So they've finally released this PC game - here's my opinion.
21st November 2004 · Last updated: 8th December 2011
- Starting The Game
- Upgrading The Graphics Drivers
- Playing The Game
- Further Reading
The biggest problem with this game is not playing it - it's installing it. I put it off until the weekend after reading a nightmare post on Slashdot. One user said they started installation at 7pm and weren't able to play the game until 10pm! The reason is that every copy must be registered online before it will work. But with a worldwide release date of 16 November 2004 it meant that millions were trying to register the game on the same day. Many reported problems connecting to the over-worked server. It's a situation that has many people rightly angry. Why should this be necessary? Why can't they just play the game? What happens if you don't have an internet connection, or one that's really slow? Tough luck there, it seems. The idea is to combat piracy, but I can see a huge market opening up for patched copies that don't need online registration, or a patch to get round this.
So I gave myself plenty of time to install it. I guess I was one of the lucky ones though, as I didn't experience any problems with the server. In fact, it took about 15 minutes to copy from the DVD to the PC. I then had to set up a Steam account which ran fairly smoothly. However, there was then another long delay as the game was unlocked. In the end the whole process took around 45 minutes.
I hit an annoying stumbling block half-way through installation though. Up came a window asking if I'd like to register with Vivendi Software. I didn't know if this was the same as the online registration required, so I thought I'd better go through with it anyway. But it turned out to be a non-essential part of the process. What annoyed me was the fact that I got so far, filling in a screen of form fields, only to find it was impossible to register the game anyway! The reason was that "Half-Life 2" wasn't listed in the drop-down menu of possible games to register! So my advice to anyone here is to skip this stage altogether.
Steam is the program that connects you to the server for registration and online playing. If you don't want to play online, you can opt to run in Offline Mode. But Steam starts every time Windows does, unless you untick an option. (But why? Do they think people only use their PCs to play Half-Life 2?) When Steam starts, it tries to connect to the server, but if you're not connected, you get to choose Offline Mode after a few seconds of unwanted delay. This doesn't match what it says in the DVD box, which states there is an option to "Remember my password" - I could find this nowhere. Also Steam likes to update itself when you run it online. This can take a while - is it really necessary? It also asked me to fill in a survey today!
Now when I boot up, Windows stops loading to ask me to log in under my name first, but this didn't happen before. So something has reset my Windows settings - nice one. The whole game seems like it wants to take over your PC. You can't run Half-Life 2 without running Steam. It makes me long for the days when a game loaded by itself, never changing anything to do with Windows, never needing the internet to install and unlock it. I guess those days are over. Do we blame the pirates or the software company?
When I finally got the game running, a message came up saying my graphics card drivers were out of date! I was surprised at this, since I only bought the card about a year ago, but I chose to carry on regardless.
Starting The Game
Starting the game I was sad to see blocky textures on the walls and elsewhere. I thought the days of clearly-visible pixels were long-gone. I might be able to fix this by upping the graphical detail, only it might slow the game down. I had just finished playing through Max Payne 2 and thought the graphics there were stunning. Better architecture perhaps - Woden's mansion near the end was extremely impressive, with its curved arches and Renaissance paintings. Yet some of the houses in Half-Life 2 look like cardboard cutouts. The ruined interiors of the New York City buildings in Max Payne 2 were also more impressive than the similar ones in City 17 of Half-Life 2. Max Payne 2 had a brilliant sense of realism, but I shouldn't have played it so soon before Half-Life 2, as I just didn't initially get the same level of realism from this game. (But then that's hardly surprising as it's science fiction.) Also, if Half-Life 2 is set in the future, why are people still using 70s-style TV sets?
My initial impressions have changed a bit with time. The look of City 17 in Half-Life 2 is simply beautiful. Telegraph-pole wires sway in the breeze. A childrens' roundabout and swing both move realistically. To be honest, I didn't like the first scenes in the game, but once you get out into the main city, your jaw just has to drop.
At first I was also confused by the storyline - where was I? And why? Who were all these people wandering about? None of this is explained in the box. I guess I'll learn more as the game progresses.
