Eurogamer: Half-Life Opposing Force Retro

He looks quite nice, I think.

This weekend I have been mostly playing Half-Life Opposing Force. Fortunately the thoughts I have as I play don’t have to stay confined in my strange little head, but instead are communicated to all the universe via the internet. It’s up on Eurogamer today, and has a bit in it that says this:

“There are definitely too many corny names for heroes in videogames. Pick up a random shooter and you’re bound to find yourself in control of someone called something like Dirk Death, or Rick Giantballs. Even Half-Life’s Gordon only keeps the nerd up for his first name, the surname sinking into the cliché of Freeman. Which is why we should celebrate the hero at the centre of Opposing Force. It’s Corporal Adrian Shephard. Has there ever been a central character for a game who sounds more like a geography supply teacher?”

Argue about whether it was Gordon’s first day of work below.


  1. Pantsman says:

    Let’s be fair. “Freeman” wasn’t given to him to sound cool. The devs named him after the real-world physicist Freeman Dyson.

  2. Sobric says:

    Great game. I loved the boot camp tutorial at the time too (and no 50 cent!)

    I personally hope that Shepard will make a return in a future Half Life, but not as a playable character. Or even a character that talks much. Just glimpses of Shepard, and the trail of destruction he leaves behind him…

  3. JW says:

    opposing forces had more weapons and superior multiplayer because of that.

    I’d say the game is almost as good as half-life, but because that was the first one, it doesn’t win.

    but OF rocks

  4. kikito says:

    Opposing Force was Gearbox’s highest moment so far.

  5. Ging says:

    If it is his first day at work, he’s got to be the most popular first day peon ever – I mean, everyone knows who he is!

  6. Flint says:

    As much as the article chooses to ignore the human weapons and focuses on the alien guns, let’s not forget how damn well executed the standard human artillery was. The Deagle, SAW and sniper rifle all packed such a wonderful punch in their general execution, from the damage to the looks to the sound. They were a sheer joy to use.

    Still stands as one of the best expansion packs of gaming history, and certainly the best FPS one.

  7. Tei says:

    I have no memories of HL multiplayer, only of OF multiplayer, with the tripmines, rockets, that slow laser gun, etc.

  8. Smee says:

    I really, really enjoyed Opposing Force, but I don’t hold out hope that Shephard will make a return. The inclusion of Race X in the Half Life storyline is distinctly non-cannon, plus there’s the whole “G-Man blows up Black Mesa with a nuke” part. I have no basis to think this, but it seems to me that Valve would want to use Black Mesa in the future – it not existing anymore would hamper those plans.

    • Sobric says:

      I dunno… Valve are pretty flexible with their canon, incorporating Portal developments into the Half-Life story.

      But you have a point about the nuke, considering that so many scientists apparently survived Black Mesa…

  9. kikito says:

    Oh, and by the way – there’s also the combat knife besides the wrench.

  10. Deekman says:

    Tim from Braid

  11. Quin_Goodman says:

    I believe I actually enjoyed Opposing Force more than the original Half-Life. The opening cinematic were Shepard’s body is dragged from the collection of corpses after you’re helicopter crash.

    Gearbox at their best.

    In fact as soon as I get home I am downloading and playing this awesome mod. Thanks guys, you have given me something to do tonight.

  12. Cabbs says:

    Yeah, pretty much the only cannon bit from opfor was that black mesa got nuked. I can’t remember which valve employee stated this but I am convinced that it happened, so no more black mesa unfortunately.

    I always hold out a hope of seeing shephard again, if only in his capacity as a fellow gman lackey. Opfor was fun despite its flaws.

