’s opening level was a coherent world and a living breathing world and of course that scene looks a bit primitive in nature due to time and technology but other games tried to replicate it like BioShock Infinite or the Original BioShock with it’s bathysphere and descending beyond the sea.
Half-Life 2 brought new ideas, of course it had new ideas but what it brought to gaming as a whole was a demonstration of how things should be going in this direction and how things could be if games were like this. Alyx Vance for instance was a kickass side character and a fundamentally good character who resonated with me and fellow gamers, and she resonated with me through eye contact and speech, but always eye contact due to the fact that Freeman couldn’t speak. She could smile, wave nearly all the things that NPCs could do but there was something more, it rived on the connection of you and her, Gordon and Alyx. Alyx would become your side-character to someone you could have a conversation with to even fixing parts of the world.
I truly believe that Half-Life 2 had this natural flow like a river or a stream of water and I believe that’s what made the game so special, that the flow wouldn’t break and the journey was one coherent thing ( insert loading screen here.) , it was one full journey that would take you from City 17 to the famous Ravenholm and finally to the Citadel and beyond the Citadel in Episodes One and Two, you could casually experiment the combat in Ravenholm. While the story was a “Modern day” story for 2004, the action wasn’t the action that we see today in games like Call of Duty, Battlefield, etc. The action was all about peaks and the alloted time of intensity.
On top of the continuous journey came the details, I always thought of Freeman as a “Staph Infection” to the Combine’s plans, a threat that needs to be stopped and the details of the Combine spreading it’s reach across the world, absorbing a small world. The sounds of the Combine enemies, the sound of using medical terms to describe an uprising sure it’s a small detail but you learn things in-game rather then in Audio Diaries or cutscenes.
I believe that Half-Life 2 alongside BioShock is a creation of a “perfect” world and a world that felt “right” in stark contrasts to Medal of Honor or Call of Duty for that matter. Yes, the world of Half-Life 2 was a bit too show-offy like throwing a can in the trash can and shouting “PHYSICS” in thin air as you do it or doing the same thing when you buzzsaw a zombie’s head off but the world of Half-Life 2 felt “right” and gave off a sense of a “Perfect” world, that every game should be like this or of a similar world.
Without Half-Life 2, we wouldn’t have the Original BioShock or BioShock Infinite or even games like Wolfenstein: The New Orders, games that are the modern Half-Life 2 and push the genre forward and of course we wouldn’t have Steam and the community of Steam.
Sure, Half-Life 2 had it’s issues and it isn’t a perfect game because there isn’t a perfect game, there will never be a perfect game but it did alot of things right and it’s how things should go in gaming, I believe this game will always be a 10 because it’s a masterpiece and nothing comes close to it, not even today. It’s a bit long in the tooth now but it still looks gorgeous, few games had a lasting impact in a way that can be counted in huge ways, or can be held up as a pioneer. Fewer has done it so well.