Half-Life 2

Common Sense Media says

A game filled with unnerving gore and violence.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

You are on a mission to liberate the human race from an oppressive alien regime. Too bad it's coated in blood.


Gun fights, gore, and frenzied attacks by ferocious aliens and brutal soldiers account for much of the game play. Some of the imagery is extremely disturbing.

Not applicable

An obscenity sprinkled here and there, but nothing gratuitous.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this well-produced adult game is not for kids under any circumstances -- hence the "Off" rating. This story turns on the struggle between an alien-installed fascist government and a group of scrappy scientists trying to liberate the human race. It's non-stop gore and violence. From the first scenes, it graphically depicts the oppressive regime and drips with dark dread -- innocent travelers are brutalized by faceless police, citizens cower as their neighbor's homes are searched, and remnants of happier times -- such as a teddy bear abandoned near a swing set -- litter the environment. It's simply too graphic, too intense, and too scary for kids.

Parents say

Kids say

What's it about?

HALF-LIFE 2 again finds heroic scientist Gordon Freeman battling interdimensional aliens, accidentally brought to Earth through an experiment Freeman and his colleagues were working on at the Black Mesa research facility, the setting for the original Half-Life. But this time, the aliens have found a way to take over the world and have installed Freeman's old boss as the leader of a brutal fascist government designed to suppress human resistance to the alien invasion. Mysteriously transported to City 17, headquarters for this government, Freeman finds himself swept up in a resistance movement headed by fellow scientists and sympathetic aliens. And as he leads successful attacks against brutal government troops and ghastly human/alien hybrids, the humans in City 17 begin to hope for a different future -- and look to Freeman as the hero who will bring it to them.

Is it any good?


The game features regular breaks in the action to allow for exposition and puzzles that require players to use their brainpower. And the game's tone is darker than many of its counterparts and is executed so well that the impact of the battles is intense and visceral. Some of the game imagery is so disturbing (think mutilated bodies, immolation, and torture) that it lingers long after you shut off your computer.

That lasting impression is largely due to Half-Life 2's impressive presentation. Graphics are truly mind-boggling, physics are surprisingly realistic, and sound effects are amazing. However, the very things that make Half-Life 2 remarkable are the same things that make it impossible to recommend to kids. It's a game that will conjure up feelings of anxiety and dread, and it's simply too graphic, too intense and too scary for anyone under 17.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why this story of human suppression by alien forces is compelling. Is human suppression (albeit not by alien forces) a theme that reverberates throughout history? Does violence against aliens play differently than violence against humans?

Game details

Available online?Not available online
Release date:November 23, 2004
Genre:First Person Shooter
ESRB rating:M for (Windows)

This review of Half-Life 2 was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 14 years old Written bySilbixia September 17, 2009

Excellent, in-depth game. Just don't buy it for your 8 year-old.

First off: If you don't think your child is mature enough to virtually beat a cop to death with a crowbar, this most likely isn't the game for them. (Or, to be more accurate, for you.) I know that I probably just scared you away from this game, but I'll continue anyway.

This is one of my favorite games of all time, if not my absolute favorite. The game is awesome. (If you're mature enough to play it.) It's just as simple as that.

Now as for the violence, I believe another review already pointed out that their is an option to turn the blood off during gameplay. (You should know that this is only available in the PC version, not the consoles.) Even when the blood is on, it's not really that bad compared to other FPS's. When an enemy is shot/hit, a very small amount of blood actually come from the actual character. Most of the blood you will see will be on walls and floors. It sounds worse than it actually is. If you're wondering, the blood does look realistic. It's a realistic game. That's the whole point. Weapons you use are: A crowbar, a pistol, Magnum revolver (Dirty Harry gun), crossbow, grenades, sub-machine guns, shotgun, rocket launcher. The enemies use sniper rifles, as well as some of the above. Citizens are beaten with stun batons by cops. Enemies are always either trans-human cops/soldiers bearing gas masks and Nazi-like uniforms, zombies, or monster-like alien creatures, including "headcrabs" that latch onto people's heads, turning them into zombies. (Which you then have to kill.) Zombies and blood are usually working together in this game, as they (the zombies) can be found lying down in a puddle of it (a result of the headcrab attack) before getting up and trying to claw at your face. One of the levels is entirely zombie-oriented, as is by far the bloodiest. That level is not for the faint of heart. If your child is easily scared, make sure to tell them not to go to Ravenholm.

Moving on, I'll explain each of the concerns/highlights that I labeled at the top of this review:

Bad messages: Might teach kids that all problems have a simple answer: Hit it with a crowbar.

Good role models: The character you play as is Dr. Gordon Freeman. He is well known for being resourceful in times of extreme pessimism, as well as being a good leader. (Earning nicknames like "the One Free Man") He's also a mute and has a PHD from MIT. This makes him unique from the classic soldier kind of video game hero, and because of this he's a bit of an icon in the video game community. After all, just look at my profile picture.

Educational/Safety Issues: Though these wouldn't normally go together, I'd just like to point out that I know a lot about weapons, and I didn't before playing this game. However, this probably has less to do with the game itself than the fact that this was the first FPS i ever played. (And the first 'mature' game.) If their is any risk of your child (presumably younger) screwing around with guns, (i.e. you keep a handgun in your basement 'just in case') they shouldn't be playing video games in the first place. More importantly, if you have a kid, you shouldn't have a gun at all. But I won't get into that...

As a final note, I would like to discuss the general atmosphere of the game. From the moment you arrive in City 17, you have this feeling that something has changed; something is wrong.
The game takes place in a near-future earth that has been forcefully taken over by an inter-galactic empire known as the Combine. To citizens they are represented by the metro-cops that walk the streets, terrorizing anyone and everyone. Humanity has been completely enslaved, except for Dr. Breen, the (human) figure-head leader of Combine earth, and the One Free Man. Dr. Breen records "Breencasts" which are displayed throughout the city one huge monitors, spewing propaganda in an attempt to shape the minds of the people below. Due to Combine technology, humans can no longer reproduce, ensuring that the current generation will also be the last.
There ain't no rainbows in this game. Just the mood might be too much for some younger players.

Final assessment: Iffy for 12+, Probably fine for anyone 14+, -- Definitely OK for anyone older than that.

What other families should know
Too much violence
Educational value
Great role models
Safety and privacy concerns
Teen, 15 years old Written byCaptain_Ridley June 16, 2011

One of the best video games ever made

Half-Life 2 is one of the best video games ever made. It's stunning narrative feels like that of a great movie, albeit much more engaging as you are actually part of the action, instead of being just a passive observer. The violence is really not that bad, and should be fine for anyone over 11 or 12. The only people you kill are the evil soldiers working for the Combine regime. They are pretty much completely dehumanized, with stormtrooper-esque uniforms and voice filters that make them sound like robots.You also kill zombies controlled by alien parasites, which aren't really human at all. The only real reason to not let your kid play this would be because of the off-screen violence. As you explore Combine forts and buildings, you occasionally find torture victims and dead rebels, which can be kind of disturbing. These images, however, play a distinct role to show how evil the Combine are, and enforce the idea that you, the heroic freedom-fighter, must stop them. In the end, the game portrays a great message about standing up for the rights and good of humanity, however great the cost may be.

What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Kid, 10 years old Written byworstsitever October 17, 2009

Personally I think this game is fine for boys 10 and up. There are some levels that are a bit disturbing. But I handled it. Believe me,this game really didn't make me want to act violently torwards anyone.


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