No matter which way you look at it, the Xbox has really been making PC gaming near-obsolete. With games like Doom 3, Quake 4 and F.E.A.R. being effectively ported to consoles with minimal differences in the graphics department, accompanied by the enhanced online play thanks to Xbox Live, PC ports are becoming better than the original. The only real exception to this trend is the Xbox version of Half-Life 2. For those who don’t know, right before the Xbox 360 launch last year, a ported version of Half-Life 2 came to the original Xbox. The game had been long in development, almost as long as the PC version. Despite that, fans cried out that it was insane to put such a high-performance game on any technology that wasn’t the best available. And when the game came out…it turned out that they were right; the game was graphically unimpressive, multiplayer was cut and the game as a whole was just disappointing, and to add insult to injury, the game was unable to get the "Episode" expansions that ended up becoming so popular in the series. Well, now the record is going to be set straight with Half Life 2 for the Xbox 360 and PS3. Unlike the Xbox version, the PS3 and 360 versions are going to be pretty much entirely unchanged from the original PC version, and will feature pretty much every single bit of additional content since the game’s release as well as some console-exclusive content. This is definitely a safe pick for one of the best games of 2007.
It isn’t worth going over the details of Half-Life 2, as pretty much everyone already knows everything about the world exploding in between games, Gordon Freeman, and the Gravity Gun, so that’s getting skipped in this preview. For this, it’s best to start with the bottom line: everything in the Half-Life 2 series is being included in this title. Everything. The full uncut version of Half-Life 2 is still the centerpiece of the game, and will come with all the apocalyptic fun found in the original. In addition, Episode 1 and 2, the semi-sequels to the main HL2 game, will also be featured in this package, as will the all new Team Fortress 2. Team Fortress 2 is a stylish, arcade-like, team-based, squad-based FPS that is likely to make Half-Life 2 one of the best games available to play over each console’s online setup. There is also Portal, a new short expansion to the Half-Life universe which features a new special gun. This gun opens up a teleportation rift (or something) that allows transportation through walls. This will certainly add a new element to Half Life 2, especially if it’s available in multiplayer. The trailer for the console version showed off seemingly new enemies and locales. It hasn’t been entirely confirmed if there is going to be any console-exclusive content, but since new content was added to the PS2 version of Half-Life, and even the Dreamcast version was going to have added content before getting canned, exclusive content for the 360 and PS3 versions of Half-Life 2 wouldn’t be that inconceivable.
The graphics are what you’d expect from Half-Life 2. They’re excellent in every possible way. The characters are realistic and perfectly crafted and the environments are detailed and expansive. Everything is presented in high-definition thanks to the next-gen HD capability. Because of things like HD presentation and motion blur, for all intents and purposes, the graphics in this version are better than the original. The sound is still great, as well, with good voice acting and eerie sound effects that nicely contribute to the tone of the game.
It seems that yet another big-name PC title is going to have a cheaper alternative that packs more punch than it ever did before. Expect HL2 to hit stores early next year, and don’t forget it later on, when it comes time to pick the best games of 2007.