The only thing that is more crazy than the fact that Half-Life was released exactly 20 years ago is that I wrote my 10th anniversary on this very site … well, 10 years ago. We both felt good, I like to think. But Half-Life has already left a legacy.
Half-Life was Valve's first game when they were a young gaming studio, and not a giant gaming conglomerate that we know today. The game was also a big risk – its narrative heavy gameplay, including the now famous sequence of action, was a departure from the usual shooters of the late 90s.
At a time when most of the games were still up, Half-Life continued a continuous (albeit largely episodic) journey, interspersed with frequent encounters and more than a few horrific moments. This plot-oriented, wide corridor approach will be very influential in game design, as well as the intelligent (for the time) intelligent AI enemy, especially the soldiers sent to close the Black Mesa object and everyone in it.
The teasing tastes of the larger story, in which you were just one part, organized by the still mysterious G-Man, kept the players on the hook thanks to their extensions and, ultimately, her masterfully and sadly unfinished sequel.
Multiplayer was also a joy. I remember, in particular, the long matches of the robots against the scientists at Gasworks and the cruel close-in battles trying to avoid the air raid in the Crossfire. Then, of course, Team Fortress Classic and all that was after.
But influence was not only on Half-Life. Valve's success in this experiment forced him to make further raids on the gaming infrastructure, which led to the creation of Steam – now, of course, the world's leading gaming platform for PC. Although now there are arguments in favor of the fact that Steam has been stuck in the past in different ways, it is difficult to overestimate its impact on the gaming industry over the years.
I played the game a couple of years ago, and it basically holds. The initial chapters are still attractive and creepy, and the action is still fun and insane. The steps are not so hot and, of course, the graphics today are not so hot, and, of course, Xen is still a pain, but in general it is easy to get back into the shoes of the 90s and remember how surprising it was then
If you are thinking about replaying, however, you can do yourself a favor and instead play Black Mesa, a complete remake of the game with more modern graphics and more changes in life. This is still pretty much the same game, but not quite like 1998.