Life, who hasn’t heard of it? One
of the most famous games ever made, released on the PC way back in
1997/’98- it was considered groundbreaking and winner of 50 awards,
including ‘best game of the year’.
should already know the basic story- but Ill tell for those that have been
living in a small cave in Afghanistan.
You are Dr. Gordon Freeman a research scientist working at the
Black Mesa Federal Research Facility, a decommissioned missile base.
You have been assigned to assist in an experiment involving a new
substance, a crystalline specimen. It’s
meant to be a routine experiment. But surprise, surprise, something goes
wrong. Now you are the only
hope (plus a few remaining scientists and security guards) to save all
survivors and find out what actually happened.
Shift, no doubt you’ve heard of it, but not so many people have played
it or own it.
time you go back to the setting of the original Half Life game, when it
all happened. But you take on
the role of B. Calhoun one of the many Security Guards working at the
Black Mesa Federal Research Facility. You start the day as normal, check in, and pick up your
equipment. You go to the
Armoury and pick up your trusty handgun, fire off a few shots at the
targets in the range, then report in for duty.
It seems that some scientists have managed to get an elevator
stuck, yet another malfunction in the facility’s system, and you’ll
need to go and see to it.
Another day on the job, until, you
are invaded by aliens and have to try and save the day.
The PC version of the game was revolutionary with state-of-the art
graphics and gameplay- winning an award for ‘near perfection’.
The Dreamcast version of the game is very similar to the PC
version- the graphics have not really been updated, apart from the
character modelling. When I
first started playing the game, I realised that the characters that you
meet looked different, but I wasn’t sure what it was.
So I turned on my friend’s copy of the original Half Life to
compare the two.
The scientists you meet in the original game are quite wooden, they look
good, but their movement is lacking and the detail on their faces wasn’t
particularly smooth. The Dreamcast version, however, has smoother faces, slightly
different textures and mapping used.
The really noticeable thing is that the scientist’s clothes move.
Their ties, lab coats, body armour and jackets move freely, as if
independent from their bodies, its nothing major but it is a nice little
update to the starch tight bodies in the original where the jackets and
ties were just drawn onto the characters.
The scenery is basically the same as the PC, good solid graphics, but
nothing amazing. There are
few different light effects incorporated into the game, but overall they
did not use any of the Dreamcast’s power in updating the game.
I find that the game is quite jerky
in some areas-nothing too big, its just that it is very disappointing to
see that Valve didn’t try to use the Dreamcast’s power properly and
the loading times do seem to become longer the further you get in- though
only a little bit longer than the PC version.
I do remember some original previews of the game (when they were going to
release it) and the magazines complained that the game was jerky in areas
with long loading times between areas.
This, to some extent is true.
But, it’s no different to the PC version.
Occasionally the game will have a very sudden pause, for a split
second- barely noticeable in some circumstances.
This too happens on the PC version, my PC is more than capable of
running the game (2Ghz Duron Processor, 384Mb RAM, 64Mb Geforce 2 MX
graphics card) and the game still jerks most of the time, even with
settings down low. And yes
there is loading between areas, but the same as the PC version.
It would have been much better if
they did sort out these problems, but its not a bad conversion, the game
is the same as the original (so far) and runs well on the Dreamcast.
One very annoying thing about the game is the saving.
When I first started the game I needed about 40 blocks free on my
memory card to save. Then I
managed to get pretty far in the first chapter, then suddenly, when I
tried to save I needed 80 blocks. What
the? O-k so I deleted a save
game to compensate for the difference.
The next time I tried to save it was 106 blocks!!
But don’t worry it doesn’t always go up, later when I saved it had
gone right done to 26 Blocks. It
doesn’t really hold you back- but you will need a lot of free space if
you wish to save a Half-Life file and a Blue Shift file.
Though it does mean that you will play more carefully- if you
can’t save a file- wait until a moment when the game says you need fewer
blocks. But then again that
can be annoying- if you get quite far but can’t save and then fall to
your death or are kill by a big thing. Frustrating.
I hope Valve did not think they would
be sending this game out onto shop shelves with this ‘bug’ still in it
and it was only for the preview copy.
The sound is good- they have
implemented new music and effects to the game. For example when you first
put on your bio suit, instead of the normal speaking that you hear and
sound effects, a decent ‘pumping’ tune kicks in (for no real reason)
and you find that game becomes instantly more livelier because of it.
I haven’t completed the Dreamcast version, but if it’s anything like
the original, you probably won’t find yourself replaying it much.
The game takes a very long time to complete and has no real
bonuses, though PC games rarely do.
What made Half Life on the PC so popular were all the mods that you can
get with it. Counter-Strike,
Opposing Force, Firearms etc… The multiplayer was extraordinary, unlike anything in any
game-literally millions of players connecting online to face opponents
from across the globe. Unfortunately
the Dreamcast version has no such multiplayer, which is a shame, because
it would have been very good if they made one it.
Whether Valve wanted to include a multiplayer in the final version
is unknown, it is possible that they did, but because of the Dreamcast’s
imminent production closure they decided not to.
Well it is quite hard to get hold of.
But because you cannot buy an official copy (unless you can pick up
one of the few preview discs around) it is very cheap.
I bought mine for £4.95 on Ebay.
But it is possible to download the game and special software, so
that you can burn it to disc using your PC.
I would say that it is worth buying, for the price I paid, but I
would not spend £30 on the game unless it were official.
If you own it on the PC then it is
really not an essential buy, but it is worth it for the Blue Shift, if you
don’t own it, its very good fun- I actually prefer it, so far, to the
a bad conversion, I have played conversions that are worse- DOOM on the
It would have been good if little
bits and pieces were ironed out, or if they hadn’t canned the game at
the last minute.
Buying Now? 8