  13. the_dancing_spy says:

    I swear that near the end of Half Life 2 you overhear Breen talking to an advisor and he mentions Adrian Shepheard… did no one else hear this?
    And I’m sure I didn’t imagine it as when I first heard it I had no idea who he was then looked it up and lo and behold hes a well known HL1 character…

  14. Will Tomas says:

    I loved Opposing Force, I thought it was fantastic. Not quite as good as Half-Life, but it definitely had better weapons (the human weapons too – a better sniper rifle, the large machine gun, etc) and it had some wonderful set pieces. I felt the end boss wasn’t much (and unlike most other people I didn’t hate the end of Half-Life), and since it was the second take on the event it lacked the newness Half-Life had to it. Also being on one of the two “villain” sides was a wonderful way to play an expansion pack, it meant there was less of being one man in the middle of a massive mess that Half-Life had.

    But it was a great, great game nevertheless. One of the best expansions ever. Shame Blue Shift didn’t live up to it.

    Is it just me, or does anyone else find it hard to see Half-Life and Half-Life 2 as the same world? It’s not just the graphics engine change, it just doesn’t quite seem the same thing. Opposing Force was emphatically part of the world of the original (Blue Shift, by changing how everything looked, never felt like that) and it rocked.

  15. Will Tomas says:

    Oh, and Half-Life’s manual implies it’s Gordon’s first day at work, as does the intro scroll from the train (a bit anyway), but from the way all the characters relate to him and his role in the science team, I’m pretty clear he’s been working there for a while. It’s not his first day.

  16. Denton says:

    I can’t find the interview now (it’s on some site where either Gabe Newell or Marc Laidlaw answer a whole load of questions about what is canon) but they specifically stated that they didn’t want to use Black Mesa again and that they requested its destruction to prevent it from being used.

    • Denton says:

      Scratch that, it’s in here: link to under the section ‘Barney + Blue-Shift + Expansion Involvement’.

    • Rick says:

      Some interesting points in that thread. According to that, its not that Race-X and the like aren’t canon, its that Valve simply aren’t going to develop them any further – there’s a difference there. For all intents and purposes then, in canon Race-X did invade Black Mesa, but lost their ability to enter our dimension when Shephard was through with them; any surviving Race-X got turned into radioactive dust. I’d consider that sufficiently wrapped up, no further explanation is required. The fact they’re not being developed any further just adds to their ambiguity and mystery for their sole appearance – I kind of like the “moths to a flame” sort of impression this gives of the intergalactic politics, with several factions trying to exploit the Black Mesa situation, but only one – the Combine – succeeding.

  17. Rick says:

    Opposing Force rocked. Best expansion pack ever made, with Brood War just below it. So some aspects of the plot might not entirely match up with Half-Life 2’s in a few areas, but hey, you really shouldn’t give a feck about that – the broad story matches up enough, and it ties up most of its own loose ends such as with Race-X. Its not the first media not to tie in perfectly with earlier or later products. Honestly, the debate about the “canon” of the Gearbox entries by some fans leading to some discarding the game simply for plotholes is stupid. Just enjoy the game.

    Some great level design, engaging enemies, fun new weapons, and some brilliant set pieces. The biggest letdown for me, as with Half-Life, is the end boss. It was rubbish, boring and lacked atmosphere. Complete anti-climax to the rest of the game. Plus the lack of a decent squad system. Shame they didn’t come up with one like in Half-Life 2.

  18. A-Scale says:

    I have no recollection of fighting the giant alien pictured. When does that happen?

    • Rick says:

      About midway. You get distress calls over the radio regarding of something “big” massacring Marines in waste disposal, who are all dead when you get there (story of Shephard’s life, just a few minutes late for everything). Its stuck in a water tank, and tries to either tear you apart or shoot you with its laser eye. You have to kill it by dumping toxic waste on it, in a similar vein to the “Blast Pit” level of Half-Life.

    • Lorc says:

      Bonus trivia:

      To dump said waste you need to activate a valve and a gearbox.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Lorc: aaagh, you just beat me to it.

      (The valve and gearbox were labeled in large letters, just to make sure you couldn’t miss it. Classic.)

  19. Mike says:

    Aww, I loved this game. I never bothered completing Half-Life, but I pushed on with this. It was really well designed stuff.

  20. pepper says:

    I loved OPFOR. I dont know why, but it felt cool, visiting the same site from a different perspective/entry point. So many good memories about that.

