Rewind Review – Half-Life: Blue Shift

Blue Shift is identical to its predecessor, and yet it manages to be almost twice as painful

Blue Shift is identical to its predecessor, and yet it manages to be almost twice as painful

Today marks the second week of the Half-Life Series Rewind Review, and I’ve got to say… this is a lot more painful than I thought it would be. While the Half-Life series has received a lot of praise – even to this day by its devoted fans – I have been at odds with myself to get through the second game in the series: Blue Shift. But make no mistake: your beloved RR-sama will make it through this trying series of software, or die trying!

As with all Rewind Reviews, Half-Life: Blue Shift will undergo a review process through the eyes of a modern critic. No nostalgia glasses, no excuses, no rationalizing hardware limitations, and no sparing myself from angry fans and readers. Nothing will excuse the game from anything that we – as modern gamers – would expect to see in the genre today.

Now let’s get our badge on and buy Barney Calhoun a beer in Half-Life: Blue Shift for the PC!

The Story

The game starts out much like the original Half-Life did, or rather – dare I say – identical to it. In fact, it wouldn’t be much of an argument to say that the intro for Half-Life: Blue Shift is nothing more than a simple change in perspective.

The reason I say this is quite straightforward: you are literally taking the place of another character during the same series of events. Take for example the image on the right. Those who have played through the original Half-Life will notice right away that this is Gordon Freeman, and we are looking at him looking at us: that sad security guard that couldn’t get in the door during the introduction. In fact, Barney’s train is the one that stops Gordon’s train from moving forward temporarily at the start of the game. That said, Gordon’s presence in the game is limited to only several instances, and that is a fairly gracious estimate as I may have missed him on several others.

As for Barney’s story – or should I say “Calhoun” as everyone so obnoxiously calls him throughout the game – it’s a bit more flushed out than the original Half-Life‘s. In fact, I would argue that it’s much better. The reason? Actual characters.

That’s right. Half-Life: Blue Shift actually names characters. Aside from Calhoun, other characters introduced through this game include several scientists by the names of: Rosenberg, Bennet, and Simmons. Only one of these characters will reappear in the series, and none of them hold any particular significance to the Half-Life universe as a whole. This is about as deep as the story gets in Blue Shift. Why? Because *SPOILER ALERT* literally everyone else dies.

Remember how I said that Half-Life‘s story was bad? Well this one – despite having actual character names – is actually worse. The plot can be summarized as the following: Barney Calhoun goes to work, shit hits the fan, and he escapes with three scientists.


The Gameplay

The Good:

I’m going to put this plain and simple: this game is a Half-Life map pack. I’m serious, that’s all it really is. You might get the occasional new area, some new “puzzles” – if I dare call them that – and maybe a new button to press along the way. Nothing about this game is all too different from the original Half-Life game. As a result, there’s nothing really good for me to particularly comment on for this title. So how about we don’t waste our time looking over what’s good about this game again and move on to what really matters about Blue Shift, shall we? If you really want to read up on it, you can always go back to the previous Rewind Review in the series.

The “This is a sequel. Couldn’t you afford to fix something? At least change the hour-long pointless train ride intro! Please…?”

Okay, so I typically divide things into a series of sub-divisions based on what one might call a “prettiness scale”. Afterward, I normally add a “The Presentation” section to talk about the game’s aesthetic appeal. However, this game defies this pattern since there are literally no changes or additions to this sequel. Considering the fact that Half-Life: Blue Shift was released over 3 years after the original 1998 Half-Life title, you would think they would have made some advancements in gameplay.

Well guess what… other than adding several new character models there is nothing new about this game. I’m not kidding. Reused models, reused textures, and even some reused areas. Heck, they even throw you through the same “Training Area” as they did in Half-Life if you decide to play it. But count yourselves lucky boys and girls: they replaced the woman in the HEV suit with a security guard! That totally makes this game worth the insulting $5.49 CAD price tag!

Blue Shift is nothing more than a Half-Life clone with some – and extra emphasis on the some – new areas. Other than that, there’s no new gameplay mechanics, and no fixes to overall gameplay. Even the order in which Calhoun finds new weapons is virtually the same, with the exception of the Crowbar which is found after you get the pistol. Big… flippin’… whoop…

Oh yeah, and our best friend – Mr. Texture-Changing Flashlight – is back. Remember how much you loved him? Remember how useful he was in the original Half-Life? Yeah. Great to have him back, no?

For the love of Cthulhu and all that is unholy! Could you have at least fixed the damn flashlight mechanics? Would that be too much to ask? It’s blacker in here than being trapped in a buried coffin! THIS IS NOT HOW FLASHLIGHTS WORK, PEOPLE!


I should probably mention that all the screenshots taken are from the HD models and textures pack that was released in 2005. That means that all of these terrible graphics woes and whatnot used to actually look worse in their original format. The image on the right shows the Security Guard model, with the model on the left being the original, and the “HD Model” on the right. These models are inconsistent at best, with many characters and enemies still using a fairly rough model that was used in the original game. If you tack on this case of seriously outdated graphics with the almost “too smooth” camera movements you’ll be on the first train bound for Nausea Central in no time.

Oh, and one last mention: if you play this game on any computer that isn’t 20 years old the first thing you will notice is characters jumping around while on the elevators and trains. I’m not kidding. They look like kids hopped up on a sugar, or at least something that looks like sugar…


The Verdict

Do not buy this game. Do not borrow it. Do not play it. This game is nothing more than a waste of your time and money. At its best, Blue Shift is a short expansion pack for the original Half-Life that costs much more than it provides in content. At its worst, Blue Shift is money you could have spent on… I don’t know… any number of better games that cost under $5 that were released in this past decade?

I tried to like this game, I truly did. However, there’s just nothing here for anyone. Hardcore Half-Life fans might enjoy this game. I mean, they must if they decided to make a Half-Life 2: Blue Shift mod. Unfortunately, I don’t share that sentiment. I’m not sure if Blue Shift was considered good back when it was released, but it certainly isn’t good by today’s standards.

If it were not for the fact that the game is still very much playable, I would have given this game a 1/10. Unfortunately, the GameSkinny rating system doesn’t allow a game that is functional to receive anything less than a 2/10. So here you go. You have been warned.


Reviews in this Series:

The full Rewind Review series can also be found here.

Blue Shift is identical to its predecessor, and yet it manages to be almost twice as painful

Rewind Review – Half-Life: Blue Shift

Blue Shift is identical to its predecessor, and yet it manages to be almost twice as painful

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About the author

David Fisher

Author, GameSkinny columnist, and part-time childhood destroyer. David W. Fisher (otherwise known as RR-sama) is a no B.S. reviewer and journalist who will ensure that you get as close to the facts as humanly possible!