Revisiting the Half-Life universe in “Prospekt” – (Impressions)
Written by: Cameron Hinkle
Prospekt is billed as the first sequel to Opposing Force, the highly acclaimed expansion pack for the original Half-Life. For being the first experience set in the Half-Life universe in years, you might think Prospekt has flown under the radar.
That’s because rather than being the triple-A blockbuster you were hoping would come from Valve, it’s actually an indie game created entirely by a one-man development shop, Richard Seabrook.
Seabrook originally created Prospekt as the ultimate video game developer resume for his favorite development studio, Valve. And while he may have overestimated Valve’s need for game developers (since they don’t really make games anymore), they did grant him permission to release the game through their Greenlight program. It was released on February 18, 2016 and is available on Steam for $9.99.
In Prospekt you once again assume the role of Opposing Force protagonist Corporal Adrian Shephard. When we last saw Shephard, the G-Man had just thanked him for his services but then detained him until further notice to keep him from talking about the events at Black Mesa.
Prospekt opens with a group of Vortigaunts freeing Shepard from detention in order to help Gordon Freeman fight everyone’s new worst enemy, the Combine. Surprisingly this is more or less the extent of the story: fight the Combine. You’ll get some of Shephard’s back story filled in through random audio flashbacks, but don’t expect the twists and turns or gripping narrative that you’ve grown accustomed to in previous games in the series.
The premise sets the stage for gameplay that is very similar to Half-Life 2 with all the same weapons, venues, and enemies. You’ll traverse down corridors, fighting a few Combine soldiers at a time, and then at regular intervals you’ll encounter a large room of soldiers that requires a little more tact to clear. For a while this is quite engaging as you come up with the best way to take on the forces in the next room.
But eventually you’ll notice weaknesses in the AI, and probably come up with a strategy for defeating them that more or less works in every situation. So towards the end, the combat becomes too formulaic and you’ll feel less of a sense of accomplishment as you go on.
The Half-Life series has always made how to get from one point to another part of the fun, and Prospekt tries to do this in a few places with sequences resembling puzzles. But in this area Prospekt really disappoints.
You’ll move crates from one room to another in order to get over a fence, you’ll crawl through a vent to deactivate a door lock, and that’s about the extent of the creativity employed. The back half of Prospekt really does away with puzzles altogether and focuses on combat, which is fine because the earlier puzzles were more of a nuisance than they were fun.
Prospekt doesn’t deliver the lengthy content and winding story arc you’d expect from a triple-A title, which can be overlooked because of the size of the development team. But it also doesn’t deliver the creativity that gets the best indie developers their following.
At its best, Prospekt delivers the tension and adrenaline of a good first person shooter, with audio and animated sequences that keeps your interest piqued. Unfortunately the lack of creativity in the gameplay and story arc will leave most players disappointed.
Still, the Half-Life universe is an exciting place to be and getting Valve’s blessing gives Prospekt’s events a level of legitimacy somewhere between canon and fan fiction. For fans of the series, the price of admission is probably sufficiently low that they should check it out, while newcomers and those with only a passing interest should stay away.