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The Half-Life Experience: From 2D to VR

Level 15

Back during the Holiday Season of 2017 I was able to experiment with the "user experience" of going from a 2D narrative directly in to its VR equivalent. Specifically, the new Bladerunner movie had been released, so I decided to make a day of it. I watched the movie at a Theater and then immediately came home to dive in to the VR Experience created by Microsoft and Oculus:


I found the entire experience quite fascinating, as it allowed me to really become engulfed in the world of Bladerunner. What made it work best was the fact that both experiences were entirely brand new (I was watching the film for the first time, and going through the VR experience for the first time).


As it turns out, I have another opportunity to go through this exercise with the Half-Life franchise.


I am coming in impressively late to the world of Half-Life. This era of first-person-shooters passed me by, as I was heavily involved with games like WarCraft 2, StarCraft, Diablo, and Dark Age of Camelot for many of my early PC gaming years. Anytime I took a break from those games, I leaned more towards RPG games like Stonekeep and IceWind Dale, and niche genres such as the original Thief series (first person sneaker).


While I had played early shooters like Doom, Hexen, and Heretic, they really didn’t captivate me the way a good RTS or RPG did. The only exception was the original Battlefield game (1942), which I played religiously for 2 years.


Now with Half-Life: Alyx being a Virtual Reality experience that is highly regarded, I figure that it is time I finally get acquainted with this popular series.


I will be using this thread to document my thoughts as I complete each of the Half-Life games one at a time.


I recently completed Half-Life 1 for the first time in my life. I thoroughly enjoyed it! I can see a lot of similarities to other games that I played in the past, all likely inspired from Half-Life.


For example, the character models are similar to original Thief game, and the world design very much reminds me of Wizardy 8.


While blasting my way through the world of Half-Life, I found myself on a railway cart fending off demons… which quickly reminded me of intense moments in the Metro Series.


Probably my favorite part of Half-Life 1 is the map where I’m floating up towards a ceiling fan that I must avoid. It seemed a clear callout to the classic scene from the film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.


I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish. Although I did find the story rather predictable. There are demons from another dimension killing everyone, and in a stunning twist of fate… the government really knew about it all along. Everyone is a test subject, so just blast your way to victory. I recall entire sections of VHS tapes at the local Blockbuster that covered this exact storyline in the 1990s.


That doesn't take away from the greatness of the game. I suppose I was simply expecting "more" due to the ongoing popularity of this title. Yet I also realize that it is hard to live up to years of hype.


When it comes to this type of game, I am always looking forward to a unique final boss battle. Half-Life 1 didn’t disappoint. I enjoy a good “puzzle-based battle.” I spent a great deal of time unloading all my ammunition on this oversized demon baby until it dawned on me that there are energy spikes that need to be destroyed first. It was pretty fun having to super-jump to extreme heights in order to send explosives in to an exposed demon head. Good times indeed!


What I found interesting is that that world design is similar to another gaming title that is hailed as a legend, Dark Messiah of Might & Magic. There are a lot of games in the Might & Magic series, and if you read through their reviews on Steam, you’ll notice that the Dark Messiah title is the most hailed title of the entire series. I bought Dark Messiah specifically because of all the praise it has received; and I played through it before ever trying Half-Life. Now that I’ve played Half-Life, I can see why everyone praises Dark Messiah so much; it is basically the Half-Life of the Might & Magic universe.


Since I am coming late to the Half-Life games, it is interesting to witness the impact it clearly had on gaming. Looking at the last few decades of my own gaming experience in hindsight is very nostalgic. I’m thoroughly enjoying all the “aha!” moments.


That being said, Doom did come out first, and the main plot/theme of Half-Life is very Doom-ish (battling Demons on Earth, then battling Demons in another Dimension).


Now on to… Half-Life: Opposing Force.


I already started Opposing Force, and immediately love the fact that I’m playing through the eyes of one of the enemy soldiers; with events taking place at the exact time as our hero in Half-Life 1.


This is probably the first time I have experienced a video game sequel that takes place during the exact timeframe as the original story. I only experience this type of thing in books. Such as the 3rd book in the Game of Thrones series. I am starting to see why Half-Life has proven to stand the test of time as a legendary classic.


More to come!