When Half Life 2 is at its best, it fires on all cylinders just as strongly as it did when it first released. When it's not all coming together as it should, it left me wondering why this game left such an impact over the years.
It's a quality shooter with a dynamic feel to it that still isn't quite matched by modern games. The artistry to the world and how its conveyed is a fascinating demonstration in molding the look and feel of a tangible real world with an interactive medium. There's also so many explosive moments that left me very excited, like Ravenholm, Nova Prospect and the City 17 battle.
With all that said, the game is really showing it's age in spots. For one the story feels practically non-existent. The characters are all lively, expressive and inviting, but there's little driving force or momentum in the first half of the game to really give you context for what's taking place. Once the game gets serious in its second half, I definitely was feeling more excited to see what was ahead, but it still often felt like interestingly draw characters and a facinating world in search of a plot and purpose to drive them.
I also felt that sometimes the gun play was a little old hat. There's troupes here that are straight up from a different era. Like how you can carry every weapon you collect, but in the time since this game released carrying around two is considered much more realistic, immersive and strategic where's HL2's weapons handling feels like it's at odds with the immersion it's trying to convey. The game also starts out really strong in the beginning and then became kinda poorly paced for a few hours as it left you to wander between vaguely written stages so that you could have fire fights in areas that clearly seemed designed to show off its physics. Which at the time was groundbreaking no doubt, but now it feels almost archaic. There's also the buggy level, which straight up felt like filler. It also highlighted the environmental puzzles that were extremely easy.
This all probably sounds like I didn't like it that much, but that's not the case. Half-Life 2 was a special game that highlights a particular time and place in my childhood. Playing it today still resonates those memories very well and I still played for long sessions where never once was I ever bored. Especially in the second half where it became an almost white knuckle adventure that I couldn't stop playing. It's an easy recommendation for shooter fans of old or anyone that wants to see a piece of memorable gaming history and a sentimental franchise at the hight of its popularity.
It's just showing it's age in a lot of ways and left me a little perplexed over what about it left quite the impact I thought it did back then.