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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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by Sierra

Ups: It's Half-Life, with some cool new weapons and enemies.

Downs: Not nearly as good as the original; very, very, short.

System Reqs: Pentium 166, 32 MB RAM, 3D card recommended.

hlof_1.jpg (8254 bytes)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 wasn’t a great idea. The resulting play was The Merry Wives of Windsor, and there’s a reason you don’t remember reading it in high school: it’s not all that great. I mean, it’s Shakespeare, but it’s not really good Shakespeare. That’s sort of how I feel about Half-Life: Opposing Force. It’s Half-Life, but it’s not really good Half-Life.  That being said, even average Half-Life--like average Shakespeare--still beats the competition stupid.  

hlof_3.jpg (7185 bytes)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, it’s up to you to find your way out.

hlof_2.jpg (9211 bytes)If the set-up sounds a lot like Half-Life, only from a Marine’s point of view, that’s because it is a lot like Half-Life. This has its ups and downs. On the one hand, it’s 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 one—veterans of Half-Life will recognize it immediately—and it’s not nearly as complicated, interesting, or fun as the first one. The game’s plot isn’t nearly as engaging, either; after playing Half-Life, you’ll have a pretty good grip on most of Black Mesa’s secrets, so much of Opposing Force seems a rehash. You’re never thrown the sort of curves that made Half-Life such a tense experience.

hlof_5.jpg (7229 bytes)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 they’ve 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-hangers—you 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. They’re quick little devils that shoot deadly spines and are armed with nasty claws for devastating close-combat attacks.  You’ll 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.

hlof_6.jpg (8258 bytes)Opposing Force also introduces team play to the single-player game. You’ll be able to command up to eight squadmates at the same time. Soldiers come in three varieties; your garden-variety grunt, a medic and an engineer. Medics will heal wounded soldiers, including you, and engineers are used to cut passages through sealed doors. The command interface, though simple to use, is also a little limited. Essentially you just press the “use” button on your squadmates, and they’ll either hold their position or follow you. If you press “use” when you’re wounded or need a door opened, medics and engineers will perform their special tasks. But friendly AI does leave a bit to be desired. Though not nearly as dumb as Kingpin’s thugs, Opposing Force soldiers do require a good bit of babysitting. They’re also not very well integrated into the game. You will need an engineer to cut through a few doors for you, but other than that you can easily complete the game without any help from your fellow soldiers. They seem more like a shiny but frivolous accessory than a necessary part of the game. 

Opposing Force also comes with some very nice multiplayer maps. assembled by a team of “all-stars”, and they’re fun and miles better than the original Half-Life maps, but with the release of Unreal Tournament and Quake III and the impending release of Team Fortress II, they’re not exactly state of the art.

hlof_4.jpg (6380 bytes)Opposing Force also doesn’t 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 game’s ending also seems tacked on; the only reason the final boss fight is difficult is because it’s inscrutable and illogical, and the ending is an unimaginative let-down. As in Half-Life, it seems to promise a sequel—but 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 can’t be bothered to think up a decent ending.

I know I’ve been a little rough on Opposing Force, and I know it’s an add-on pack, but Sierra is charging the price of a full game for this sucker, so maybe we should expect a little more than the usual re-warmed stuff, eh? This leads me to my last quibble with Opposing Force: it’s way short. Half-Life took me forever to finish; I dispensed with Opposing Force in two long nights of gameplay.

But it’s still Half-Life, and it has enough moments of sheer exhilarating fun for me to recommend it.  It’s 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.

--Rick Fehrenbacher