Half-Life 2

Game review by
Aaron Lazenby, Common Sense Media
Half-Life 2 Game Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
A game filled with unnerving gore and violence.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 45 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 183 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

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.


An obscenity sprinkled here and there, but nothing gratuitous.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 14-year-old Written byMrPinstripe March 24, 2015

Don't judge a game by it's rating

In the Half Life series, you are a scientist who is removed from a stasis and forced to fight against an alien government by a mysterious employer. The violen... Continue reading
Adult Written byAn Enigma April 4, 2015

Likely The Best PC Game of All Time

Half Life 2 is a masterclass for pacing, differences in kind, likable female characters, atmospheric story, and balanced combat. It's violent, but in no wa... Continue reading
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 depres... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old March 25, 2015

One of the greatest games of all time.

This was the first FPS I ever played. It's an absolute masterpiece and every gamer should play it. Most likely the main thing that is driving you away fro... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

  • Platforms: Windows
  • Price: $54.99
  • Available online? Not available online
  • Developer: Valve
  • Release date: November 23, 2004
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter
  • ESRB rating: M
  • Last updated: August 25, 2016

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