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The Top Shelf:
Half-Life: Opposing Force

Vol. 2, Issue 3
November 24, 1999 

What follows next, is a great adventure sprawling across many new areas of Black Mesa; along with many locations from the original game. But fear not, Gearbox didn’t just simply re-use old Half-Life maps here... they took areas that you only got glimpses of; or went through only a part of – and they expanded them into whole new, unique levels. Along the way, you’ll encounter many scripted sequences, traps, and puzzles that all remain faithful to the feel of the original game. As a side-note, you will end up in Xen on a few occasions; but I believe that (thankfully) you can count that number on one hand (provided you still have most of your fingers intact after playing Half-Life). Its just enough to remind you that Xen is a part of this whole mess; and you’re seeing stuff that not many men have ever seen – but not enough to drag on or get as frustrating as Xen could sometimes be in the original game. Regarding Xen, I would like to take a sentence or two to explain my pet peeve of this expansion: the ending (and no, you’re not in Xen for it this time). While being entertaining, the ending just isn’t as compelling as Half-Life’s. No new mysteries are really revealed; and instead of running off for further unknown adventures like Freeman got to, Shepard finds himself with a somewhat different fate. It's not a bad ending; but with the rest of the game so faithfully stacking up against the original game, this one small spot where it doesn’t quite measure up is left sticking out like a sore thumb.

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Uh oh - that don't look good (17k)

One other difference from the original game (albeit a positive one) is that scientists and other characters will all react to you as Shepard, not Gordon; so be aware that people’s attitudes towards you may be a little different than in Half-Life. There is, however, one group that doesn’t change the way it acts: the assassins, or “Black Ops” people. They’re back in a big way, cleaning up the base – and on a mysterious mission of their own. While not quite as hard as the original assassins (they won’t cloak as much, if at all), they will team up (like the normal soldiers in the original game; but silently); and will be one of the most deadly enemies you’ll encounter. In fact, it's worth pointing out that most of the monsters from the original game have been made a little bit less tough. They still hurt; but they all seem to be able to take less damage. In my opinion, this is great. It lets the player be a little more gung-ho (as a soldier would be, compared to Gordon Freeman); and also lets us focus more on the new monsters and challenges, instead of continuously slowing us down and re-hashing those “same old” fire-fights.

Speaking of firefights, let me cover a few of the new features and weapons in Opposing Force. First off, the weapons: You’ll pick up about 9 new weapons in the course of the game; some more useful than others (for a whopping total of about 20 weapons!!). All will have their uses, however; and the modeling and balance for these weapons are superbly done! I won’t go into details too much, but here’s a quick list of the new weapons:

  • Pipe-wrench (with a powerful “over-head” strike in secondary mode – perfect for boxes and smashing small enemies)
  • Combat knife (for those of us who love to hack away at enemies)
  • Desert Eagle .357 pistol (a much more useful pistol than the revolver)
  • Sniper rifle (reach out and touch someone – zoomed or not!)
  • S.A.W. (Squad Assault Weapon – a machine gun, inaccurate but powerful)
  • “Fish gun” (a bio-weapon that looks like some kind of aquatic being – which eats and then spits out bulbous plant-nodules you’ll find here and there)
  • “Roach gun” (at least, that’s what we call it in the office. It looks like a large insect, and can rapid-fire electricity/plasma in a straight line; but recharges itself like the hornet gun in Half-Life)
  • “Barnacle gun” (it’s a hand-mounted barnacle that you can use as a grappling hook in some situations; or grab enemies with and munch them to death - though as a weapon, its not too useful)
  • BFG (I have no idea what to call this – maybe “teleporter gun”? It fires a small teleport charge that will warp out or kill any creature it touches; and when it hits a hard surface, it sends out a shockwave that hurts everything inside a certain radius.)


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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.