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[[[Half-Life 2|edit]]] GameplayEdit

EnlargeA screenshot of the player engaging a group of antlions. Along the bottom of the screen the player's health, suit damage mitigation level and ammunition are displayed, and the player is carrying a pulse rifle.Half-Life 2, like its predecessor Half-Life, is a singleplayer first-person shooter broken into chapters, and permanently casts the player as Gordon Freeman. The sequel has nearly the same mechanics as Half-Life, duplicating its health and weapon systems for combat and including periodic puzzles. The player also starts without items, and slowly builds up an arsenal over the course of the game. A similar diverse set of enemies is present with different tactics; some coordinate in groups, some fly, some use predictable but powerful attacks, some are armed, some utilize melee and/or swift movement, and some rely on lurking and/or obscurity. Gordon can still kill enemies directly with his weapons, or indirectly using environmental hazards such as explosive barrels and gas fires.

The game's original features utilize its detailed physics simulation. Two sections of the game are played by driving vehicles. New environmental puzzles are also introduced through makeshift mechanical systems. Unlike the scripted, button-based puzzles of Half-Life, these revolve around the player's intuitive new ability to pick up, move, and place objects. Solutions involve objects' physical properties, such as shape, weight, and buoyancy. For example, the player is asked in the first chapter to stack up crates and barrels, and climb on them to escape through a high window. Midway through the game, Gordon acquires the gravity gun, which allows him to push large objects and to grab smaller objects from a distance and fling them away at high speeds. These abilities are required to solve some puzzles, and can also be used in combat.

The game does not have cutscenes, and no formal explanation of the story is given. Instead, the player is left to piece together the hints and clues in each chapter. Much of the overarching story that links with Half-Life can be understood through the interactive non-combat scenes with the game's major characters. The facial animation system allows these characters to have realistic expressive interactions with each other. For more details on this topic, see Half-Life (series).Half-Life 2 is a work of science fiction, and presents a dystopian alternate history of Earth; it is being harvested by an oppressive multidimensional empire, the Combine. The game is set around fictitious City 17, in Eastern Europe, a number of years after the events of Half-Life. During Half-Life, the scientists at the game's Black Mesa Research Facility cause an interdimensional instability, known in the series as a resonance cascade, which Gordon tries to resolve.

In the period between Half-Life and its sequel, this instability attracts the attention of the Combine, and they invade. Humanity surrenders in the resulting Seven Hour War. City 17 becomes the home of the gigantic Combine Citadel, and Dr. Wallace Breen is appointed there to supervise survivors on behalf of the Combine. Unable to procreate because of a Combine energy field, humanity matures, and no children remain. The Combine implements a brutal police state, and an underground human resistance forms.

The plot and setting of Half-Life 2 have clearly been influenced somewhat by some of the great works of dystopian literature. Breen refers to the Combine as 'our benefactors', similar to the ruling power in Yevgeny Zamyatin's We - 'The Great Benefactor', and the perpetual surveillance by hovering CCTV cameras is highly reminiscent of the tactics of Big Brother in George Orwell's 1984.

[[[Half-Life 2|edit]]] SynopsisEdit

The game begins as Gordon Freeman is brought out of stasis by the mysterious G-Man. After arriving by train and eluding Combine forces, Gordon joins an underground resistance organized by fellow friends and scientists from Black Mesa, including Barney Calhoun and Alyx, the daughter of his former colleague, Dr. Eli Vance. After a failed attempt to teleport the player to Black Mesa East from Dr. Kleiner's laboratory, Gordon embarks on foot. After finding an air boat and passing through Combine-infested canals, he eventually reaches Black Mesa East, several miles from the city. Gordon is reintroduced to Eli, and is briefed by Dr. Judith Mossman about the current state of affairs. After Alyx introduces Dog, her truck-sized robot pet, and the gravity gun, the lab comes under Combine attack, and Eli is captured and taken to the Combine prison Nova Prospekt, while Mossman cannot be found. Gordon and Alyx make separate ways to Nova Prospekt; Gordon is forced to detour through the zombie infested town of Ravenholm, with the help of Father Grigori. After venturing through a mine and combating snipers, Gordon makes his way by dune buggy along Highway 17 and eventually helps one of the resistance leaders, Odessa Cubbage, defend Lighthouse Point from an impending Combine attack.

After traveling past Highway 17 and crossing an Antlion-infested beach, Freeman and Alyx meet in Nova Prospekt.[20] They locate Eli, and discover that Mossman is a Combine informant. Before they can stop her, she teleports herself and Eli back to City 17's Citadel. They attempt to follow, but are caught in a teleporter malfunction that destroys the facility.

They rematerialize in Kleiner's lab, but a week's time has passed, and the resistance has mobilized against the Combine, turning City 17 into a war zone.[21] During the battle, Alyx is captured by the Combine and taken to the Citadel.[22]

Gordon enters the Citadel to rescue Alyx and Eli, but is caught in a Combine trap that destroys all of his weapons except for the gravity gun; instead, the energy enhances the gravity gun's capabilities and allows Gordon to escape and dispatch platoons of Combine. Eventually, Gordon is captured and 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 plan for further conquest of the humans by the Combine, contrary to what he told Dr. Mossman. Angered, Dr. Mossman frees Gordon, Alyx, and Eli. Dr. Breen tries to escape through a Dark Energy Portal, but Freeman and Alyx pursue him and destroy the reactor.[23] Before the explosion engulfs the pair, the G-Man reappears (a character introduced in Half-Life 1), and places Gordon back into stasis.

