After seemingly hours spent fighting my way through Combine Metro Cops and manhacks I was glad to see those cute little headcrabs launch themselves up towards my face. It was something of a relief to see these, the most basic of alien life form you find in the Half-Life universe. By the time they made their first appearance in Route Kanal I was tired of the usual Combine tricks of throwing exploding barrels at me and sending manhacks down tunnels to cut me up.
I was starting to feel that I was stuck in a world inhabited purely by Combine, humans and the occasional enslaved Vortigaunt. Of course the barnacles don’t really count, they are the most impassive of enemies you are likely to encounter in a game, by the time I came across my first headcrab, and almost immediately after my first zombie I was relieved. I knew that I was still in the Half-Life world and that I wouldn’t have to spend the remaining ten or so hours of the game fighting those bloody robotic Combine and their manhacks!
Going back in time to the original Half-Life I noticed things unravel in a similar way, just this time you go from fighting headcrabs and zombies to fighting the marines who are probably some of the best enemies in any FPS yet. You will always remember the first time you come accross the marines when you witness one gun down a helpless scientist. That is an awesome moment. Like with Half-Life 2 I always feel relieved that I am done fighting just one type of opponent.
In the similar vein to Half-Life 2 I always feel relieved and excited to find my first enemy which isn’t an alien or a Combine. However, rather than being relieved simply because of the change in who you are fighting, I think this feeling emerges for altogether different reasons. I would put it down to a sense of familiarity.
In the first game you start without knowing what these alien creatures are, once you are told by the scientists that help is on its way you start to expect help from the military, as we all know they don’t help you one bit. But they play an important role in your enjoyment of the game because you are able to identify with one of the enemies you face.
By the end of the original Half-Life you have come in some way to accept the role of the Xenian life, you are then thrown into the world of Half-Life 2 staring up at the face of Breen, observing Vortigaunt’s being used as slaves and the dreaded Combine Metro Cops. In Half-Life 2 it is the aliens which are the creatures you identify with first having battled them back in Black Mesa, you see the Combine, a faceless entity with which you cannot relate to.
Now though, I am heading back to Black Mesa so I can fight those marines one more time.