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Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2 / PC
editor score 9.2
user score 9.2
Release Date



First-Person Shooter






Valve Corporation


Electronic Arts


Half-Life 2 is the sequel to 1998's ground breaking revolutionary first-person perspective game, Half-Life. Developed by Valve Corporation, it was released for PC on November 16th, 2004, to near universal acclaim. The game has earned over 35 game of the year awards, and has been ported to the Xbox and Mac. It was also included in The Orange Box, which additionally brought the game to the Xbox 360, and PS3.

Later on, follow-ups to Half-Life 2 appeared as shorter episodes, continuing the story but introduced a handful of technical, graphical and other features and enhancements with each release and update.


Combine in City 17
Combine in City 17

The story for Half-Life is somewhat unconventionally told, making it potentially more ambiguous and difficult to follow. This is because there are no cutscenes in Half-Life, rather the story is told through subtle clues given to the player during gameplay. For an extensive guide on the events that transpire within the series, this site is a good resource. Marc Laidlaw, one of the writers at Valve has commented that the site is "pretty darn accurate." A brief overview of the story in HL2 is given below.

Half-Life 2 is set roughly ten to twenty years after the events in Half-Life 1. Earth has been conquered by an oppressive trans-dimensional army known as the Combine. The Combine army managed to defeat humanity within a mere seven hours. Wallace Breen, former administrator of Black Mesa Research Facility, became the human representative for the Combine. With free reign of Earth, the Combine have forced humans and the Vortigaunts (another conquered race that teleported to Earth from Xen in the events of the previous game) into the few remaining urban centers, giving each urban center a number that served as its new name. The Combine have also put drugs in the water supply that are designed to make it difficult to remember what the world was like before the invasion. The most alarming thing the Combine have done was to erect a massive Citadel which created an energy field that inhibits the human race's ability to procreate.

The game starts with Gordon Freeman being released into an urban center known as City 17 by the mysterious G-man. The location of City 17 is never revealed, but the Eastern European architecture of the buildings, and the Russian letters seen on signs throughout the game hints to its location. Gordon's arrival helps trigger a massive human uprising in which he and Alyx Vance manage to destroy the Citadel. Gordon and Alyx become trapped in the Citadel's explosion, but right before they are killed, time is stopped by the G-man. This is where the game ends, to be continued in Half-Life 2: Episode One.


Fend off the zombies!
Fend off the zombies!

Half-Life 2 sets itself apart from many other first-person shooters of its day with the use of a robust physics engine called Havok, which allowed for the inclusion of a new weapon, the Zero-Point Energy Field Manipulator, or Gravity Gun, that allows the player to pick up and launch just about any small or medium-sized object.

Many of the game's puzzles are built around this sort of object manipulation, and the ability to fling objects at high speeds also makes it a powerful weapon.

This idea of manipulating objects in the environment as weapons would go on to influence many other first person shooters as physics simulation became a mainstay feature of the genre, including BioShock ( Telekinesis Plasmid) and Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil (Ionized Plasma Levitator).


The road to release was not an easy or predictable one for Valve. In its five year development, Half-Life 2 went through numerous delays, a massive source code leak, a lawsuit with its publisher Vivendi Universal Games, and had to launch with the unproven and, at the time, unreliable Steam digital distribution system.

The game is estimated to have cost 40 million dollars to produce. As revealed by the coffee table book Half Life 2: Raising the Bar, Half-Life 2 was originally intended to be a much darker, grittier experience where the Combine are more evidently draining the Earth's resources and eliminating the surviving citizen population.

The settings of the game were also to be more diverse, with Nova Prospekt being a short stopping point but growing into the final destination.


In certain chapters of Half-Life 2, Gordon Freeman uses two vehicles to help him through enemy territory. The vehicles widen the range of the gameplay even more and help prevent the game from becoming overly repetitive.



The Airboat is a land and water based vehicle. It's easy to maneuver, thus making it possible to dodge obstacles like bombs dropped by the Combine attack helicopters. Gordon Freeman uses the Airboat to navigate through the canal network and make his way to Black Mesa East, where he meets up with Alyx Vance, her father Eli Vance, Dr. Judith Mossman and Alyx's robot pet named Dog. At first the Airboat is unarmed and has no form of attack; however, later on it is mounted with a Combine chopper gun by a Vortigaunt.

