"1998ís Half-life was seen by many as revolutionary to the FPS genre from its atmospheric feel, the first person presentation of the story and itís astounding gameplay. Since then, dozens of mods spawned from its engine such as Counter-Strike, plus expansions like this and 2001ís Blue Shift. Half-Life: Opposing Force intervenes with the original HLís plot, playing the role of US Marine Corporal Adrian Shepherd. As part of the Black Mesa clean-up crew, you must s..."
1998ís Half-life was seen by many as revolutionary to the FPS genre from its atmospheric feel, the first person presentation of the story and itís astounding gameplay. Since then, dozens of mods spawned from its engine such as Counter-Strike, plus expansions like this and 2001ís Blue Shift. Half-Life: Opposing Force intervenes with the original HLís plot, playing the role of US Marine Corporal Adrian Shepherd. As part of the Black Mesa clean-up crew, you must silence any witnesses (such as Freeman and the scientists), but a helicopter explosion scatters you and your comrades all over the facility, leaving you with no choice but to escape the compound.
One of the most prominent features to Opposing Force is a whole series of new weapons. Thereís a whole host of tools for all situations, such as the basic barnacle and wrench, the powerful Desert Eagle pistol, the SAW machine gun, even to alien weapons such as the Spore Launcher and the almighty displacer. For the most part, the new weapons add an air of freshness with plenty to experiment with them. Some of the old classics like the Gauss cannon may be gone, but new superior weapons take their place.
Further additions are significant improvements to the squad system. Instead of recruiting a small squad of pistol-bearing security guards, up to seven troops can tag along. Alongside standard combat soldiers, soldiers with specialist roles can join and is at times essential: engineers can open sealed doors with a blowtorch, plus medics can replenish health. Unfortunately in practise, itís unlikely that you would plan out a scene with your combat soldiers in your first attempt or so, as the squad AI is pretty awful. Often you have to keep checking back on soldiers after hitting the use key to see if theyíre actually moving. Consequentially squad tactics are abysmal; squaddies mindlessly duck and shoot enemies without making any attempt to hide, and thus itís usually easier not to bother with them unless necessary.
Although the general game-play style is the same, there are some additions: rope swings, the squad combat plus NVGís replace the flashlight, most of the changes are instructed to you in a Full Metal Jacket style boot camp level, complete with a Texas reference! The game does feel more condensed overall, with just eleven chapters as opposed to the originals eighteen. The mindless traipsing around grey corridors solving puzzles and listening to the whining Scientists drone has been ditched in favour of near-endless brutal fighting. Shock surprises are frequent, with the numerous ninja Black Ops ambushes, a giant boss alien pouncing on you around the corner or even an instance when youíre crawling between two floors, only to end up falling through the damp tiles into an electrified pool of water below. The scripted scenes really do provide some spine shakers as well: head crabs ambush in the dark or when aliens burst through walls at the most unexpected moments. Even though they are a signature trait of Half-Life!
Gearbox certainly did an impressive job of breathing new life into a title gamers probably found long enough. Basing the game from another characters perspective is one way of pulling it off, but the new weapons and subsequently new methods of nuking the same old vortigaunt monsters adds more to the fun. The Desert Eagle pistol is very handy as your only weapon at the start, until you get hold of a SAW and sniper rifle, beneficial for taking out the Black Ops for assaults or make a pre-emptive strike before they see you respectively. Methods of doing things in the original donít necessarily work here.
Despite dated overly-square visuals, Opposing Force still presents an excellent atmosphere with great dialogue, monster cries, explosion effects and the splat that is a head crab on your face. It may only take 10 hours to beat but this is a very satisfying expansion to play through. It may lack the atmosphere and intensiveness of the original somewhat, but I have to admit that this is more entertaining to play through; despite its age, itís a real cheap thrill available through Steam. This really does add more than a coat of paint to the Half-Life experience; HL:OP is truly a brilliant expansion to a revolutionary game.
Community review by bigcj34 (December 06, 2008)
Cormac Murray is a freelance contributor for HG and is a fanboy of Sega and older Sony consoles. For modern games though he pledges allegiance to the PC Master Race, by virtue of a MacBook running Windows.
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