  21. malkav11 says:

    Opposing Forces (and to a lesser extent, Blue Shift) represent one of the best possible approaches to an expansion out there: take the same basic events, but tell someone else’s story.

  22. Vinraith says:

    I actually liked Opposing Force more than Half Life, I must admit. I played it all the way to the end (as opposed to stopping HL after the first boss fight in Zen). The end boss itself was crap, but that’s just an aspect of gaming I accepted those days. I really do hate boss fights.

    But many of the set pieces in OF were just spectacular, and (as usual for the HL games) the fights against other soldiers and elite forces were particularly outstanding. In some ways I wish the Black Mesa folks would remake this one, too, though I suppose it’d be another 7 years before I saw it anyway. :)

  23. Arathain says:

    Yup, very fond memories of this. Gearbox showed great skill at constructing environments that were as enjoyable to play in as those of the original. If some of the plot aspects were a little tenuous (Race-X, encountering Black-Ops troops fighting your own Black-Ops Marines) it was hard to care. I remember the fish weapon very well- you had to look out for certain plants to harvest as ammo.

    Clearly not Gordon’s first day at work, by the way.

  24. Zra says:

    It was so good I set out to write an online guide/walkthrough for it. Big was my surprise that Randy Pitchford himself mailed eventually to contribute some trivia. For instance, in the first level in the lab there is a computer with an ultrasound image. That ultrasound is of Randall Steward Pitchford III, his son, who was born on January 8, after the game shipped.

    That was one hell of an expansion pack.

  25. Will Tomas says:

    There’s some more baby photos in later levels, I think in a fallen-over filing cabinet in a ruined office…

  26. Davee says:

    My favourite expansion ever. Nothing more to say.

    Besides this: I never thought it was Gordons first day considering the stuff in his locker and everybody else greeting him.

  27. Ed says:

    OpFor was awesome, although the combat got a tad repetitive on occasion.

    Blue Shift was not so good – I preferred the unofficial mod Azure Sheep for telling the Barney backstory. From memory, it was massive, revisited a lot of locations from the original game (every single location from the original monorail ride is here and fleshed out) and it brought new things to the fray such as a companion AI who didn’t completely suck.

  28. Metal_Circus says:

    Opposing Force was just so fucking cool. The set pieces were great fun, like the helicopter crash, coming across another downed Osprey, and you acctually see Freeman jump into the teleport. I loved the crossover nature of it. The new weapons were smart and fun to use. I alays thought the race X (or whatever they’re called) was a pretty strange inclusion to the series though. Still, great expansion!

  29. Kills_Alone says:

    HD versions of Half-Life and its expansions in SOURCE using HL2 textures would be a day one sale for me. Sure there is Black Mesa, which looks ace. But they claim its coming out this year, with only three weeks to go they better hurry.

  30. monchberter says:

    What almost everyone has failed to mention that it was just so much harder than HL. The Race X aliens and Black Ops being several shades tougher, better armed and more devious than anything regualr enemies in the first game.

    Personally terror in a game was redefined for me by the whole sewer section with the cow-like aliens that fired purple electricity at you. Did i mention that you had to wear very bad night vision all the way through?


    • Rick says:

      Not to mention not enough ammo to deal with those all those things; I think those creatures were the toughest standard NPC’s in all the HL1 games. Ah well, at least you got to shoot their offspring. Was a great bit for “oh shit! I’m out of ammo!” and “oh shit, battery’s gone, I can’t see!” moments of tension.

  31. negativedge says:

    hey man, my last name is freeman. I propose fisticuffs!

  32. Jimbo says:

    Shephard is less of a cliche than Freeman?

  33. Psychopomp says:

    I really want to know why Half Life gets a free pass for being linear and scripted, but other games get ripped apart for it.

    • pepper says:

      A few examples would be nice, since half-life did it the right way round. Other games probably didnt.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Well, the first thing that comes to mind is every single Call of Duty ever.

    • Arathain says:

      I’d never rip a game for being linear and scripted. I don’t think most people would. It’d be like ripping GTA for being too open.

