E3 2001 Hands-onHalf-Life: Blue Shift

We take a nearly complete version of the latest Half-Life game for a spin.


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Few people could have predicted Half-Life's longevity when it was first released. Nearly three years after the game hit store shelves, it still has a huge following. Case in point: Developer Gearbox Software is currently working on no fewer than three Half-Life-related games, one of which is the PC version of Blue Shift. While we've covered this game in the past, we uncovered some new gameplay details after playing it at Sierra's booth.

As you know, the game places you in the shoes of a Black Mesa security guard, Barney Calhoun, during the same time period as the original Half-Life. In fact, you start out the game a few minutes before Gordon Freeman, the protagonist in Half-Life, inadvertently sets into motion the series of events that causes the deadly "incident" at the Black Mesa Research Facility. When the explosions start rocking the complex, you and a pair of scientists find yourselves stuck in an elevator. After a few unnerving seconds of violent shaking, the elevator cable snaps, sending the elevator car plummeting many stories down the shaft, and the impact with the ground renders you unconscious. When you come to, you find that the scientists didn't survive the impact. With aliens and invading US Army forces all around you, you must make your way out of the bowels of Black Mesa alive.

The biggest changes from Half-Life in Blue Shift are the remodeled weapons and 3D character models. The character models have been reskinned with larger textures, and some of the weapons have been altogether replaced with new ones. The Glock 17 from Half-Life, for instance, is now a Beretta M92F; the H&K MP5 is now a Colt M4A1; the shotgun now has a much larger stock; and so on. Additionally, all the weapon sounds have been redone as well. The shotgun cocking sound, for instance, is now much more pronounced than it was in Half-Life. These upgrades are all part of the High Def Pack, a retroactive feature of Blue Shift that will search your computer for Half-Life and update all the weapon and character models.

Gearbox describes Blue Shift as a mix of the original Half-Life and the subsequent expansion, Opposing Force. Whereas Half-Life was all about survival, and Opposing Force focused primarily on combat, Blue Shift will largely involve fulfilling short quest-based missions that scientists give your character. While the game is technically shorter than Opposing Force, because of its unique gameplay mechanics, it should take you a little bit longer to finish. Incidentally, some players got into the habit of shooting innocent scientists and security guards in the original Half-Life. If you're overcome with such an urge in Blue Shift, your employment will be instantly terminated, and you'll be forced to start over from your last save point. Half-Life: Blue Shift has gone gold and should be available on store shelves by mid-June. In the meantime, be sure to take a look at our previous coverage of the game, including the batch of brand-new screenshots that we've just uploaded into the screen index.

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