If Half-Life 2's nerdy protagonist Gordon Freeman is going to save the world, he's gonna need more than the crowbar he began the last game wielding. Thankfully, weapon upgrades in this first-person shooter come lightning quick. Gordon barely gets to take in any the sights and sounds of City 17 (a quarantined, run-down district ruled by gas-masked soldiers apparently called the "Combine") before he starts blasting, bashing, and exploding the living hell out of everything in sight. It's not his fault; he just attracts those unruly types who can only be reined in with blissful doses of gory, cutting edge gameplay. It must be those geeky glasses of his.
Regardless of whether you play on PC or console, what remains both intact and amazing on Xbox is a highly believable alien invasion story, great pacing, and a whole gamut of other gameplay activities. This includes the ability pick up just about any object in the game and heave it directly toward the nearest enemy's cranium.
Wait, varied gameplay in a first-person shooter? Yes. Half-Life 2 is not just about blasting look-alike zombies into oblivion. It's not a puzzle game or anything, but there's a realistic physics system that really changes things.
Instead of just blowing a hole in the chest of the nearest enemy, you can knock him off the rooftop and into the rotor blades of a helicopter below you. Not on a roof? Well then, you could roll a trio of explosive barrels near him, jump into your swamp buggy and skim away to a safe distance, then send the whole place to Hell and back with a single, well-placed shot. There's also a sort of gravity gun that enables you to hoist practically anything. Early footage of the game showed the player using this weapon to grab a metal radiator, carry it like a shield, deflecting bullets, then launch it like a missile right into the breadbasket of the enemy. Not only can you do that, but there's also much, much more.
Like the original Half-Life, this sequel has cinematic presentation and a better-than-Hollywood plot written by a legit science fiction author. There are memorable, well-written characters, such as the beautiful scientist Alyx and your friend, Dog. We can't spoil it, but watch for him. Plus, there's a presence in this game; it inspires an ominous unease. Half-Life 2 has an artistic but militaristic feel, and there are some genuinely scary moments, especially if you have any sort of headcrab phobia.