is a first-person shooter video game and the sequel to Half-Life (1998). read more
is a first-person shooter video game and the sequel to Half-Life (1998).
Developed by Valve Corporation, it was released on November 16, 2004, following a five-year $40 million development, during which a substantial part of the project was leaked and distributed on the Internet. The game was developed alongside Valve's Steam software. It introduced the Source game engine and, because of Steam, was the first single-player video game to require online product activation.
Some years after the events of Half-Life, protagonist Gordon Freeman is woken by the enigmatic G-Man to find the world has been taken over by the alien Combine. Joined by allies including resistance fighter Alyx Vance, Gordon searches for a way to free humanity using a variety of weapons, including the object-manipulating gravity gun.
Like its predecessor, Half-Life 2 received critical acclaim. It was praised for its advanced physics, animation, sound, AI,graphics, and narrative. The game won 39 "Game of the Year" awards and the title of "Game Of The Decade" at the 2012Spike Video Game Awards. Over 6.5 million copies of Half-Life 2 were sold at retail by December 3, 2008, (not including Steam sales); as of February 9, 2011, Half-Life 2 had sold over 12 million copies. Half-Life 2 is considered one of the greatest video games of all time.
Like its predecessor, Half-Life 2 is a single-player first-person shooter broken into several chapters, permanently casting the player as the protagonist Gordon Freeman. The sequel has nearly the same mechanics as Half-Life, including health-and-weapon systems and periodic physics puzzles, except with the newer Source Engine and improved graphics. The player also starts without items, slowly building up an arsenal over the course of the game. Despite the game's mainly linear nature, much effort was put into making exploration rewarding and interesting; many optional areas can be missed or avoided.
A diverse set of enemies is present, which usually require being approached with different tactics: some coordinate in groups to out-maneuver or out-position the player; others, like the Manhack, fly directly at the player through small openings and tight corridors; still others use predictable but powerful attacks, while others hide before swiftly attacking the player. Gordon can kill most enemies with his weapons, or make use of indirect means, exploiting environmental hazards such as explosive pressurized canisters, gas fires or improvised traps. For some portions of the game, Gordon can be joined by up to four armed Resistance soldiers and medics, and can send his team further from him or call them back.
Many of the game's new features utilize its detailed physics simulation. Two sections of the game involve driving vehicles. Instead of button-based puzzles from Half-Life, environmental puzzles are also introduced with makeshift mechanical systems, revolving around the player's new ability to pick up, move, and place objects. Solutions involve objects' physical properties, such as shape, weight, and buoyancy. For example, in Chapter 3, Route Kanal, the player is required to stack cinder blocks on a makeshift see-saw ramp to proceed over a wall. Alternatively, the player can use these to build a crude staircase, so sometimes, multiple approaches lead to the desired outcome.
Part-way through the game, Gordon acquires the Gravity Gun, which allows him to draw distant objects towards himself or forcefully push them away, as well as the ability to manipulate larger and heavier objects that he cannot manipulate without the weapon. These abilities are required to solve puzzles later in the game, and can also be used to great effect in combat, as any non-static object within proximity to the player has the potential to be used as a makeshift defense (e.g. a file cabinet) or a deadly projectile (e.g. a gasoline can or a buzzsaw blade).
The game never separates the player with pre-rendered cutscenes or events; the story proceeds via exposition from other characters and in-world events, and ensures that the player controls Gordon for the entirety of the game. Much of the backstory to the game is simply alluded to, or told through the environment.
Half-Life 2 presents a dystopian alternate history of Earth, where the resources of the planet, including the human race itself, are being harvested by an oppressivemultidimensional empire, known as the Combine. The game is set around the fictitious City 17, roughly 20 years after the events of its predecessor Half-Life.
During Half-Life, the scientists, including Gordon Freeman, at the Black Mesa Research Facility, accidentally caused an inter-dimensional instability known as a resonance cascade and later as the "Black Mesa Incident", when an experiment on an alien crystal sample went wrong. Alien creatures, such as the Vortigaunts and headcrabs, from the borderworld of Xen, flooded into the facility. Gordon fought his way through them and the government cover-up response combat units, making it to the Facility's Lambda Complex. There, the Lambda scientists helped Gordon teleport to Xen, where Gordon destroyed a large alien entity keeping the rift open. Gordon was then suddenly extracted by the mysterious G-Man, who had been watching Gordon over the course of the game. Impressed with his ability to survive against all odds, the G-Man offered him a job before placing him into stasis, which Gordon had no option but to accept.
