Legend has it that after witnessing a performance of Henry IV, Part One, Queen Elizabeth requested that Shakespeare write a play showing the character of Falstaff in love. It wasnt a great idea. The resulting play was The Merry Wives of Windsor, and theres a reason you dont remember reading it in high school: its not all that great. I mean, its Shakespeare, but its not really good Shakespeare. Thats sort of how I feel about Half-Life: Opposing Force. Its Half-Life, but its not really good Half-Life. That being said, even average Half-Life--like average Shakespeare--still beats the competition stupid.
In Half-Life: Opposing Force you take the role of Adrian Shepherd, a young Special Forces-trained Marine. Along with a squad of your buds, you begin the game by chopping into Black Mesa Research Facility, where, unbeknownst to you, a bunch of aliens have taken up residence. Of course, things start to go bad wrong even before you land, and you eventually awaken abandoned, unarmed, betrayed, and surrounded by aliens. As in Half-Life, its up to you to find your way out.
If the set-up sounds a lot like Half-Life, only from a Marines point of view, thats because it is a lot like Half-Life. This has its ups and downs. On the one hand, its a hoot to occasionally revisit some of the places you played through in the original, and the best gameplay in Opposing Force occasionally equals the some of best moments in Half-Life. But mostly the way Opposing Force constantly calls Half-Life into remembrance just causes it suffer in comparison to the first game. For instance, remember the Pit Worms from Half-Life? It took a long time to figure out exactly how to defeat those suckers: you had to slowly piece each part of an involving and action-packed puzzle together until you lit the fuse, fried em up, and moved on to the next level. Opposing Force has an episode much like this oneveterans of Half-Life will recognize it immediatelyand its not nearly as complicated, interesting, or fun as the first one. The games plot isnt nearly as engaging, either; after playing Half-Life, youll have a pretty good grip on most of Black Mesas secrets, so much of Opposing Force seems a rehash. Youre never thrown the sort of curves that made Half-Life such a tense experience.
Opposing Force does add some new gameplay
twists, however, mostly in the form of new weapons and monsters. And I gotta admit, the
weapons are pretty sweet. New conventional weapons include a Desert Eagle pistol with
laser sighting, a sniper rifle, and my favorite, a M-249 light machine gun that gives Team
Fortress types the heavy weapon theyve craved. All of these weapons are
well-conceived and useful and provide very welcome solutions to tricky situations. Even
more fun are the new alien and prototype weapons, including one that warps your target to
Xan. My favorites are the spore launcher, which looks more or less like an iguana that
fits on your hand and spits acid (you even get to pet it), and the barnacle, a
domesticated version of the deadly ceiling-hangersyou use it to shoot long lines
across chasms, and it allows you to swing across, swashbuckler-like. New monsters include the Shock Trooper, a tough
grunt-like opponent, and the pit drone, the most interesting of the new monsters. Theyre
quick little devils that shoot deadly spines and are armed with nasty claws for
devastating close-combat attacks. Youll
also run across some new human foes, including a great number of Black Operations
soldiers. But mostly Black Mesa and its denizens look much the same as they did in
Half-Life. A little more variation would have been welcome.
Opposing Force also doesnt seem nearly as
finished as Half-Life. Load
times are longer, and a I got stuck a few times, especially when using
elevators or ropes to change levels. The games ending also seems tacked on; the only
reason the final boss fight is difficult is because its inscrutable and illogical,
and the ending is an unimaginative let-down. As in Half-Life, it seems to promise a sequelbut
after two of these, we wonder if these are truly set-ups for the further adventures of
Gordon and Adrian, or just easy ways out for folks who cant be bothered to think up
a decent ending.
But its still Half-Life, and it has enough moments of sheer exhilarating fun for me to recommend it. Its the second-best single player first person shooter game ever; unfortunately, the best ever shares the same name and was released over a year ago.