Half-Life: Blue Shift is a vapid and insipid expansion that you can totally do without.
As soon as fans of the Half-Life series found out that Gearbox Entertainment was in charge of another expansion, they must have wondered if the company was going to be able to replicate the success of their previous add-on. After all, Opposing Force was a creative take on the Half-Life franchise, featuring a new storyline set during the events of the original game. There was also new content, a solid gameplay, great visuals, terrific scripted scenes and a relentless pace. Unfortunately, Half-Life: Blue Shift is a vapid and insipid expansion that you can totally do without.
Although the original Half-Life put you in the shoes of theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman and expansion Opposing Force let you play as the soldier who was supposed to stop the doctor from leaving Black Mesa by any means necessary. In Blue Shift, you play as the last possible option: one of the secret guards (the only other option would have been playing as one of the doctors, but that would have been extremely boring.) But even if you play as a new character, the core action remains pretty much the same: you shoot enemies, guide scientists so that they can open closed doors or activate devices for you, jump over platforms and so on.
One of the scenes that immediately caught my attention was the introductory one, since it tries to emulate what happens during the initial moments of Half-Life (definitely one of the most memorable intros in video games.) So what’s the problem with that scene? Basically, it’s so similar to the scene from Half-Life that its sense of impact is immediately diminished. And from this intro you can infer what’s wrong with Blue Shift: this is a game that has absolutely nothing new to offer.
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg, since Blue Shift is marred by problems. There are still some annoying loading times that trigger whenever you enter a new section. There are also graphical glitches and while none of them are game-breaking, they make the game feel contrived and artificial. The experience of playing Half-Life has always been about inhabiting a breathing, living world where everything happens in a subtle and organic matter, but the technical problems and graphical inconsistencies take you out of the experience.
And the list of bugs is an extensive one: when the game loads, if you were shooting a gun, you’ll keep shooting even if you aren’t clicking the left mouse button. Not only this wastes ammunition, but also alerts nearby enemies of your presence. On one occasion, I killed an important NPC and he kept talking even after dying. After loading the last save, I couldn’t trigger the conversation, so I was forced to load an even earlier save. Finally, the game doesn’t perform well on new hardware, stuttering and slowing down randomly, which was also a problem with Opposing Force. Although there are ways of solving this, you need to visit random blogs and forums.
Apart from the story, there’s nothing that can classify as new content. The enemies, weapons, setting and characters (with the exception of the protagonist) have all been taken from previous entries in the series and that makes Blue Shift really disappointing. I felt that the game was planned as a quick cash-in to capitalize on the popularity of the series and nothing else and that’s a shame because that’s rarely the case with Valve games. Also, unlike previous games in the series (read: Half-Life and Opposing Force,) Blue Shift lacks any sort of multiplayer component, so forget about competing against random people, since the multiplayer aspect is nowhere to be found here even if it’s always been an essential part of Half-Life.
With Blue Shift, it seems as if the developer used a “by-the-numbers” approach. Everything that’s necessary in a Half-Life expansion is here, but unfortunately, Blue Shift lacks all the elements that made previous games outstanding shooters that stood above the competition. The story is simplistic, characters uninteresting, there aren’t any new weapons, environments, mechanics or anything else. This is a short and lackluster expansion that fails to impress and for a game that that has Half Life in its title, that’s unfortunate.