Half-Life 2 Game Poster Image

Half-Life 2



A game filled with unnerving gore and violence.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

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.

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

This review of Half-Life 2 was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Well-made series finale too violent for kids.
  • Superb but gory gameplay in first-person shooter.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 13 years old Written byKwikDraw13 December 24, 2011

Really? Not for Kids?

The review that is currently up honestly saddens me. The fact that this, and many other games are instantly demonized as "Not for kids" is near depressing, especially when movies that are far worse are given much nicer ratings. Obviously, it all depends on your kids. This is a very violent game, yes, but that's about it. There is no sexual content, no real language, no drinking or drugs, none of that. The review above says that it is full of language, but upon closer inspection says "Nothing Gratuitous." Are people nowadays just biased against new forms of art? Because that's what this game is: Art, Thank you Valve, for this and all your other games. This is not the first game with a "Not for Kids" rating, either. Actually, come to think of it, I think I understand the reason: Videogames have always been targeted towards kids, and like many other mediums before it, any video games not targeted towards kids are considered offensive. Luckily this trend is dying down, just like it has with mediums like cartoons and comics. But, none the less, the ignorance of people is the real problem, not the content itself. Anyway, the game itself is very gory, and some of the aliens you must face are very disturbing. I recall one level, right after you got a gun that can pick up/launch anything, that took place in a lumber mill filled with zombie-parasites. That was a very fun level, but also very gruesome. That is about it, though, so If your kids ca handle violence, than it's probably okay for them.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Kid, 10 years old 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.
Adult Written byTwo Listen May 30, 2009

A wonderful a game, depicts some violence, but 13+ should be just fine.

This is a wonderful game. I love this site, I use it myself to look up a few specifics concerning ratings - but violence and gore is one you really have to watch out for, here. As they tend to overexaggerate a great deal with that, specifically. Half-Life 2 follows the path of a Gordon Freeman, a former scientist who's found himself caught up in playing a key role in what may very well be the salvation of human kind. The world as we know it has been taken over by an alien controlled "Combine" government, and it is implied that they can be brutal, cruel, and unjust towards the human population. However - this is NOT depicted in a ridiculous, in-your-face, "for the sake of it" manner. It is depicted in a very emotional and story-relevant manner. You will in your travels through the game, run across some corpses. Some apparently burned, some just dead comrades fighting for the same thing you are. But, while realistically depicted, it is not depicted for the sake of violence - but for the sake of a very moving and solid storyline. It is immersive, and when you see it - you don't think "OH MY GOD, THIS IS VIOLENT." You think "Poor guy. The combine is ruthless, and needs to be stopped." 90% of the actual battles in the game do not consist of hardly any blood or gore. There are some zombies, and they obviously look like zombies partially covered in blood and a few of them can be chopped in half - but again, it is not inappropriately done for the sake of violence, only realism. Most of the time, you're fighting combine soldiers, and you're lucky to see a blood splatter. You just shoot, they fall (or fly back against a wall), and that's that. Not bloody, not gory. It is a realistic depiction of an oppressive and potentially violent system, but it is a very involving and mature presentation of it. Any violence you encounter will be relevant to the storyline and to the world you're involved in, and I would argue that games like this are WELL within the scope of what anyone over the age of 13 should be exposed to. They'll see a hell of a lot worse on TV, or your average movie cover. This isn't your average "shooting game", this isn't close to Doom 3. This is something entirely different. Something I wouldn't want an 8 year old to see, but something your 14 year old son or daughter should be able to get involved in if they really want to.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?