I would like to point out, for the record, that both Valve and ID software are world-class game development studios and both have confrimed this by their latest releases.
The graphics in this game are good, but not of Doom3's caliber. Now, since I have to take into acount other games to rate this one to... it lacks a little luster. The graphics are awesome however. There are a few things in level design, texture placement, and ruble texturing (in particular an old house along the Costal Road) that are plain ugly. I wondered why not place actual ruble from the side of the house there, instead of a textured blob... but I digress. The water in HL2 is fantastic and the variety of shader effects is nice. Fire looks a little 1998 at some times though. I would like to discuss that there are quite a few texture glitches in the game for me but turning the texture quality down to medium fixes this without impacting quality too much. The shadows are sub-par. Overall I like the graphics alot but they aren't the major selling point.
I really wanted to give the sound a higher score but this is the only way that I can be fair. The sound timing and placement is beautiful but the quality has to be turned to low for it to even work. I imagine after version 1.1 or 1.2 comes out then my complaints will dissapear, but as it stands the sound experience is a little lacking. There is no reason to have crackly, stuttering sound when the game runs at around 40-45fps the rest of the time.
Wow. The interactivity of this world is quite simply amazing. Throwing bottles at people, pulling plugs and tv's out of the wall. Physics puzzles that aren't overly-used. The engine amazes me at times, especially when playing CS:Source, but thats another story. The weapons work very well... I don't like the non-toggle grenades, though I could easily bind the buttons... thats just lazyness talking. The AI is simply amazing, and you are very lucky to hit someone with a grenade. If people thought doom gameplay was repetitive I would say that the gameplay in HL2 is just as repetitive especially until the "Sandtraps" level. Its a game, you do somthing over and over till you beat it... thats what games are. The implementation, complexity, belivability, and fun-ness of those tasks are what make a game good... but I digress. Overall I have no problems with the gameplay; everything seems natural and easy.
I'm litteraly engrossed in the story. I crave knowing what is about to happen. I play too many hours. The acting is above the par certainly, but it is more than that. The charecters are believable and that is quite an acomplishment. I particularly like the Overwatch Soldiers and the things they say... "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, FLASH, FLASH, FLASH, BANG!." It all gives it a nice consistant quality that would come from the training of elite troops.
Final Score: 8.5/10
That may seem a little harsh, but the first patches should clean that up to a rather nice 9, 9.5... hell, even 10. Drivers for ATI and nVIDIA should help too... as I've seen both versions. Keep in mind that I have not played through the whole game, but my opinions on it are unlikley to change unless they do somthing really stupid.
The Future: UMPTYBILLION/10
I'm even more eager for mod-makers to get a hold of this than I am for them to pound Doom3 around. Go for it guys! They Hunger 5! Re-make of They-Hunger! Lets go go go!