Some time after the ending of Half-Life, the instability at Black Mesa had attracted the attention of the Combine empire, and they invaded Earth. Humanity surrendered at the conclusion of the resulting "Seven Hour War". City 17 became the home of the gigantic Combine Citadel, and Dr. Wallace Breen, the Administrator of Black Mesa who had negotiated the surrender, was appointed representative and Administrator to supervise the survivors on behalf of the Combine. Unable to breed due to a Combine suppression field, humanity matured. The Combine implemented a brutal police state of Civil Protection officers and Overwatch soldiers by recruiting and biologically assimilating humans and other species. Meanwhile, an underground "Lambda Resistance" of humans and Vortigaunts, now working together, was formed. This saw Freeman as a saviour who would lead them to freedom.
Gordon Freeman is brought out of stasis by the G-Man, who inserts him into a train arriving at City 17. After arriving at the station and eluding Combine forces, Gordon joins Lambda resistance members including Barney Calhoun, a former Black Mesa security guard now working undercover as a Combine CP officer, and Alyx Vance, the daughter of one of Gordon's former colleagues, Dr. Eli Vance. After a failed attempt to teleport to Eli's resistance base known as Black Mesa East from Dr. Kleiner's makeshift laboratory in City 17, Gordon, re-equipped with the HEV suit and a crowbar, is forced to progress on foot through the city's old canal system. After obtaining an airboat, he battles his way to Black Mesa East, several miles from the city.
Gordon is reintroduced to Eli and meets another resistance scientist, Dr. Judith Mossman. Alyx introduces Gordon to her pet robot D0g and gives him a "gravity gun", an instrument which allows Gordon to easily pick up and move large objects. Black Mesa East comes under Combine attack, and Eli and Mossman are taken to a Combine prison, Nova Prospekt. Separated from Alyx, Gordon takes a detour through the zombie-infested town of Ravenholm with help from its last survivor, Father Grigori. After making his way through the town and a mine, Gordon arrives at a Resistance outpost. He uses a customized dune buggy to travel a crumbling coastal road to Nova Prospekt, encountering Combine patrols and assisting the Resistance in fending off raids.
Gordon lays siege to Nova Prospekt by using alien "pheropods" to command the hordes of antlions that infest the coast. He reunites with Alyx in the prison and they locate Eli, but discover that Mossman is a Combine informant. Before they can stop her, she teleports herself and Eli back to City 17's Citadel. The Combine teleporter explodes as Gordon and Alyx use it to escape Nova Prospekt.
Reaching Kleiner's lab, Gordon and Alyx learn that they were caught in a "slow teleport", during which a week has passed. In their absence, the Resistance has mobilized against the Combine, turning City 17 into a battleground. During the fighting, Alyx is captured by the Combine and taken to the Citadel, as Gordon fights through the city with the aid of D0g and Barney to reach it. Inside the Citadel, he is caught in a Combine "confiscation chamber" that destroys all of his weapons except for the gravity gun, the energy enhancing its capabilities and turning it into a superior weapon.
Eventually, Gordon is captured riding in a Combine transport pod and is taken to Dr. Breen's office, where he and Dr. Mossman are waiting with Eli and Alyx in captivity. Dr. Breen begins to explain his plans for further conquest of the humans by the Combine, contrary to what he had told Dr. Mossman. Angered, Mossman frees Gordon, Alyx, and Eli before Breen can teleport them off-world. Dr. Breen tries to escape through a portal, but Gordon pursues him and destroys the portal reactor with the super-charged Gravity Gun. Breen appears to be annihilated in the resulting explosion. Just before Gordon and Alyx can meet a similar fate, time is frozen. The G-Man reappears, praising Gordon for his actions in City 17 and the Citadel. Making vague mention of "offers for [Gordon's] services", the G-Man places him back into stasis.
For Half-Life 2, Valve Corporation developed a new game engine called Source, which handles the game's visual, audio, and artificial intelligence elements. The Source engine comes packaged with a heavily modified version of the Havok physics enginethat allows for further interactivity in both single-player and online environments. When coupled with Steam, it becomes easy to roll out new features. One such example being high dynamic range rendering, which Valve first demonstrated in a free downloadable level called Lost Coast for owners of Half-Life 2. Several other games use the Source engine, including Day of Defeat: Source and Counter-Strike: Source, both of which were also developed by Valve.
