Have You Played… Half-Life: Opposing Force?

I worry about that question. I think about you, and about how you’ve obviously played the original Half-Life because you’re not a MURDERER, and how you’ve obviously played Half-Life 2 because you’re alive. But then I worry that you may have somehow missed out on Opposing Force – a Half-Life expandalone that appeared in 1999, the very first game from Randy Pitchford’s Gearbox Software!

Starring the wonderfully dully named Corporal Adrian Shephard, it’s a really splendid thing. It takes place concurrently with the original Half-Life, having you play as one of those shouty-man marines soldiers, occasionally intersecting with the first game’s tale. Which is SO FLIPPING ACE! All sequels should be this! It also somehow featured a whole other alien race alongside the Xen, called Race X. Quite how Gordon didn’t bump into these fellows isn’t explained.

But here’s the thing – it’s a really damned good shooter. What a daunting task facing Gearbox, trying to follow-up world-changer Half-Life, and yet they completely hold their own. It doesn’t match the original, obviously. In fact, it’s at its best when it steps as far from HL as it can. By the second half, you’re wielding some spectacularly fun alien weapons, and in some novel situations. At 10 hours long, it’s a full game in its own right, and a lovely forgotten entry in the Half-Life universe.


  1. LionsPhil says:

    Indeed, OpFor is underrated.

    Even if the final boss fight is incredibly lame.

    • Caelyn Ellis says:

      To be fair, that applies to approximately 99.547% of games with boss fights.

      • Turkey says:

        Are the remaining 0.453% Japanese games?

      • thaquoth says:

        It’s also especially true for the original Half Life. That thing.

      • Andy_Panthro says:

        I would happily ban boss fights from almost all games.

        The only exceptions would be roguelikes, JRPGs and side-scrolling fighting games.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Max Payne 1 and 2 better get exceptions too. And all the Serious Sams.

          Good climactic fights do exist.

          • Bweahns says:

            I was pretty disappointed with the final fight in Max Payne. However as someone has mentioned, almost all boss fights suck and Max Payne as a whole was absolutely fantastic. Loved the whole noir comic book style. Really great game.

        • Emeraude says:

          Alternatively, ban fights that aren’t boss fights, depending on the game.

          Or allow both, again, depending on the game.

          If it works, it works.

          • jonahcutter says:

            Shadow of the Colossus. Nothing but exploring and boss fights, and it works brilliantly. It can be done.

            I’ve always longed for a game where you only faced off in a life-or-death situation with a few foes throughout the entire narrative. Where how and why and even if you kill them has influence on how the rest of the game plays out. And where the fights themselves are dangerous and frightening and exhilarating and saddening. Where you need to recover from them afterwards.

            Where death has real impact and meaning.

            I have no idea how it would work mechanically, but I sure would like to play it.

          • Emeraude says:

            Yeah, Shadow of the Colossus is what I had in mind.

            As for the game concept you’re describing, I have a faint hope that the crisis system in int her upcoming Torment game will be a small step in that direction.

            Something I’ve always wanted is a game that could deal with the contrast of the sudden explosive irruption of violence in a slower, somewhat meditative, mundane context, and then the repercussions thereof.

            One of my formative “game” was a piece of software we had at school when I was young, something I suspect was being developed by someone working there, as I was never able to find it back later (ran on a Thomson TO8). A very crude text/stat based simulation in which you tried to have a small settlement of cavemen survive. And it was ruthless. And unfair. You could manage everything under your power right and still have everyone die as the result of a sudden epidemic, or die starving because of an over-prolonged winter.
            I played that obsessively, wanting to “beat” it, an I think it taught me more about the unbearable harshness of existence than all the trivia I gathered from my history courses.

            And I would love a game that could manage that on a personal, individual scale.

            (Sorry about the rambling)

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          And spectacle fighters.

    • Anthile says:

      They even recycled it for the first Borderlands – which implies that Borderlands and Half-Life are set in the same universe.

      • aequidens says:

        Borderlife in the Half-Lands, a horrible bulletspongey mash-up where Gordon Freeman finally speaks and turns out to be a loudmouthed redneck with a do-gooder attittude. You can also select Alyx, Claptrap and Duke Nukem as playable Characters. It has a normal amount of weapons, but 6 million randomly generated variations on the gravity gun.