For Half-Life 2, Valve Corporation developed a new game engine called the Source engine, 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 engine that allows for an extra dimension of interactivity in both single-player and online environments.[24] The engine can be easily upgraded because it is separated in modules. When coupled with Steam, it becomes easy to roll out new features. One such example is high dynamic range rendering, which Valve first demonstrated in a free downloadable level called Lost Coast for owners of Half-Life 2.[25] HDR is now part of all Valve games. Several other games use the Source engine, including Day of Defeat: Source and Counter-Strike: Source, both of which were also developed by Valve.[26]

Integral to Half-Life 2 on both the Windows and Mac 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.[27] 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.[28] 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.[29] 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.[30] Long download times, seemingly unnecessary updates, and verification checks are criticisms leveled by critics of the system's use for single-player games such as Half-Life 2.[31][32]

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.[33]

[[[Half-Life 2|edit]]] LeakEdit

Half-Life 2 was merely a rumor until a strong impression at E3 in May 2003 launched it into high levels of hype where it won several awards for best in show. It had a release date of September 2003, but was delayed. This pushing back of HL2's release date came in the wake of the cracking of Valve's internal network[34] 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 Source and Counter-Strike Source in early September 2003.[35] On October 2, 2003, Valve CEO Gabe Newell publicly explained in the HalfLife2.net forums[36] 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.[37] Valve claimed the game had been leaked by a German black-hat hacker named Axel 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.[38][39][40]

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.[41]

[[[Half-Life 2|edit]]] Ports and updatesEdit

On December 22, 2005, Valve released a 64-bit version of the Source game engine that

On December 22, 2005, Valve released a 64-bit version of the Source game engine that theoretically takes 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.[42] 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.[43] 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.[44]

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 somewhat lower scores than its PC counterpart.[45]

During Electronic Arts's summer press event on July 13, 2006, Gabe Newell, cofounder of Valve Corporation, 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[46] 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.[47]

On May 26, 2010, Half-Life 2, along with episodes One and Two, was released for Mac OS X.[48] Portal was made available for the platform on May 13, 2010, and Mac support for Team Fortress 2 was added on June 10, 2010, completing the The Orange Box package.[49] Valve began selling The Orange Box for Mac OS X on May 26, 2010, despite the notable absence of Team Fortress for about a month.

[[[Half-Life 2|edit]]] ReceptionEdit

Half-Life 2's public reception was overwhelmingly positive in terms of reviews, acclaim and sales. Forbes reported on February 9, 2011 that the game has sold 12 million copies.[59] It received an aggregated score of 96% on both GameRankings and Metacritic.[16][50] Sources such as GameSpy,[53] The Cincinnati Enquirer,[57] and The New York Times[58] have given perfect reviewing scores, and others such as PC Gamer[56] and IGN[54] gave near-perfect scores, while the game became the fifth title to receive Edge magazine's ten-out-of-ten score.[51] Critics who applauded the game cited the advanced graphics and physics.[52][58] Maximum PC awarded Half-Life 2 an unprecedented 11 on their rating scale which normally peaks at 10, and named it the "best game ever made".[55]

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.[60] 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 PS3 version was that it had was a noticeable frame-rate hiccups. GameSpot continued to say that the frame rates issues were only minor but they were a significant irritation.[61]

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 complications making it difficult to install and lack of support.[58]

[[[Half-Life 2|edit]]] AwardsEdit

Half-Life 2 earned 39 Game of the Year awards,[12] 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."[62]

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".[63] 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".[64]

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".[13]

Half-Life 2 won Crispy Gamer's 'Game of the Decade'[14] tournament style poll. It also won Reviews on the Run's[15] and IGN's[16] best game of the decade.

In 2010, PC Gamer named in a poll by its readers, that Half-Life 2 was considered the best game of all time.[65]

In the same year, GameInformer named Half-Life 2's Alyx Vance as one of the 30 Characters that Defined a Decade.

[[[Half-Life 2|edit]]] SequelsEdit

Main articles: Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, Half-Life 2: Episode One, and Half-Life 2: Episode TwoEdit

Since the release of Half-Life 2, Valve Corporation has released an additional level and two additional "expansion" sequels. The level, "Lost Coast," takes place between the levels "Highway 17" and "Sandtraps" and is primarily 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, the latest hideout of the resistance. A further "episode" is set to be released in the future, dubbed Episode Three; being the last expansion, "in a trilogy."[66] In an interview with Eurogamer, Gabe Newell revealed that the Half-Life 2 "episodes" are essentially Half-Life 3.[67] 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.[67] Newell admits that a more correct title for these episodes should have been "Half-Life 3: Episode One" and so forth, having referred to the episodes as Half-Life 3 repeatedly through the interview.[67]

[[[Half-Life 2|edit]]] ModsEdit

Main article: List of Half-Life 2 modsEdit

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