When you look back on PC games in recent years, and even if you look at the current state of things, you can easily see that the action genre has dominated the gaming market. From the original DOOM and Quake series to the entrance of the original Unreal franchise, action games have always been able to captivate the gamer audience. Little did anyone know that a then unheard-of development company was working on something to raise the bar of action shooters to come in later years. Valve Software, founded in 1996 by Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington who were ex-Microsoft employees, set off on a journey to create the most innovative and influential action title to date. Half-Life, as it was soon named, wasn’t necessarily revolutionary when it was released in 1998 as far as gameplay mechanics go, but it did take everything that makes a great action game and raised it to another level.
Half-Life basically excelled in all areas. It included an interesting storyline that spanned across an estimated 40 hours of gameplay, as well as some great graphics, AI, and sound effects for the time. The graphics and sound effects were greatly detailed offering up believable environments complete with smooth animations, realistic sounding weapons, and the constant ability to hear the radio chatter from the enemy soldiers. Hearing the deep radio chatter was always a plus and really added to the immersive feeling of the game. The AI was also remarkable giving your enemies the ability to take effective cover and know when to work together in order to flank you. They would even kick you if you got too close for comfort.
Sure the technology side of Half-Life was rather remarkable for a game released in 1998, but it was Half-Life’s intriguing storyline that kept gamers playing solidly through the 40 hour game. Players took on the role of Gordon Freeman who was the leading scientist at the Black Mesa facility. In the midst of a freak accident caused by a scientific test, a portal between Earth and an alien world was opened. Like any typical action shooter aliens poured in through the portal, and it was up to you and your trusty security guards to stop the invasion. What truly made the story so great was the way that it was displayed throughout the game. The levels were well designed and scripted sequences helped add to the cinematic value of the game. One of the best features was how there were absolutely no cinematic cutscenes. Instead, the whole game was viewed through the eyes of the main character which gave the player a better sense of immersion into the world.