A problem raised its head with the game early on - when talking to a character, my firewall (Zone Alarm) suddenly flashed up asking if Steam should be allowed to run as a server. But the game tried to carry on, leading to a terrible situation where the display was flashing repeatedly between the desktop and the game. Not a good start.
I then noticed graphical problems in some rooms before you reach the outside city. There was a hallway which didn't have much in it, yet I clearly noticed banding across the screen when turning round. By this I mean the screen wasn't being updated fast enough, leading to brief tears down the display. These were only short-lived, but I hadn't noticed them in Max Payne 2, which has some extremely-detailed rooms, even with lots of enemies on screen. I thought my graphics card was good enough for Half-Life 2? It's a Radeon 9600 Pro, with 128Mb of RAM, capable of running DirectX 9 games, complete with all the trimmings. Maybe I was running at too-high a resolution, but my screen is set to 1280 x 1024 pixels, and anything less is a shame to use.
Worse, I then saw temporary flashing bright colours on some of the guards. There was clearly a graphics problem here - I had seen this type of effect before when running a very basic graphics card once. I found it odd because I thought Half-Life 2 was designed for Radeon cards more than any other. Also, faces seemed to have shaded lines passing over them, which didn't look right. My weapon also showed this problem. It had to relate to the message I had seen earlier that my graphics card drivers were out of date, so the next day I set about updating them reluctantly.
Upgrading The Graphics Drivers
Upgrading drivers is never a fun thing to do. I would only recommend it if it's essential. Firstly I had to download a whopping 30Mb file. How anyone's supposed to do that without broadband is a mystery. It was the only file available for a range of drivers, so I guess you had to waste time downloading ones you didn't need as part of the package. It also came with something called the Catalyst Control Centre - a new tool for adjusting the graphics card.
Installation of this went well, until the next boot-up, when I got an error message saying a program called CLI.exe had "failed to initialize properly". Sigh. I went back to the website and hunted for help. In the end I pinned it down to a line that said I had to have Microsoft .Net version 1.1 installed. So I downloaded that, which was another large file at 23Mb. It did the trick and the Catalyst Control Centre was then working. Now this is a separate program just to fine-tune your display. But why does it need .Net 1.1 or anything related to the internet? My firewall asked if it could access the internet, but why? It should work perfectly without .Net or a phone-line. Also, it takes ages to start when you need it - the previous control centre I had integrated with Windows, so it was instantly accessible via a set of tabs.
I was also saddened to find my desktop had resorted to full brightness. I had it turned down before (as well as my monitor) but my settings had been lost. I've now spent ages tweaking it in an attempt to restore the brightness, colour and contrast settings I had before, but I can't seem to get them quite the same. Damn it!
Playing The Game
Back to Half-Life 2. The graphics card driver upgrade did indeed make a difference. I'm sure it's boosted the quality of the water effects, as these are now simply phenomenal. Water ripples beautifully in a way that no screenshot will possibly convey. Reflections look great and I love the way objects float around convincingly.
The main strength of the game is the new rendering engine that allows objects to be manipulated like never before. At first it seemed a bit pointless. (So I can lift and drop furniture? But what for?) Only when you get past the first stage of the game does it become an essential feature. And boy, it rocks. A few times I've spent ages just lifting and dropping things to try and reach a higher ledge, only to fail. I love the way you can drop objects on the edge of others in order to turn them over or make them stand up. Some puzzles depend on using objects in the right way. One of the most pleasing was a large concrete pipe with a long strip of wood balanced over it. You need to somehow reach a level above you that is too high to jump to. But how? I won't spoil it for you if you haven't seen this puzzle yet, but all I'll say is that it's a good job there are lots of concrete bricks lying around you can pick up.
Barrels (especially explosive ones) are great fun to move around too. Use them to kill anyone or anything in your way - if you can. Crates can be smashed with the crowbar to reveal ammo, and the remaining pieces of wood can also be smashed further. It's great fun to break anything wooden into smaller and smaller fragments when it gets in your way.
In the preview videos of Half-Life 2 that were revealed to the public a long time ago, it showed how you can also use objects as weapons using a special gun to fire them at the enemy. Even radiators and large letters from shop signs can be used! It looks great fun - I can't wait for that part of the game.