        • Unclepauly says:

          After reading this post I noticed something odd about my hand. It somehow acted in a manner very devious and which drew no attention from its owner to itself. Very odd behavior for such an otherwise obnoxious fellow. Anyways, my back pocket felt slightly lighter than had before, you know like when the wife needs a frown turned upside down. When I noticed what lay before my monitor. Cash. What in the? It was strewn about the screen like so much blessings before a shrine of much religion. Then the realization happened. Nothing.

    • Jams O'Donnell says:

      And that is why Blue Shift was the best expansion — no boss fight! \o/

      • Jackablade says:

        I’m not sure the way that Blue Shift just kind of ends is really an ideal solution either.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Not as underrated as Counter-Strike Condition Zero Deleted Scenes, a Half Life length episodic single-player Counter-Strike campaign, which most Valve fans don’t realize even exists. Probably because of the terrible name.

      • TimorousBeastie says:

        CZ: Deleted Scenes was terrible, it only exists because they wanted to get at least something out of all the content they binned for being rubbish. The only saving grace is the great gunplay, and for that you were better off playing counter-life (half life adding the cs buy menu and replacing weapon drops with money)

        • MadTinkerer says:

          Awww… Come on, it’s not rubbish. I’m not saying it’s better than Half Life, I’m just saying it’s better than the competition’s modern shooter single player campaigns.

          If you think of Deleted Scenes as a $5-ish game, I think it’s pretty good. If you think of Deleted Scenes as a freebie you get with Condition Zero, which is how it’s actually sold, I think it’s the best freebie ever.

    • jmtd says:

      I preferred it to the boss in HL.

  2. Setroc says:

    The only bit from opposing force that I remember is the tutorial. It was legitimately brilliant.

    • Monchberter says:

      “As you can see, you are not dead.”

    • Turkey says:

      Which is probably why it’s been copied in so many video games since.

    • The_Sleeve says:

      The tutorial was excellent. The whole game was excellent, but man, the whole concept of being in boot camp was somehow really immersive. The voice actor who played the drill sergeant was spot on.

      The other part of this game that really sticks in my memory is the funny breaking-the-fourth-wall tongue-in-cheek puzzle that involved fixing a Gearbox and a Valve in order to get a piece of machinery working.

      • Distec says:

        OpFor Factoid: The drill instructor was voiced by Jon St. John, also the man behind Duke Nukem.

  3. Spider Jerusalem says:

    I’ve never played any of the Half Lives.

    I am the glitch.

  4. oafish-oaf says:

    I haven’t played either because I spent about 13 years not playing video games at all… and like Rabbi Onias I awoke and found that I was a stranger to this world and was cast out for being unfamiliar with its ways.

    • Nosada says:

      I dont know who Rabbi Onias is, but tell him I think he’s a douche for not having played Half-Life.

    • Premium User Badge

      Grizzly says:

      Are you that guy that, a while back, said that “I haven’t actually played any video games since the original Half Life”? I remember there was an article written here specifically about you or someone very much like you.

      • oafish-oaf says:

        No, more like I stopped right before Half-Life and then came back a few years after Half-Life 2. I’m into lots of things now, but it just hasn’t worked out yet between HL & I. I’ll get to it eventually but there are so many games.

        • ResonanceCascade says:

          But so few games as good as the Half-Life series.

        • neckro23 says:

          Ha, I had the same situation as you, almost. Lost my gaming PC less than a year after Half-Life came out. Scraped together to get a new one after Half-Life 2 came out, because it was imperative that I play it…

        • GoTo2k says:

          Play Black Mesa instead. It’s the original half-life story but redone in the source engine and with some added features. The nice thing about it is that while it adds a lot to the graphics and gameplay, it really captured the feel of the original.

          It has only one downside: the part on xen isn’t in it yet.

          Did I mention that it’s free if you own HL2?

          • LionsPhil says:

            Don’t they also leave out large sections of On A Rail or something?

            I’d recommend the professional work widely venerated as one of the great FPSes of all time over the modders who thought they knew better.

          • oafish-oaf says:

            That sounds great, thanks. How vital to the story & game are Xen and the On A Rail bits also mentioned?

          • Razumen says:

            No, I’d recommend playing the original first, the best thing about Black Mesa is the graphics, but they changed too much everywhere else for it to be a valid replacement to the original.

  5. Jim9137 says:

    Or you could be other SJ. STILL LIES EVERYWHERE.

  6. Untruth says:

    I still remember the total FEAR that I felt when I ran to the extraction point and everyone was leaving without me. Amazing game that in someways outdoes Half Life because of its depressing inevitability and mundanity.

    Boss is terrible though, of course.

