Half-Life 2 on Xbox was a brilliant conversion, no doubt about it. But corners had to be cut, visuals has to be toned down, and the frame-rate struggled just a touch. Not anymore. Last month developers Valve announced that they would be bringing their seminal PC shooter to current console king, the 360 - and with a boatload of additional content as well. Half-Life 2 - the game - is only a fraction of what's planned. The release of the game is set to coincide with the launch of Half-Life 2: Episode 2, the second of Valve's episodic follow-on trilogy, currently getting PC gamers very excited indeed. Its release will mark HL2's escape from its PC ghetto, with the new episode released simultaneously on PC and 360. But what use would Episode 2 be without Episode 1... so that's in there too. And the cheesy late-night commercial-style list continues!
Not only will you get the complete works of HL2, but also included will be the much, much awaited multiplayer title Team Fortress 2, and a brand new game by Valve called Portal. So pick yourself back up off the floor, dust yourself down, and read our definitive guide to all things Half- Life 2 by the PC-playing experts who know it the best. Number one from your number one mag.
THE ORIGINAL GAME - ALL BUFFED UP REAL NICE ON THE 360...
Q. So, let's have a Half-Life recap, then, eh?
Following on from 1999's seminal shooter, Half-Life, Valve, fond of taking their own sweet time, took five years to create their FPS sequel, and Source, the engine in which it is built. By this point, expectations were ludicrously high, and more ludicrously, were entirely met. Space year 2004 saw Half-Life 2 released on PC and Xbox to unprecedented critical acclaim. The continuing adventures of silent hero, Gordon Freeman, see him fighting his way through City 17 toward the central Citadel, against the imperialist hegemony of an alien force, the Combine. Joining a resistance group, Gordon accepts the help and guidance of others, including the rather fetching Alyx, as he once more goes about saving the Earth. Or is he? And who is this G-Man?
Q. And why is that a big deal? Every FPS does something like that.
But not like this. Valve's instinct for perfect timing, and creating epic set-pieces, is unsurpassed. Imagine shooting down helicopters, speedboat rides, shivering through disturbing ghost towns, and taking on ten-storey high aliens. HL2 is non-stop wow, an operatic performance that escalates in scale, while maintaining intricate detail, until its crescendo peaks with a super-surprise finale. This is the FPS to which all other shooters aspire, and yet none can touch. Let alone punch.
Q. Okay, so why the 360 version now?
Well, Valve love to keep tweaking at things they make, and with the magic of their online distribution system, Steam, their games are constantly updated to match modern tech.
Q. But I don't need Steam. I have Live!
You're not wrong, and Xbox Live likely to suit Valve fine. While they've not announced full plans as yet, downloadable content is definitely their thing, and Live will provide just the resources the developers are after. It's all speculation at the moment, but it's possible that Episode 3's eventual release could be completely downloadable on Live.
Q. What else?
The gravity gun. Using Havok physics better than anything else, HL2's gravity gun is the single greatest weapon/tool in gaming history. It creates the opportunity for physics-based play, from rolling burning barrels into enemy forces to building bridges from scrap metal. And when it goes white... Just you wait and see what happens.