I found something interesting about objects too - if you have maximum health points, you don't absorb any health packs lying around, but you can pick them up! This means you can carry them with you and drop them just outside a new area, incase you need them. I even wonder if it is possible to drop them inside a crate, along with extra ammo, and carry that around! (Sadly it wouldn't fit through some of the smaller gaps, but it might be useful at some point.) A pity otherwise to leave all those unused health packs lying around.
I thought it was frustrating at first not to have any weapons. The first gun you get is a basic pistol. I have to say I find the noise it makes very poor. In the original Half-Life, the weapons were all superb, the sound of them firing and the shells dropping to the ground was amazing, especially in the rooms where the sound echoed. But in Half-Life 2, the basic pistol makes such a rubbishy sound that I would feel embarrased showing anyone this game. Couldn't they have added something a bit more exciting? Killing soldiers with it just sounds so weak. I find the crosshair almost impossible to see as well, especially against bright areas like sky.
One problem I've had is that it's easy to get stuck inbetween angular rocks and objects. You try to jump out but you can't. Eventually you emerge by moving slowly or crouching down. I've also been killed a couple of times for no reason. Once I was just climbing on a barrel to reach a wooden ledge when I died! Reaching the ledge another way I saw nothing that could possibly have killed me, such as a live electricity wire.
Overall, there's no doubt this game is brilliant. The gameplay isn't really anything new (smashing crates and shooting guards can get repetitive) but the way you can move objects is. The puzzles are great fun and the graphics top notch (with the exceptions I've mentioned earlier). Only when you get further into the city does your jaw start to truly drop at the scenery. I wasn't too stunned by the start scenes. (And where was the intro like the first game? I loved that part!) Sound to me is average - the police broadcasts you keep hearing give the game a lot of atmosphere, but I find the guards' speech too hard to understand. (Compare this to the excellent dialogue of the soldiers in the first Half-Life.) Use of music is good - there's nothing more exciting than hearing a piece start, meaning you're in for some heavy action. I don't think this is "the best first-person shooter ever" though, as PC Zone claimed when they gave it 97%, but my opinion could well change once I've completed the game. At least it looks a reasonably long game, unlike Halo 2, which some have claimed to finish in just 5 hours! (See Halo 2's "Ending".) I personally don't find the story, atmosphere, texture graphics, weapons, characters or realism as strong as Max Payne 2, but then I had been playing that for several days in attempt to finish it before starting on Half-Life 2. I am now having to adjust to a different type of game I guess. (Let's face it - it's been so long since the original!) Only later will I be able to give you my true opinion. For now, play on!
These aren't the best screenshots possible as I didn't know which key to use at first, but it shows the level of detail here. You should see that water move!
Lastly, what's with the guy in the window who keeps moving in the last screenshot? I don't think it's G-man.
- Half-Life 2 faults I've noticed
- My Half-Life 2 tips
- A superb Walkthrough complete with some console cheats.
- Half-Life 2 Cheats, Cheat Codes, Hints, Walk-Throughs and FAQs at GameSpot - has even more console commands, along with a secret area mentioned.
Comments are locked on this topic. Thanks to everyone who posted a comment.
- Chris Hester:
I was wrong. The graphics get better and better and better as you play on. The river scene (shown in the second screenshot) is absolutely breathtaking. Every way you turn produces a stunning view. The use of buildings in the distance really makes it. The rippling water is spot on, the atmosphere created by bird sounds and the huge wide open space makes for the best part of any game I've ever seen.
The action has changed as well, featuring radioactive swamps, where headcrabs can suddenly jump out at you. Nasty things. The use of objects such as barrels, chairs and bricks continues to amaze me. This is a major step forward in game design. It's great fun moving things around to try and stand on them to get higher. (Frustratingly I reached a corrugated roof section this way but couldn't jump across to it, even though I was stood close by - what gives?)
The way objects react realistically to the environment is sheer genius. Plastic cones bounce up and down in the water accurately, showing one end is heavier than the other. Objects can be piled on top of each other, but often fall down if you're on a slope. A door removed from its frame can be pushed over and used as a ramp over a barrel. I found you can even carry smaller objects up ladders! (It's not easy though.)
What a game! I'm sure there's a lot more to discover yet. I can't wait.
