Generally favorable reviews - based on 61 Critic Reviews

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 58 out of 61
  2. Negative: 0 out of 61
Buy On
  1. Half-Life 2: Episode One demonstrates how games ought to be made, forged by dedication, imagination and risk-taking. It's an outstanding, stirring experience.
  2. As sad and anti-social as it sounds it’s like you're visiting old friends and, similar to previous Half-Life games, in Half-Life 2: Episode 1 you actually feel as if you are re-assuming the role of Gordon Freeman rather just controlling him.
  3. It's just a remix of its predecessor, but this is still the strongest and most thrilling Half-Life title yet.
  4. 100
    Episode One offers a unique solution. Smaller, more frequent doses of high-quality gaming for less money. Ultimately, every player will have to decide if 20 bucks is too much for content in the vein of Half-Life 2: Episode One. For us, the quality here is well worth the price of admission.
  5. Half-Life 2: Episode One is really one of the best games I've played in recent months, and I'm eagerly anticipating the next installment. Though it provides little in the way of exposition and does nothing to reduce the opacity of the plot (which would be interesting if it made sense), its mood and design are so elegantly realized that minor complaints about storyline holes can't seriously diminish the accomplishment.
  6. Episode One could be criticised for lacking new weapons and environments, yet few games are more polished or entertaining.
  7. In many ways, Half-Life 2: Episode One is even better than the original "Half-Life 2," but it's a short thrill ride that may leave some gamers impatient for the next installment, due out by year's end.
  8. Valve really has done a great job showing people that episodic content doesn't have to be such a bad thing and can give the developers a chance to implement changes to the code as hardware becomes more and more powerful with time. The game is absolutely worth playing through and should not be overlooked in any case.
  9. It's hard to fault such an immersive and well thought out game which expertly melds frenetic twitch-factor action with a variety of logic puzzles.
  10. The story of the Half-Life universe is propulsive in its own right and the sheer zeal Valve has for this world and the characters in it is a joy to experience. Partnering with a truly responsive AI also has to be seen to be believed.
  11. PC Zone UK
    Without a shadow of a doubt, Half-Life 2: Episode One contains the best Freeman moments ever conceived, but by necessity it carries too much over from before to be as consistently entertaining as its forbear. [Aug 2006, p.67]
  12. Games Master UK
    Mostly, it's riveting and stirs feverish anticipation of what's to come next, with the sure-to-be-ace follow-up, "Episode Two." [Aug 2006, p.76]
  13. Pelit (Finland)
    Not surprisingly, it's great. I want more and I want it soon. Small cause of concern is the plot that advances only in baby steps. [Aug 2006, p.54]
  14. Just like the original Half-Life 2, Episode One keeps the player entertained almost the entire time through perfect pacing and by being inventive, surprising and getting the basics absolutely right. It's a wonderful advert for the excitement that true episodic content can generate when approached the right way.
  15. 90
    Delivers exactly what you'd expect from a Half-Life expansion: it returns to the intriguing setting of City 17, delivers lots of tight action sequences and well-crafted puzzles, and is arguably the best-looking shooter out today.
  16. 90
    Episode One is the work of a team at the top of its game, and its level design, pace, visual style, and audio are practically beyond reproach.
  17. It certainly feels like a complete segment, in that the ending is satisfying, interesting and leading towards the next episode.
  18. It is short, at around 4-6 hours depending on ability and difficulty level, but they are 4-6 hours of intense, taught and finely tuned gameplay the like of which you're unlikely to find in many other games. Once you're ensnared by the charms of Episode One you'll be chafing at the bit for Episode Two to arrive.
  19. Episode 1 puts together a fantastic game not by necessarily introducing anything new, but by forcing players to focus more on using their wits than their firepower. Although, firepower helps a lot too.
  20. The action itself is matchless amongst modern first-person shooters. In fact, it feels even more urgent now, since Valve has tightened the reigns on puzzle-solving.
  21. Half-Life 2: Episode One is a bit of a paradox. In terms of mechanics and content it is a yet another sequel to a well-known series that itself is in a long-established genre. On the other hand, considering how that content is delivered, both in terms of Steam and the introduction of episodic content, there is nothing exactly like Episode One on the market.
  22. 90
    An unusual aspect of this expansion is that you don't even need Half Life 2 in order to play the expansions, a nice option for the consumers. If you are big into FPS games, especially of the Half Life series, you will definitely want to pick this one up.
  23. But given that we gave Half-Life 2 one of our very rare five-star ratings, it would be pretty tough to improve upon perfection. The mere fact that Episode One comes close to matching the greatness of the original is impressive.
  24. PC Gamer UK
    Episode One is full of sophisticated visual effects. [July 2006, p.64]
  25. 90
    A wonderful continuation of the story of Half Life.
  26. 90
    The game's pacing as the pendulum swings from action to intrigue and tension is a masterstroke with so many memorable sections in such a short space of time that the player will be left breathless and, just like the end of Half-Life 2, wanting more.
