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   PlanetDreamcast | Features | Previews | Half-Life

The best game ever? Maybe. On Dreamcast? Definitely. - by reojojo

Half-Life Logo

For those of you who don't know what Half-Life is (where have you been?), it represents the pinnacle of the first person shooter genre and is quite possibly the best game ever. When it was released in 1998 it came into the fight as the underdog, an unknown game from an un-proven developer, but it demolished the competition. The secret to its success? A gripping single player game that has a great storyline (yes, you read that right, a great storyline in a FPS) and one of the best online communities ever seen. To sum this all up, Half-Life is a masterpiece, and Sierra has seen fit to bring it to Dreamcast.

Half-Life puts you in the shoes of Gordon Freeman, a young physicist who was recently hired by the US government to work at the Black Mesa research facility. It's your first day at work, and, during what was supposed to be a routine experiment, something goes terribly wrong. A rift is opened between Earth and an alien world called Xen, and aliens start appearing in the facility and terrorizing its human occupants. As Gordon, you try and make your way to the surface with the help of other scientists and some security guards in order to get help from the military. When you finally reach the surface the cavalry have arrived, but in order to cover up the accident they're just as intent on killing you as the aliens. I won't say any more for fear of spoiling the game, but when they were writing the story, a Hollywood screenwriter was hired to touch it up and believe me, it shows. As in games such as Shenmue and Metal Gear Solid, Half-Life creates an experience that you'd expect to find at a theater, not in a game.

Cover me, I gotta tie my shoe!

Eat lead and die!

Captivation Digital Laboratories (we'll call them "Cap" for short) is porting over the original Half-Life, and "Blue Shift," which is essentially an entirely new game. On the PC, the Opposing Force expansion for Half-Life allowed you to play through the same series of events, only this time from the perspective of one of the Marines sent in to cover up the truth. Blue Shift will be something similar, only this time you play form he viewpoint of "Barney," one of the security guards at Black Mesa. This new mission is a must have for any Half-Life fan, as it lets you learn much more about Black Mesa then Gordon ever could. The game will also include the Hazard Course, a training ground for those new to first-person shooters.

Graphically, Half-Life has never looked better. It created its own graphics engine based on the earlier Quake games, and while on PC it didn't compare with the likes of Unreal and Quake III Arena, the polygon count has been effectively doubled for the Dreamcast version, and it looks sweet. The characters are insanely realistic, and Cap hasn't missed a thing, from the writing on their nametags to the buttons on their shirts. The weapons have also been fixed up, and the blocky old Glock has been replaced with a smooth new Beretta. Don't worry though, the gameplay has been kept completely intact from the PC version so these minor changes won't affect the experience.

Sound is another area where Half-Life excelled. The musical score is synchronized with in-game events just as you'd find in a movie, with orchestral/techno music (no, not the bad kind) punctuating some of the more tense moments. The music is noticeable but not obtrusive enough to annoy or distract you. The character speech and sound effects have been fixed up, but again Cap has been very careful not to lose anything from the PC version.

Having seen this screenshot, anyone who doesn't want to play this game put up your hand. Nope, I didn't think so.

Hell, this looks better than real life.

So Half-Life for Dreamcast seems just perfect, huh? Well, despite everything there are a few problems. First of all is the release date. The current date is April 30th, but Sierra has been shuffling this quite a bit. It started out as Christmas 2000, then it was moved to January, then March, and now April. I understand it's Sierra's first PC to Dreamcast port, but that still isn't an excuse. Note to developers: if you're going to set a release date, STICK TO IT! I know Half-Life will come out, but I just hope it does while a game can still make an impact on the system.

The other problem is something you more astute readers have already noticed. At the beginning of this article I mentioned Half-Life for the PC's online prowess. With the Dreamcast's capabilities, it seems natural for Half-Life to be online, right? Wrong! Online play will not be included in Half-Life, as the developer states they don't have enough time to implement it. Sierra originally stated there would be a multi-player only version released later as a stand-alone game, but has recently announced that they are "re-evaluating" it due to Sega's recent announcements. After seeing what this means with most other developers, don't count on it. This really is a shame since Half-Life has an excellent online component that would translate perfectly to dreamcast.

Despite this bad news, the single player game alone warrants a purchase, and if things go according to plan Half-Life should hit stores April 30th. Whether you love or hate first-person shooters, you need Half-Life. You simply don't know what you're missing.

Next: More screenshots!

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