Saturday, April 25, 2020

Eric Vs. 365 Day 300 - Half-Life 2

A while back I played Quake 4 and it felt like the most 2005 game ever. I just played Half-Life 2, a 2004 game, and it still feels like a timeless classic. Played on modern hardware, like an Xbox One X, Half-Life 2 even manages to impress visually, which is no small feat for an original release and not a remake. Yep, Half-Life 2 is still great. Read more and watch gameplay here.

My first playthrough of Half-Life 2 was the OG Xbox version released back in the day. I guess it was a significant visual downgrade at the time, but I didn't know any better and thought it looked great. Though, thinking back, it probably did actually look pretty muddy and awful on my 20" CRT back then, but I didn't know any better! I played it again on Xbox 360 via The Orange Box and was impressed all over again. I think I played this one on a 30" 1080i HDTV, so it was an improvement. 

This time I played The Orange Box on an Xbox One X, and maybe, finally, saw Half-Life 2 in all of its glory. I was surprised by how good it looks, at least. Great lighting. Great water. Maybe sort of ugly and simple textures, but that's a Source Engine staple more than anything. Most importantly, it still plays really damn well. 

Half-Life 2 is clearly a game of a different era. It's kind of stiff and the controls are (really) awkward compared to modern shooters. It has health packs instead of recharging health. It's very linear and the levels are surprisingly cramped and small (with frequent load times ...). Somehow, though, it all works.

I say "somehow" but we know why it works. It works because it is constantly changing stuff up. You don't shoot the same enemy types for very long, or use the same weapons for every long, as in between every encounter is exploration and puzzles or a vehicle section or something to keep you interested. By the time you're getting annoyed with something the game is already moving on to something else, and that's great. The physics puzzles are still absolutely fantastic as well. 

Half-Life 2 is nearly 16-years old but hasn't aged a day.