Retro gamer: Half-Life

Retro gamer: Half-Life

It's time for me to tackle the game that took me from the chaos of Quake and Wolfenstein into the addictive world of story driven, first person shooters; Half-Life.

Among its other accolades Half-Life is the game I've bought the most times. The original PC first edition, PS2, the separate editions of the spin-offs (Opposing Force and Blue Shift), the legendary Orange Box and finally Steam. Twice. I've never played Half-Life: Decay; must get around to it some day. Like so many other Half-Life fans - I have spent too much of my life Googling for news of Half-Life 3 after losing several months to what just might be the greatest single player FPS made to date; Half-Life 2.

My eleven year old nephew prompted this particular return to Half-Life. We were YouTubing various Minecraft guides. I'm still unconvinced about Minecraft. I showed him a couple of my favourite old-school gaming intros including Delphine's Flashback on the Megadrive/Genesis and the opening train sequence in Half-Life jumped into my head.

I called it up on YouTube and was immediately brought back to the first day I saw it. It was night time, winter and there was a single dull lamp lighting my bedroom as the train faded in from black and its female monotone droned the words "Good morning and welcome to the Black Mesa transit system".

Then followed five full minutes of intro movie punctuated by occasional credits as Gordon Freeman travels to his underground lab within the complex. The genius of opening a game with this sequence is still potent. You are brought with Gordon, deeper and deeper underground, through various gateways and security systems - when the train finally pulls up at the end of a line to a metal platform hanging within a dark cavern, you know that you have reached a truly isolated place. The friendly security guard open the double sealed doorway ahead - Gordon has insufficient security rights to let himself into his own workplace. "Anomalous Materials" appears on the screen and the game begins.

There's no training level. No popup hints. You just figure it out as you go along and frequently consult the controls for the first hour or so.

I felt the excitement of the opening sequence as Gordon pushes the sample into the test apparatus and the familiar momentary panic as the entire room exploded... game on.