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Thursday, January 06, 2005

#5: Half-Life 2 (PC)

It's perhaps somewhat telling that I feel that I need to explain - not why this game is worthy of inclusion on this list, but why it's only at #5. That's the sort of regard in which Half-Life 2 is held.

So, obviously, it's a great game, by any sensible measure. Play it. Technically, it's without peer. It features some stunning scripted gameplay sequences, the most convincing characters in any game ever, some absolutely priceless moments (Dog + Gravity Gun, anyone?), and the plot and atmosphere is top notch.

There were, however, a few games that I liked a bit better than Half-Life 2 this year, despite all that. A lot of the appeal of Half-Life 2 comes from its presentation. And that's the sort of "wow" factor that simply doesn't last. It's a perfectly-paced game, with a lot of variety, and plenty of meat on its bones. The physics system is extraordinary, and gives rise to some thoroughly satisfying and enjoyable puzzles. But, okay. The enemies are a bit dumb, and a bit dull, for the most part. And the weapons (with one major exception) aren't that interesting or fresh. The save system, the health and shield system, the weapon management system - all these things seem downright old-fashioned. And the vehicle action has definitely been done better elsewhere. So, it's not my game of the year. Don't get me wrong - it's awesome and exciting, and I plan to play it a whole lot more. You should too. But don't, perhaps, believe quite *all* of the hype.


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