Posted on 23 November 2004 at 8:09 pm ¶
Ok ok, just to set right some of the b.s comments made:
'One user said they started installation at 7pm and weren't able to play the game until 10pm!'
'In the end the whole process took around 45 minutes.'
Why the endless negativity? I payed to download Half Life 2. I left my computer to download it while I was asleep, and it definatly took longer than 3 hours on 256k DSL, my conclusion, people have nothing better to do than whine.
'only to find it was impossible to register the game anyway!'
This is the whole point of the steam client. It varifies your ver of Half Life 2 and controls distribution.... whine whine whine.
' it says in the DVD box, which states there is an option to "Remember my password" - I could find this nowhere.'
Ok I think you haven't looked hard enough here, right click on your steam icon. Goto settings, look under the 'Account' tab. Theres a tick box which says; 'Don't save account information on this computer', I think this is what you may be looking for.
STARTING THE GAME:
'Who were all these people wandering about? None of this is explained in the box.'
I think thats the point lol!!!!!
'Worse, I then saw temporary flashing bright colours on some of the guards. There was clearly a graphics problem here '
That's not the game, it's your computer.
UPGRADING THE GRAPHICS DRIVERS:
'Upgrading drivers is never a fun thing to do. I would only recommend it if it's essential. Firstly I had to download a whopping 30Mb file.'
Omg you noob! Get a life I d/l Half Life 2 from Valve that was about 3Gb's. Get a grip!
'How anyone's supposed to do that without broadband is a mystery.'
You're still using a modem, are you an old age pensioner or something?!?!?!!!
'I pinned it down to a line that said I had to have Microsoft .Net version 1.1 installed. So I downloaded that, which was another large file at 23Mb.'
So in otherwords you downloaded the wrong driver for your graphics card.....
'One problem I've had is that it's easy to get stuck inbetween angular rocks and objects.'
Unfortunatly this is a problem that seems to plague most games of this genre. It is down to the map design more than anythign else.
'The gameplay isn't really anything new'
Are you blind, maybe you should play Half Life(original) first.
' but I find the guards' speech too hard to understand.'
I don't think your spose to be able to understand them that well. For example in the beginning when you first meet Barney, he asks you to follow him saying something like 'this way citizen'. I think he sounds a lot more clearer than any other combine. I also believe that combines aren't entirely human. Plus u put a gas mask on and try talking.
How can u compare Halo 2 to HL2! Halo2 is a remake of the original!
You guys spend to much time whining about things to actually absorb the game properly. It cannot be compared to Max Payne or Halo either, the graphics literally 'poo' on those games. The HL2 engine is without a doubt the most advanced engine out at the moment. Nothing to be sniffled at.
I say well done to the whole HL2 team what a creation and I'm looking forward to future developments and patching!
Posted on 7 January 2005 at 3:02 pm ¶
- Chris Hester:
"Why the endless negativity? I payed to download Half Life 2. I left my computer to download it while I was asleep, and it definatly took longer than 3 hours on 256k DSL, my conclusion, people have nothing better to do than whine."
So between 45 minutes and 3 hours is OK for installing a game? I think not.
"'only to find it was impossible to register the game anyway!'
This is the whole point of the steam client. It varifies your ver of Half Life 2 and controls distribution.... whine whine whine."
No, that was when I tried to register the purchase with Vivendi, who had failed to include "Half-Life 2" in their list of products. It had nothing to do with Steam.
"'Upgrading drivers is never a fun thing to do. I would only recommend it if it's essential. Firstly I had to download a whopping 30Mb file.'
Omg you noob! Get a life I d/l Half Life 2 from Valve that was about 3Gb's. Get a grip!"
Sorry, but 30Mb is still a very large file, especially when most of it is the Catalyst Control Center and all the drivers for other makes of card in the same range. My exact driver is probably a fraction of the file size so why not just allow that to be downloaded?
"'How anyone's supposed to do that without broadband is a mystery.'
You're still using a modem, are you an old age pensioner or something?!?!?!!!"
Don't be silly. A LOT of people are still on 56K modems, whether due to money (they can't afford broadband), no access in their area (not everywhere can get it) or they live in a poor country, such as Africa perhaps. If these people are forced to download a 30Mb file just to play a game properly, they won't be happy, especially if they have to PAY for the call!
