MobyGames Classic: Half-Life

MobyGames Classic continues with our second selection: Valve's 1998 hit Half-Life. Tell us your Half-Life stories in the comments below and we'll add them to the weekend update for this feature!

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Released in 1998, Half-Life set the stage for story-driven first-person shooters. While games like Halo have been praised for thrusting the genre into the modern age, its cinematic nature couldn't exist without stepping through the doors burst open by developer Valve. Widely considered one of the best games of all time, the original Half-Life is a welcome addition to our list of classics.

"It reeks of quality, and stinks of class--the creators obviously cared about making a good game, and that simple fact sets 'Half-Life' apart from everything else," MobyGames.com user Ashley Pomeroy wrote in her 2000 review of the game.

Following its success on PC, Half-Life was brought to the PlayStation 2. It was clear that the title had begun spilling beyond the reach of PC gamers and into the growing console market, a market that craved a title of its quality. At one point, a Dreamcast version was nearing release but was never made available in stores, disappointing more than a few (Xav still complains about it).

Beyond the fact that Half-Life was awarded "over 50 Game of the Year awards" when it launched, it helped usher in a new era of gaming. Titles like Counter-Strike owe their creation and success to Half-Life's development and Valve's support of its passionate community.

Tell Us Your Stories! We want to hear about your experiences with Half-Life. Tell us your stories. Why did you love it? What drove you crazy? Remember it fondly with us in the comments below. We'll select some of your thoughts and memories and add it to a Weekend Update to this feature.

Half-Life on MobyGames.com

Description: Black Mesa Research Facility is an ultra-secret laboratory under government contract, conducting top-secret and extremely volatile experiments, where the protagonist Gordon Freeman works. One particular morning, Freeman makes his way to the office for an ordinary and scheduled experiment. However, when the experiment initiates, Gordon realizes that it might not be as ordinary as he thought. Chaos ensues and aliens from the planet Xen begin to flood the complex. Gordon is then thrust into a new role: one of defender and survivor of the Black Mesa complex.


MobyGames Classic is our chance to look back at the games that helped shape the video game industry with the help of our sister site MobyGames.com. It combines a short history lesson on the title and anecdotes from the Shacknews community.

From The Chatty

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    October 26, 2011 2:15 PM

    Shack Staff posted a new article, Moby Games Classic: Half-Life.

    Moby Games Classic continues with our second selection: Valve's 1998 hit Half-Life. Tell us your Half-Life stories in the comments below and we'll add them to the weekend update for this feature!

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      October 26, 2011 2:29 PM

      I saw an ad on TV for HL, back when PC games got stuff like that. It didn't look all that dissimilar from Quake, but that was before I got to get my hands on it. Fortunately we'd gotten a new computer in 1998, one with a Rage 128 card. So when I got HL2 on my birthday, the CD went in and then the venerable tram ride intro.

      That intro told me this was going to be a new and different experience. It's rather humble by modern standards, but in '98? Going through an underground research facility with things going on left and right, an information and safety announcer, moody ambient music, and opening credits? That was memorable. I imagine it being similar to playing, say, Castlevania after only having tried the early blip-bloppy NES platformers.

      The following year, The Matrix was released. Although HL came out first, I like to think of Half-Life as sort of being The Matrix of PC games; not many of its individual parts were necessarily all that original, but the experience, the thread running throughout it all was an instant new standard.

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        October 26, 2011 2:46 PM

        Maybe it's just me but it really doesn't feel like 1998 was so long ago. It's amazing how quickly and often the industry evolves.

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          October 26, 2011 3:04 PM

          I was half my current age back then, and still I agree. I don't think there's been any 5 year period in gaming quite like 93-98 in PC gaming, in terms of rapid progress.

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            October 26, 2011 4:56 PM

            The 90s were so awesome for PC gaming. I feel like it's only been great for PC gaming again in the past year or two with the huge growth in indie gaming that's finally taken off with digital distribution. I mean, they don't have nearly the budgets that console games have but there's so much more risk taking and experimentation being done and I love it.

