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Half-Life: Blue Shift

Half-Life: Blue Shift (Games)

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Half-Life: Blue Shift is an expansion pack for Valve Software's science fiction first-person shooter video game Half-Life. The game was developed by Gearbox Software and published by Sierra Entertainment on Jun. 12, 2001 (18 years ago). Blue Shift is the second expansion for Half-Life, originally intended as part of a Sega Dreamcast version of the original game. Although the Dreamcast port was later cancelled, the PC version continued development and was released as a standalone product.

As with Gearbox's previous expansion pack Opposing Force, Blue Shift returns to the setting and events of the original game, but portrays the story through the eyes of a security guard, Barney Calhoun, employed by the Black Mesa Research Facility. After a scientific mishap causes Black Mesa to be invaded by aliens, Calhoun must fight his way to safety. The game received mixed although mostly positive reception. Many reviewers were critical of the short length of the game and the lack of new content, although the inclusion of a High Definition pack that upgraded the models and textures in both Blue Shift and the preceding Half-Life games was praised.

Gameplay

As an expansion pack for Half-Life, Blue Shift is a first-person shooter. The overall gameplay of Blue Shift does not significantly differ from that of Half-Life: players are required to navigate through the game's levels, fight hostile non-player characters and solve a variety of puzzles to advance. The game continues Half-Life's methods of an unbroken narrative. The player sees everything through the first person perspective of the protagonist and remains in control of the player character for almost all of the game. Story events are conveyed through the use of scripted sequences rather than cut scenes. Progress through the game's world is continuous; although the game is divided up into chapters, the only significant pauses are when the game needs to load the next part of an environment.

The player battles through the game alone, but is occasionally assisted by friendly non-player characters. Security guards and scientists will occasionally help the player in reaching new areas and convey relevant plot information. Blue Shift also includes a substantial section dedicated to keeping a major character in the story safe from enemy characters, and escorting him to a specific location. A selection of enemies from Half-Life populate the game, including alien creatures such as headcrabs and Vortigaunts. The player also encounters human opponents in the form of a detachment of US Marines who have been sent to eliminate the alien threat and silence any witnesses. As Blue Shift does not elaborate on the storyline in Opposing Force, no enemy characters from the preceding expansion pack appear in the game. Likewise, none of the new weapons introduced in the expansion can be used by the player, they are instead given access to a limited selection of Half-Life's weaponry to defend themselves with in the game.

Critical reception

Blue Shift received mixed but overall positive reception from critics. The game holds a 68% score and a 71% score on the review aggregator sites Game Rankings and Metacritic, respectively, and has sold around 800,000 copies at retail; this figure does not include later sales on Steam. In a review for IGN, critic Tal Blevins noted that Blue Shift's gameplay "is pretty much what we've come to expect out of Half-Life" by blending action and puzzle solving, stating that the latter "were all logical and well done, although some of the jumping puzzles were frustrating". Though IGN praised the game for maintaining the "epic" feel of the original, Blevins was critical of the relatively short length of the game. GameSpot reviewer Greg Kasavin agreed with many of IGN's criticisms, stating that "it's not that the game is easy so much that it's extremely short" and that Blue Shift "doesn't amount to much on its own terms". In addition, Kasavin described the graphical enhancements brought about by the High Definition pack as "helpful", but noted that "they still don't make Half-Life look like a new gameā€”nor are many of the changes themselves very noticeable".

Other reviews echoed complaints about the similarity of Blue Shift to previous games. GameSpy's reviewer Jamie Madigan stated that "what really pulls the game down is the 'more of the same' factor". Although writing that the game "feels like just a few more levels for the original game", he noted that this is what Blue Shift was designed to be, given its origins as an add-on for a Dreamcast version of Half-Life. Madigan described the single-player campaign as "decent" and commented that the High Definition pack made the game "worthy of consideration". Eurogamer echoed criticism on the game's length; reviewer Tom Bradwell commented that "although I'm hard pressed to criticize what you get, the complete absence of everything we've learnt from the likes of Counter-strike (9 pics) and everything since is frankly bizarre". Bradwell did, however, criticize the game's artificial intelligence and the occasional bug that caused a player to get stuck on a wall. PC Zone's Mark Hill was more lenient in his comments, praising the game's artificial intelligence as "intelligent as you could hope an AI enemy to be". In addition, Hill praised the game for showing more activity in the base, noting that "a whole world goes on around you, with people eating at a canteen and scientists doing their laundry. The complex is more alive than ever before". Hill also praised the focus "on a greater interaction with scientists as proper people rather than the two or three models that were cloned throughout the facility who kept repeating the same phrases", describing this as Blue Shift's "greatest achievement". PC Zone's review closed by commenting that "as a Dreamcast extra it works perfectly, but as a standalone PC title there's not nearly enough to it."


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