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Shin Force ~ Dreamcast ~
Half Life
Geoffrey Duke
1x GD
Import / 
3rd Person
     > Oh, what might have been. The conversion of Valve's ever-popular first person shooter Half Life (a game that gained its popularity among gamers by keeping the action focused on the single player experience rather than a multi-player killing spree) to the Dreamcast was going to have brand new textures applied to everything in sight (making the old graphics seem new again), twice the polygon count of the PC original, more fluid animations, and include a new side-story (titled Blue Shift) involving one of the security guards stationed at the doomed Black Mesa research facility for you to experience things from a different point of view during the alien invasion (i.e. it's his job to clean up the mess). This meant that Half Life for the Dreamcast was going to be more than quick port (not having content cut to fit the hardware like other PC ports), tapping the graphical power of the Dreamcast dry to deliver the best version to date. 

     > Already playing host to two of the best fighting games ever made with limitless mass market appeal (Dead or Alive 2 and Soul Calibur) among other instant smash hits (something for everyone) like Grandia 2, Resident Evil: Code Veronica and Virtua Tennis (all great games when judged on their own merits found nowhere else at the time), some of us found it hard to imagine that the Dreamcast would fail. A superb conversion of Quake 3: Arena meant that the DC's online days were far from numbered (you can't get any more mass market than first person shooters). After shipping millions of consoles worldwide, and with Half Life, a game that is simply great for what it is, on the way to bolster an already solid library of games, failure didn't seem likely at all. A lack of system sellers certainly wasn't to blame for bringing down the DC.

     > Once Sega announced its decision to pull out of the hardware business as the result of Sega being pushed further and further to the brink of financial ruin (partly because consumers decided to wait for the PS2 based on the promises of far, far more which it didn't deliver in the end), third party support vanished in the time it took to blink an eye. Still, Half Life was 95% finished and almost ready to ship at this point; why cancel it? An online mode was planned for a later release to give everyone another reason to own a Dreamcast (until it was no longer viable). As it stands, when Sierra cancelled Half Life for the DC so close yet so far away from finishing it, and when Sega announced the cancellation of Propeller Arena supposedly because you could emulate the 9/11 attacks by ramming planes into skyscrapers (that stinks of an excuse to avoid paying the costs of hosting an online game to me), I can't help but feel that we missed out. An 8 player online mode for Daytona was even planned in Europe too until Sega scrapped the idea with the DC (imagine the car pile ups). What a waste, is all I have to say.

First and Last Impression
     > Half Life for the Dreamcast, with its better textured and lightsourced aliens, environments and lip-synched characters, is one of those games that could have saved the Dreamcast, assuming Sega held on longer. Even after Sega threw in the towel so soon, it was a stupid mistake for Sierra to cancel Half Life, as DC owners would have scrambled to buy one of the last remaining AAA titles. Not all was lost, thankfully, as all the improved textures from the DC game lived on in the Blue Shift expansion pack for the PC version (Seirra certainly didn't lost money here).

     > Judging from the final preview build of the game that was leaked onto the net, the only thing left to do was shorten the game's loading times (those too impatient to wait would have gone out of their minds) and optimize the frame rate to keep up a constant one when the action got too hot to handle. The people handling the conversion assured gamers that these issues would be remedied before its final release. How good the final version was isn't clear. What is clear, however, is that the unfinished DC game (despite these minor hiccups) more than holds its own against the finished Playstation 2 version released not long afterwards. When the PS2 version sold out, obviously no one cared about "low polygon counts", then. Why do I smell a bribe from Sony to hammer one final nail into the DC's coffin? Even with fewer polygons at its disposal than the PS2, the Dreamcast could render some fantastic visuals that even today haven't lost their charm, much like the PS2 can render some great visuals even with fewer polygons than the Xbox. Why do I have to batter this point into peoples' skulls with a baseball bat for it to sink in? We can take comfort in the fact that the PS2 wasn't powerful enough to cope with even a toned down conversion of the sequel, which can now be found on the Xbox. Who had the last laugh, Sony?

~ Geoffrey Duke ~
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