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.
On Xbox, Half-Life 2 has little choice but to be a step down graphically from the PC version, which was admittedly one of the best-looking games of 2004. Also, although we may be flogging a dead headcrab, aiming is definitely tougher when using an Xbox controller instead of the PC-standard keyboard and mouse combo. What remains both intact and amazing on Xboxis 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.