Half Life 2 Xbox 360 Review
First released way back in 2004, Half Life 2 is certainly the most aged title to be included in The Orange Box. However, its inclusion in Valve’s recent compendium of excellence is a welcome one, as it gives 360, and in time PS3 owners, a chance to play one of three greatest FPS games in recent history. Unlike the Xbox release from a few years ago, this version of the game showcases Half Life 2 in all its glory, with not one nagging problem ruining the experience. Any possible slowdown or graphical glitches which could be caused by the move from PC to console are thankfully non-existent, with the only possible point of contention now been the move from keyboard/mouse to controller, and in turn which side of that fence you sit on.
Even though almost four years have passed since HL2 first wowed audiences on PC, it still offers gameplay and overall presentation that is perfectly acceptable in today’s gaming climate. Graphically all of the characters still look perfectly believable, reacting realistically to the goings on in their environment, with body movement and facial expressions remaining convincing at all times. As you’d expect the game’s story is great, with the highly atmospheric intro setting an excellent tone for what’s to come. Voice work is top notch as well. In fact, it is so good you at times just accept it rather than trying to listen for parts that are slightly out of tone. When you put all of this together all of the characters in the game seem to come to life, and have their own set of eccentricities and mannerisms to amuse you. Alyx Vance always seems to have a playful but very driven attitude, and the gesticulations of her character do a great deal to put this across. Conversely, Eli Vance, Alyx’s father, is not seen as much on screen so his voice plays a bigger part in telling you what his character is all about. As a result of Valve been able to build these great personalities even smaller character such as Lamarr, Dr Kleiner pet headcrab, and Dog, Alyx’s robot, become loveable and highly memorable additions to the game.
The introduction of enemies, which are also memorable characters in their own right, is also handled well, with each of them introduced proficiently to cause concern at first. But then, as you go on, they become your typical FPS cannon fodder, albeit tough cannon fodder thanks to the great A.I. A great example of this would have to be the flying robotic man hacks, which cause great bother upon their first appearance, but after you get access to the Gravity Gun you can take on swarms of them with ease. Also, the biggest enemies on show, the Striders, get a great build up as you witness their destructive power right from the very start of the game, but don’t get to go face to face with them until much later. This slow burn makes the encounter, when it finally games around, much more poignant. Oh, and lets not forget to mention that fantastic physics engine which was revolutionary in its time, and still holds up well nowadays.
So, what sets this version of Half Life 2 apart from the PC version? Well that would have to be the Achievements, and thankfully they are actually very good ones. In fact, if you already played the game before it is likely these Achievements would be your main reason for trekking through the game again. However, with all 1000 Gamerpoints been split across the five game in The Orange Box this game is certainly not one for those people you could label Gamerscore Whores, as a lot of work has to put into the get the full amount for each game. The Achievements also have a nice range to them with a few fun ones such as Bone Breaker, where you have to kill 30 enemies by tossing objects at them with the gravity gun, and Hot PotatOwned where you are tasked with having to kill a Combine soldier with his own grenade adding spice to the game. The hardest one is undoubtedly Lambda Locater where you have to find 45 Lambda symbols hidden throughout all the of areas of the main quest.
When all is said and done we certainly have moved on a few strides forward since HL2’s original release, and in truth there are better titles now available. However, there is no doubt it is still one of the most poignant releases in recent memory. In a year when Far Cry, Halo 2, Doom 3, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and Call of Duty was released the game was head and shoulder the best FPS seen in 2004, and it still ain’t half bad to this day. Whether you are brand new to the game or are just playing it to get the story fresh in your mind before you play the rest of The Orange Box there is loads of fun to be had here.
Still as good as it ever was.