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Half Life: Opposing Force

Gearbox and Sierra are on the verge of releasing the first official add-on to the shooter that wrecked everyoneis efforts to rule 1998
When Half-Life was released, it perfectly exploited the gaps left by Unreal and Quake. It provided an utterly compelling single-player first-person bullet spree that shocked the world by coming with a respectable plot. Multi-play was fuelled by the worldis passion for the game, and a rabid online community was conceived in the murky world of Half-Life deathmatch.

Gearbox Studios was given the double-edged task of constructing the first official add-on. The positive aspect was kudos, the negative facet taking the form of responsibility for upholding such a vaunted reputation. The reasons for Valve outsourcing the project remain a mystery, but itis fair to assume it wanted to push all its considerable energy into the still unannounced Half-Life 2. Gearbox went at the project with gusto. Opposing Force was the result.

The extension sets you as one of the soldiers from the original game, Corporal Adrian Shephard. Youire sent into combat with the rest of the troops, blind, completely unaware of your orders and under the vague impression this may be just another training exercise. The opening movie n not as long but certainly as gripping as Half-Lifeis - leaves you under no illusion that things are about to get more than a little rough.

Half-Lifeis single-play was a driving force behind the gameis success, and Gearbox has obviously gone to great pains to provide a similar experience to the original. As soon as you get it up and running, stalking around in the subterranean caverns of the Black Mesa Facility, the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. It brings it all back. The whole feel of the Half-Life engine is so unique, so clinical that the instant reminiscence sets your heart fluttering and quickens your breath. Adrenaline is a wonderful thing.

There are subtle differences to the original. Your target is green as opposed to orange. The scientists treat you with distrust. You quickly get into the whole idea of hunting Freeman, and have it washed away with similar speed by Gearboxis plot twists. New weapons almost immediately present themselves. Thereis a .45 calibre pistol with a laser site, a monkey wrench instead of a crowbar and a second, faster melee weapon in the form of a Bowie knife. New aliens present themselves, with scientists wailing, iIive never seen that species before!i while disappearing in a flurry of blood and bone. You become Shephard, in the same way you became Freeman. Half-Life is back with a vengeance.

But itis in multi-play that Opposing Force really shines. Thereis a heap of suped-up weaponry for your deathmatch enjoyment, including heavy machine guns, spore launchers, the equivalent of a BFG with a teleport as a secondary weapon, all the favourites from the original and the added bonus of the sniper rifle from Team Fortress Classic. Nine new instruments of death are included. If you get bored of shooting people (an unlikely occurrence) you can wait for them to walk into a spore field, tickle some of the native flora with a bullet and watch your opponent get torn to shreds by flying fungus. Then you can laugh yourself silly.

Then there are the new maps and skins. Eric Reuter (Shadow Warrior, Unreal), Tom Mustaine (Final Doom, Quake: Scourge of Armagon, SiN), David Kelvin (Shogo, Blood, Wheel of Time) and Richard Carlson (Anachronox, Daikatana, Thief 2) have all contributed to the pack. Now you can fight on a Xen level replete with myriad bouncing platforms, and all the ghostly alien ambience that chilled you at the end of Half-Life. Some of the new levels are truly joyful. Complete strategy or total blast-fest, itis up to you. In our opinion this is promising to be the most finely crafted deathmatch tool to date. An awesome achievement.



Fans of the original will not be disappointed. The single-player, while maybe lacking a little of the pace of Half-Life, is definitely a must-play. However, for the multi-player, you should be on your knees. You are not worthy. Thank God, thank Gearbox, and thank Valve for the original vision that made Opposing Force possible. Pray for November 26 to arrive quickly.


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