Well, look at me, all with the string of finished games under my belt. I like to think the trend could even continue, although past experience indicates that these things run in cycles. Except the books, of course. I always, always read. Right now, my Half-Life kick is continuing with the first expansion, Opposing Force.
In it, you play as Corporal Adrian Shephard, a member of the military forces assigned to clean up the Black Mesa incident. There are a few familiar locations and at least two very memorable scenes to watch from the original, and the designers have cleaned up the moral ambiguity of playing as army guys bent on killing all survivors and especially on capturing Gordon Freeman, by setting Shephard’s arrival late in the incident. There are a lot more aliens running around, and the military have already started teaming up with scientists and security guards and whoever it takes to survive and escape.
Unfortunately for the player, you are opposed in this goal by special-ops black forces who view the army grunts to be as big of chumps as the army grunts viewed the scientists in the original game, and you are also opposed by the mysterious strange-voiced briefcase guy who has plans of his own (which, by the way Valve/Sierra/Steam/whoever I should be talking to about this, I hope will be explored more fully in Half-Life 3). And, as always, by the extra-dimensional Xen forces that are at the root of the problems in every game.
Can it be compared to the original? Strangely, yes. Whoever is on this design team is to be praised, because every storyline so far is nearly as deep as the original. The gameplay is nearly identical, and while yes, it’s a shorter game than either main sequence entry, I’m not going to fault an expansion for not lasting 30 hours. I am looking forward to the last Half-Life expansion, Blue Shift. Not as much as I would be if it was available on Steam for free with Half-Life 2, like the others have been. But I’ll find some highly legal way or other to get it. And before I’ve lost my momentary enchantment with the series, if at all possible.