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Half-Life is a first-person shooter computer game developed by Valve Software and published by Sierra On-Line in 1998, based on a heavily-modified Quake game engine. It was first published for PCs running Microsoft Windows, and was later ported to Sony's PlayStation 2 video game console (versions for Sega's Dreamcast and Apple Macintosh were completed, but never released commercially). Half-Life, often shortened to HL, has been heralded by computer game critics for its gripping storyline, which would influence the development of other first-person shooters in the years to come.
In the game, you play a scientist named Gordon Freeman who is a survivor of an experiment that goes horribly wrong, ripping dimensional seams that allow aliens from a parallel dimension to invade Earth. The game refers to it as a resonance cascade. As you try to escape the destroyed facility you soon discover that you are caught between two sides: the aliens, and the forces of the United States Marine Corps which has been dispatched to cover up the experiment—including you. You also learn that the accident may not have been an accident after all, and that the aliens didn't start it, but were being kidnapped and experimented on. You discover the true intentions of the G-Man who appears regularly throughout the game to monitor your progress.
The plot was written by Valve's in-house writer and author, Marc Laidlaw who wrote the books Dad's Nuke and The 37th Mandala .
Expansions and mods
Two expansion packs have been been released: Opposing Force and Blue Shift. In 1999's Opposing Force, you play through the world of the original storyline once again, but this time as one of the military officers sent to cover up the experiment. Blue Shift (2001) returns the player to the original storyworld yet again, this time as one of the facility's guards. (This expansion was originally developed as a bonus mission for the canceled Dreamcast version.)
Half-Life has also been used as a base for many mods (add-ons) such as the immensely popular and free multiplayer mod, Counter-Strike. Other popular mods include Team Fortress Classic, Day of Defeat, Deathmatch Classic, Action Half-Life, Firearms, and Natural Selection. See list of Half-Life mods for more.
The sequel, Half-Life 2, was merely a rumor until a strong impression at E3 in May 2003 launched it into levels of hype only equalled by DOOM 3. The player again takes the role of Gordon Freeman, this time many years after the Black Mesa incident in a futuristic Eastern European 'City 17' where he must fight an alien invasion. The game's source code was leaked in 2003 and the game has since been delayed multiple times. It is currently set for release in November 2004.
Years after its release, Half-Life continues to be popular even now that most players have completed the single-player mode. Playing over local area networks and the Internet, players fight against each other, just as in previous first-person shooters.
Online play for Half-Life was originally through WON but is now through Steam, through which users can download and play any version of Half-Life and any available mod, or even purchase the game online. Originally many users had problems with the Steam system but it has developed into a reasonably stable platform.
Despite being somewhat eclipsed by its many successful multiplayer mods, Half-Life Deathmatch (HLDM) is still popular and is played in various leagues around the world. Weapons available in HLDM:
- Crowbar (now a cult classic)
- Beretta M9 pistol
- Colt Python .357 revolver (aka Magnum)
- Colt M4/M203 assault rifle
- Franchi SPAS-12 shotgun
- Hunting crossbow
- RPG launcher
- "Hornet Gun" (alien weapon)
- Tau cannon (aka Gauss Gun)
- Gluon gun (aka Egon, nickname inspired by the Ghostbusters character)
- Hand grenades
- Laser tripmines
- Satchel charges
- "Snarks" (alien weapon)
The Opposing Force add-on also introduces several new weapons:
- Monkey wrench
- Combat knife
- Barnacle (alien weapon)
- Desert Eagle pistol
- M249 squad automatic weapon
- Bolt-action sniper rifle
- Spore launcher (alien weapon)
- Shock rifle (alien weapon)
- "Displacer" teleport gun
- The Official Half-Life Web Site (Sierra)
- Planet Half-Life (GameSpy)
- Pro HL
- Half-Life Clan Collision League
- Half-Life Gameplay Videos