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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 10, 2006

My view: 'Half-Life 2'

By Julius Pecson
Special to The Advertiser

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5 Outstanding: Add it to your collection now. A must-have.

4 Great: Buy it or rent it definitely play it.

3 Good: Worth playing despite some flaws.

2 Fair: Unless you're a fan of the license or series, don't bother.

1 Poor: You'd have more fun playing Pong.

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Game: "Half-Life 2"

Console: Xbox (also on PC)

Developer/publisher: Valve/EA

Genre:/ First-person shooter

Number of players: 1

ESRB rating: Mature

The premise: The acclaimed 2004 PC game of the year finally lands on the Xbox, where you assume the role of Gordon Freeman to lead the human resistance to victory over the alien Combine in a post-apocalyptic world.

Game play: With 14 seamless chapters of nonstop action, players will be thrown into eerily realistic and varied environments ranging from claustrophobic sewers to sprawling cityscapes. While the game play is an eclectic mix of traditional run-and-gun shooting with some really cunning twists, the trump card involves the brilliant implementation of physics, as every object has a weight and mass.

Understanding that helps players solve various puzzles, such as gaining access to new areas by placing objects on seesaws or squashing enemies with heavy containers. Imaginative players will find all sorts of uses for the objects in the game, especially after obtaining the gravity gun. This weapon can pick up and manipulate just about anything in the world, turning overlooked debris into lethal weapons. For example, you might grab a metal barrel and use it as a shield against incoming fire, or rip a radiator from a wall and fire it at a Combine soldier.

A few levels include various vehicles, from boats to Jeeps, that really help mix up the game's pace without straying too far from the fundamentals. Other levels have Gordon joining up with resistance squad members, commanding alien antlions, and even trying to take down massive gunships and striders.

The good/bad: Never mind the loading interruptions and minor bits of slowdown. Forget about the disappointing lack of extra content or multiplayer modes. As far as action gaming goes, this is as complete an experience as it gets. Everything is first-rate, where diligently designed levels, excellent weapon selection, perfect pacing, epic battles and devious enemy AI all conspire to make a polished, immersive experience. It's so much more than your typical shoot-everything-you-see kind of shooter; this is a thinking man's FPS. I appreciate how it makes you think outside the confines of normal game-design conventions. And the game really excels as far as variation goes, as the amount of diversity makes every chapter feel unique and memorable.

My take: I was tempted to lower the score because of the lack of replay value, but this game is just too good. It's not as pretty as the PC version, but for those without a high-end PC, "Half-Life 2" is quite possibly the best single-player shooter on the Xbox yes, even better than the original "Halo." Regardless of what platform you play it on, it's an incredible game that every first-person-shooter fan should experience.

Julius Pecson, a longtime gamer, reviews games on various consoles for The Advertiser.