Nine years ago, on the 19th of November 1998, the world of first-person 3D shooters changed forever as the release of a new project from Valve Software provoked a sensation. Featuring an exciting sci-fi plot, Half-Life won over 50 industry awards and achieved the status of the best-selling game on the PC platform. A faulty teleportation experiment that opened a portal between the Earth and Xen gave birth to a whole gaming universe that has become familiar to every gamer while Gordon Freeman, the physicist who carried out the experiment, became a celebrity.
The gaming community was looking forward to playing Half-Life 2 but the game was released only 6 years since the original due to multiple problems that occurred during the development process. The expectations were fulfilled, though: Half-Life 2 featured an engaging continuation of the plot as well as a new graphics engine Source that set new standards for the 3D game industry. The engine offered support for high-resolution textures, complex DirectX 9 shader effects, a realistic physical model and an excellent animation quality, especially that of facial animation. As we noted in our earlier review, it all created an inimitable atmosphere you couldn’t help plunging into. Half-Life 2 was as successful as its predecessor.
To avoid such long delays the developer decided to release the sequel to Half-Life 2 in separate, rather short, episodes, the first of which was offered to the public on June 1, 2006. Half-Life: Episode One continued the story of the struggle of Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance against the powerful Combine. The player’s main goal in Episode One was to delay the explosion of the Citadel’s reactor that could raze City 17 to the ground in order to gain time for the evacuation of refugees that inhabited it. Freeman accomplished his goal, but couldn’t prevent the explosion. The blast wave overtakes the departing train. The hero loses his consciousness and the last thing he hears is the screech of the metal and the whisper of Alyx who’s repeating his name. That was the end of Episode One .
Episode One brought technical innovations that were missing in the original Half-Life 2 . Particularly, the game got HDR support, an improved face animation system and a cleverer AI. It looked better than the original version as a result. It was not a real breakthrough, however, and Valve saved more interesting innovations for Episode Two released on the 10th of October 2007 as part of the Orange Box.