So, I want to get started playing Half Life...

Do I start with Half Life Classic (that is, do I pick up my save game from the first or second level of the game?) and then play each of the spinoffs? (Blue Shift, Opposing Force, Decay) Or should I just jump in with Half Life 2?

Advice? Opinions?

My only exposure to HL is HL2.

That led to me peering over hubby’s shoulder going “Whassat?” “Whosat?” “Who’s that funky guy on the tv?” “Why is the crowbar funny?” a lot of the time.

A lot of the greater storyline is pretty much meaningless without having played the original game. It’s a great shooter and puzzle game, and pretty spooky with great effects and atmosphere, but I really think I missed a lot by not knowing some of the backstory.

If I had HL Classic, I would have played that. I still might, if I can be bothered getting my hands on it at any point. Maybe then HL2 will hold enough of my attention to get me to actually complete it at some point.

You should try the original. It’s certainly plenty dated in the graphics and world simulation arena, but it’s still a classic in every sense of the word. The HL:Source version you get from Steam or with most versions of HL2 is a perfect version to play. Half-life I think, still holds up today: it’s even as good as some of the average FPS games coming out. The atmosphere is great. And the marine AI is still great fun.

You don’t really need to play the spin-offs. Op4 is pretty good, but it’s plot line is either parallel to Half-life, or divergent to the point where those elements have not been revisted further in the HL universe. Blue Shift is mostly forgettable: it features a major HL2 character, but doesn’t tell you much more of important about him.

Oh, I’ve never played Decay. As I understand it, it was a PS2 only thing and very few people ever got to play it. It’s certainly not central to anything.

Well, if you’re (like me) someone who doesn’t mind getting the summary (with spoilers) of a story first to decide whether you’re interested enough to read it, then you could always just hit up the pertinent wikipedia articles and get their summaries for the original game and it’s 3 expansions’ (Blue Shift, Decay, and… the one whose title I never remember :o ) stories. That’ll cover all you need to know and then you can jump right into the new games.

Honestly, Half-Life 2 and it’s successors (Episode 1-?) work as a stand-alone story, but you can appreciate a lot more of the story and their attention to detail if you know the context from the old stories (I missed the old ones originally, and picked them up after playing HL2, so I’m speaking from personal experience).

Sierra, HL2 was mostly designed so that you’d feel disoriented no matter whether you played HL or not. Your character is being thrown into strange events and you only really get to infer together what’s going on from the environment: there are details floating around, but you are never really outright told explicitly. If you were confused as to what was going on and trying to piece together things as maybe all being explained in the past game, you were trying too hard to figure out something that was never clear in the first place. Just experience the game and the events and piece things together as you go.

Btw, Half-Life 2: Episode One is really good, and the upcoming Portal and Half Life 2, Episode 2 look freaking AWESOME.

I still think playing the original is worthwhile just as a classic in the genre.

Half life was the first FPS to really succeed in creating an atmosphere and a story told by in-game actions, animations, characters, and so forth. Up until then, few games had really attempted to be more than “you are in a box, here is a monster, move on to next box, here is another monster.” Half-Life was the only one to get it right. Deus Ex is probably the only other game from that era to succeed in the same way.

Another random question: Are all the first-generation Half Life games named after chemistry/physics stuff? Cause I know Half Life and Decay would be, and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Blue Shift mentioned in a science setting, but I don’t remember much of it, and my internet is screwing up in a weird way such that I can’t get to Wikipedia 90% of the time to check.

I’ve yet to play HL1 all the way through… I’ve been meaning to. I almost never finish single player FPS games. I was wondering, though, if I should go with the original or HL:S.

I know a lot of people consider the most remarkable part of HL1 to be the amazing AI - I wonder if HL:S has essentially the same AI, or if the AI is more like HL2, which as far as I know, may be inferior.

Also, Blue Shift, I’m guessing, is the opposite of red shift, which is indeed a scientific term. It would refer to the apparent change in wavelength of light generated from an object moving away quickly due to the doppler effect.

The original Half Life is worth buying for all the amazing mods developed for it: CS, TFC, DOD etc. etc.

You don’t have to buy the original half life - you get it (along with all the expansions except maybe one) with the half life 2 silver package.

cough-cough Marathon trilogy cough-cough

Come on! this series was awesome! Bungie’s fore-runner (like my little pun there? :rolleyes: ) to Halo, Marathon had classic Sci-Fi themes, a very well-told story, with an awesome main villain, and the great twist that… well… I wouldn’t want to spoil it.

The hero does “beat the baddies” and save the day, but in doing so he gives the main antagonist exactly what he wants

First of, to be mroe explicit regarding my previous post, the Marathon games came out waaayyyyy before Half-Life, in 1994, 1995, and 1996. They hit for Mac first, but PC versions came out fairly quickly, so these are the real groundbreakers for hit FPS’ with stories. Of course, Bungie has an even older game called Pathways into Darkness… but I digress.

