Half-Life Series – The Adventure Story of Gordon Freeman

At the time, Valve got it right with the era. By the end of the 90s, games were gradually moving towards full 3D. The world was already familiar with Quake, but in fact the first-person shooter genre was just beginning to emerge. The niche of first-person story games was not busy. And suddenly Half-Life appears. In this article, we recall the history of one of the most iconic series of Valve.

Chapter I. No headcrabs

Gabe Newell’s company had every chance of getting into the new wave of computer games and establishing itself as the developers of innovative projects in the gaming industry. It’s easy to guess that they succeeded, and Half-Life, released in 1998, if it did not make a splash, then at least pushed the boundaries of the shooter genre.

To keep up with the current trends, the company bought the Quake 2 engine from id Software. It worked well, and don’t forget that later the whole world will be exposed to a new wave of esports with the release of Counter-Strike. One of the main esports disciplines was once an offshoot and modification of the original Half-Life. A similar situation will repeat in the future with Dota, which originally existed as an amateur modification for Warcraft 3.

Half-Life is not about the mindless shooting that was enough in the shooters of the previous era (Doom, Quake). And if id Software didn’t bother with the plot, then Valve had a fundamentally different approach. The plot is not exactly the hallmark of Half-Life, but it showed what single-player first-person games can be if you add a narrative add-on to them.

One of the features of the Half-Life development was the so-called brainstorming. First, the level designers created the framework in the form of locations, after which other employees were connected to them and worked out the design within the framework of specific premises. But Valve didn’t stop there. The developers set out to revive the world of the game, add activities to it, so that gamers feel as if something is constantly happening around them. The employees responsible for the level gathered at the same table and discussed what events and forms of interaction with the outside world can be added in each specific place. An exploding microwave oven, ubiquitous conversations between colleagues – the level of eventuality in Half-Life can surpass even modern story projects, and by the standards of 1998 it had no equal at all.













But competent level design alone will not go far, and Valve understood this. Therefore, a thorough work was done to optimize the engine. The result – in Half-Life it was interesting to shoot, the graphical capabilities, if not mesmerizing, then at least forced to pay respect to the developers.

Half-Life carried away from the very beginning and presented events in exactly such quantity, which is necessary to keep the attention of the gamer. Obviously, this approach paid off, and gamers admired the creation from Valve. The continuation was not long in coming. Although it would be correct to say, it was a spin-off (a plot spinoff from the main narrative) called Half-Life: Opposing Force.

Chapter II. Opposing Force and Blue Shift
Gabe Newell has repeatedly mentioned in his interviews that the story is of great importance for Valve. This was reflected in the 1999 add-on. The storyline of Opposing Force developed parallel to the original Half-Life, but with the only difference that the protagonist was not the silent Gordon Freeman, but the fighter of the HECU special forces Adrian Shepard. The one who arrived in Black Mesa after the incident with the opening of the portal to the world of Xen (this is exactly what Gordon’s colleagues did in the first part of HF).

As befits a competent DLC, it had everything that fell in love after the release of the original Half-Life. Competent level design, continuation of the story, several new guns, including organic aliens. More from the first addition is not required.

Blue Shift complemented the original Half-Life’s narrative and told the same story, but from the perspective of Black Mesa security guard Barney Calhoun. But unlike the first addition, Blue Shift lost momentum. The ratio of interesting events to the share of the narrative was noticeably lower than in HF and Opposing Force, and to some people the new DLC might seem boring.

It was the same Half-Life, innovative, beautiful and interesting. Therefore, gamers continued, and Valve gained a reputation as developers who were able to shake the gaming industry no less than id Software.

Chapter III. In slavery to the alliance
In the six years since the release of Half-Life, the gaming industry has transformed. Games have moved away from angular 3D to a more advanced picture (just remember the release of Far Cry and Doom 3 in the year HF2 was released). Valve could be on the trend again, and by this time the company had enough ideas for a full-fledged sequel. A painstaking approach to development, which is becoming more expensive every year, played a cruel joke with Valve. The release of Half-Life 2 was constantly postponed, and the developers themselves cut out unsuccessful mechanics from the game in their opinion. This led to delays, but by November 2004, the developers got together and gave the gaming industry almost the best first-person action.

