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Half-Life (stylized as HλLF-LIFE) is a science fiction first-person shooter video game developed by Valve, released in 1998 by Sierra Studios for Microsoft Windows. It was Valve’s debut product and the first in the Half-Life series. Players assume the role of Dr. Gordon Freeman, who must fight his way out of a secret research facility after a teleportation experiment goes disastrously wrong, fighting enemies and solving puzzles.
Unlike many other games at the time, Half-Life features no cutscenes; the player has uninterrupted control of Freeman, and the story is told through scripted sequences seen through his eyes. Valve co-founder Gabe Newell said the team had wanted to create an immersive world rather than a “shooting gallery”. The game’s engine, GoldSrc, is a heavily modified version of the Quake enginelicensed from id Software.
Half-Life received acclaim for its graphics, realistic gameplay, and seamless narrative. It won over fifty PC “Game of the Year” awards and is often considered one of the greatest games of all time. It influenced first-person shooters for years after its release; according to IGN, the history of the genre “breaks down pretty cleanly into pre-Half-Life and post-Half-Life eras.”
Half-Life had sold eight million copies by November 16, 2004, and 9.3 million copies by December 2008. It was ported to thePlayStation 2 in 2001, and OS X and Linux in 2013. It was followed in 2004 by a sequel, Half-Life 2.
Half-Life is a first-person shooter that requires the player to perform combat tasks and puzzle solving to advance through the game. Unlike most of its peers at the time, Half-Life used scripted sequences, such as a Vortigaunt ramming down a door, to advance major plot points. Compared to most first-person shooters of the time, which relied on cut-scene intermissions to detail their plotlines, Half-Life‘s story is told entirely by means of scripted sequences, keeping the player in control of the first-person viewpoint. In line with this, the game has no cut-scenes, and the player rarely loses the ability to control Gordon, who never speaks and is never actually seen in the game; the player sees “through his eyes” for the entire length of the game. Half-Life has no “levels”; it instead divides the game into chapters, whose titles flash on the screen as the player moves through the game. Progress through the world is continuous, except for short pauses for loading.
The game regularly integrates puzzles, such as navigating a maze of conveyor belts or using nearby boxes to build a small staircase to the next area the player must travel to. Some puzzles involve using the environment to kill an enemy, like turning on a steam valve to spray hot steam at their enemies. There are few “bosses” in the conventional sense, where the player defeats a superior opponent by direct confrontation. Instead, such organisms occasionally define chapters, and the player is generally expected to use the terrain, rather than firepower, to kill the “boss”. Late in the game, the player receives a “long jump module” for the HEV suit, which allows the player to increase the horizontal distance and speed of jumps by crouching before jumping. The player must rely on this ability to navigate various platformer-style jumping puzzles in Xentoward the end of the game.
For the most part the player battles through the game alone, but is occasionally assisted by non-player characters; specifically security guards and scientists who help the player, the former who will fight alongside and both who can assist in reaching new areas and impart relevant plot information. A wide array of enemies populates the game including parasites of Xen such as headcrabs, bullsquids, headcrab zombies, and Vortigaunts. The player also faces human opponents, in particular, Hazardous Environment Combat Unit (HECU) Marines and black ops assassins who are dispatched to contain the extra-dimensional threats and silence all witnesses.