You can buy Half-Life2, in one of three different packs, on Steam by credit card. The cheapest version is the standalone HL2 and it’s also by far the worst value. The next step up is the premier pack, which comes with all Valve’s home-grown Source mods, like Half-Life: Source, Counter-Strike: Source, Day of Defeat: Source and all such twitch gameplay goodness.
If the thought of mindlessly blasting people on Counter-Strike does not excite you, and you instead dream longingly of past times, then the complete pack is a worthy sinkhole for cash. It’s Valve’s complete catalogue, which includes the premier pack, Episode One, and all Valve’s games since Half-Life – including Opposing Force and Blue Shift, both of which are an Easter Egg frenzy fit for the king of HL geeks.
Unlike many older games, HL and its sequels have withstood the rigours of time well. It’s surprising how little improvement has been made in the FPS genre by subsequent titles. Sure, you can command squads of AI infantry in GRAW, or walk on the walls in Prey, but overall you’re still fighting for your life in some futuristic or mythological world where everyone seems intent on your bloody destruction.
Surprisingly, unlike other games of that generation, like Tomb Raider, the control system was already perfected. If you’re used to playing with keyboard and mouse then you’ll be straight into the action. What’s more, all the older games will run on very old hardware, your office laptop or a crusty old AMD XP based PC will do the honours admirably.
The only things missing are the shiny graphics and silky sounds. The graphics aren’t too bad. Bizarrely, the graphics are so stylized that they aren’t painful on the eye, and playing old games like Opposing Force or Team Fortress Classic is a joyful experience at 1,920 x 1,200 with AA and AF maxed – especially when you’re still getting 100FPS.