    • Shazbut says:

      FEAR: Extraction Point. Also a good game

      • Shadowcat says:

        I was wondering how they were going to fit “Perseus Mandate” into the sentence (but then maybe that would have to be in response to an article about “Blue Shift”).

  7. FriendGaru says:

    Opposing Force has a fish that vomits exploding fruit as one of your guns. That was always my favorite weapon.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Commander Shepard loves feeding and stroking his tennis-ball-launching weapon.

      Also: weaponized barnacle.

  8. Anthile says:

    Of course. It’s pretty good. Also had this great wordplay: link to steamcommunity.com

    Blue Shift was really lame, though.

  9. melnificent says:

    I still haven’t gotten around to the half lifes yet they are in my backlog…

    I’ll wait for HL3 before diving headlong into them all.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      Well I suppose you can’t have much else planned for your 95th birthday at this time

    • waltC says:

      Another being pretending citizenship in this Uverse who claims he has not–ever–played a HL game. I ask myself, “How is that possible?” and Myself says in return, “It is NOT.” So, I am concluding that you are either some sort of SPY set in our midst by some entity or consortium who wishes to surreptitiously crack the power of positive gamethinking *without* (sacrilege!) playing the games himself –OR, you do not exist at all, and your post as I read it doesn’t exist, either. (But if that is true then either I am hallucinating or else I do not exist in your dimension of time and space.)

      However, if that is true, then the only thing that does exist–independently of either of us–is the HL gameverse. I think I have at last stumbled on it! You *must* play–in this order–HL (Source) followed immediately by HL OppFor. *Loooooook* into my eye-e-e-eeeeees….! Obey! Or become a swine and swim in your own offal for all eternity! The choice is yours, the outcome certain.

      (*Slight bow* “I thank you.”)

  10. piedpiper says:

    So bad Volvo forgot about Opposing Force. It would be so much better world if we got Opposing Force 2 instead of those lame episodes 1 and 2 for HL2. Gabe, return me my Adrian, you bastard!
    BTW, game was much creepier than original.

    • Premium User Badge

      Grizzly says:

      I agree with this. The game was my first introduction to FPS games (I was 6 at the time and watched someone else playing it) and I remember being rather … influenced by some of the red handprints thrown about.

      Later I played it on an old laptop on holiday and it was genuinely good.

    • neckro23 says:

      I remember before Portal came out, there was speculation that the main character would be Shepard from OF, making it a sequel of sorts. Maybe it originally was him but Valve changed their minds (they like to do that a lot).

  11. Distec says:

    OpFor is Gearbox’s best work in their entire lifetime. No personal animosity towards their other products; this will just always be the game I know them for.

    I remember some of its areas feeling a lot more “compact” than anything in the original Half-Life. But there were enough novel twists, interesting weapons, and neat locations to make so much of it feel fresh again. Plus it was cool getting a team of soldiers following you around to shoot, heal, and weld shit. I really would love another Opposing Force or at least references to it (can give or take Race X on the whole), but I don’t see it ever happening.

    The feeling in my gut when I missed the evacuation in thanks to a certain dude in a suit… terrible.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I played that when it was new. I don’t really remember it, but I think I enjoyed it a lot. I also remember that my friends and I called it Opossum Force, because we were very clever and funny teenagers.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      As were we all

    • TWChristine says:

      Ahh yes, just like how I called Blue Shift, “Blue Shit”… Loved the first game, quite enjoyed OpFor (although the dude’s name really grated on me for some reason..), and for some reason really bounced off Blue Shift. And I’ve done my darnedest to get into HL2, but not long after you get into the zombie town I just gave up out of boredom.

  13. iainl says:

    Sadly, I can no longer play any of my Half-life 1 games. Because the original DRM doesn’t work unless you patch it out and replace it with Steam now, and for some reason Valve are convinced

    a) my copy of Half-Life is registered to someone else, and
    2) Blue Shift / Opposing Force codes won’t register because it wants me to just use that broken base HL1 code.

    Apparently there’s some way to get them to recognise the fact I have a disc with a code on my shelf, but I’ve never successfully gone through it. So I guess I’m sticking with the memories.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:


      • iainl says:

        Yeah, but it’s the principle of the thing.

      • LionsPhil says:

        “Valve broke the game I bought from them.”
        “So pay them for a new copy.”

        I mean, it’s not like we’re talking incompatability from age here that needs fixing, like GOG sometimes do. The crapware bolted on top to deliberately sabotage the game in some circumstances is what’s malfunctioning, and your proposed solution is to pay them for a copy with different crapware bolted on top to deliberately sabotage the game in some different circumstances that will work for now.