Integral to Half-Life 2 on the Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms is the Steam content delivery system developed by Valve Corporation. All Half-Life 2 players on PC are required to have Steam installed and a valid account in order to play. Steam allows customers to purchase games and other software straight from the developer and have them downloaded directly to their computer as well as receiving "micro updates." These updates also make hacking the game harder to do and has thus far been somewhat successful in staving off cheats and playability for users with unauthorized copies. Steam can also be used for finding and playing multiplayer games through an integrated server browser and friends list, and game data can be backed up with a standard CD or DVD burner. Steam and a customer's purchased content can be downloaded onto any computer, as long as that account is only logged in at one location at a given time. The usage of Steam has not gone without controversy. Some users have reported numerous problems with Steam, sometimes being serious enough to prevent a reviewer from recommending a given title available on the service. In other cases, review scores have been lowered.
The book Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, revealed many of the game's original settings and action that were cut down or removed from the game. Half-Life 2 was originally intended to be a darker game with grittier artwork, where the Combine were more obviously draining the oceans for minerals and replacing the atmosphere with noxious, murky gases. Nova Prospekt was originally intended to be a small Combine rail depot built on an old prison in the wasteland. Eventually, Nova Prospekt grew from a stopping-off point along the way to the destination itself.
Half-Life 2 was merely a rumor until a strong impression at E3 in May 2003, where it won several awards for best in show. Originally slated for release in September 2003, the game was delayed in the wake of the cracking of Valve's internal network. The network was accessed through a null session connection to Tangis which was hosted in Valve's network and a subsequent upload of an ASP shell, resulting in the leak of the game's source code and many other files including maps, models and a playable early version of Half-Life 2 and Counter-Strike Source in early September 2003. On October 2, 2003, Valve CEO Gabe Newell publicly explained in the Halflife2.net (now ValveTime.net) forums the events that Valve experienced around the time of the leak, and requested users to track down the perpetrators if possible.
In June 2004, Valve Software announced in a press release that the FBI had arrested several people suspected of involvement in the source code leak. Valve claimed the game had been leaked by a German black-hat hacker named Axel "Ago" Gembe. After the leak, Gembe had contacted Newell through e-mail (also providing an unreleased document planning the E3 events). Newell kept corresponding with Gembe, and Gembe was led into believing that Valve wanted to employ him as an in-house security auditor. He was to be offered a flight to the USA and was to be arrested on arrival by the FBI. When the German government became aware of the plan, Gembe was arrested in Germany instead, and put on trial for the leak as well as other computer crimes in November 2006, such as the creation of Agobot, a highly successful trojan which harvested users' data.
At the trial in November 2006 in Germany, Gembe was sentenced to two years' probation. In imposing the sentence, the judge took into account such factors as Gembe's difficult childhood and the fact that he was taking steps to improve his situation.
On December 22, 2005, Valve released a 64-bit version of the Source game engine that theoretically took advantage of x86-64 processor-based systems running Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, Windows Server 2003 x64, Windows Vista x64, or Windows Server 2008 x64. This update, delivered via Steam, enabled Half-Life 2 and other Source-based games to run natively on 64-bit processors, bypassing the 32-bit compatibility layer. Gabe Newell, one of the founders of Valve, stated that this is "an important step in the evolution of our game content and tools," and that the game benefits greatly from the update. The response to the release varied: some users reported huge performance boosts, while technology site Techgage found several stability issues and no notable frame rate improvement. At the time of release, 64-bit users reported bizarre in-game errors including characters dropping dead, game script files not being pre-cached (i.e., loaded when first requested instead), map rules being bent by AI, and other glitches.
An Xbox port published by Electronic Arts was released on November 15, 2005. While subject to positive reception, critics cited its lack of multiplayer and frame-rate issues as problems, and the game received comparatively lower scores to its PC counterpart.
During Electronic Arts' summer press event on July 13, 2006, Gabe Newell announced that Half-Life 2 would ship on next-generation consoles (specifically, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) along with episodes One and Two, Team Fortress 2, and Portal in a package called The Orange Box. The Windows version was released on October 10, 2007, as both a retail boxed copy, and as a download available through Valve's Steam service. The Xbox 360 version was also released on October 10, 2007. A PlayStation 3 version was released on December 11, 2007.
On May 26, 2010, Half-Life 2, along with Half-Life 2: Episode One and Episode Two, was released for Mac OS X. Portal was made available for the platform on May 13, 2010, and despite the notable absence of Team Fortress 2 on the platform, Valve began selling The Orange Box for OS X on May 26, 2010. OS X support for Team Fortress 2 was added on June 10, 2010, completing the package. In May 2013, Valve released a beta update to Half-Life 2 which included support for the Oculus Riftvirtual reality headset, with a full release of the feature coming later that year in June.
