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Half-Life: In The Beginning…

A few days ago I proclaimed that I was on a mission to replay all of the Half-Life games and tonight was the first step towards accomplishing this mission. I loaded up the original Half-Life and took the first steps in retracing Gordon Freeman's steps that led us down the path to where we are today - somewhere between the end of Half-Life 2 Episode 2 and waiting for the day we hear something from Valve about the fate and future of the series. In this blog, I said I would tackle it from the perspective, "does Half-Life withstand the test of time" - and for the most part that's still true...but I'm also exploring every nook and cranny in the game. I'm not exactly sure what a cranny is, but I'm exploring it. There is a good chance these Half-Life blogs are going to be a collection of random thoughts and ideas I jot down when playing the game.

 "This train is inbound from Level 3 Dormitories to Sector C Test Labs and Control Facilities"

-Black Mesa Announcement System

My name is Gordon Freeman. I'm a 27 year old research associate at the Black Mesa Research Facility.

It's 8:47 AM and I'm late for work.

Playing through a game knowing who the characters are and how the story progresses is proving to be an enjoyable experience. I was afraid I might get bored or regret my decision to play through it again, but I haven't. I've read and studied this game from so many different angles, I now get to enjoy the experience and at the same time, look out for those things I remember reading about...like the fact you see the G-Man throughout the game...almost like he is observing your progress.

The game starts with Gordon Freeman on a monorail car heading to work deep inside the Black Mesa research facility. The ride in "appears" to be uneventful, but you do see some interesting scenes along the way. In one spot, you see a security guard with a flashlight banging on a door. If you read some of the lore about the game, you learn this is the first time you see Barney Calhoun, the security guard who plays a role in several of the other games, including Half-Life Blue Shift. You also see an attack helicopter and a rocket...which gives you a pretty good idea you're not in the business of solving world hunger (unless of course you consider the destruction of mankind a form of solving world hunger). I also recall hearing mention of various G-Man sightings, and sure enough...I'm early in the game and have already spotted him a few times.

 

There are a few other anomalies I discovered but I won't bore you with all the details. Things like, if you keep activating the microwave, you will explode the contents of whatever was cooking in it, or you can press the panic button under the guard's desk and sound an alarm, earning yourself a scolding from the guard.

Perhaps the most unusual point in the events leading up to the experiment in the research lab that caused me to raise a brow was the locker room. I had heard or read before the names on the lockers were various members of the development team, but I didn't recall what I saw when I opened Gordon Freeman's locker. It wasn't the books written by Laidlaw that got my attention (even though there was also a Laidlaw on one of the lockers). It was the photo of an infant in Gordon Freeman's locker. Now, we don't know a lot about Gordon Freeman, but the fact he has a picture of an infant in his locker seriously causes me to wonder - did Gordon Freeman have a wife and child? If you're wondering about the books in the locker like I did when I noticed they were by the same author, the explanation is a simple one:

The books were - The Orchid Eater and The 37th Mandala, written by the series' writer Marc Laidlaw.

So, I'm in the locker room, and I see my power suit. The legendary Gordon Freeman orange power suit. This game is old...what, 14 or 15 years? I'm here to say, when I saw that suit I answered the question I asked at the beginning of this blog - does Half-Life withstand the test of time? I'd say it does. Even though I (mostly) recall all of this, I'm still excited with all of it.

At this point I have the suit and I've entered the research lab. I've endured all sorts of criticism from my fellow scientists along the way who keep reminding me I was supposed to be on station a half an hour ago. I can't help but think of a blog I wrote months ago about Gordon Freeman. It was a blog where I question was Gordon Freeman really a hero? I mean, here we have a guy who is late for work, doesn't have the respect and admiration of his peers, and essentially caused the resonant cascade that resulted in the calamity humanity is now struggling to survive. I should say I'm not surprised this industrial accident occurred. The signs were all there. During the monorail ride in, I witnessed a pair of scientist and a security guard running to examine something; I saw a tank with a huge crack in it spilling green sludge; an electrical panel blew a circuit...and then of course there were all the concerning comments from the scientists about the problems they noticed ramping up to the experiment.

The experiment failure was a blur and was exactly the way I remember it before, but as I made my way from the research lab headed back to the surface, I enjoyed experiencing some of the moments I had forgotten.

Shortly after the event, you find your crowbar. It's was truly an amazing moment. That crowbar has a reputation, and I was witnessing the first ever moment when it was basically breathed into life. Shortly after that, I saw a head crab for the first time and whatever you call the result of a headcrab sitting on a scientist's head for too long.

I don't know how many levels there are, but I finished Black Mesa Inbound, Anomalous Materials and Unforeseen Circumstances tonight before deciding to rest the crowbar. Half-Life is everything I remember it being and I am definitely enjoying the experience of playing through it again.

I've decided to share some images and comments...

(Underneath the desk, there is a panic button...and it works.)

 

(The notorious crowbar.)

 

(Did Gordon Freeman do something wrong - or was this supposed to happen.)

 

(Is it playing possum?)

 

"Prepare for unforeseen consequences" -The G-Man to Eli Vance

Have a great night and enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Cheers.

 

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