        • CookPassBabtridge says:

          Just thought the guy sounded a bit sad and might be brightened by the prospect of paying less than a sandwich for all three

          • iainl says:

            Yeah, thanks for trying. One day (probably when they’re on full price) I’ll succumb to temptation and just pay for them. I’ve already passed the point of where my time’s worth more than the hassle of getting my existing copy working.

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            It can also be bought from GmG if you want. Valve at least gets a few pennies less that way.

            I also had your issue with my game code too. Don’t currently have HL1 or any expansions in my library bar HL: Source but haven’t really felt like replaying them either.

          • Llewyn says:

            Can you send DMs on the RPS forum?

            @iainl: I have a gift copy of Half Life in my Steam inventory. It’s not my kind of thing at all, despite its importance as a historical artefact, so it’d be far better going to a good home.

          • iainl says:

            That’s awfully kind of you, Llewyn. We can’t DM, however you might be able to find me on Steam where I carry the same name, give or take a bit of capitalisation – IainL. Thanks!

          • Llewyn says:

            Right, hopefully you have an apparently random friend request there now, which I think I needed to send to be able to gift to you…

          • iainl says:

            Got it – thanks again. Looking at that collection, I fear I’ve not got anything useful to gift you in return…

          • Llewyn says:

            My pleasure! For three years Gordon Freeman’s been staring accusingly at me every time I’ve looked at my inventory. It’s a relief to be free of him :-)

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            Hurray, a happy christmassy ending! Nice one Llewyn

          • LionsPhil says:

            Indeed! Good show.

          • iainl says:

            And impressively enough, it turns out that Half-Life hasn’t dated half as bad as I feared so far.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          I get the whole issue of principles but honestly if you are going to get hours of enjoyment out of playing these again for less than the price of a McDonalds I wouldn’t be too worried about giving Valve an extra few quid.

    • sharkh20 says:

      I took photos of my game cases with their serial codes on the front and sent that to their support. Eventually got it sorted out that way.

    • derbefrier says:

      You know your half life cd key not working may be my fault, well not directly but probably someone like me that, when steam first launched, and having lost my own serial key by then, used a cd key generator to register my copy of half life. I hadn’t thought about it in years but I do remember being surprised it actually worked. Probably because everyone at the time was all like “fuck steam” and wasn’t registering their codes it made it easy for me to steal one after a few tries on the keygen. Reading you post just made me think of that.

      • Great Cthulhu says:

        Sounds plausible. Surprising really, that this sort of thing doesn’t happen more often with retail keys.

        Just tried my own copy of Half-Life, and I also got a “duplicate key” error. Lets see if Steam Support will be as helpful to me as it was to sharkh20.

    • Kamalen says:

      Don’t know what DRM you’re speaking about, ’cause I have disks copies here and they install properly.

    • Rakombo says:

      Sounds like you have a legit reason to torrent it.

    • floogles says:

      Had the same problem, owned HL 1 and 2 in original physical packaging.

      Support gave me the steam version after I took a photo of the serial number on the disc, possibly even with my steamusername and date in same photo.

      Now I have both in my steam library without a repurchase.

    • floogles says:

      Had same problem, physical copies of HL1 and expansions, just took a picture of the code and emailed it to valve support, no problem. Possibly had to put date and steam name in the pic as well.

  14. Rich says:

    “Quite how Gordon didn’t bump into [Race X] fellows isn’t explained.”
    I’m pretty sure they don’t start popping up until after Gordon has gone through the portal to Xen.

    • Anthile says:

      Race X simply isn’t canon. The end.

    • LionsPhil says:

      If Valve wanted them, they would presumably have been around in the HL2 era. But along with “headcrab zombies mutate further”, they seem to disapprove of Gearbox’s fiction. A little strange, since you think that kind of stuff would have been collaboratively agreed.

      • Distec says:

        Valve (or at least Marc Laidlaw) are pretty non-commital when it comes to canon though. There are a lot of things they ignored or never brought up again from the expansions, but they did keep Gearbox’s idea to nuke the Black Mesa facility. I’m pretty sure Blue Shift is generally accepted as well. I spent a long amount of time on HL2.net (now Valvetime) digging up all things Half-Life related before HL2’s release and some time afterward. I think Laidlaw gave some suggestions to Gearbox, but they were still largely hands-off with their work.