If the first part of Half-Life attracted with technology and a plot component, then in Half-Life 2 another advantage appears – a competent and recognizable visual style. This is all thanks to a new artist who has appeared on the staff of Valve. Locations City-17 clearly resemble Soviet-era Eastern Europe, and this is one of the reasons why domestic gamers were especially imbued with the atmosphere of HF2. Each of them observed many of the locations in their childhood, from a devastated courtyard with an abandoned doll to the architecture of five-story buildings.

Those who caught Half-Life were in for pleasant surprises in the form of plot twists and references to the original part. Within 10 minutes after the start of the game, Barney Calhoun meets, and a little later Gordon will meet with former colleagues from Black Mesa.

Half-Life 2 did not let you get bored. Valve constantly introduced new game mechanics as the game progressed: familiarity with the buggy, jet ski, gravity gun, heavy weapons during the rebel uprising.

Even if you decompose Half-Life 2 into its components , it is very difficult to find fault with it. Advanced at that time graphics, amazing facial animation, which will give odds to many modern projects, competent physics, high-quality plot, well-developed characters – everything was done at the highest level. True, the story ended again at the most interesting place, hinting at another continuation.

Chapter IV. We can’t count to three
Half-Life 2’s success was predictable. The project has earned countless awards in the “Game of the Year” nomination; the developers themselves have already had experience working with spin-offs. Given Valve’s love of leisurely game creation, the decision was made to divide the following content into episodes. In total, three episodes have been planned, which will conclude the chapter on Gordon Freeman’s adventures in City 17. But only two of the three will survive until release.

The plot of Half-Life 2: Episode One 2006 unfolds exactly where HF2 ends. The player is immediately thrown into the thick of the action, so the dynamics of the first episode are different from what gamers saw in HF2.

This is not to say that Half-Life 2: Episode One brought something new to the series. To some extent, it can be perceived as a DLC, in which the storyline of the sequel was continued, and some of the questions were answered. But that was too little.

Yes, direction has grown up here, the dynamics of events has changed a bit, Half-Life 2 has become more cinematic. But to spend 2-3 hours on the passage of the Episode plot and wait another year before the release of a new episode? Too good and too little.

Episode Two came out a year after the release of Episode One. As it turned out later, Valve started work on both chapters at the same time. Accordingly, the second episode took twice as long to develop, which bore fruit almost immediately.

There were no new weapons here, but the main scene moved from City 17 to suburban locations. This gave Half-Life 2 a whole new twist. The intensity of passions on the part of the plot has reached such a level that it is necessary either to turn off the boiler, or to let it explode to hell. Here it is worth separately praising the scriptwriters of the second episode, because showrunners of many modern TV series will envy such a development of events. The ending of Episode Two caused excitement and tears at the same time, and Episode Three was supposed to be the final stage for HF2. But this was not destined to happen.

First, hats for Team Fortress 2 appeared, and then Valve launched Dota 2. And they either forgot about Episode Three, or were afraid to disappoint the fans that the developers would not reach the level of the second episode. The HF2 storyline is cut short, gamers joke that Gabe Newell can’t count to three, and the gaming industry has taken a few more steps forward. We wanted a trilogy, but we got a dilogy with a broken plot end and the most cruel cliffhanger.

Chapter V. Now only via VR

Half-Lyfe: ALYX crept too abruptly and unexpectedly. It was a technological breakthrough, detailing the environment, opportunities for interacting with the environment, as well as a new look at the beloved story, but from the perspective of the HF2 character Alix Vance. Everything was fine, except that the project was honed for the Valve Index virtual headset.

Despite their dedication to the Half-Life universe, not everyone is ready to shell out about two thousand dollars for a new gadget, and the same amount for an average PC that will pull a new game from Valve. Only a few gamers could get acquainted with the new game, but this did not make Half-Life: ALYX 2020 a failure.

It was exactly the kind of sequel to Half-Life 2 that Gabe Newell himself wanted. According to him, all parts of HF were created at the turn of new technological discoveries. HF1 heralded the first digestible 3D and storytelling. HF2 featured amazing facial animation and physics. HF: ALYX has opened up a new level of immersion. On the one hand, Valve has really made the leap in the gaming industry, but at what cost?

Unfortunately, VR is still a prerogative of a narrow circle of gamers. Thus, ALYX has become something of an elite entertainment for the elite. Should I blame Valve for this? Everyone will answer this question himself.