Codex Gamicus

The first and foremost must buy title of the season.
~ PC Gamer

Half-Life is a 1998 first-person shooter video game by Valve Software, for the PC. Half-Life was well-received across the world and went on to receive 51 Game of the Year awards in 1998. Half-Life was followed by a sequel, Half-Life 2 in 2004, which went on to receive even more critical acclaim. Half-Life for a long time held the record of best selling FPS PC game, and best-selling FPS game, but has now been overtaken on both counts.


Half-Life puts the player in the shoes of Theoretical Physicist Dr. Gordon Freeman, an employee at the Black Mesa Research Facility. Gordon works in the Anomalous Materials laboratories where he and his fellow scientists work to discover the properties and abilities of new and unknown materials. Today is a special day, because they are receiving a unique specimen, and it's being treated with top priority. But no one knows what this specimen is, how it works, or even where it came from. But soon enough, Gordon, the fellow scientists at Black Mesa, and even the world itself will find out...


Half-Life was notable for its unique blending of typical first-person dynamics and platforming. Progressing through levels is very linear, where the player must continue down a single route, with traps, puzzles, enemies, and platforming perils for the player to overcome. Half-life also features a massive variety of enemies, ranging from alien creatures with unique battle abilities, to military personal offering a classic gun on gun combat situation, as well as many heavily armored vehicles such as tanks and Apache helicopters. The game was also known for it's weapon inventory system, where instead of having a small set of guns, which you can swap in and out with other guns you find, when a gun is found it is placed in your inventory and cannot be removed, and by the end of the game you will be holding up to 20 different and unique weapons simultaneously. This gives the player the ability to better determine how to attack the enemy, as well as ensuring that the player rarely runs out of ammo.


The game starts off with Gordon Freeman arriving late to his job at the Anomalous Materials Laboratory via the facilities tram transportation system. At the lab, the science team is being hard-pressed by the Administrator to get results with a rare, unusually pure crystal sample. They decide to push their equipment as hard as they can, but this decision proves to be disastrous as a resonance cascade rocks the facility; alien fauna then begins to randomly teleport in and around the Black Mesa Research Facility. Gordon, who was wearing a Mark IV HEV (Hazardous Environment Suit) at the time of the cascade, managed to survive after getting a brief glimpse of the alien world.

Gordon wakes up a short time later to find the Black Mesa Research Facility in ruins, and begins his journey to the surface to call for help; all while being watched by a mysterious man in a blue suit wandering the facility. Eventually, Gordon learns that the Military has been called to the facility, making reaching the surface even more imperative. However, upon reaching the surface, Gordon finds that the military is not there to conduct a rescue; they're under orders to silence the facility and cover up the incident. Unable to escape, Gordon is forced deeper into the Black Mesa Research Facility, where he is conscripted by his fellow scientists. They tell him to head to the Lambda Complex on the other side of the research facility, where they are attempting to stop the catastrophe.

On his way, Gordon manages to launch an important rocket before eventually getting captured. Gordon is left for dead in a garbage compactor, but escapes and continues his journey to the Lambda Labs complex, only to discover a lab where the alien creatures are locked up, under close observation; and they look to have been there prior to the Resonance Cascade. Gordon continues traveling across the facility on foot, fighting military soldiers and an increasingly hostile alien force. It becomes obvious that the aliens are no longer just randomly teleporting animals, but are in fact a focused alien invasion force, complete with soldiers.

As he reaches the Lambda complex, Gordon discovers that the military is pulling out, and resorting to bombing the Black Mesa Research Facility, making it imperative that Gordon reach the Lambda team. As he fights into the facility, he makes another alarming discovery: not only was the Black Mesa Research Facility studying the alien creatures, they were also experimenting with teleportation, and bringing the creatures directly from their homeworld in another dimension. Gordon fights back an army of alien soldiers to reach the tip of the Lambda reactor where he finds the Lambda team holed up in a supply room. The Lambda team informs Gordon of an immense being keeping the portal to Earth open, and that killing it is the only way to close the inter-dimensional rift. They power up the generator, prep Gordon with a special Long Jump Module, and send him to the strange dimension of Xen. Gordon then fights his way through the alien wildlife, past mining camps and even to the heart of an alien factory mass-producing the soldiers Gordon fought on Earth.

Gordon finally reaches this immense being, known as Nihilanth, who draws power from strange massive crystals, that are similar in appearance to the pure sample that originally started the Resonance Cascade on Earth. Gordon destroys the three crystals on the walls, starving Nihilanth of power, and then manages to destroy Nihilanth itself. Upon his death, tendrils of energy shoot from Nihilanth's head, similar to the resonance cascade the player experienced at the start of the game, and Gordon is once again teleported into darkness.

As Gordon comes to, he's face-to-face with the mysterious man in blue that he saw wandering through the facility. The man congratulates Gordon on his success, stating that he has done a fantastic job, and that his employers want him to offer Gordon a job. The man then opens a portal, and gives Gordon an ultimatum; join him and enter through the portal, or face a "battle he has no chance of winning".

Gordon accepts, much to the mysterious man in blue's delight. The man informs Gordon that he'll see him "up ahead", and the credits roll.

Reception & Legacy[]

Half-Life was released in November 1998 on PC CD-ROM to wide praise and critical acclaim, winning over 50 Game of the Year awards across the globe. The game was praised for its cutting-edge graphics (implementing texture decals, skeletal animation and blended lighting), life-like artificial intelligence, and an immersive storyline. Upon the release of the software development kit (SDK), Half-Life became one of the most heavily-modded games in existence, spawning a multitude of mods and add-ons, including the most popular online action game in the world at the time, Half-Life: Counter-Strike.

In November 2001, a port of Half-Life for the PlayStation 2 was released, featuring revamped graphics and a new co-operative episode. On November 16, 2004, Valve Software released a partially revamped version of Half-Life built on the Source Engine, called Half-Life: Source, alongside it's sequel, Half-Life 2.


Half-Life: Opposing Force[]

An official expansion, developed by Gearbox Software and released on CD-ROM in November 1999.

Half-Life: Blue Shift[]

A standalone expansion developed by Gearbox Software and released on CD-ROM in June 2001; it was originally developed for the cancelled Dreamcast version of Half-Life. Half-Life: Blue Shift Also included a High Definition model pack for Half-Life.

Half-Life: Decay[]

A co-operative expansion developed by Gearbox Software and released with the PlayStation 2 version of Half-Life in November 2001.

Dreamcast port[]

A Dreamcast version of 'Half-Life was developed, and was due to be released on this system. It is unknown why this version was cancelled, as the game was fully complete and was ready to be released. It never did, however it is very common on the internet to find. Those who play it note that it is fully playable.[citation needed]



Several official mods were released for Half-Life, including Half-Life: Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, Team Fortress Classic, Deathmatch Classic, and Ricochet. These were later made available as separate games.

There is also a multitude of fan-made mods: Far too many for a complete list here! A partial list follows:

External Links[]