Category: First-person shooter
System Requirements: OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.3, 1GB RAM, 4GB Hard Drive Space,NVIDIA GeForce 8 or higher, ATI X1600 or higher, or Intel HD 3000 or higher Mouse, Keyboard, Internet Connection
Review Computer: 2.2GHz 13″ Macbook Pro, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM
Network Feature: No
Processor Compatibility: Intel
Availability: Out now
When Steam started making games available for the Mac, they made a smart marketing decision and went with Half-Life 2 and Portal as their first releases from the “Black Mesa” universe of games. And while Half-Life 2 was three years old, it was still an entertaining, challenging game that showed Valve believed the Mac was a competent gaming system. Still, there was a hole in the story that has finally been filled with the release of the original Half-Life for OS X.
Released in 1998, Half-Life is a first-person shooter about Gordon Freeman, the most ass-kicking theoretical physicist you’ve ever seen, on a bad day at work. Not only is the coffee machine not working, but they inadvertently opened a rift to another dimension, causing murderous creatures to invade the massive lab complex, which summons a military cover-up to make sure there no survivors. Mondays, am I right?
So, Freeman battles his way to the surface, acquiring weapons, crawling through vents, and engaging in lateral thinking and vicious gunplay. You know the deal. And while the game (which, again, came out in 1998) feels a bit dated (the monsters are very blocky, and there are only four different scientists that you keep running into), the gameplay is surprisingly fresh and the level design keeps you on your toes.
There is, of course, no shortage of gunplay, and Freeman has access to a wide variety of weapons, from a crowbar (the first thing he finds, but remains useful throughout much of the game) to a pistol up to rocket launchers and energy weapons which simply make the bad guys vanish. But the game also puts you up against boss monsters who can’t be defeated by repeatedly pushing the fire button, such as a hideous hook creature that’s taken up residence in a missile silo. Sure, launching the missile would fry it, but the power is out and turning it on means figuring out how to sneak around the beast.
The game is not without its limitations: Freeman can’t pick up objects (as he could in Half-Life 2), which means moving crates is an awkward affair, and for some reason the physics of the game think that jumping and kneeling will make you go slightly higher than simply jumping (something I found out only after reading some ancient PC walkthroughs). Also, a lot of the levels rely on jumping puzzles or walking carefully on narrow ledges. But this is all balanced with challenging enemies and environments; one level has you navigating a tram system while detonating mines and dodging enemies, another has you escaping from a trash compactor, then trying to shoot down an attack helicopter.
Currently available for 10 bucks on the Steam store (watch for sale prices, though), Half-Life is a shooter well worth your time. Rightfully praised as a great game when it came out, it’s lost none of its charm nor challenge as graphics have improved, and gives you a better grip on the story and main character that get fully fleshed out in the later games.