#9: Half-LifePlatform: PCYear: 1998
Original review score: 5 out of 5 Stars
There's never been anything quite like the original Half-Life, a PC shooter that revolutionized video game storytelling by abandoning the popular concepts of story cinemas and wisecracking one-liners in favor of seamless real-time immersion and a faceless (and therefore universal) protagonist.
Why It Was Innovative:
Rather than making the player a joke-cracking personality a la Duke Nukem 3D, Half-Life developer Valve Software inverted the formula with powerful, genre-rippling results that still thrive over ten years later. The central "hero," Gordon Freeman, has no voice and no personality. Therein lies the genius: Freeman was nothing more than an empty vessel for the player's ego. Wisely, Valve Software then amplified this design decision by eschewing any game element that would shatter their carefully constructed alternate reality. That meant all storytelling and plot developments were seamlessly delivered in real time to the player via survivors of the Black Mesa alien invasion. To this day, Half-Life 's vision of the faceless, often voiceless hero is the de facto standard for much of the action genre, and organic real-time narratives have largely replaced mood-breaking cinematic cut scenes.