Dune Buggy

Dune Buggy
Dune Buggy

The Dune Buggy is a land based vehicle that is used to cross the beaches while avoiding Antlions. The Dune Buggy is equipped with a mounted Tau Cannon which is used to gun down any enemies the player might encounter on the way. The Tau Cannon is the same from Half-Life. This one, however, cannot overload or run out of ammo.


There is a diverse array of weaponry in the Half-Life universe. Every weapon has unique properties and their uses generally don't overlap. There is a weapon for every purpose and nearly every weapon is a worthwhile option in combat so long as it is used properly.



The iconic symbol of Gordon Freeman. The crowbar is the first weapon you get and its usefulness is more in the realm of breaking things than taking down armed forces, but it can do that too if necessary. It does more damage per hit than the Pistol and doesn't need reloading. It has a first-rate application beating down headcrabs that are normally a pain to shoot.

9mm Pistol

9mm Pistol
9mm Pistol

A weak backup weapon, very similar in appearance to the Heckler and Koch USP. The 9mm Pistol's main upshots are the availability of its ammo and its ammo capacity in the magazine and in reserve. That aside, it has little stopping power and should be avoided if other options are available; there is almost always a better weapon for the job than this Pistol.

  • 18 round magazine (180 in reserve).
  • Accurate out to fairly long distances.
  • Ideal at medium to long range.



A satisfying deathblow in any situation. The Magnum will kill any standard enemy in one shot on Normal and is perfectly accurate--the only gun in the game to possess this trait. Ammunition for this gun is scarce, generally only found in secret areas; this is because it is designed to be used in a nearly theatrical fashion. Line up your shots carefully to avoid wasting them and crank up your speakers to ensure the fantastic kick of this gun doesn't go unnoticed. If you position your crosshair over an opponent in the distance while using the zoom function, you can exit the zoom and then land a perfect headshot if you don't move the mouse (you can't fire while using the suit's zoom feature).

  • 6 round magazine (12 in reserve).
  • Perfectly accurate.
  • Can be used at any range effectively.

Submachine Gun

Submachine gun
Submachine gun

Well-rounded is the name of the game for Valve's knockoff of the MP7. This automatic Submachine Gun is accurate to respectable distances, has decent stopping power, and the clip lasts for long enough to keep you from running dry before finding cover. A large fraction of the Combine use this gun and drop ammo for it, so only trigger-happiness or a lack of weapon variety will deplete your reserve of its bullets. The SMG comes with a 40mm grenade launcher that can fired with a right-click. Grenades for this launcher are rarer than Magnum rounds but they are also vastly superior to normal grenades thanks to their detonation on contact.

  • 45 round magazine (225 in reserve).
  • Accurate to medium-short ranges but useable at longer ranges.
  • Ideal in medium and medium-close range combat.
  • Grenade launcher holds 3 rounds.

Overwatch Pulse Rifle

Overwatch Pulse Rifle
Overwatch Pulse Rifle

The assault rifle of the future. The inner workings of the Pulse Rifle are questionable at best (are those tiny pods the entire clip?), but its power is hard to contest. Its magazine and reserve are a bit short so it doesn't work well in extended engagements, but Combine soldiers in areas like Nova Prospekt all use them so this should be an infrequent problem in these places. It knocks out most targets in a second or two. The secondary fire for the Overwatch Pulse Rifle is an exposed fusion core launcher (again, is the whole thing really inside that little glass jar?) that releases a ball of swirling energy that bounces around and vaporizes anything it hits. These balls are hard to use tactically because of their sporadic bouncing pattern, but if there are enough enemies in the room, you're guaranteed to get a few of them.

  • 30 round magazine (60 in reserve).
  • Slightly less accurate than the SMG.
  • Ideal in medium-close range combat.
  • Exposed core launcher holds 3 rounds.



The alpha and omega of close quarters combat in Half-Life 2. The Shotgun is modeled in form after the Italian SPAS-12 shotgun and uses readily available ammo. The pellet dispersion is far more realistic than in most games, meaning it works to greater ranges than you might initially expect. This range, combined with the hefty damage it doles out, makes the shotgun useful in many situations. Additionally, the secondary fire unleashes even more stopping power by firing the second barrel simultaneously with the primary barrel. Although this is a twist on standard shotgun functionality (as a shotgun's secondary barrel simply holds shells) it opens up new possibilities for hostile neutralization. If you find Half-Life 2 to be too easy, try playing through it without the Shotgun; you'll be surprised just how often its immense strength solves your problems.

  • 6 round magazine (30 in reserve).
  • Reloads one round at a time.
  • Accurate only at close range but usable at medium-close ranges.
  • Ideal at close range.