        Race X and Adrian are in an ambiguous position in HL’s canon. Valve says they are purely a Gearbox creation, but I don’t think they’ve ever explicitly retconned them out. The standing rule seems to be “It’s permissable as canon until we contradict it”, and so Race X might as well exist, just not talked about any more. If the two companies didn’t work closer together on setting some of this information in stone, I imagine it’s because Half-Life 2 was still gestating and there may not have been a clear idea of what would be pursued in the sequel. It’s notably different from the original Half-Life in a number of ways.

        • Joe W-A says:

          Here’s something I don’t think is generally known about OpFor’s canon status: Marc Laidlaw wrote the Gman’s dialogue at the end. Nothing else in the game, but it’s an interesting factoid

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        It’s fair enough but in my eyes, gameplay first. If they could only use creatures designed by Valve in the base game because otherwise “This wouldn’t be cannon” it would have been a less original experience. I’m happy to implement suspension of disbelief if it means the expansion I’m playing is throwing some new, original stuff at me.

      • BlackAlpha says:

        Valve cut quite a bit of Half Life 1 material from Half Life 2. For example, the Houndeye and Bullsquid don’t appear in Half Life 2, yet they are canon.

        Also, Race X still fits into the Half Life 2 lore. You could argue that Race X doesn’t appear in Half Life 2 for the same reason you don’t see Houndeyes and Bullsquids (don’t want to spoil things too much…).

        • Kamalen says:

          I’ve read, longtime ago, that Houndeye and Bullsquid were actually, like leech and Ichty, dropped in nature by the accident and replacing local fauna the hard way. Can’t tell if it’s “canon” or a fan theory.

          • BlackAlpha says:

            Probably a fan theory. By the way, there’s also of course the “intelligent” beings that don’t appear in Half Life 2, like the Alien Grunts and Alien Controllers. So, it’s not just Race X that have received the axe from Valve but might still be canon, who knows?

  15. horus_lupercal says:

    I fondly remember getting ‘killed’ in this by Temporal Paradox. I got off a very lucky headshot with the magnum and killed Gordon Freeman, cue the blackscreen and fade out which I thought was a lovely touch rather than make him, Freeman, immortal.

    • LionsPhil says:


      Also, live fire on the training course. You could get court martialled (admittedly just as text) before America’s Army came along with the same trick.

  16. Brosecutor says:

    OpFor was awesome. I also enjoyed Blue Shift. I am a fan of the “same events from a different perspective” approach.

  17. Ignis says:

    Have You Played… Gunman Chronicles? Have You Played… Gunman Chronicles? Have You Played… Gunman Chronicles? Have You Played… Gunman Chronicles? Have You Played… Gunman Chronicles? Have You Played… Gunman Chronicles? That is one of the most underrated Half-Life mods!

    • Faxanadu says:

      Just… Weird. Just so much weird. All my thoughts playing that game: “What.”

      Which kinda made it worth playing at the time. But at the same time… what.

    • Distec says:

      Science Fiction, Dinosaurs, Civil War shit… I don’t think I ever beat it. I’d purchase it again if the damned thing were on Steam.

    • HumpX says:

      Absolutely LOVED Gunman. Incredibly underrated….criminally so.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Still have a physical copy. Unlike most of my discs, it even still works. Fantastic fun, and totally insane.

    • TheTingler says:

      It’s not even really a mod, it’s as much a Valve game as Portal, Counter-Strike or Left 4 Dead. Amazed that it’s the only game in their backlist not on Steam.

      And I’m glad to hear about it still working. Still have my copy!

  18. Blaaaaaaag says:

    Add me to the tally of folks that haven’t played any Half Lives. (well, I played 2 for about 5 minutes with my Rift on, decided I felt sick gliding around like a mag-lev hover tank, and called it quits.)

    • Continuity says:

      If you’re, say, 20 or under then its excusable, otherwise you’re despicable.

  19. HumpX says:

    “Have you played…..with my balls?”

  20. Continuity says:

    I enjoyed blue shift too, though it had some unfortunate bugs if I remember right.

  21. FurryLippedSquid says:

    Is that Marlon Brando as Dr Kleiner?


  22. FullMetalMonkey says:

    I enjoyed Opposing Forces more than the original campaign. Don’t get me wrong i love Half Life’s singleplayer but playing from the point of view of the ‘baddies’ was awesome.

  23. jmtd says:

    Yes I have! Then, after Cara’s “never played half life”, I replayed HL and OP4. I don’t think Cara had played op4, but she should!