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        October 26, 2011 8:58 PM

        I remember it being a somewhat novel idea to have a FPS game where there were portions where you weren't shooting things.

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        October 26, 2011 9:22 PM

        Yesss...this. I played Half-Life later than it's release, and the graphics were outdated. But it was still an incredibly amazing experience.

        Me and a friend would take turns with the mouse/keyboard. It's one of the reasons I will never abandon PC Gaming.

        I still go back and play through the game every few years, same with HL2.

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      October 26, 2011 3:08 PM

      I played the hell out of the Uplink demo before I ever bought the full game. I thought the combat and scripted sequences were amazing. There's an outdoor section that really showed off the marine AI that I played over and over on the hardest difficulty. It was my first taste of an AI combat puzzle that led to my Halo addiction. I loved the visceral feel of the combat as well. Shooting a marine and seeing his blood splatter the wall behind him was such satisfying carnage.

      I was disappointed that the Uplink sequence wasn't in the full game, because i really wanted to know what happened next. Dramatic vent collapse, enraged Gargantua, fade to black...

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      October 26, 2011 3:49 PM

      In December 1997 I picked up an issue of PC Gamer with Half-Life on the cover. I read the article and began a more-than-a-decade-long love with Valve Software. The title sounded amazing. Gabe was even promising a 3D version of Joust as Half-Life's multiplayer component at the time. I immediately purchased a pre-order at Babbage's. (Remember that store?) I couldn't wait to get my hands on the game, although I ended up having to, thanks to Valve Time (of course an unknown concept in 1998).

      When the day of release finally came I played through the title, in awe of the little scenes programmed in, like one NPC performing CPR on another immediately after disaster had struck at Black Mesa. I was on the staff of my middle school newspaper and published an enthusiastic, positively glowing review that probably very few had any interest in reading. I had discovered the best game ever.

      Valve has continued to amaze over the years. Team Fortress Classic. Half-Life 2 (upon its release, the new best game ever). Portal. You get the idea. This company inspires passion. If you haven't experienced it, Half-Life is a wonderful way to see the incredible beginning of that trend.

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      October 26, 2011 4:04 PM

      The description makes the game sound so.... terrible.

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        October 26, 2011 4:52 PM

        That was pulled from Moby, but I have since made some changes.

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      October 26, 2011 5:58 PM

      This was the first game that had EAX support that I can remember. I remember explosions and helicopters flying over my head and it blew my mind! Amazing game from it's time, though I never beat it I was too frustrated in the alien part, I came close :)

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      October 26, 2011 8:13 PM

      To this day nearly every fps has a scripted opening and also vending machines, half life was the first fps to really immerse the player in a world. And fuck halo, I dont know how anyone could think halo was the pioneer of anything.

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      October 26, 2011 8:50 PM

      The bad thing about classic games is they are dated. If someone has never played Half Life and decided to play through it they would wonder what the fuss was all about. But honestly that person would have to play other FPS's that existed prior to Half Life to understand what that game did to the industry. No more Blue keys to open the Blue door. Suddenly when you go to the next level the enemy that was chasing you is still right behind you as opposed to a level reset. It was the little things about Half Life that took the FPS to a whole new experience.

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      October 26, 2011 8:52 PM

      I received Half Life as a gift for my birthday. I'd never even heard of it (the joys of being stuck on an island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean). I still remember the first time I went into that chamber and had all that crazy stuff happen. Such an awesome game.

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      October 26, 2011 8:56 PM

      I remember playing it on my computer and not touching the mouse throughout the entire opening; I really thought it was a pre-rendered video. Once it reached the end of the train-ride and just sat there, my first reaction was that it had frozen and broken, until I touched the mouse and realized I was actually in-game and it had all been player-controllable. That was a pretty cool moment of whoa video games.

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        October 27, 2011 4:59 AM

        Hah, I remember trying to jump out of the tramcar the whole way. And running from side to side to see everything that was going on.

