A very polished and streamlined FPS experience that introduces some welcome innovation to the genre.

User Rating: 8 | Half-Life 2 PC
I have been keen to play Half Life 2 for a long time. I enjoyed the first game quiet a lot back in the day and ever since the sequel came out, it was overrolled with praise and claims to be the best game ever made (according to IGN and PC Gamer for starters).

As soon as the game starts, you can feel the polish and quality that only a Valve FPS-game could deliver, the controls are very good, the animations realistic and immersive and the surroundings are top notch, if a bit repetitive in parts. Still, I found the game experience satisfying but not as amazing as everyone makes it out to be, maybe I have played much better games since or this is just not the kind of FPS I am looking for. Here is the lowdown:

The visuals are great, especially for a game from that period. The rag doll physics make combat all the more satisfying, pinning the enemy troopers to the wall and making them fly around the city with your grenades and rocket launchers. The surroundings are a bit limited in what textures are available but they are being used to good effect, yet I still found most of the levels very similar in design and I was reminded of the undefinable dystopia-mesh that I had to experience in many other FPS games too (Borderlands for example). Shame there is no level set on a ship or a skyscraper for example, it's all compounds, tunnels and alleyways. The weapons are interesting but some are just plainly more fun than others but that seems to be the case in most FPS games. The enemies are cool and some are quite clever, crawling behind cover once you open fire. The sounds the critters and enemy soldiers make are distinct and create a good sense of danger once you hear their eerie chatter as they close in on you.

Apart from the visual level design, there are many areas that involve puzzle solving. No, I have to say in my defense, I do not like Puzzle games at all and this knocks down the rating of this game for me quiet a lot. First of all, I think it is silly and unrealistic to walk around in a world that can only be conquered with puzzles and second, I can never (!) solve them and have to go look for solutions on the Internet, not my playing style. I do enjoy adventure games quite a lot, but I am not looking for this kind of thing in an FPS. But, if you happen to like puzzles, the ones in Half Life 2 are probably the most logical and best I have encountered in a FPS so far, it's just not for me. The pace of the game changes here and then, something I do like quiet a lot and sometimes the game is slow and creepy and sometimes you have to defeat an onslaught of enemies.

One thing that bothers me about this game is the storyline. For 80% of the time, I did not really know what was going on or I forgot what I actually had to do (no objective tab you see) and there are no interesting characters, decisions and storylines in the game. Run through the game and kill everything. Of course, this is an FPS and I should maybe not be looking for storylines but then again, I expected something or rather and the game kind of pretends to be nestled within this conflict of government vs. rebels but there seems to be no plot behind that at all. So that turned all the enemies into cannon fodder and all the levels into obstacle courses rather than the experience of a living world (as in Fallout 3 for example).

There is also too much vehicle driving / fighting for my taste, I don't like racing games, so why would I want to drive around in a car/jeep/buggy in a FPS game. Then again, it's not all that bad.

All in all, a very polished and streamlined FPS experience that offers some innovation in the genre. Innovations that are interesting but ultimately undermine the fun (for me) but will probably make other players' cheer in delight. I can appreciate the quality and ideas behind it but I do prefer more old-school approaches to FPS games (more action / less puzzling) and more of a storyline / setting.