Greatest Games of All Time: Half-Life

We induct the ground-breaking shooter Half-Life into the Greatest Games of All Time.

by

Half-Life

Platform: PC | Genre: Sci-Fi First-Person Shooter | Released: Oct. 31, 1998
Publisher: Sierra Entertainment | Developer: Valve Software

The fall of 1998 saw a wave of famous (and infamous) games hit PCs. There were high-profile sequels, such as Fallout 2 and Railroad Tycoon II; games that were saddled by bugs, like SiN and Trespasser; and a few games that are already enshrined in GameSpot's Greatest Games of All Time, like Thief: The Dark Project, Grim Fandango, and Starcraft: Brood War. But for most people who were playing computer games at the time, one name stands above the rest: Half-Life.

Not many industrial accidents can lay claim to ending civilization on Earth.

It's difficult to appreciate this now, but Half-Life was really something of a sleeper hit when it arrived. People paid attention to it before it was released, especially after its showings at E3, but in the face of all the competition, this debut game from a couple of ex-Microsoft employees flew under most people's radar until just before its release. But when it finally did hit shelves just before Thanksgiving, it was immediately recognized as one of the best games of the year, and has since been recognized as one of the greatest games of all time.

Half-Life tells the story of Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist (and lab gofer) at the Black Mesa facility in New Mexico. Part of his work revolves around experiments with "anomalous" materials. During a scene that all Half-Life fans remember well, Gordon and his team cause a "resonance cascade" as part of an experiment, which sunders the dimensional fabric and allows aliens from a dimension known only as Xen to infiltrate the facility and begin killing the inhabitants. As Gordon, you have to fight your way through the aliens, as well as through Marines who have been sent to cover up the incident, until you find a way to shut down the dimensional rifts and, hopefully, prevent a full-scale alien invasion.

These loveable scientists are always getting into one kind of mishap or another.

What made Half-Life such a remarkable game was the intensely focused way it told the story. Instead of requiring you to read pages of text or sit through prerendered cutscenes, the game immediately plopped you into the shoes of Freeman and told the entire story through his eyes in real time. The only story you saw, you saw directly from Freeman's point of view; other events were transpiring in Black Mesa at the time that were later revealed in the subsequent expansion packs, Opposing Force and Blue Shift.

Besides this novel approach to telling its story, Half-Life is also famous for its pioneering use of scripted events. Scripted events are fairly commonplace now, but at the time, Half-Life broke new ground with the dense array of throwaway details that gave the world a sense of being lived in. As you traveled around, you'd see scientists in closed-off rooms attempting to fight off headcrabs, security guards getting pulled into air ducts, or the corpses of fallen Marines being dragged into cracks in the walls by the less pleasant alien invaders. The density of these events really helped create a believable world that lived and breathed--Gordon was just one of its inhabitants.

After all the trouble these commandos give you, it's fun to watch when they finally start getting chewed up by aliens.

On top of all this, Half-Life also had some of the best pure shooting action of its time, thanks to its well-designed and unique weapons, fantastic enemy artificial intelligence, memorable foes (including the iconic headcrabs), and a good deal of challenge. In addition to that, the game's presentation greatly helped to support the illusion that Black Mesa was a real place--especially the extremely short loading times and mostly seamless transitions between levels.

Half-Life ended up one of the most successful shooters of all time, with more than 8 million copies sold across multiple platforms. This was due, at least in part, to the somewhat absurd number of collections and packages that its publishers had put onto shelves, including Half-Life: Platinum, Half-Life: Generation, and Half-Life: Platinum Collection 2. While its sequel, Half-Life 2, is arguably a more impressive game in terms of the world that game creates, the original Half-Life had an undeniable impact on the first-person shooter genre. It's definitely one of GameSpot's Greatest Games of All Time.

 

What are your thoughts on this induction to GameSpot's Greatest Games of All Time? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Discussion

776 comments
White-Storm
White-Storm

My friend plays the 2nd one and loves it. He always talks about it and even once asked me "Is there really a place in Russia called White Forest?" cos I'm Russian.

snes_vs_ps1
snes_vs_ps1

Also, Joana Dark is a Lara Croft clone, those dinosaurs from Perfect Dark are also in Tomb Raider, those exotic locations from Goldeneye are also in Tomb Raider, Nathan Drake is a Lara Croft wannabe, Ocarina of Time is a Tomb Raider Rip-Off & so on... ... "Smarter camera than Mario 64." http://www.gamerevolution.com/review/sony/tomb-raider

snes_vs_ps1
snes_vs_ps1

Your rival has inducted Tomb Raider in its Hall of Fame...Half-Life of Fame, lol...you should too!

snes_vs_ps1
snes_vs_ps1

I want to see Tomb Raider on the List, why isn't Tomb Raider on the List?You know what?Shigeru Miyamoto said Raiders of the Lost Ark is his favourite movie & Tomb Raider was inspired after Raiders...& in 1996 when TR came out, Miyamoto began playing Lara's adventure & it sparked his imagination & brought him back memories of his favourite movie when playing Tomb Raider & so he began the work on Ocarina of Time...Ocarina of Time is a RIP-OFF after Tomb Raider!They are very similar:in both games you push blocks, in both games you grab onto ledges, in both games you jump from a platform to another, in both games we have a rotating circle in-game menu, both protagonists look choppy & blocky, both make annoying grunts when they are attacked or fall or whatever.In OoT you must collect 3 "Artifacts" & put them in the temple of Time, in Tomb Raider you must also collect 3 "Artifacts" & unite Them, in OoT you have Z-Targeting & Lock-On, in Tomb Raider you have Automatic Targeting when you draw the weapons so come on guys, these 2 games are very similar, Miyamoto made Ocarina of Time thanks to Tomb Raider...Tomb Raider created & Ocarina of Time perfected, so they are both equally great.Uncharted was also inspired after Tomb Raider. Sorry for being off-topic but there is no comment section at Ocarina of Time...