Some quick thoughts on items in this thread:

The expansions are: Opposing Force, Blue Shift, and Decay. The names are all related to the circumstances of the side-stories they tell. And yes, they are all scientific names. They were developed by a separate Team from Valve called Gearbox Software, though Valve wrote the stories, and reportedly kept a close watch on the development.

HL2 starts with your character being sent into events after what is believed to be a 2-decade long period after the first game. A major series of events occured in between, that is only vaguely outlined so far. The continuing Episodes may shed light on this, and many suspect Valve has plans for it later on. Currently, the intervening period is the subject of most community-made mods. As it is, the first game’s stories only give you background on some of the major characters, and tell you how it all began, but the most important background details, including what-the-heck the G-Man is, and what his motives are, is still a mystery.

As far as I can tell, the HL2 AI is noteably superior. However, many fans feel that HL:S doesn’t live up to the potential of a HL2-based remake of the first game, so you might want to look into a community mod called Black Mesa, which builds HL1 from the ground up using the updated Source engine.

Except that these games (Counter-Strike, Team Fortress Classic, Day of Defeat, etc.) are centered around competitive on-line play (PVP), and since they’re all being re-made using the new Source engine, expect the communities to migrrate away from the 5-8 years old versions. If these are all you’re interested in, buy HL2 and wait. CS: Source and DoD: Source are both already available through Valve’s digital download service, and I believe are packed in with certain retail versions of the game.

I would say that the Marathon games did a great job of a really really cool story… but it was mostly told by text terminals, rather than in game animations and events, which were basically DOOM-like sprite worlds. That’s what HL brought to the table: no breaking out of the game world to try to cover exposition. It’s a fully 3d, albiet primitive, world.

The advantage of Steam based HL:S is that you can pick the chapters: no need to replay the parts of the game you already played. Sure, the graphics didn’t get an overhaul aside from the 3d backgrounds and water, but you take what you can get as Black Mesa isn’t out yet. The one thing I miss from original HL is a death animations: ragdolls just aren’t necessarily my cup of tea.

As for the addons:

HL2 has a great DM mode ever (the grav gun in DM is endless fun), and Counter Strike and DoD are, of course, legendary, and you might as well get their Source upgraded verisons since that’s where all the players are, and they are a beaut. Portal and TeamFortress 2, which will both come with HL2:Ep2, look to be really good as well.

Because no singleplayer mods were ever developed for HL.

The original DOD is as popular as ever. TFC and CS are still going strong.

I loved the original Half Life games. The graphics engine hasn’t aged well but the storyline and gameplay are still quite compelling. I’d say that yes, to make complete sense of HL2 you’d have to have played at least two of the original HL games: Half Life, and Blue Shift. Half Life is, of course, Half Life; the story of Gordon Freeman’s survival of a cascade failure in the Black Mesa complex causing a rift to open up to the alternate dimension known as Xen. and his journey to find help and/or escape the whole mess. Blue Shift occurs during the same event, but is told from the point of view of Barney, a security guard at the Black Mesa complex, and his own adventure through the disaster. Strictly speaking, Opposing Force is not a necessary play, though it’s still fun. It’s told from the other side of the fence: The special government military task force who is sent in to “clean up” the Black Mesa incident – which includes killing any survivors thereof. Your character, one of the members of said military task force, doesn’t actually participate in killing Black Mesa staff, but rather your own discovery of the horrible events that have transpired and your attempts to escape them or eliminate the threats they introduced.

HL2 is a landmark sequel that I daresay is at least as good as or better than the original. It reintroduces you to your own character, as well as that of Barney the security guard and Dr. Kleiner, whom you helped in the first game. It takes place 10 years after the events of Black Mesa when the Combine have taken over. Curiously, one species of the aliens that were trying to kill you from the first series – the Vortigaunts – have become your allies in the second. This one has you attempting to take back the planet from the hostile Combine and the misguided Dr.
Breen, whose self-preserving pact with the Combine led to Earth’s downfall.

HL2: Episoide One is a new episodic stand-alone “expansion” to HL2 which is being released in 3 parts, the first having been released already and the second to come out in Q1 '07. With HL2 having ended on such a cliff-hanger note, this was the natural progression of events which pick up where HL2 left off. Episode 1 is pretty short though, but it’s also inexpensive (about 1/3rd the cost of a whole game) so it’s not so bad. I suspect Episodes 2 and 3 will be rather longer, episode 1 being more on the order of a taste of things to come.

Nitpick (or maybe just clarification): Redshift is caused by an object moving away, blue shift would be from an object moving towards.