An overly physics-inspired sniper rifle. The Crossbow is much harder to use than the average sniping weapon for one reason that really becomes two reasons in practice. The crossbow fires an electrically superheated copper rod great distances and can pin unsuspecting Combine soldiers to walls and objects, leaving them to flop around in the most glorious of ragdoll fashions. Unfortunately, the rod qualifies as a standard projectile, meaning that it has travel time and is affected by gravity. This forces players to make two separate corrections to their aim if firing at range: one for the drop in height and one to anticipate their target's motions. Thankfully, the crossbow at least has a right-click zoom function identical to the suit's except that you can actually fire while using it. The Crossbow is, ironically, hardest to use at sniping distances and is more than powerful enough to used against enemies in direct conflict. The ragdoll pinning is also always a plus.

  • 1 round magazine (8 in reserve).
  • Accurate at any range with proper aim correction.
  • Ideal at medium-long range.



Arguably the most fun twist on a standard firearm in the game. The Combine gunship has the ability to shoot down missiles that fly toward it with its guns. This makes killing it very hard without overwhelming firepower. Cue the Rocket Launcher. Unsatisfied with run-of-the-mill heatseeking or lock-on homing devices, the Half-Life 2 RPG Launcher has an undermounted laser pointer the rocket follows around in the sky. Though the practical application of this against the gunships is obvious, using it in regular combat is both hilarious and satisfying in its own right as the rocket makes circles in the sky following a red dot. You rarely ever get ammo for this thing when there isn't a gunship to destroy, so stock up after these battles to maintain your supply.

  • 1 rocket tube (2 in reserve).
  • Accurate at any range with line-of-sight.
  • Ideal against air targets or enemies in open areas.

Gravity Gun

Gravity Gun
Gravity Gun

The Zero-Point Energy Field Manipulator as the diehard scientists call it. The Havok physics engine was put in the game primarily to improve the experience this weapon provides. A left-click will send any object smaller than a car flying away. A right-click will compel objects in the distance toward you until they are tractor beamed into the Gravity Gun's grasp, at which point the object can be set down for stacking with another right-click or sent flying with the left-click. Hitting people with chairs, as it turns out, is very fun and the Gravity Gun's ammo is only limited to the number of movable objects in the area around you, making it useful from the time you get it to the end.

  • No ammo.
  • Short range punting and long range grabbing.
  • Range of grabbed items up to long range depending on angle shot, medium if shot straight forward.



Another victim of the Havok physics engine. One would hope that the grenade would provide a surefire way to clear out a room full of baddies or at least shake them up before you storm in, guns blazing. Unfortunately, upon inspection, the Half-Life 2 grenade is a large cylinder. This means that the grenade's explosion may be nowhere near where you threw the thing in the first place; depending on how it lands, the grenade can roll a considerably long way (or it might not roll at all). Make sure that any grenade you throw explodes before moving into the area--you'll have no good idea where it will explode unless you can see it. The right-click flicks the grenade under-hand so it doesn't go very far, unless of course the grenade lands awkwardly at which point anything can happen.

  • Maximum of 5 in reserve.
  • Completely inaccurate at any range.
  • Ideal if you don't get hit.



After defeating your first Antlion Queen, a Vortigaunt "extracts" these orbs of something from her and gives you an endless supply of them. From this point on, Antlions become your friends as you can manipulate their actions by squeezing or throwing Pheropods. When you squeeze the Pheropod, all Antlions in the area converge on your location. When you throw it, the Antlions move to where it landed and attack any foes in the area or specifically one of them if the Pheropod hits someone. The Antlions themselves are good in melee combat but they are quite fragile. They should be used more as a distraction than as a solution to opposition.

  • Infinite ammo.
  • Can be thrown long distances depending on arc.
  • Ideal for diversionary tactics.


Very much like in Half-Life's first installment, there are no levels in the traditional sense of the word in this game, only new areas introduced by on-screen titles.

01. Point Insertion
01. Point Insertion
02. A Red Letter Day
02. A Red Letter Day
03. Route Kanal
03. Route Kanal
04. Water Hazard
04. Water Hazard
05. Black Mesa East
05. Black Mesa East
06. We Don't Go to Ravenholm
06. We Don't Go to Ravenholm
07. Highway 17
07. Highway 17
08. Sandtraps
08. Sandtraps
09. Nova Prospekt
09. Nova Prospekt
10. Entanglement
10. Entanglement
11. Anticitizen One
11. Anticitizen One
12. Follow Freeman
12. Follow Freeman
13. Our Benefactors
13. Our Benefactors
14. Dark Energy
14. Dark Energy


Mistake of PythagorasActionSci-Fi

Source Engine

For Half-Life 2, Valve developed a new game engine called the Source engine. The source engine includes a heavily modified version of the Havok physics engine that allows for more environmental interactivity during both single-player and online play.