A 1 GB portion of Half-Life 2 became available for pre-load through Steam on August 26, 2004. This meant that customers could begin to download encrypted game files to their computer before the game was released. When the game's release date arrived, customers were able to pay for the game through Steam, unlock the files on their hard drives and play the game immediately, without having to wait for the entire game to download. The pre-load period lasted for several weeks, with several subsequent portions of the game being made available, to ensure all customers had a chance to download the content before the game was released.
Half-Life 2 was simultaneously released through Steam, CD, and on DVD in several editions. Through Steam, Half-Life 2 had three packages that a customer could order. The basic version ("Bronze") includes only Half-Life 2 and Counter-Strike: Source, whereas the "Silver" and "Gold" (collector's edition) versions also include Half-Life: Source (ports of the original Half-Life and Day of Defeat mod to the new engine). The collector's edition/"Gold" version additionally includes merchandise, such as a T-shirt, a strategy guide and CD containing the soundtrack used in Half-Life 2. Both the disc and Steam versions require Steam to be installed and active for play to occur.
A demo version with the file size of a single CD was later made available in December 2004 at the web site of graphics card manufacturer ATI Technologies, who teamed up with Valve for the game. The demo contains a portion of two chapters: Point Insertion and "We Don't Go To Ravenholm...". This demo is currently available on Steam. In September 2005, Electronic Arts distributed the Game of the Year edition of Half-Life 2. Compared to the original CD-release of Half-Life 2, the Game of the Year edition also includes Half-Life: Source.
On September 20, 2004, GameSpot reported that Sierra's parent company, Vivendi Universal Games, was in a legal battle with Valve over the distribution of Half-Life 2 to cyber cafés. Cyber cafés are important for the Asian PC gaming market where PC and broadband penetration per capita are much lower (except Hong Kong,Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan).
According to Vivendi Universal Games, the distribution contract they signed with Valve included cyber cafés. This would mean that only Vivendi Universal Games could distribute Half-Life 2 to cyber cafés — not Valve through the Steam system. On November 29, 2004, Judge Thomas S. Zilly, of U.S. Federal District Court in Seattle, Washington, ruled that Vivendi Universal Games and its affiliates are not authorized to distribute (directly or indirectly) Valve games through cyber cafés to end users for pay-to-play activities pursuant to the parties' current publishing agreement. In addition, Judge Zilly ruled in favor of the Valve motion regarding the contractual limitation of liability, allowing Valve to recover copyright damages for any infringement as allowed by law without regard to the publishing agreement's limitation of liability clause.
On April 29, 2005, the two parties announced a settlement agreement. Vivendi Universal Games would cease distributing all retail packaged versions of Valve games by August 31, 2005. Vivendi Universal Games also was to notify distributors and cyber cafés that had been licensed by Vivendi Universal Games that only Valve had the authority to distribute cyber café licenses, and hence their licenses were revoked and switched to Valve's.
The Soundtrack of Half-Life 2
Soundtrack album by Kelly Bailey
Purchasers of the Gold Package of the game were given (among other things) a CD soundtrack, titled The Soundtrack of Half-Life 2, containing nearly all the music from the game, along with three bonus tracks. This CD was available for separate purchase via the Valve online store. The soundtrack was re-released in 2014 for use in Steam Music.
Tracks 15, 16, 18 and 42 are bonus tracks that are exclusive to the CD soundtrack. Many of the tracks were retitled and carried over from the Half-Life soundtrack; The names in parentheses are the original titles. Tracks 34, 41, and 42 are remixes. The composer of the soundtrack is Kelly Bailey.
Forbes reported on February 9, 2011 that the game has sold 12 million copies. It received an aggregated score of 96% on both GameRankings and Metacritic. Sources, such as GameSpy, The Cincinnati Enquirer, The New York Times, and VideoGamer.com, have given perfect reviewing scores, and others, such as PC Gamer, IGN, GamesRadar, and Eurogamer, gave near-perfect scores, while the game became the fifth title to receive Edge magazine's ten-out-of-ten score.Critics who applauded the game cited the advanced graphics and physics. Maximum PC awarded Half-Life 2 an exaggerated, unprecedented 11 on their rating scale which normally peaks at 10, calling it "the best game ever made".
