Happy 20th Birthday To ‘Half-Life’, One Of The Best Video Games Ever Made

Twenty years ago this week, a game called Half-Life was released on PC. From the outside, it seemed like another run-of-the-mill sci-fi shooter, but it would go on to revolutionise the genre as we know it.

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I still can’t decide whether Half-Life or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is my favourite game of all time, and to be honest, I hate trying to make the call, but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that the former was the most influential to me by a long margin. By today’s standards, it probably doesn’t seem like much, but at the time, it broadened what a video game could be.

If you’ve never played it, Half-Life puts you into the shoes of theoretical physicist, Gordon Freeman, who heads to work at the Black Mesa research facility as he presumably did every day. Everything starts out normal until you push a test sample into a weird light beam and shit hits the fan, opening a portal to an alien world through which weird creatures come rushing through. From there, you have one objective – get the fuck out of Black Mesa.


What stood out most about Half-Life back then was that it never took you away from Gordon’s perspective. There were no cut scenes, he never spoke, and there were no separate missions or objectives. From start to finish, you were Gordon Freeman, and that was a powerful way to tell a story. I was so used to playing segregated levels or stages like you would in Doom II or GoldenEye, I didn’t realise how much my immersion was being broken until I was given the alternative, and it completely blew my tiny mind.

Not only that, the title introduced many of the concepts modern shooters now take for granted, like finding weapons in realistic locations as opposed to just spinning around on the ground, for example. It was a game truly ahead of its time and that was reflected in its critical acclaim. It has a score of 96/100 on Metacritic, with IGN giving it a 9.5, and GameSpot a 9.4. It was even awarded the best-selling FPS of all time in the Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition 2008.

Its orginal trailer looks dated as all fuck now, but you can check it out below.

Other iconic games like Counter-Strike and Team Fortress were first imagined as Half-Life mods, adding to its wild legacy even further.

Its 2004 sequel, Half-Life 2, broke boundaries yet again, introducing one of the best physics engines of its time, along with some incredibly impressive graphics. The iconic Source engine on which it was built would also become the base for tons of other games and mods. In fact, many are still creating with it today.

Sadly, the series was ended on one of the most infuriating cliffhangers of all time and according to Valve, there are absolutely no plans to conclude it, leaving fans with the most severe case of video game blue balls imaginable. The closest we’ve come to a conclusion was via series writer, Marc Laidlaw, who posted the plot for Half-Life 3 (or HL2: Episode 3) online. Valve was rumoured to be creating a Half-Life game for VR, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

The OG Half-Life doesn’t really hold up these days, but luckily for you, a bunch of fans remade it with the Source engine, introducing fresh graphics and updated physics to the classic story. You can see a trailer for that below.


Upon its first release, Black Mesa contained everything except for Xen, Half-Life’s final chapter. To celebrate its 20th birthday, the folks behind Black Mesa released the first trailer for the missing segment, which has not only been remade, it’s been totally improved upon. Check it out below.

Happy birthday, Half-Life, you beautiful son of a bitch.

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