With Opposing Force, Gearbox managed to create an expansion that feels true to the series’ spirit while adding a lot of their own DNA to the game.
How do you create a follow-up to one of the greatest video games of all time? That’s what the people at Gearbox Entertainment must have thought when they got the rights to co-develop a Half-Life expansion. The original Half-Life had it all: a great single-player campaign, a gifted enemy AI, pretty visuals and a terrific multiplayer experience. Luckily, Gearbox managed to create an expansion that feels true to the series’ spirit while adding a lot of their own DNA to the game.
In Half-Life: Opposing Force, you play as U.S. Marine Adrian Shepherd whose task involves neutralizing the Black Mesa research facility. As you’re traveling to the secret military base, the helicopter you are in is suddenly attacked by an alien ship and from here on, you need to travel on your own. From time to time, you’ll meet members of your task force and interestingly, this is used as a gameplay mechanic. You’ll run into different types of soldiers and each of them will help you on your quest: engineers will open sealed doors, medics will heal you and captains will lead the temporary squad. Additionally, you’ll find military radios lying around and these devices are useful to gain valuable information or to call reinforcements. Also, apart from the weapons you used in the original Half-Life (with the exception of the wrench, but that’s understandable) there’s a new pistol, a knife and a sniper rifle.
Experiencing the same story from a different perspective is an amazing idea, since you’re exposed to familiar events you’ll definitely remember from the previous game in the series (for instance, when the G-man appears for the first time,) but also some new story bits. Opposing Force expands Half-Life’s universe in creative new ways, but I’ll refrain from sharing specific details related to the story to avoid spoilers. The only thing you need to know is that there are new enemies, weapons and settings to defeat, use and explore respectively.
Unfortunately, the game doesn’t run well on newer computers for whatever reason. On modern hardware, Half-Life: Opposing Force suffers from multiple technical issues, such as a low framerate, random slowdowns and so on. Naturally, this definitely hinders the experience and since solving this issue isn’t a matter of adding more RAM or buying a better graphics card, you’ll find yourself visiting forums or random blogs to find a solution.
The worst part about those technical problems is that they constantly interrupt the otherwise fantastic pace that the series is well-known for. But that’s not all, the platforming elements which were a characteristic of shooters from the 90s is a prominent part of the game and it hasn’t aged that well. Also, the game’s short when you compare it to the original Half-Life. To a certain extent, this is understandable because Opposing Force is an expansion and not a full game, but the five-hour single-player campaign still feels way too short.
The last part that I wanted to bring up is the multiplayer. The multiplayer portion of the game’s amazing, but unfortunately, there aren’t as many servers as in the original Half-Life (and the servers available aren’t that populated,) so that’s definitely something to take into account, especially if you don’t have a couple of friends to play with. Here you have access to new weapons and there are also a bunch of new maps, which definitely revitalize this aspect of the game. In terms of modes, there are the usual deathmatch and team deathmatch modes, but there’s a new capture the flag mode that features power-ups.
In the end, all the components that made Half-Life such a terrific first-person shooter experience are all here (amazing story, great AI, solid gameplay, scripted scenes, cinematic resonance, multiplayer modes and so on,) but unfortunately, this expansion is hindered by technical issues. Like the original Half-Life revolutionized the FPS genre, Opposing Force has set a new bar when it comes to expansion packs and that’s an achievement in itself.