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PC gamer, WorthPlaying EIC, globe-trotting couch potato, patriot, '80s headbanger, movie watcher, music lover, foodie and man in black -- squirrel!


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PC Review: HalfLife - Blue Shift (c) Sierra/Valve

by Rainier on June 14, 2001 @ 3:30 a.m. PDT

Half-Life and Counterstrike are two of the most-played games/mods on the Worthplaying Staff. Needless to say, we were thrilled to get our hands on Blue Shift ... Did we wet our pants or did we ask for a refund?

Since its initial release in 1998, Half-Life has been, without a doubt, one of the most popular games in the history of video games. The game still manages to pop up in the top 20 sales position on a regular basis, mainly thanks to the thousands of MODs and TC freely available on the internet. Additionally, Valve is always motivated to give the Half-Life fans improvements and add-ons. As far as mods and addons go, there were TEAM Fortress Classic (the pack game of the year), Platinum, CounterStrike, Opposing Force, and, most recently, Blue Shift. But what does Blue Shift bring to the public? Something new and exciting? Is it really worth the trouble? We put it to the test, and this is what we came up with ...

Above all, I must say that Half-Life and all that surrounds it occupies a special place in my personal top five, but rest assured that this criticism was made with the utmost objectivity. Let's take a trip down memory lane. There were a few times that Valve decided to carry Half-Life onto the Dreamcast. The conversion went well, and they decided to create an add-on to this version with the aim of giving the Dreamcast users something unique that the PC and Playstation players would not have. At this point, Gearbox Software began the creation of Blue Shift. However, out of the "blue," Sega decided to cancel production on its Dreamcast console, and Valve axed the Half-Life Dreamcast version. After a short period, Blue Shift was announced as an official add-on for Half-Life. Blue Shift comes with Opposing Force and TEAM Fortress Classic and is " Stand-Alone," which means you will not need a copy of the original Half-Life to get it to run.

In the original Half-Life you played Gordon Freeman, a scientist, and in Opposing Force, you played Adrian Sheppard, a Marine. Well, in Blue Shift, you play the role of Barney Calhoun, a security officer for the Black Mesa complex. Your task is to protect and help the scientific personnel of the complex. The Blue Shift story situates itself during the same time frame as Half-Life in the Black Mesa complex. The game begins a little prior to the fatal incident. You will thus have time to visit your district of assignment, practice at the shooting range, and fraternize with your work colleagues. Then you find out that the day in the complex will only get worse: a series of data-processing incidents complicate the lives of people in the complex. At this point, the senior Security Officer indicates that there is a problem in sector G of the complex. Two scientists are stuck in the elevator and can't get it to work properly so you need to go to their aid. This is where the actual game play begins. On your way to the lower levels, the elevator breaks down, and that's where you become Gordon Freeman.

Your goal will be to get out of this forsaken complex as it is invaded by extraterrestrials and the Navy (up to you to decide which you think is worse). Your only means of escape is to find a scientist for whom you will have to carry out various tasks in order to restart an old teleporter. This will allow you to put Scotty to shame and be "beamed" out of the complex.

Are you ready for a long Shift?

That is a rough draft of what is expected of you when you arrive at Black Mesa. In all honesty, this piece of work is rather short. It only took 4-6 hours to finish Blue Shift, depending on the level of difficulty. Blue Shift is not only very short but also very linear. It seems like the creators forgot how to build in puzzles and how to make the player work to get past an obstacle. Unlike the original Half-Life and Opposing Force, none of this is present in Blue Shift.

On the other hand, Blue Shift is filled with humorous links to the original Half-Life and Opposing Force. The adventure aspect remains in the game and in spite of its linearity and short duration, the game is really interesting. The hardcore Half-Life fans will discover new facets of the Black Mesa complex and new answers to their questions. It is interesting to see the developments through the eyes of a Security Officer. However, this item could have really been exploited more: I would have liked to see more environments and possibilities, but the game length struck down my hopes. During the game play, one sees apparitions of Gordon Freeman and the mysterious man. It would have been nice to interact with them in the same manner that Freeman did with the Security Officer in the original Half-Life. The only point which sets Blue Shift apart lies in its end. Without giving it away, I can say that it is completely different than the Half-Life and Opposing Force endings...

Blue Shift does not contain any innovations worth mentioning. Calhoun uses the same weapons, is confronted with the same monsters, and the same navy. The AI is not noticeably improved (if at all), the complex of Black Mesa remains as good as identical, and the world of Xen, where you will make a quick run-through, remains the same. The only innovation is the High Definition pack. This addition, which is an optional install, considerably improves the game graphics, and the HD pack is especially visible on the characters and the weapons. For instance, the machine-gun H & K MP5 SD6 are replaced by the MA1/M203. It is important to note that the HD pack improves not only Blue Shift, but also the Half-Life and Opposing Force games, if those are installed. In a way, this makes good old Half-Life fun to play again. There's nothing new on the Multiplayer side, except for some adjustments with TEAM Fortress Classic.

Despite the game being very short and lacking scenario depth, Blue Shift is a good game. The fact that Blue Shift retails for $29.99 ($10 reduction for previous buyers of Opposing Force) is a plain outrage! The massive amounts of MT and Mods freely available on the Internet offer an adventure much longer than this add-on. I know that other Half-Life fans like me will buy it no matter what, but I cannot advise people to buy Blue Shift, unless you have not yet purchased Opposing Force (Opposing Force comes with Blue shift, and you would be getting two games for the price of one). Originally, Blue Shift was just made to complement the Dreamcast version of Half-Life, but to sell it on PC is not honest. This should have been made available as a free download on the Internet as a mod/add-on.



Tested on :

Pentium3 700Mhz
256 MB RAM
Soundblaster Live Value

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