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Two expansion packs by outside developer Gearbox Software have been released for the PC version: Half-Life: Opposing Force (1999) and Half-Life: Blue Shift (2001). The former returns the player to Black Mesa during the events of Half-Life’s storyline, but this time from the perspective of Adrian Shephard, one of the Marines in the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit sent to cover up evidence of the incident. It introduced several new weapons, new non-player characters, both friendly and hostile and new, previously unseen areas of the facility. The expansion is shorter than Half-Life, having 11 chapters to the original’s 19.
Blue Shift returns the player to Half-Life’s Black Mesa timeline once more, this time as Barney Calhoun, one of the facility’s security guards. The expansion was originally developed as a bonus mission for the canceled Dreamcast version. Blue Shift came with the High Definition Pack, that gave the player the option to update the look of Half-Life,Opposing Force, and the new Blue Shift content. Blue Shift had relatively little new content compared to Opposing Force: aside from a few variations on existing models, all content was already present in the original Half-Life.
Half-Life: Decay was another expansion by Gearbox, released only as an extra with the PlayStation 2 version of Half-Life. The add-on featured cooperative gameplay in which two players could solve puzzles or fight against the many foes in the Half-Life universe.
In 2000, a compilation pack titled the Half-Life: Platinum Pack was released, including (with their respective manuals) Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress Classic, Half-Life: Opposing Force. In 2002, the pack was re-released under the new titles Half-Life Platinum Collection and Half-Life: Generation. These new iterations also included the Half-Life: Blue Shift expansion pack; though if registered on Steam, Day of Defeat, as well as Ricochet and Deathmatch Classic were also included. In 2005, Half-Life 1: Anthology was released, containing Steam-only versions of the following games on a single DVD: Half-Life, Half-Life: Opposing Force, Half-Life: Blue Shift, and Team Fortress Classic.
Half-Life 2 was announced at E3 in May 2003 and released on November 16, 2004. The player controls Gordon Freeman 20 years after the Black Mesa incident in the dystopicCity 17, where he must fight as part of a rebellion against an alien regime. It was followed by two episodic sequels, Half-Life 2: Episode One and Half-Life 2: Episode Two, released on June 1, 2006, and October 10, 2007, respectively.
To experience firsthand the processes mod-makers would have to go through with the new engine, Valve ported Half-Life (dubbed Half-Life: Source) and Counter-Strike to their new Source engine. Half-Life: Source is a straight port, lacking any new content or the Blue Shift High Definition pack. However, it does take advantage of vertex and pixel shaders for more realistic water effects, as well as Half-Life 2’s realistic physics engine. They also added several other features from Half-Life 2, including improved dynamic lightmaps, vertex maps, ragdolls, and a shadowmap system with cleaner, higher resolution, specular texture and normal maps, as well as utilization of the render-to-texture soft shadows found in Half-Life 2′s Source engine, along with 3D skybox replacements in place of the old 16-bit color prerendered bitmap skies. The Half-Life port possesses many of the Source engine’s graphical strengths as well as control weaknesses that have been noted in the Source engine. Later updates added a field of view options, support for OS X and Linux, an optional high-definition texture pack, among other improvements. Half-Life: Source is available with special editions of Half-Life 2, or separately on Steam.
Half-Life: Source has been criticized for not fully utilizing many of the features of the Source engine found in Half-Life 2, as it still uses textures and models from the original game. In response to this, a third-party mod remake called Black Mesa was developed. The first part of the Black Mesa modification was released on September 14, 2012, with the second promised to be coming later.
On June 10, 2005, Valve announced through their Steam update news service an upcoming port of Half-Life Deathmatch, the multiplayer portion of the original game, much in the same fashion as the earlier released Half-Life: Source. No exact release date was given, simply the words “In the coming weeks…” On July 2, 2005, Half-Life Deathmatch: Source was released.
From its release in 1998, Half-Life saw fervent support from independent game developers, due in no small part to support and encouragement from Valve Software. Worldcraft, the level-design tool used during the game’s development, was included with the game software. Printed materials accompanying the game indicated Worldcraft’s eventual release as a retail product, but these plans never materialized. Valve also released a software development kit, enabling developers to modify the game and create mods. Both tools were significantly updated with the release of the version 126.96.36.199 patch. Many supporting tools (including texture editors, model editors, and rival level editors like the multiple engine editor QuArK) were either created or updated to work with Half-Life.
