Reviews From The Backroom: Half-Life: Blue Shift
Half-Life Expansions Part 1/2 Part 2 Here
Half-Life was undeniably the most successful game to come out of 1998. It set the standard for future games both in the FPS genre and outside of it, with flowing gameplay, highly interactive locales, character interaction, and the use of pre-scripted scene's instead of cut-scene's. 9.3 million copies and 50 Game Of The Year awards later, it is still receiving critical praise. So, as with many other highly successful games at the time, it was slated to have its own set of Expansions. The first expansion released was Half-Life: Opposing Force in 1999, with Blue Shift released later in 2001.
Blue Shift Starts off the same way Half-Life does, with the player traveling through the Black Mesa Research Facility inside of a suspended tram car. You play as Barney Calhoun, the Black Mesa security guard who makes an appearance in Half-Life 2 as a close friend of Gordon Freeman. During the opening sequence, the player gets to see more of the Black Mesa facility, and even gets a nod to the original game, when Gordon rides by in the tram car during a sequence featured at the beginning Half-Life.
Gameplay starts with the player entering the area set apart for security personnel, where the player can explore the locker room, shooting range, eating area, and main offices for the security personnel. For the most part, these sections are useless beyond giving the player their initial set of armor and a starting weapon, but they do add a good amount of detail and personal feel to the playing area. From there it continues with Barney running through maintenance tunnels due to the numerous problems that Black Mesa is experiencing, all in an attempt to help some scientists stuck in an elevator. From here on out, the levels start to lose any sense of imaginative design, and turn into the same levels seen within the other two games: rocky desert outside, bland gray cement corridors inside. After the scientists are found and the elevator activated, the player is treated to a scripted scene where they watch scientists and security officers get brutally offed by scenery and aliens after the Resonance Cascade is started. From there, the elevator crashes several stories below, and the game is finally set in motion.
From the start of the actual campaign, it becomes apparent that Blue Shift is not exactly made in the same style as Half-Life and Opposing Force. While the first two games featured some puzzles and a large amount of combat, Blue Shift features some combat with lower-level enemies, but ends up being more geared towards the puzzle loving crowd.There are umpteen obstacles to avoid, many doors to be opened, several switches to be pulled, and even a few platforms to be manipulated, all within the first 10 minutes of being put in control of Barney. Throughout, the most prominent gameplay feature is puzzle solving, with the entire game culminating in one of the longest solving sequences in gaming.
While it is great to see some complex puzzles to solve, there is a bit of an off-balance approach to it. Half-Life was a hard, calculating game, where running around a corner guns-a-blazing was guaranteed to get you killed. Enemies were numerous and worked in teams, traps and pitfalls were around every corner, and ammunition had to be used carefully to help you progress smoothly. In Blue Shift, so much attention is put on escorting, activating switches, and moving boxes that combat takes a back seat. Rushing into any situation is a snap to handle due to enemies being few and underpowered, and items such as ammunition, armor, and med-kits are piled high in just about every corner. For most of the game, I was running around using the Revolver and SMG-mounted grenade-launcher with ease, two weapons that ammo should have been the hardest to find for, without ever running out of bullets and grenades. During the most difficult fighting sequence, I was practically handed a mounted Machine Gun and told to point it down a hallway, completely destroying any sense of difficulty that had been there.
What really breaks this game, though, is what most prior critics have also brought up: length. Blue Shift tops out, gameplay wise, to roughly 3 - 4 hours max. Had the game-play been up to snuff, it may have been justifiable, even well worth the added cost. Unfortunately, that is not the case, as most of the games length is tied up in what amounts to no more than padding. Often times the player is asked to backtrack through previous areas, usually with someone in tow, just to open a door and progress the story. While there are teams of enemies put in place to help slow the player down, the above-mentioned availability of weapons makes it a rather moot point, and the only way it really effects gameplay is by causing the (essential) escorted character to die. All this does is frustrate, and forces you to reload a save game just so you can plod through what you just finished all over again.
Blue Shift could have been great. It had the story base, the fan-base, and loads of room to work the main character into the story-line. But, due to imbalance of game-play, overuse of locations, and a pathetic running-time, it falls short. Besides telling how Barney Calhoun survived to appear in Half-Life 2, there really is no need to play Blue Shift.
If you enjoyed this review, please tell me! And if you have any suggestions for future games to get for my back-room, let me know!
I've never even heard of this game. That's how far I am from the PC gaming scene. >_>
Although, my computer could probably run this one. Might actually try it, if I end up playing Half-Life some time.
I liked the review!
One thing though...The Blood Diamond review was my 200th, not the Fight Club one. I'm not even counting Fight Club in the "canon" of my reviews -- it was just a joke. ;)
Thanks for the shout-out!