ChiefFreeman
ChiefFreeman

you guys need to update the Greatest Games of All Time feature. We haven't seen an update since mid 2007!!! Get on it already!

headhunterbob
headhunterbob

this game beats halo any day. before the spartan was the one freeman

brenob
brenob

My life is divided in two parts,one half it's before half life

brenob
brenob

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

solidniko
solidniko

one of the best games ever and HL 2 is even better cant wait 4 more half life

DarkGothic
DarkGothic

I finished this game in PC in 2000 and in PS2 in this year. But, this is one of the worst games i playing in my entire life. Terrible tedius and boring, all, all, all... Is very impressive in level design, but the experience is absolutely mediocre. Criminally overrated.

RyoGTO
RyoGTO

Man, I love this game. I played it for the first time recently. Thinking it was outdated for the whole time I was playing counter-strike even before Steam was out. I was NOT disappointed, even by today's standards.

TruthSeekr01
TruthSeekr01

Without a doubt, Half-Life was one of the biggest games of 1998. That, and Thief are to this day, my personal favorites!

rennik_l
rennik_l

The shooter of shooters, if there is a game that can slow halo, it's Half-Life. I remember when Half-life 2 was in development, the debates and arguments of which was better, Halo 2 or Half-life 2 (most of the time Half-life 2 got the win, though not always). Now's a perfect time to relive this classic, as a true remake is coming this year, Black Mesa, google that :P

EyeWierd20
EyeWierd20

Well of course it deserves one of the best games of all time awards. We wouldn't have any other FPS games the way we do now (or at least not the same) if it weren't for this game.

DarthNader26
DarthNader26

This game is like a history lesson. DOOM invented the genre, Half-Life perfected it in a way that many games are still trying to grasp.

aRE-you-AFraid
aRE-you-AFraid

agreed. 10 years it was the best thing the world had ever seen.

ChampMLG
ChampMLG

Not gonna lie. Half Life sucks.

dragon1182
dragon1182

Half Life was a experience beyond words for any true FPS fan. The story in this game is what sets it apart from the rest. Truly a work of art.

DUUUUUUDEn51
DUUUUUUDEn51

AHA ! ! ! I FINALLY GOT IT ! ! ... and beated it in about four days... still, perhaps the best four days of my life!! :)

Zero_332484
Zero_332484

This is THE GAME. Were talking the most influential and best PC game out there...Nuff Said...

flameboy118
flameboy118

not as good as hl2.... bt definitely more influencial operation blak mesa anyone??

robertcain
robertcain

Never played this but always wishing that this was a download for the orange box

o0c0o
o0c0o

As a gamer , I still like HALF-LIFE 2

DUUUUUUDEn51
DUUUUUUDEn51

Yeah, most definetley one of the best games of all time... but, I still can't believe I don't have this game!... YET ! ! ! !

death5ter
death5ter

The game that i will introduce to my sons...

Crazyk100
Crazyk100

Amazing And extremely influential

covertgamer78
covertgamer78

Excellent game, highly recommended. Make sure your system can handle it or else the stutter and frame rate loss will be brutal.

GreaterthanG0d
GreaterthanG0d

Half Life is one of, if not THE deepest first person shooter you'll ever play. It's story evolves to the point of mythos (through its sequels and alternate storyline expansions) Many people, including IDIOTS like John Carmack, say that story is not important in a game. Half Life manages to prove people like these wrong. HL and HL2 both have revolutionary gameplay and graphics for their time, but it is the games complex, intellectual and mind bending and conspiratory story line that keeps me addicted and in love with the series.

miksalud
miksalud

To put it simple, Half Life is the game when everything "really" started. I mean, come on. The most addictive, fun to play, innovative, sharp edge looking shooter ever made... its like... the electronic bible for gamers. A "must read" book, a "must heard" song and all those crap that comes along the way. Hail the G-man! /bow

DiabolicalX
DiabolicalX

if there was no half life then there would be no far cry, meaning no Halo, meaning no Gears of War, but most importantly, no half life 2

mr_flames664
mr_flames664

Half-life made FPS, no, the game industry what it is today. Try to imagine it without Half-Life having ever being realesed. Not nice is it?

athenian29
athenian29

It is one of my life's ambitions to play Half-Life (and a burden on my soul that I have not done so already, albeit due to circumstances beyond my control).

TheMotherBrain
TheMotherBrain

I have an insanely deep love for Half-Life, and it will remain one of my favorites for eternity.

Zaxro
Zaxro

Took them waaaaaaay to long to add this to the list.

GameGenerator
GameGenerator

While game made a big revolutionary step in the genre,it also had the depth,the personality,the addiction other games didn't have.That are the reasons why this game cant be called anything other than flawless

LasPlagasHope
LasPlagasHope

I am playing this game on PS2 right now and I love it!

grifter_tm
grifter_tm

I couldn't even begin to tell you how many hours I spent playing HL on multiplayer. Single player was nice, but multiplayer ruled. Playing with eight to sixteen guys on a single map... good times. This game practically turned me into a gamer overnight.

JunK-tion
JunK-tion

i any game that has something to do with the half life world. i finished hl1 6 times

alijib
alijib

HL came, HL played, HL conquered. Half Life is the only FPS which I have played again and again since it release. When ever I boot it up , completes it then let go my keyboard+mouse.

ognen
ognen

rly rly great game...

Temujin_basic
Temujin_basic

It was the longest lasting game in my PC, had it installed and played for 5 years.