The Half-Life software development kit served as the development base for many multiplayer mods, including the Valve-developed Team Fortress Classic and Deathmatch Classic (an updated version of Quake). Other mods such as Counter-Strike and Day of Defeat (DOD) began life as the work of independent developers (self-termed “modders”) who later received aid from Valve. Other multiplayer mods include Action Half-Life, Firearms, Science and Industry, The Specialists, Pirates, Vikings and Knights,Natural Selection and Sven Co-op.
Numerous single player mods have also been created, like USS Darkstar (1999, a futuristic action-adventure on board a zoological research spaceship), The Xeno Project 1 and 2 (1999–2005, a two-part mod starting in Xen and again including spaceships), Edge of Darkness (2000, which features some unused Half-Life models), Half-Life: Absolute Redemption (2000, which brings back Gordon Freeman for four additional episodes and another encounter with the G-Man), They Hunger (2000–2001, a survival horror total conversion trilogy involving zombies), Poke646 (2001, a follow-up to the original Half-Life story with improved graphics), Someplace Else (2002, Side story to the original Half-Life), and Heart of Evil (2003, Vietnam war with zombies).
Some Half-Life modifications eventually landed on retail shelves. Counter-Strike was the most successful, having been released in six different editions: as a standalone product (2000), as part of the Platinum Pack (2000), as an Xbox version (2003), as a single player spin-off called Counter-Strike: Condition Zero (2004), Counter-Strike: Source, which runs on Half-Life 2′s Source engine, and the newest addition Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, also running on the Source engine. Team Fortress Classic, Day of Defeat,Gunman Chronicles (2000, a futuristic Western movie-style total conversion with emphasis on its single-player mode) and Sven Co-op were also released as stand-alone products.
In 2003, Valve’s network was infiltrated by hackers. Among the files included an unreleased Half-Life modification: “Half-Life: Threewave”, a canceled remake of the modThreewave CTF from Quake. The files were later found by Tyler McVicker from a Vietnamese FTP server on February 2016 and later released the modification unofficially in September 2016.
Black Mesa, a fan-made remake of Half-Life utilizing the Source engine, began development in 2005, and was released as a free download on September 14, 2012. The free 2007 Source SDK base is needed to run the game. It has been confirmed that Black Mesa will be distributed via Steam; the remake was among the first ten titles whose release on the platform was approved using Valve’s crowd voting service Steam Greenlight.
Reception and legacy
Half-Life‘s public reception was overwhelmingly positive in terms of reviews, acclaim and sales. As of November 16, 2004, eight million copies of the game had been sold, by 2008 9.3 million copies had been sold at retail. The game has won over 50 Game of the Year awards.
Half-Life was universally acclaimed, earning an overall score of 96 out of 100 on aggregate review website Metacritic. Computer Gaming World‘s Jeff Green said that the game “is not just one of the best games of the year. It’s one of the best games of any year, an instant classic that is miles better than any of its immediate competition, and – in its single-player form – is the best shooter since the original Doom“.IGN described it as “a tour de force in game design, the definitive single player game in a first person shooter”.IGN has also respected the game as one of the most influential video games. GameSpot claimed that it was the “closest thing to a revolutionary step the genre has ever taken”.GameSpot inducted Half-Life into their “Greatest Games of All Time” list in May 2007. In 2004, GameSpy held a Title Fight, in which readers voted on what they thought was the “greatest game of all time”, and Half-Life was the overall winner of the survey. In the November 1999, October 2001, and April 2005 issues of PC Gamer, Half-Life was named “Best Game of All Time”/”Best PC Game Ever”.
The immersive gaming experience and the interactive environment were cited by several reviewers as being revolutionary. AllGame said, “It isn’t everyday that you come across a game that totally revolutionizes an entire genre, but Half-Life has done just that”. Hot Games commented on the realism of the game, and how the environment “all adds up to a totally immersive gaming experience that makes everything else look quite shoddy in comparison”. Gamers Depot found the game engaging, stating that they have “yet to play a more immersive game period”.
Despite the praise that the game has received, there have also been some complaints. The Electric Playground said that Half-Life was an “immersive and engaging entertainment experience”, but said that this only lasted for the first half of the game, explaining that the game “peaked too soon”.
Guinness World Records awarded Half-Life with the world record for Best-Selling First-Person Shooter of All Time (PC) in the Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition 2008.
A short film based upon Half-Life entitled Half-Life: Uplink, was developed by Cruise Control, a British marketing agency, and was released on March 15, 1999. However, Sierra withdrew it from circulation, after itself and Valve had failed to resolve licensing issues with Cruise Control over the film. The critical reception of the film was very poor. The plot of the film was that a journalist infiltrates the Black Mesa Research Facility, trying to discover what has happened there.