Format: PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Imagine modern gaming without Half-Life. You can’t, can you? Valve’s debut practically re-invented first-person shooters, subtly revived the old concept of the “interactive movie” by making a game that actually felt like you were playing through an action movie, and basically raised the standards of the medium in general. And it was bloody brilliant, too.
Like BioShock, it’s a series of “that bit”s, because the story/gameplay structure meld that Valve perfected has been dutifully followed by pretty much every big-budget action game since. So whether it’s the quiet opening, the retracing your steps through the wrecked labs that you just saw in their non-wrecked state, the arrival of the marines, the bit where you get captured and chucked in a trash compactor, inching past the blind but deadly Tentacles...there’s a “that bit” for everyone.
MAGIC MOMENT: the “Power Up” level, where you have to dodge past a giant roaring beast known as a Gargantua. The aim is to restore power to a giant pair of Tesla coils and then lure the Gargantua between them to kill it. You spend a good couple of hours repeatedly sneaking past the Gargantua before you eventually return to the large area it’s waiting in and have to get its attention, at which point it charges at you. Roaring. Hurling plasma. It’s so big it makes the screen shake when it runs. Confession time: I’ve played through Half-Life four or five times and every time I mute the speakers for this bit because it scares me that much.