Half-Life: Blue Shift review
The Making of Barney Calhoun

The good:

  • Another point of view for Half-Life: the guard
  • Some references to HL and HLOF
  • High Definition Pack included
  • Soundtrack
  • Graphics

    The bad:

  • Bugged released version (flashlight)
  • Too short
  • Nothing really new
  • Useless HEV devices


    Another entry in the Black Mesa Era

    Half-Life was one of the first FPS to propose a complex story, with graphics still angular but with the best 3D for 1998. You were Gordon Freeman, a scientist turned hero for the Black Mesa staff, in a place where an alien invasion was happening, where Marines and Black Ops were the "cleaners". G-Man, mysterious man with a case, was monitoring you.

    The game was a real success and an add-on was released in 1999. Opposing Force was shorter than HL (normal for an add-on) but with the return of the G-Man, with new weapons, new enemies. One big difference: you weren't Gordon. No, you were Adrian Shepard, corporal in the HECU, belonging to the famous Marines who were adversaries in HL. You were a Marine now but fortunately, you changed your mind: no more scientists or guards killings, as you can suppose that they'll be an useful help.

    HL, HLOF and Blueshift are the three main games of what we can call, now that that Half-Life 2 and Co. are released, the Black Mesa Era. So what is about Blueshift?

    Putting you in the shoes of a guard

    The Black Mesa Era is special because of the multiple points of view you can play. Gordon was the scientist side, Adrian the military one, so, it was missing the guard one.

    Many can argue that we could have played a Black Ops, a Xenian (the mod Point of View is taking the matter in its hand), the woman that was pushing the crystal (the exclusive mission on PS2, Decay, is taking the matter in its hand, as the mod Decay, a port for PC of this mission) or anything else (a janitor - well, a mod is existing, an external person - the mod Half-Life Visitors is... oh well, you know what I mean). But Gearbox choose what was called Barney, the guards of Black Mesa, taking that name for making an hero. It could have been Otis, it would have been really funny to be healed by donuts.

    So, you're returning into Black Mesa Hell. You're Barney Calhoun, a guard, beginning your adventure before the incident triggered by Gordon. Then, eventually, you will have to fight your way in a chaotic facily, trying to escape, finding a certain Rosenberg and... well, it's not a spoiler, Barney did escape Black Mesa, like Gordon and Adrian, apart from the fact that he was still free.

    I need to say something: it's a stand-alone, where a lot of gamers tended to call it an add-on.

    They did WHAT?

    Story is basic, hell, it's just another day in Black Mesa, so don't expect something different. See the community mod for it. But Gearbox did a crime, an offense in the Half-Life Mythology.

    G-Man is appearing once. What? Half-Life 2 Episode One did the same? Hey, the story was about saving Gordon from him. But G-Man did come back in the next chapter, still following Gordon.

    G-Man was interested in Gordon and Adrian. But not in Barney Calhoun, who is in the Combine Era one of the most famous Resistance leader. G-Man was involved with Eli and Alyx Vance's story. Why not with Barney, who is one of the few that were really struggling. Where is my fun to spot G-Man?


    Gameplay hadn't change a bit and I don't complain about that: it's Half-Life, I mean, you have to climb ladders, find a way to kill enemies when your weapons aren't sufficient, you have to be careful when nearing toxic areas and when you're jumping on Xen...

    The game had a big bug, meaning that you're obliged to download a patch: Flashlight wasn't working. Other negative point is that you can't use the HEV device for protection... in total contradiction with Adrian Shepard, not belonging to Black Mesa, who can use it! Also, BlueShift didn't solve the problems of these dangerous ladders when it comes to climb down.


    Graphics are still the same if you don't install the High Definition Pack. If you do so, the HDP is making the characters less angular, your environment is less sterile and a new skin is given to your weapons. Anyway, Blue Shift's graphics are good if you're not allergic to "old" engines.

    This is HL universe!

    With an established universe like Half-Life, Blue Shift couldn't forget to make some references to the two previous games: you see Gordon in his tramway when you're trying to enter to your department for work (a scene present in the original Half-Life) or just before he's entering in it. You're seeing him in the Sector C, walking to his destiny, you're seeing the famous crystal that will triggered the portals being carried to its final destination and last but not least, the professor you're rescuing is thinking that Gordon will not solve things, that it's a foolish idea to believe in him. Oh, have I mentioned that the last you'll be seeing Gordon is when he's captured by the Marines? Next time, it would be years later, in City 17 train station. Well, Blue Shift is taking place at the same time of the first part of Gordon's story, so, it's normal to have a lot of references to Half-Life. For Opposing Force, the only mention of Adrian Shepard is made by a Marine when throwing Otis, the fat guard, in a pit you're climbing.

    One word: LACKING!

    Blueshift is really lacking of novelties. It isn't bringing something new besides the story. Barney only uses Half-Life's weapons (no Opposing Force did make it) and worst of it, he has less than Gordon. No more experimental weapon, no more crossbow. Then, the enemies are reduced to what Gordon encountered (less the giant boss like Gargantua), so, no Race X from Opposing Force. And last but not the least (for me), soundtrack is good but isn't renewed like in Opposing Force. No new tunes, no new sounds, well, it's kind of frustrating for me who loves soundtrack, particularly when a game set in an universe has a different music than the others.


    Finally, Blue Shift, for a stand-alone, is shorter than the add-on Opposing Force... who was shorter than Half-Life. Five hours of playing (and more if your flashing is buggy) isn't enough for Half-Life. Well, the episodic games set in HL2 universe are as short as Blue Shift but the content is more extended than Blue Shift's. Here, we're in 2001, players were waiting for HL2 and well, they're in the right to expect much more for HL. It was like the game was rushed for giving something to impatient fans.

    Time to put an end to Black Mesa Era

    STORY: 7/10 - I would have loved more G-Man for a better plot.
    GAMEPLAY: 6/10 - It's HL, so it's good but the note is justified by the flashlight bug and the useless HEV devices.
    GRAPHICS: 8/10 - You're playing with HD pack or with 1998 graphics... It doesn't change a bit, it's still good graphics
    SOUND: 9/10 - I love the soundtrack for HL and even if I'm disappointed with the lack of new sounds or musics, I can't penalize the game for that
    GAME LIFE: 6/10 - Shorter than Opposing Force....
    FINAL: 6/10 - If Blueshift will be in my memories for the story, you can't denied the feeling of inachievment when the same developper was at the origin of Opposing Force. I can play the game with pleasure but the feeling of inachievment will be in my mind. It could have been a great game if it wasn't just for satisfying players who were waiting for HL2. Well, let's be happy to see that some fans proposed an alternative for BS, with a good integration in the saga: Azure Sheep.

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