"'I pinned it down to a line that said I had to have Microsoft .Net version 1.1 installed. So I downloaded that, which was another large file at 23Mb.'
So in otherwords you downloaded the wrong driver for your graphics card....."
Wrong. The latest driver for my card REQUIRES Net 1.1. So you HAVE to download both files. (It also requires XP SP2 I have found recently when reinstalling Windows. The installer won't work without it!)
"'The gameplay isn't really anything new'
Are you blind, maybe you should play Half Life(original) first."
I have done. Most games involve a standard formula.
"You guys spend to much time whining about things to actually absorb the game properly."
I've played HL2 all the way through almost twice. Unfortunately I found Steam bug-ridden and annoying to the point where I gave up on it. (The Steam forums are full of similar complaints. One guy can no longer play HL2 at all.) I was myself playing in Offline Mode with my password fully saved, when one day it 'lost' it. The game would no longer run. I had to go online to activate HL2 again. Steam updated and my computer was then unable to open certain programs, with error messages here and there. I noticed it appeared to download a lot of data in the background even when it said it had finished updating. Why was that? Can we trust it?
I tried to repair my computer but in the end thought it best to reinstall XP from scratch. Unfortunately it hasn't been a pleasant experience due to the hardware I use.
If Half-Life 3 doesn't come with a better system than Steam, then I'm afraid I might consider giving it a miss. Why can't games run alone? Without needing the net? I'd gladly pay more to cover piracy. Quake 2 never suffered from this problem. (And no I don't want to download a 3Gb game from Steam!)
A lot of people have had problems with this game. Hence the whining I guess. If it were flawless, we'd all be raving about it instead.
Posted on 7 January 2005 at 3:59 pm ¶
I agree when buying a game you shouldn't have to spend hours downloading or patching etc just to play it. However as the case is with HL2 we do have to download a series of(whatever it downloads). However my point being is to put into perspective the ammount of time needed to get the neccessary files to play it. Comparing the DVD version to the downloadable version.
As to the Vivendi registering I didn't see anything other than what i needed to do to register HL2(In other words: only stuff relevant to the game directly)
However this might be different between the retail version and the downloadable version.
Really 30mb is not big. Maybe when we had windows 95, 30mb might of been big because it would take half a week to download that amount of data but not today.
As for the modem comments, I agree there's still many people who don't have access to broadband, however those who do will find themselves spending a hardly any extra of the initial cost to have dial up to have a broadband connection (such as 256k).
As for pricing etc.... a pc in itself is a fairly expensive piece of hardware, let alone the games. for example in Uk.... lets say u pay £500 for a PC and your broadband costs £16 a month.
To put it into perspective once u got past installation costs ur paying approx.£192 a year. Keeping in mind that they charge about £10 for dial up.
In other words if the family was that bad off they probs wouldnt even have dialup, plus it would probably work out more expensive to sustain a dial up connection.
As for your graphics driver problem, my apologies I was wrong. =)
As for the nothing new comment, your reply doesn't really address anything. Obviously the source engine is based on the original engine. All i can say is maybe some research on your behalf into the source engine will show how much more advanced it is and all the realistic variables which it accounts for in the game. To bring us the realism we see in HL2.
As far as the whining goes.... yeh I can see why people whine but at the end of the day we've gotta actually take a step back and see all the extra advantages that HL2 has given us compared to the original.
I believe that the deleopers should spend a lot more time debugging the games as they seem to do a better job with console based games. This is due to the fact that they cant patch them though. However it is still no excuse. If a person buys a product I believe they should get what they pay for... which in a way we aren't getting, to a certain degree.
As for Half Life 3, there better be one!
I wanna understand the ins and outs of HL2, there are still many gaps in the story line and theories running around.......
Posted on 7 January 2005 at 5:10 pm ¶
I read ur review of HL2 & i think the only problem is that you insulted ME and Vorador & all the other fans who can afford a good computer by trying to install it on a computer thats probably as old as my dad! What were you thinking when you bought a game written to a DVD so you could play it with a 56k modem??? I wouldn't be surprized if you were running a Pentium386 processor, too! And another thing, graphics card drivers are updated once every few months, so stop bitching that you bought the card a year ago and had to upgrade the drivers. ASS! 1 more thing: downloading games - even from the company that made it - is an incredibly dumb thing to do, since code is slightly different in DL'able versions and YOU ONLY HAVE A 56K MODEM!!!!!