      It’s a silly argument. Linear, open, story-driven, player-driven… I don’t care what you do, I care how well you do it.

  34. Nighthood says:

    There was a G Freeman at my old school. Sure, the G stood for Glenn, but the resemblance was uncanny. He had a goatee and wore glasses. The only thing that was wrong was that he taught music and didn’t fight aliens. At least, not that I know of.

    Still, it does show that Freeman isn’t a particularly made up name. On a different note, I can’t remembe game quotes often, but “Corporal Shepard huh?” has always stuck with me. The drill instructor says it in the training mission (which, might I add, is one of the best training missions ever. Whatever happened to the tradition of creating seperate levels as tutorials, instead of the modern trend of in the game tutorials?).

  35. Bewildered says:

    What the…

    This expansion was alright but didnt think it was this special. What’s next? A retrospective on Daikatana after it’s released on GOG describing it as a “flawed masterpiece” that didn’t deserver the flak it got?

    • Psychopomp says:

      You are aware that Opposing Force is considered one of the best shooters of all time, right?

    • The Hammer says:

      Games don’t have to be especially good to get retrospectives – they just have to be significant. Sometimes the worst games are the ones most worth paying attention to.

  36. Will Tomas says:

    Bewildered, from the comments I would venture to suggest that your opinion of the game isn’t shared by the majority. Since Opposing Force is longer than many fully fledged games these days, and was the expansion to one of the most important games of all time, I would submit that it is worthy of a retrospective.

    I’m just saying, is all…

  37. Bewildered says:

    I guess it’s one of those things I just don’t “get.”

    I’ll have to re-install it to refresh my memory but I don’t recall it ever being considered “one of the best shooters of all time” which is a honor its base game certainly deserves but this expansion pack which is an extension of more of the same? Hey why not put Scourge of Armagon (Quake I expansion) while we’re at it? It’s an expansion pack done well, I’ll give it that. None of that DLC horse armor thing going on there.

    I guess I’m missing out on what makes it special if it didn’t build on Half Life?

    • bill says:

      I’m with you.

      I’m not saying it’s a bad game. But even at the time I don’t remember it getting a huge amount of praise. Half Life was clearly a must buy, and every games magazine told you so. OpF got ok reviews, but nothing that said “must buy” or “best expansion ever”.

      Though I’m perfectly happy to have retrospectives for non-classic games, and reading this one has made me want to check out OpF again. If only i knew where any of my CDs or CD-Keys were.

  38. devlocke says:

    I never played Half Life when it came out, because my PC was not up to par, but I bought the HL1 pack from Steam a few months ago and played through HL1 and the two expansions, because I wanted to know what had happened before I started playing HL2.

    I beat all three, and don’t really have any interest in playing HL2, tho I’m sure I’ll get around to it some day. The whole linear-level-design, not-much-story, thing just isn’t all that fun for me. Some of the set-pieces were visually neat, but they all just ended up being busy-work, and it was really annoying the way progression was so limited and channeled.

    I think it’s just Valve’s design philosophy, and Gearbox did right by the series by sticking with that formula, but I don’t find the formula fun. That said, I didn’t think OpFor was any worse than HL1, they just both weren’t my cup of tea. Does HL2 do anything differently than these three games?

    • monchberter says:

      If you’ve played any shooter from the past 5 years. You’ve unconsciously absorbed HL2’s achievements.

      Physics / physics wepons [sic]
      Wide open levels over corridors
      Well programmed NPCs
      Superlative design and story
      Half decent driving in FPSs
      Episodic content

    • Vinraith says:

      I can only speak for myself, but the big difference between HL1 and HL2 for me (and the reason I prefer the latter) is the characters. HL1 didn’t really have any, whereas HL2 has some of the most well done and memorable characters of any game I’ve ever played. However, while I think the plot is more substantial than that in HL1, it’s still doled out in very small parcels over a large amount of gameplay. Ultimately, it’s still a (spectacular, gorgeous) linear shooter filled with (amazing) set pieces, and if you’re inherently hostile to that it’s probably not going to change your mind about that kind of game. Valve’s been experimenting with more open environments, but you don’t really see that until Episode 2.

