Label Volunteer Isaac Cave takes a look at the evolution and 20th Anniversary of the video game, Half-Life.


Half-life was a first-person shooter developed by Valve and was released in 1998 for Microsoft windows, yet unlike other shooters of this era such as Doom or Quake that followed the simple formula of “run, gun, fun” Half-Life was so much more. Valve co-founder Gabe Newell stated that the team aimed to build an immersive world rather than a shooting gallery, and they succeeded as Half-Life had won over 50 PC game of the year awards and is popularly considered to be one of the best PC games of all time. The impact this game has had on the entire video game industry is almost unfathomable, as well as it’s influences on pop culture and video game storytelling.

The actual plot of Half-life is that you are Gordon Freeman, a scientist working for a company called Black Mesa which is working on teleportation technology. After an incident leads to an alien invasion, Gordon must escape the ruined facility and contain the invasion as well as contend with the government forces sent in to “clean up”. However, Half-Life never takes away control from you as a player to show pre-animated cutscenes and if you pay attention to the background details you can discover a far greater story of conflict intrigue and mystery.

Aside from the peerless example of storytelling, Half-Life was, for its time a technical marvel. Utilizing a heavily modified version of the Quake engine called GoldSrc (pronounced gold source), Half-life was able to have character models with skeletal animation, making the characters move and seem more realistic and had gameplay that had a huge degree of flexibility with its multiple weapons and distinct unique environment design.

It simultaneously combined exciting fast paced action and a well-crafted story that kept plyers invested as well as entertained as they played through again and again to try and uncover the full story. All of this would provide the basis for the future of the games industry as companies would look at Valve’s example and build bigger worlds with deeper narratives.

Since the release of Half-Life 2 and its two episodes, fans have been desperate for the release of a Half-Life 3 to bring a conclusion to the story, however, this is looking less and less likely to occur. Despite this, Half-Life remains an amazing example of design philosophy, especially in an age where the video game industry’s standards of quality and single player story driven experiences are dropping fast in pursuit of mere financial gain.


Featured image by: Omeiza Haruna


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