Posted on 14 January 2005 at 9:26 pm ¶
- Chris Hester:
What on earth are you talking about? I have 576Kbps broadband, an AMD XP 2000 processor (1.7GHz), 512Mb RAM, everything else reasonably fast for my hardware. It is other people who may have 56K modems - please read what I wrote before commenting.
Posted on 14 January 2005 at 9:38 pm ¶
finally someone who isnt a die hard half life 2 fan boy.
I have to agree with you on several points.
1. when i i finally got my bedroom pc downstairs to my 56k connection, i was happy and over the moon, but after playing straight after the update i thought "half life2 has been in development for 6 years and still there MAJOR bugs with a hard copy".
2. after playing/waiting for 4 hours i deicede to go to bed, after i woke up 12 hours later, i could finally play half life 2 offline.
3. after 3 days of getting to a point a crashing, i get reply from valve tech saying i have to reconnect to update the game.
4.after updating, i had a week of playing, in which i deicded that valve sucked as a game company, as half life 2 was no where near as good as half life or halo 2 (+ detla force land warrior).
5. So after leaving Half life 2 to rot on my HDD (never did, what a shame i say...) i find that S.O.B steam has lost my user ID deatils, i retried several times to get it to work to no prveil, so i simple left half life 2 as IMO it isnt a game to bother about, great graphics, great weapons, but my brother could make a storyline at least 10 times better and keep me focused (1-2 hours on a damn buggy is boring IMO).
If i got half life 2 for £20 i would expect such things and wouldnt moan, but for £34 and loads of "best game ever" reveiws, it just wasnt worth it.
I personally beleive Microsoft became a better company after losing gabe newell and co!
Posted on 21 January 2005 at 2:57 am ¶
just to add, i might be buying the expansion. If the expansion turns out to be as bad as half life 2, i will personally blacklist valve (i mean i wont buy any other game by them, even if they do develop a starcraft 2 or a C&C game).
Posted on 21 January 2005 at 3:01 am ¶
wow, ur a moron, the ati drivers are only 20mbs at MAX, and u SHOULD upgrade ur drivers as much as possible, u must have an iq of 2 to find upgrading hard, and split screens when turning DOES NOT mean ur getting low fps though ur card is CRAP... U CAN"T HANDLE 1280x1024 anyways...
please don't talk about stuff u no noting about... n00b
Posted on 9 February 2005 at 5:51 pm ¶
- Davie C:
The drivers that require .net for the catalyst control centre are the wrong ones. I've seen them on the ati site, and there are alternative drivers which do not require .net.
1 year to have a graphics card and never updating the drivers is ridiculous. ATi release a new one each month. That's just the way it is. A constantly evolving process. A 30 Mb download each month or every two months isn't too much to ask.
The tearing you describe in empty rooms is just your refresh rate going out of sync with your monitor. Try turning on vsync in your driver. It'll be more pronounced in empty rooms coz your framerate will shoot away up but your monitor is only refreshing at 80Hz or whatever.
And 1280x1024 resolution sounds a bit high for a 9600 on such an intensely detailed game. And your processor isn't going to give it much back-up. A 2000+ isn't exactly cutting edge.
Posted on 15 February 2005 at 11:07 am ¶
- Chris Hester:
"1 year to have a graphics card and never updating the drivers is ridiculous."
Not when they've worked perfectly well with every game I've tried, until HL2 came out. Unless I was a hardcore games player, I don't see the need to upgrade on a monthly basis. Old drivers work fine for years.
Posted on 15 February 2005 at 1:50 pm ¶
this game sux why???
cuz u need P10 and 1000GBram and i dont know wht viedo cardso it works fast
itryed it on P2 laptob then it get f***ked up and i had to take off the battrey cuz it got stuck
so i try it on P4 desk top with 265ddram and it got slow
so wht the hell???
Posted on 17 February 2005 at 12:45 am ¶