Half Life II -- it's practically legendary, in terms of popularity. I even own it on the Orange Box collection. But just haven't been able to simultaneously have time and interest in it. Anyone care to say anything to motivate me to get into it?
Okay here's my attempt:
Half-Life 1 was incredible to me because it was the first FPS game (I know of) that actually had a real story about why you were going around killing things. It was the total opposite of the macho FPS "Bad Dude" games of the day like Doom, Quake, or Duke Nukem 3D. You weren't there because you were a tough mofo and the world/universe relied on you for its survival. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and you're just trying to get out alive. You don't even start out with a weapon. When you first encounter the enemies, you've got to RUN! Plus, the way it loaded sections of the game kept you interested in the story because you were always trying to survive one disaster after another. There was no transition between levels where you could look at your statistics and save and rest and relax. It would have made a great sci-fi book (or dare I say movie?) if properly adapted.
(By the way, Red Faction shared many similar traits, and I really enjoyed it! (But Red Faction 2 sucked big time.))
Sadly I never finished Half-Life 1 so I don't know how it ended.
All I know is that Half-Life 2 starts up sometime after the end of Half-Life 1 when the aliens have kind of enslaved humanity. Even though your motive is different for this game (you're trying to end the conspiracy and free the humans from Combine control, IIRC), the story-telling is just as good. Once again, you don't start off with a weapon. You're just trying to blend in with everyone else who is being assimilated into the new society when your cover is blown and, again with no weapon, you've just got to run for your life. What's fun is that throughout the story there are announcements made on the speakers and video screens about how word is spreading of what you're doing, and how it's causing civil conflict (making the freedom fighting rebels more happy/brave, etc.) and you become a legendary hero of someone who is fighting the system and sticking it to the man/alien, so to speak.
It's what all of the great "Savior" stories are made of, Star Wars had Luke Skywalker, The Matrix had Neo, and Half-Life has Gordon Freeman. They all come from simple/humble beginnings and end up the savior of mankind/society. But the really cool thing about Gordon is that he really is
just an ordinary man. You don't have the Force or the ability to control the Matrix. You're just a Regular Joe in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or in the right place at the right time, depending on how you look at it.
One thing I've heard is people complaining about playing the "Silent Hero" role. Gordon never says a word, but people talk to him all the time. I understand that complaint, as it does become kind of annoying in some games. You're just thinking, "Stand up for yourself!" or "Show some personality!" But I think the Silent Hero is especially fitting in Half-Life because it allows me to project my
thoughts onto Gordon. Gordon and I become one, so to speak. After all, I'm the puppet master controlling Gordon's strings. And yes, I've actually gotten enough into the role that I speak to the characters as if Gordon was talking back. I think that Half-Life is, in the literal sense, a Role-Playing Game. You don't gain experience, levels, stats, or skills, but the game plays out and the story is told in a way that makes it very easy to play the role
All in all, it's incredible storytelling, a logical justification for going around killing people/things, it's intriguing, and it's mysterious. I have no idea who the G-Man is (the guy with the suitcase) but he's becoming more prominent in the story with EP2.
Tangential remarks added after writing and then previewing this post
An interesting thing to observe is that the basic premise of the original Half-Life was very much like Doom. Some portal/gate opened and demons/monsters/aliens started coming out and you've got to shoot your way to the end to close the portal/gate. The difference is that Doom still felt like pointless violence; A shooter with a bad story tacked on as a sort of half-baked motivation or explanation. Whereas Half-Life is executed in a way that it's not difficult to suspend your belief in the same way you would a sci-fi movie or book, but still have the story be believable. Not only that, but it seemed to me that my actions of killing were not just necessary to reach the goal, but even morally justifiable.
I might be out of the norm, but this is a great distinction for people like me who enjoy a variety of games but are tired of killing just for the sake of killing. But that may just have more to do with my personal values: I am a pacifist by nature, but I do believe there are times when violence is necessary to defend liberty and life.
And now that I think of it, I never played EP1. When they released it I thought it was just a section of the Half-Life 2 story I already played, but for a cheaper price. Like buying the chapters individually.
Allen, I know that any time a new Legend of Zelda or Metroid game comes out you will snatch it up in a heartbeat. The Half-Life series has proved itself to also be deserving of this same treatment. And that's not even taking into consideration how great Portal is! Find the time and play it. Seriously.