Half Life is just such an excellent game, there’s no doubt about that. Half Life redefined how we viewed the FPS, it had so much more depth than any FPS before it. After Half Life was released Gear Box unveiled they were working on Opposing Force, another installment in the Half Life series running in a parallel timeline but this time giving you the chance to play the military. Opposing Force was a worthy addition to the Half Life universe, expanding on the story and giving gamers an insight into the rest of the world.

It’s now 2001, games have moved on but that doesn’t make Half Life any less popular, especially considering the amazing popularity of CounterStrike. Enter Blue Shift, a budget priced add-on taking the gamer back in time once again to the Black Mesa complex to take on similar challenges but this time as Barney the security guard.The game kicks off in true Half Life style, Barney is making his way on the tram system to the security complex to start another shift. The trademark intro returns with the tram ride and the voice piping over the inter-com system to help pull you into he world. It’s at this very point it dawns on you that Blue Shift is going to be more of the same. That’s not a bad thing right? Well yes and no. Because this is probably your third time through after seeing similar sequences from Half Life and Opposing force the ‘wow!’ factor has disappeared completely.As with the previous games the story unfolds by receiving instructions from the NPC characters.

At the start of the game Calhoun (you) need to get lift fixed in Sector G. It’s never that easy is it? The tram system is s***ed and it’s up to you to find another way so after much wandering around corridors and darkly lit passages you eventually get there. Once there the Scientists instruct you to fix the lift which bizarrely enough involves Calhoun activating the control panel. You do think “why the hell couldn’t the scientist just press the switch instead of standing there like a bunch of llamas…jeez!”Here the game starts in earnest and the lift takes a bit of a plummet after some power failures due to the massive explosion in the lab we saw in the first game with Freeman. Cue Blackout sequence #45373, yep it’s that old trick again. Wake up and kick alien a*, move some boxes around, jump over crates etc etc, you’ve seen it all before. With everything all to familiar the aliens just won’t make you jump and you know exactly how to deal with them from the start. The weapons are also the same ones we all know and love, there was obviously nothing new lurking in the security section’s aesenal which was a shame.Not wanting to give too much of the plot away, there’s isn’t too much to give away really, you as Calhoun have to try and escape the Mesa facility in one piece.

To make things a little more interesting Gear Box have included find and retrieve missions which the scientists will give you as you make your way through the game. Unfortunately these don’t appear until the latter part of the story so there is a lot of corridor wandering for about two thirds of the game. There are also ‘protect the scientist missions’ which are self explanatory. This part of the game, which is a nice idea, is unfortunately a bit of a let-down. The scientists seem to keep well out of harms way regardless which makes this short segment all too easy. Later on in the game you will go back to the alien world of Xen which is again more of the same, jumping puzzles and shooting aliens. This is one section the game could have done without, it was a bit of a yawn-fest. You can probably tell the rest of the plot so we’ll leave it at that.All the familiar aliens return, nothing new in the alien department unfortunately. The military are still wreaking havoc as they make their way through the facility and they still pose the biggest challenge. It would have been nice to have them appear more, the aliens are just too easy to take out. Nothing beats playing cat and mouse with the soldiers in the outside areas.

This version that has shipped out in the UK doesn’t have Gear Box’s other Half Life add-on Opposing Force included, just the multiplayer Opposing Force version which is a shame. Also included is the high-definition art pack which does improve the game slightly and is worth installing from the start. Despite these, this is still the same old Half Life engine we are all so familiar with. The graphics are everything you would expect and no more. The sound in Half Life has always been good and this is no different in Blue Shift, the echos, water, everything sounds great heklping yo appreciate the darkest depths of Black Mesa.Blue Shift has has be treated as a budget add-on, I think some people will expect it to be a huge epic tale.

Blue Shift is nothing really new, just another slant on the same story that offers short gameplay time, around 4/5 hours. Do remember this sells for £14.99. Personally I would like to have seen this released on the net as a downloadable bonus pack or on cover CD’s, there just isn’t enough here to get me enthused.I think it’s about time to call it a day for Half Life add-ons, you really get the feeling they are devaluing the franchise, there is nowhere else they can really go and only so much you can milk it. Blue Shift does still have that Half Life charm but it’s all too much of the same an all too short. If you’re a Half-Life nut and have a spare £15 kicking around then give it a try but my advice is put that £15 towards something new.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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