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Half-Life: Blue Shift
Welcome to Black Mesa...Again.
By - Jamie "Thrrrpptt!" Madigan

Like in the other Half-Life games, there are plenty of scientists in need of rescue.
Half-Life is arguably the most successful action game in the history of the genre. The original has, in one edition or another, clung to the sales charts and retail shelf space consistently since its release in 1998. Modifications for the title like Counter-Strike, Team Fortress Classic, and others have also dominated the Internet gaming scene like nobody else.

Spurred by this success, Valve has released a number of Half-Life products, such as multiple versions of the original game (think Game of the Year Edition, Platinum Edition, etc.), a retail version of Counter-Strike, the standalone game Gunman Chronicles, and Gearbox Software's Opposing Force expansion pack.

Valve had also planned on releasing a version of Half-Life for the Sega Dreamcast, including a bonus episode entitled Blue Shift that was developed by Gearbox. While the status of the Dreamcast port is in limbo (some say "cancelled"), the Blue Shift episode has found its way to the PC game section of your local retailer as a stand-alone expansion pack.

Blue Shift's "hook" is that it places you in the role of Barney Calhoun, a security guard at the Black Mesa Research Facility. In fact, astute fans of the original Half-Life will recognize Calhoun as the security guard that Gordon Freeman's tram rides past at the beginning of the game. Calhoun turns out to be the guard banging on the metal door of the security office so he can start his ill-fated shift. You also see Freeman several times later in the game, as well as Adrian Shepard's squad mates from Opposing Force.

Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!
Besides this intertwining of the three official chunks of the Half-Life universe, the game plays pretty much like the original or its other expansion. That is to say, Blue Shift is a first-person shooter in which you run around, gunning down zombies, aliens, Marines, and Black Ops. You pick up health, armor, ammo, and additional weapons until you're a one man armory, dealing death to whoever gets in your way until you come to the next button mashing or jumping puzzle.

Less of the Same

This is not to say, however, that Blue Shift is a typical expansion pack. There are certain things that gamers expect from an expansion for first-person shooters. Because I like bulleted lists, here's a quick rundown:
  • New single-player levels
  • New multiplayer levels
  • New weapons
  • New enemies
  • New multiplayer game modes

Other security guards aren't as lucky as you (plus they don't have the quickload button).
Half-Life: Blue Shift only contains the first item on this list, and those levels only makes up a short game that will take most players around five hours to complete. What there is of the single-player game is decent -- the game has a coherent plotline and set of goals that make sense and there's plenty of the signature Half-Life scripted events. The puzzles, while sometimes degenerating to annoying jumping ordeals or obstacle courses, are generally well done with a few true gems in the mix.

Next: Gameplay...

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