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Vol. 2, Issue 3
November 24, 1999

The Top Shelf:

Half-Life: Opposing Force

by Noel "HB" Wade




ake one highly successful game. Extract its core technology, backdrop, and feel. Add in a decent amount of new talent. Liberally sprinkle in some of their new views and insights. Shape into a fairly decent story. Mix thoroughly together and let simmer for a year. With this recipe, is it any surprise that the result is a real taste treat? Actually, while its no surprise that it’s good – it is a mild one at just how nice Half-Life: Opposing Force turned out!

As you probably already know, you play the role of Corporal Shepard – a fairly new face among the ranks of the armed services. You were one of the guys sent in during Half-Life to find and stop Freeman – and make sure that no one got out alive. Of course, you’re not REALLY a bad guy in all of this – and, thankfully, you don’t seem given over to the task of playing a marauding soldier who goes around killing scientists at random (as the military seemed to do in Half-Life). As with all things, disaster will strike, and you find yourself in more of a desperate situation – where your goal is to get out alive; and escape the horrors of Black Mesa (sound familiar?).

click to enlarge!

You're on the opposite side this time around (30k)

Before I begin talking about the game, let me point out a small detail that many people might overlook. The “Hazard Course” in the main menu has been replaced with “Boot Camp”. I highly recommend playing that, because while some things will be just like the hazard course, there are many new game-play elements (and hearing the drill instructors throughout the course is hilarious. “Full Metal Jacket” fans will smile at the references and tributes paid to that movie in this area). After you’re done being a “maggot” (trainee) in what has got to be the shortest boot camp a soldier has ever gone through (though for the purposes of the game, its perfect), you’ll be ready to hop into the single player game.

Oh, you want to know about the what? The multiplayer aspect? Well, if that’s all you’re interested in – then skip to the bottom of the article. Are you sure you’re playing the right game if you’re asking me that? Let me tell you something right now – to skip the single-player part of this game is as much a travesty (and an affront to all of the hard work that the Gearbox team put in) as it is to skip the single-player portion of Half-Life itself! This isn’t just a fancy, commercial mod – this game truly is an extension, and a new chapter/story in the Half-Life universe.

Okay, the single-player game then... The story starts out with a nice intro. sequence that fully immerses you in that “Half-Life mood”. I’m not going to describe even one bit of it in detail; because I don’t want to spoil ANYthing – but I will say that right from the start, you will see (if you look in the right directions at the right time) that the Gearbox folks put in as many touches and locations from Half-Life as necessary to make you believe that you really are “back” at the Black Mesa labs. Of course, in these type of games nothing ever gets good until disaster strikes – and that’s precisely what happens. You’ll be treated to a few more scenes, and then you’ll black out. The whole sequence is much shorter than Half-Life’s – which, while revolutionary for its time, does tend to get old after playing the game through several times. AND, being an expansion pack, its nice to see that they didn’t waste any time – just set up the story, mood, and backgrounds; and then dump us players into the action.

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Say howdy to Otis - who's a little hungry. (35k)

You’ll come to in a makeshift medical area; with refugee scientists trying to administer first-aid (the sequence that happens as you fade into consciousness is hilarious, and well done) – as well as check out the “crab-creatures”. Scientists and their undying curiosity... sheesh! Anyways, just as Gordon had to get his HEV suit, you’ll need to grab a similar device for Shepard – before you can claw your way out of the Mesa. The device is a little less believable than Half-Life’s HEV suit; but it works, and doesn’t distract you from the game-play by wondering about armor/shields. Almost immediately, you’ll be introduced to one of the “Otis” characters. He’s the new security guard type of character that you’ll run into. Even more humorous than the original Barneys, “Otis”es will also come in handy – as their Desert Eagle .357 pistol is accurate and deadly (and ammo for your own Eagle pistol is a little on the rare side, especially in the beginning of the game). Just don’t stand in front of him while he’s shooting, okay? He’s a little trigger-happy when monsters are around.

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Credits: Illustration © 1999 Dan Zalkus. This review is © 1999 Noel Wade. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, goldarn it.