Well, Half Life 2 has been a long time coming — in fact, I saw a promotional video for the game sometime during the middle of last year; it was meant to be released in November 2003 but wasn’t; was rumoured to be released in June 2004 but wasn’t; and was again delayed for a short time prior to its release on November 16th 2004. On November 21st I finally got a copy of it and have plenty to say.

Let me tell you something: of all the PC games I have played, I haven’t enjoyed a single one as much as I enjoyed Half Life – released in 1998, Half Life was quickly touted as the game of the year, game of the decade, game of the century – and I couldn’t disagree. For me personally, it was the perfect mix of action, puzzle-solving and science fiction. So when I heard that Half Life 2 was coming out, I got very excited very quickly.

First thing on Saturday afternoon, I popped the game in and tried to install – a process which – because of the elaborate anti-piracy protection – took nearly an hour and a half (up to 2 hours on some machines). To install Half Life 2, you must setup an account with Steam, and all the registration is don online at Steam’s server. Fair enough – I guess you can’t be too careful. But up to 2 hours to install a game? That’s not very fair on the consumer.

When I started playing Half Life 2, I had some graphics issues straight off the bat – I definitely recommend you upgrade all your drivers prior to playing this game (well, sound and graphics at any rate). I had a few issues with some of the things in the game coming out looking white, however a quick visit to Nvidia and an hours worth of downloading later, and all was well.

The game itself starts off with Gordon arriving at a generic city named City 17 – the current headquarters for a man named Breen, who is the administrator that works with the aliens from the first game. Soldiers called ‘combines’ are wandering around everywhere. You have no weapons. You have no way to protect yourself. You have no idea where you are, what you are doing or where you are meant to be going.

Its set many years after the first Half Life, and Gordon Freeman has attained God-like stature with the people of Earth, because they figure – after his performance in the Black Mesa incident in Half Life – that he will be able to free the people of Earth from the slavery they are being forced to endure.

The graphics in this game are absolutely stunning – even on my sub-standard PC, the graphics of the game are of the highest quality. There’s much to do and see, and there is a huge amount of detail. One thing that struck me as I was playing was the ‘horizon’ – in PC games, normally the horizon is fairly close, or the detail of things far away is fairly plain – however, in Half Life 2, the horizon is miles away – and the detail of the city is incredibly complex – it feels like you really are stuck in the middle of a city you can’t get out of.

Another thing is just how interactive the Half Life 2 environment is – every single item around you is able to be picked up and placed elsewhere, or thrown (handy when you are out of ammo) – and in some places, these items come into play, meaning that you have to think more about what you are doing, and how you are going to get out of certain situations. The puzzle-solving element from Half Life is also back, and harder than ever – you could say that I am over the moon about that one, because that made the first game.

There are dozens of enemies, and an incredible amount of ways to get killed. I’m up to about the 5th level, and already I’ve come across the following: combine soldiers (and lots of them), flying cameras, flying spinny razor things, head crabs, zombies, black head crabs (which are poisonous and incredibly fast), incredibly fast zombies, a zombie with the black head crabs on him (which he throws at you), a helicopter which fires a bad-as gun and drops mines, a truck which fires missiles … I can’t think of any others at the moment. As well as this, there was one long-as level where you had to drive a jet boat – the most fun I’ve had in a game for a long time.

Overall, Half Life 2 is looking like the best game of all time (in my opinion). As mentioned above, I’m not too far into it but already its becoming my favourite game ever. I give a solid 9.5 out of 10 – just because I can’t give it a 10, because there’ll gotta be something wrong with it further down the track – if not, I’ll revise my score and give it a 10.