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          October 27, 2011 5:49 AM

          I swear one time I jumped out of the car. The back left window. I could never repeat it.

          Or maybe I cheated, I don't remember. Pretty sure I did it legitimately one time...

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      October 26, 2011 9:41 PM

      Half-life 1 was the 1st game I purchased for my 1st home-built machine, with my 1st paycheck from my 1st summer job.

      Got it on release week, I had to after playing through Uplink on the PC Gamer demo disc. One of the games that truly marked a spot on my life and really opened me up to what could be done on a PC, which was great since I came from a pure console background till about 13.

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      October 26, 2011 10:02 PM

      My first exposure to Half-Life was an issue of Computer Gaming World focusing on 'Quake Killers'. There were previews for games I'd heard of in the months previous such as Sin, Blood 2, Prey, Duke Nukem Forever, and the much-delayed Unreal.

      In the middle of all these was a write-up for Half-Life, the first time I'd ever heard of the game or Valve Software. The thing the article hyped up were the modifications Valve had made to the Quake code base to make colored lighting available in the software renderer, and the amazing A.I.

      The writer described two scenes they had played: One was a bit where he fought some marines and hid behind a box or desk or whatever and thought he was safe, only to have a grenade land at his feet. The other was the pack mentality and tactics of the Houndeyes.

      I was a big fan of Blood, so I was already looking forward to Blood 2, but Half-Life made a home for itself in my brain. I got both titles for Christmas and though I'm one of the half-dozen or so who liked Blood 2, Half-Life was the one that blew me away.

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      October 26, 2011 10:09 PM

      Was obsessed with it. Disheartened by all the delays. Had one of the first clans (RIYF). Posted news on the daily death for a while until frag.com became dicks. Best game ever.

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      October 26, 2011 11:22 PM

      Is there anyone who hasn't watched Freeman's Mind series? It's kinda a must-see.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWqiagRDjmI

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      October 27, 2011 4:04 AM

      Replayed it a few times, and a few times on source. What always surprises me is how well it flows, from combat to puzzle. Love the game but I'd have to say the Team Fortress Classic mod is something I've probably put more hours into than any other mp FPS game. Hell I even spent months on concmaps (which is an amazing skill). Half Life is probably my 2nd all time favorite game, behind Deus Ex.

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      October 27, 2011 6:15 AM

      did anyone play the following mods (other than cs):
      firearms, frontline force, the specialist, natural selection, day of defeat, action half life, 7co-op (i may have forgotten a few...)

      i also frequented this site

      http://tenfourmaps.telefragged.com/php/revidx.php?gameid=hl&sortby=date&reversesort=1&page=1

      and played a shit ton of user made single player content, which eventually inspired me to get into HL mapping in the hammer editor and making my first shitty counter-strike source map years later.

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        October 27, 2011 2:48 PM

        I friggin LOVED The Specialist mod. I played that mod so much and it was so much fun. Not even sure if they made it for HL2. I'm surprised a multiplayer like that never really took off in the mainstream world.

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      October 27, 2011 6:17 AM

      I miss Hound Eyes.

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      October 30, 2011 7:03 PM

      I miss the LAN parties that we'd have over at my house. I'd get about 5-6 of my friends over along with some of my family, break out the 10-port hub and just crowbar each other. Those were the days. LONG LIVE THE "SKULL" PIT!!!
      Seriously though, Half-Life will always be my favorite game...the memories this game brings back I will cherish forever.

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      October 30, 2011 10:21 PM

      Bringing up the shooter landscape in which Half-Life launched is pretty important. People who have only played games in a post-half-life era don't realize how unusual it was to have scripted events happening during the middle of a gameplay section (instead of pre-rendered cutscenes). That seemingly minor detail alone gave the player a sense of engagement that wasn't present in most games. The audio design was unique and unsettling. The sense of atmosphere was incredible compared to most games of its type at the time.

      Half-Life did some pretty special things.