In a review of The Orange Box, IGN stated that although Half-Life 2 has already been released through other mediums, the game itself is still enjoyable on a console. They also noted that the physics of Half-Life 2 are very impressive despite being a console title. However, it was noted that the graphics on the Xbox 360 version of Half-Life 2 were not as impressive as when the title was released on the PC. GameSpot's review of The Orange Box noticed that the content of both the Xbox 360 releases, and PlayStation 3 releases were exactly alike, the only issue with the PlayStation 3 version was that it had noticeable frame-rate hiccups. GameSpot continued to say that the frame rates issues were only minor but some consider them to be a significant irritation.
Several critics, including some that had given positive reviews, complained about the required usage of the program Steam, the requirement to create an account, register the products, and permanently lock them to the account before being allowed to play, along with installation difficulties and lack of support.
Half-Life 2 earned 39 Game of the Year awards, including Overall Game of the Year at IGN, GameSpot's Award for Best Shooter, GameSpot's Reader's Choice — PC Game of the Year Award, Game of the Year from The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, and "Best Game" with the Game Developers Choice Awards, where it was also given various awards for technology, characters, and writing. Edge magazine awarded Half Life 2 with its top honor of the year with the award for Best Game, as well as awards for Innovation and Visual Design. The game also had a strong showing at the 2004 British Academy Video Games Awards, picking up six awards, more than any other game that night, with awards including "Best Game" and "Best Online and Multiplayer."
Guinness World Records awarded Half-Life 2 the world record for "Highest Rated Shooter by PC Gamer Magazine" in the Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008. Other records awarded the game in the book include, "Largest Digital Distribution Channel" for Valve's Steam service, "First Game to Feature a Gravity Gun", and "First PC Game to Feature Developer Commentary". In 2009, Game Informer put Half-Life 2 5th on their list of "The Top 200 Games of All Time", saying that "With Half-Life 2, Valve redefined the way first-person shooters were created".
Half-Life 2 was selected by readers of The Guardian as the best game of the decade, with praise given especially to the environment design throughout the game. According to the newspaper, it "pushed the envelope for the genre, and set a new high watermark for FPS narrative". One author commented: "Half-Life 2 always felt like the European arthouse answer to the Hollywood bluster of Halo and Call of Duty". Half-Life 2 won Crispy Gamer's Game of the Decadetournament style poll. It also won Reviews on the Run's, IGN's Best Game of the Decade and Spike Video Game Awards 2012 Game of the Decade.
Since the release of the Source engine SDK, a large number of modifications (mods) have been developed by the Half-Life 2 community. Mods vary in scale, from fan-created levels and weapons, to partial conversions such as Rock 24, Half-Life 2 Substance and SMOD (which modify the storyline and gameplay of the pre-existing game), SourceForts and Garry's Mod (which allow the player to experiment with the physics system in a sandbox mode), to total conversions such as Black Mesa,Dystopia, Zombie Master or Iron Grip: The Oppression, the last of which transforms the game from a first-person shooter into a real-time strategy game. Some mods take place in the Half-Life universe; others in completely original settings. Many more mods are still in development, including Lift, The Myriad, Operation Black Mesa, and the episodic single-player mod Minerva. Several multiplayer mods, such as Pirates, Vikings and Knights II, a predominately sword-fighting game;Insurgency: Modern Infantry Combat, which focuses on realistic modern infantry combat; and Jailbreak Source have been opened to the public as a beta. As part of its community support, Valve announced in September 2008 that several mods, with more planned in the future, were being integrated into the Steamworks program, allowing the mods to make full use of Steam's distribution and update capabilities.
Since the release of Half-Life 2, Valve Corporation has released an additional level and two additional "expansion" sequels. The level, released as Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, was meant to take place between the levels "Highway 17" and "Sandtraps". It serves primarily as a showcase for high-dynamic-range rendering (HDR) technology. The first expansion sequel, Half-Life 2: Episode One, takes place immediately after the events of Half-Life 2, with the player taking on the role of Gordon Freeman once again and with Alyx Vance playing a more prominent role. Half-Life 2: Episode Two continues directly from the ending of Episode One, with Alyx and Gordon making their way to White Forest Missile base, a hideout of the resistance. A third episode is set to be released in the future, completing a trilogy. In an interview with Eurogamer, Gabe Newell revealed that the Half-Life 2 "episodes" are essentially Half-Life 3. He reasons that rather than force fans to wait another six years for a full sequel, Valve Corporation would release the game in episodic installments. Newell stated that a more accurate title for these episodes would have been "Half-Life 3: Episode One" and so forth, having referred to the episodes as Half-Life 3 repeatedly throughout the interview. In a May 2011 interview with Develop, Newell stated that the episodic model had been replaced by even shorter development cycles and continuous updates via Steam.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Half-Life 2, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.