Notable Technology

  • High dynamic range rendering
  • Lag compensating network communications
  • Network-enabled and bandwidth-efficient physics engine
  • Future-proof multiprocessor support
  • Facial animation system
  • Blended skeletal animation system
  • Full-screen motion blur
  • Dynamic lighting and shadowing

Source Code Leak

Half-life 2 was merely a rumor until being officially unveiled at E3 May 2003. The game then received huge amounts of hype and won many awards for best in show. Initially the game had a release date of September 2003, but it missed that date. Leading up to the original September release date, Valve fell into an unexpected media blackout, providing almost no information whatsoever on the progress of the game as it was supposed to be being completed. After the September date had come and gone with no information from Valve, Half-Life 2's complete source code was leaked online along with other private internal Valve documents showing that the game was not yet complete and ready for release. Valve finally broke their silence and admitted that the game would be delayed for a year. This massive leak of private information was due to a major breach of Valve's internal network through a null session connection to Tangis which was hosted in Valve's network and subsequent upload of an ASP shell.

In June 2004, Valve issued a press release stating that the FBI had arrested several people suspected of involvement in the source code leak. Valve claimed the game had been leaked by a German black-hat hacker named Axel Gembe. Gembe later contacted Valve CEO Gabe Newell thinking that Valve wanted to employ him as an in-house security auditor, to which Valve feigned interest to bait him for arrest. He was to be offered a flight to the USA and then immediately arrested on arrival, but the German government learned of the plan and arrested Gembe themselves.

In November of 2006, in Germany, Gembe was sentenced to two years probation because the judge felt Gembe had a difficult childhood and was working on his problems.

Continuing Support

In January of 2012, members of the Steam Community group "A Call for Communication (Half-Life)" organized a massive community playdate called in Half-Life 2 to show their continuing support for Valve and the Half-Life franchise. Scheduled for February 4th, "A Red Letter Day" (an homage to Half-Life 2's second level) was intended to bring the game into the top ten most-played Steam games of the day by garnering as many concurrent players as possible. In total, the event put 13,126 players online at the same time, more than ten times that average for the past year (graph here).


Soundtrack's CD Artwork
Soundtrack's CD Artwork

The original score for Half-Life 2 was composed by Kelly Bailey.

Track No.TitleRunning Time
Hazardous Environments


CP Violation


The Innsbruck Experiment


Brane Scan


Dark Energy


Requiem for Ravenholm


Pulse Phase


Ravenholm Reprise


Probably not a Problem


Calabi-Yau Model


Slow Light


Apprehension and Evasion


Hunter Down


Our Resurrected Teleport


Miscount Detected




Triage at Dawn


Combine Harvester


Lab Practicum


Nova Prospekt


Broken Symmetry


LG Orbifold




You're Not Supposed to Be Here


Supression Field


Hard Fought


Particle Ghost


Shadows Fore and Aft


Neutrino Trap


Zero Point Energy Field


Echoes of a Resonance Cascade


Black Mesa Inbound


Xen Relay


Tracking Device




Dirac Shore


Escape Array


Negative Pressure




Something Secret Steers Us


Triple Entanglement


Biozeminade Fragment


Lambda Core


System Requirements

PC Minimum System Requirements

  • Processor: 1.2 GHz
  • RAM Memory: 256 MB
  • GPU: DirectX 7 Capable Graphics Card (64mb or higher)
  • Operating System: Windows 98/2000/ME/XP
  • Misc: Mouse, Keyboard, Internet Connection

PC Recommended System Requirements

  • Processor: 2.4 GHz
  • RAM Memory: 512 MB
  • GPU: DirectX 9 Capable Graphics Card (256mb or Higher)
  • Operating System: Windows 98/2000/ME/XP
  • Misc: Mouse, Keyboard, Internet Connection

Mac Minimum System Requirements

  • RAM Memory: 1 GB
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce 8 or higher, or ATI X1600 or higher
  • Operating System: OS X version Leopard 10.5.8 or higher, Snow Leopard 10.6.3 or higher
  • Misc: Mouse, Keyboard, Internet Connection