Half-Life 2, it is finally here and game magazines, both on- and offline, are awarding it top honors for game play and artwork. Well deserved I'd have to say, I took two days out of my busy schedule to finish the game and loved every minute of it. The gameplay is very much like the original Half-Life but that isn’t a bad thing. Valve however did use a different approach to how you’re able to solve the puzzles, often there’s more than one way to solve them. For example you could be stacking crates on top of one another to climb to the air vent you need to go through, or you could be jumping from ridge to ridge to reach it. All in all the gameplay is very gratifying and although not all levels have the same quality artwork or are equally challenging the overall gameplay is well balanced.
The artwork, but especially the physics engine, is something that you'll marvel at, and that's clearly where most of the work has gone into. To do it justice you'll need a recent graphic card, sporting DirectX 9.0 compatibility, but to be honest the game doesn't loose much of its splendor if you have an older graphic card. This is not surprising as ever since Valve started using Steam for distributing their games they've also asked Steam subscribers to participate in a survey that would give a good impression of what kind of PC they’re running. These survey results served as the basis for the level of performance offered by the PCs that the game would run on. So it is not surprising to see that a wide variety of PCs, even when considered old by today's standards, are still able to offer satisfactionary gameplay.
The results of this survey are publicly available and the data gathered is somewhat surprising, even to us. Clearly the average system is a far cry from what enthusiasts use, but that’s not surprising; the average user is not an enthusiast but an average Joe, who will not be running the latest hardware. If we look at the results more closely a baseline system is comprised of a 2..2.6GHz processor, 512 or 1GB of memory and GeForce4 or Radeon 9X00 level of graphics. Realistically that's a top-of-the-line system from about two years ago. It won't surprise you that Half-Life 2 is perfectly playable with such a system, which is a credit to Valve's programming. Hopefully tomorrow we'll be looking at exactly such a system to determine what kind of performance you'll get out of it exactly and what makes for a good upgrade if you want to up the performance a little. Rest assured that you will not need to buy that $500 videocard to make your gameplay more enjoyable. In essence Half-Life 2 is not the sales pitch ATI and NVIDIA were hoping for, more about that in our follow-up article.