If video games have an Empire Strikes Back – the exemplar of a sequel where everything got better – it’s Valve’s Half-Life 2.
Even with theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman as the unlikeliest hero ever, the stellar character development and story-telling outstripped every game in the FPS genre. Part of its narrative triumph comes from Freeman cleaning up his own mess: the extraterrestrial Combine who have taken over the Earth got here because of him.
Hauntingly, Freeman never speaks in the Half-Life games, making all the subjugation and paranoia seen and heard in the gameworld weigh even heavier on the player. When wielding the game’s iconic gravity gun or partnering up with spunky crush object Alyx Vance, you want to make things right as in no other game before.
Doom and Quake may have midwifed the sci-fi first-person shooter but Half-Life 2 made it mature by adding emotions to the adrenaline.
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