4 Oct 2011

Riding to Work: Remembering Half-Life

It seems clichéd to suggest that the opening sequence of the original Half-Life is still the benchmark by which I gauge all FPS introductions, but it is exactly that. Yes, it was lengthy, but it was also marvellously underplayed for a genre in which, at the time, the best you could hope for was a quick cinematic about alien end-times and a token blaster pistol as a sidekick.

Here, you were provided a crowbar - a simple crowbar - placed at your feet not less than five minutes after the alien hordes gatecrashed the 'We Are Humans, We Like to Live' party here on Earth. Imagine that. Imagine taking your usual work commute and then, moments after finishing your breakfast you find yourself embedding a hunk of iron into the skull of an attacking xenomorph. What a treat that would be! You'd hit your lunch hour without an ounce of clock-watching.

The train ride, meeting and greeting your fellow scientists and the ultimate experiment... This initial succession of scenes is the first thing many gamers saw from Valve and, more than anything else, it provided a lasting impression of why they were a developer that deserved your time and attention.

Is it beatable today? Surely something has surpassed it? I guess that's debatable. Other opinions are available, but after the impact that this experience had on an entire generation of gamers it's hard to beat that thrill of the medium being explored in such a wildly different manner. You travel through the opening sequence of something like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, over ten years after the fact, and it plays out like a child's puppet show in comparison to this.

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