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The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What 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.
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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.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.