      Then again, it’s also extremely inexpensive at this point, and I think the atmosphere is more interesting and the overall game more varied than the original, so you might give it a shot anyway.

  39. monchberter says:

    I forgot to mention:

    Believably realistic facial rendering and character modelling

  40. Will Tomas says:

    I think anyone playing Half-Life now without having played it at the time will probably appreciate the great level design, but I agree that a lot about what made it revolutionary was ‘of it’s time’. Coming to it on the back of Doom-esque FPS games (even the awesome Dark Forces) and games of the time, its major impressiveness was one of tone and atmosphere – it was the first time you’d been an ordinary guy for any length of time in a game, and it ramped the tension up unbelievably well. But it has been copied a lot, and coming to it cold after seeing its clones would, I suspect dampen the impact quite substantially.

    • MD says:

      You’re probably right, but I loved it despite coming to it late (post-HL2). So it stands on its own, and doesn’t rely too heavily on its novelty.

  41. 9Squirrels says:

    To play devil’s advocate, perhaps Gordon Freeman is a well known scientist with a big discovery which is why they all know him? Alternative theory – Perhaps it’s a new-ish facility and alot of people have transferred over from an old facility where they all worked together, so it could be his first time there at Black Mesa, but not the first time working with all those people? Kind of like CERN in Europe which I believe has taken alot of staff from the smaller collider somewhere near Chicago.

    I worked with a guy named Gordon back when HL1 came out. He found it quite amusing playing it and having all these NPCs coming up to him and saying “Hello Gordon!”. Like they’d tailor made the game for him.

    • Krondonian says:

      I remember playing Return to Krondor (hence the name) when I was about 10 or so. I put in my character name as usual, James, and started playing.

      Then in the game, the main character is called Squire James, and all the characters were referring to him as such.

      I was pretty astonished, and in all my maturity, immediately started a new game under the name ‘Poo’. It was pretty dissapointing to realise that the character just happened to be called James too.

    • Hardlylikely says:

      Isn’t there a group photo of Black Mesa scientists somewhere in HL2 with Gordon in it? That could still work with what 9Squirrels said about people knowing each other prior to Black Mesa though.

      My other thought there was that anyone Gordon didn’t know from college or other labs could have been introduced during his interview and induction process, which helps explain so many people knowing him. Who really thinks a place like Black Mesa wouldn’t have you going through multiple rounds of interviews, background checks, drug tests, laughably outdated induction and health and safety videos and so on?

      HR CREATURE: “Ok, here’s your Security Pass, which allows you access to these areas. Oh- Hey Barney! This is Dr Gordon Freeman, he’s starting down with you guys soon, make him feel at home.”
      BARNEY: “Hey Dr Freeman, sure thing, we’ll get a beer, you drink beer? A scientist? Well, you’re buying…”

  42. Lukasz says:

    Appreciate level design?
    10 years ago HL level design was amazing. but right now the levels are really terrible in my opinion. Watching Freeman’s mind really shows how incredibly weird and silly they are…

    but they are FUN! They are awesome because each level is unique and memorable. you never get bored with them (at least me).

    the design is still terrible :) (jumping on huge fan to proceed further. very smart move indeed :D )

    • Mman says:

      Saying that HL’s level design is terrible because it’s unrealistic then pretty much saying that that’s exactly what makes it fun is a ridiculous statement to make.

      If HL’s level design was realistic the game would be complete shit.

    • Psychopomp says:

      “but they are FUN”

      Then they aren’t terrible.

    • Richeh says:

      If it was realistic then the air vents would be too small to crawl in. And that’s half the game gone right there.

    • bill says:

      Anyone remember Oni, Bungie’s Anime inspired action game?

      The big selling point was that they hired REAL ARCHITECTS to design the levels! This was a first, as up to that point levels had basically come from level designer’s imagination. The end result: Oni’s combat rocks, but every review criticises the boring level design.

      Personally I think many old FPS games had better level design, because there was more freedom and creativity then. Levels were designed to be GOOD LEVELS first, and places second. Recent FPS games have great graphics, scale and set pieces, but so often the need for realistic level design means that you’re fighting on a flat plane all the time.

      Jedi Knight had some of the best FPS levels ever, and they involved jumping on lots of big fans ;-)

    • Kelron says:

      I haven’t played Opposing Force for ages, but I played (most of) Half Life recently and the level design annoys me a lot. It’s not because it’s unrealistic, but because I have no idea what I’m trying to achieve, as a character, I’m simply looking for a way to progress along the route laid out for me. I ended up crawling into every vent I saw because if I continued along the corridor it would almost certainly be a dead end or a locked door.

    • DMJ says:

      It was realistic for Hollywood values of realism.

  43. Lukasz says:

    the previous comment of mine was directed at Will Tomas :)

    OF was great. really one of the best expansion packs ever.

    Black mesa got nuked. okay. but BM was mostly undeground and spread over a quite distance. even 10 megaton nuke would NOT destroy it. just bury it.

    so we might see BM again. inaccesible from the surfaces but that ain’t a problem with teleporters.

    • Will Tomas says:

      I disagree – fun level design is great level design. It doesn’t matter whether it would work as an actual facility or not, as long as it’s enough like it so that you can sort-of believe it whilst still being a fun environment for a shooter. And I reckon it still does that.

  44. Idle Threats & Bad Poetry says:

    The opening from Opposing Force showed the troops getting ready to parachute in. They check each others chutes and gear, sounding off, and get ready to jump when their plane gets hit. Just then Shepherd gets teleported away instantly.

    Does anyone remember how Medal of Honor: Allied Assault’s Spearhead expansion totally copied this? I does it far more accurately, though, and with the better technology of the day. Instead of teleporting, you jump out early and float to the ground amid explosions and gunfire. All the time I could hear the developers snickering, “See that, Gearbox? Anything you can do, we can do better!”

    • Rick says:

      Well, then Brothers in Arms is Gearbox’s response to that. Much better than MoH.

  45. Mman says:

    Opfor is definitely near the top of my list of greatest expansion packs (and easily the top in terms of FPS ones). It’s decently long (I found it a bit short when I first played it, but in retrospect I realised its got far more content than most FPS expansions), has loads of new weapons and enemies (probably more than many full games do, and makes other FPS expansions I’ve played a joke in comparison in this regard) and still keeps most of the essence of the original game despite being made by a different developer. The article itself pretty much covered most of my thoughts on it though.

    One Issue I do have is the storytelling; HL itself is very cryptic but at least everything important is there in some way, conversely, I don’t think Opfor even mentions the aliens as Race-X (the closest it comes is saying they are a new breed, which isn’t much to go on), for all it gives you, a player who hasn’t read the manual or previews could easily think the new enemies are Xen ones, although I guess that doesn’t change the overall plot too much.

    I really hope Shepard comes back in some way in the future.

  46. Richeh says:

    Isn’t there some mention of him being late “again”? Unless it’s some reference to when he was a student under Kleiner. I always got the impression he was new-ish, but it wasn’t his first day.

  47. Mman says:

    Also, Episode 1 pretty much confirms that HL1 isn’t Gordon’s first day at Black Mesa (with the mention of Gordon racing Barney through the vents… Speaking of that, Barney is pretty much confirmation too).

  48. Fashigady says:

    Where does the idea that it was Gordon’s first day come from? I’d always assumed he had been working there for some time

    • Stick says:

      “Implied in manual”, which I’d entirely forgotten about. Contradicted by… everything else?

      Alyx has a throwaway line in Ep1:

      “I’ve heard stories about you and airducts. Doctor Kleiner says whenever he locked himself out of his office you and Barney used to compete to see who could get in fastest without using a key.”

      Sure, it’s retroactive continuity. But so’s Barney-the-individual.

  49. DMC says:

    Who has a cool name.

  50. datoo says:

    As a couple other people have pointed out, Freeman is a common last name (at least in the US).