  27. PC Format
    Play it with your brain switched off and you'll cruise through the whole shebang in something like four hours, but take your time over the game, soak up the world's look and feel, listen to the refreshingly sharp NPC dialogue, experiment with different ways of approaching each conflict and puzzle, and you'll drag it out to a deeply satisfying six or seven. [Aug 2006, p.90]
  28. AceGamez
    While it can occasionally feel as though this episode is merely testing to see how well you've remembered how to fight the Combine, for the most part it's a non stop thrill ride through some best bits of the both Half-Life games, with the added inclusion of some incredibly smart AI companionship.
  29. The HDR lighting really shines here and offers an impressive recreation of realistic lighting.
  30. 89
    One of Valve’s smartest decisions in Episode One was to not have a timer or countdown. Not only does this make the game less frustrating, but it allows players to explore the still gorgeous environment of the game.
  31. Episode One stays true to everything that made Half-Life 2 great, and tosses in some fresh new content for good measure. It is a wonderful, if not brief, return to the Half-Life world.
  32. It’s an amazingly good, distressingly short game.
  33. If you’re a Half-Life fan, you simply can’t ignore this one. If you’re not a Half-Life fan, prepare to become one.
  34. Episode One is a lot of fun, and it leads right into an even better looking episode.
  35. Game Informer
    The first episodic content Valve delivers just about exactly what I expected from it: more Half-Life 2. [Aug 2006, p.88]
  36. While I found that a lot of things that made Half-Life 2 notable – going it alone in many places, using vehicles, interacting with a host of characters – are missing in Episode One, I still really enjoyed the experience, and appreciated how Valve this time made it feel almost like a survival horror game.
  37. Episode One is a memorable romp through the Half-Life universe, with gameplay that's even more satisfying than that of "Half-Life 2." The only downside is that, due to its episodic nature, it's over far too soon.
  38. At first glance, Half-Life 2: Episode One could be considered a simple add-on. But a closer inspection reveals that VALVe didn’t go down the classical "more monsters, more weapons" cliché, but instead opted to refine and fine-tune the already successful Half-Life 2 recipe, by combining monster types during combat, and introducing more puzzles and the „cooperative singleplayer” mechanic with the help of Alyx.
  39. The graphical upgrades and presentation improvements are certainly noticeable, while the game continues to have some of the best set-pieces of any first-person shooter. We do hope though, that for the next outing Valve puts a little more focus into creating all new gameplay scenarios and interactive experiences.
  40. Fans of the series will love it, those that complain about linearity or other typical Half-Life traits will continue to be disappointed.
  41. The commentary is fascinating, and shows an attention to detail that puts many other games to shame. Every game designer should own Episode One — along with Richard Rouse III's book "Game Design: Theory and Practice" (Wordware, 2001).
  42. Unfortunately, it is a little on the short side, once you start really getting into the game it’s over.
  43. 85
    A brief, stylistically claustrophobic experience whose polish and personality manage to keep things moving.
  44. 85
    If you were hoping that Episode One would shed more light on Half-Life 2's cryptic storyline, keep on dreaming. Taking a cue from "Lost," Episode One dances around key plot mysteries while giving very little in the way of new information.
  45. 85
    It’s short, but it’s cheap and gives amazing value for money. Most Half-Life fans will want to replay the game a second time to hear the additional commentary track; and to be honest, a good, condensed 4-6 hours of action at a budget price beats out a drawn-out, full price game any day of the week.
  46. PC Gamer
    Still, while this inaugural episode may not be the essential FPS that "Half-Life 2" is, I can't imagine any shooter fan who'd want to miss it. [Aug 2006, p.34]
  47. Just perfect game pacing, splendid atmosphere and top-rating production value.
  48. The game has a great shine to it. It is absolutely beautiful with everything from the way the characters look and move. Kudos to Valve for doing such excellent work at giving us such high class eye candy.
  49. 84
    The ever flirtatious relationship between Gordon and Alyx is communicated with beautiful clarity by the astonishing amount detail and expression on Alyx's face.
  50. Half-Life 2: Episode One might not introduce any major new weapons or stunning plot twists, but the further insight it gives into the universe and characters who dwell within is unquestionably worth the experience – if only to see the enigmatic "G-Man" get well and truly pissed.
  51. Half-Life 2: Episode One is a more than worthy successor to Half-Life 2, as it kept all of the latter’s strengths, and even added some more, such as HDR and far improved character interaction and plot density. The problem is, it hasn’t nearly the same bang for the buck – lacking length and new multiplayer features.
  52. While the gameplay still has its spectacular moments, with more lifelike character than ever before (simply put, Valve still beats any other FPS developer hands down), none of this seems to justify the price tag. That's the bottom line.
  53. 80
    [Alyx's] addition brings a massive injection of personality to what would otherwise be a solid, but rather ordinary, continuation of the Half-Life saga.
  54. Valve has once again proven that it knows its stuff when it comes to gaming. Half-Life is fast becoming one of the most legendary series of all time and Episode One only enhances this view.
  55. If you’re looking for a new FPS to play through, there’s not much that can compete with Half-Life 2: Episode One, even if it is essentially an incomplete experience.
  56. Edge Magazine
    Half-Life’s narrative does nothing altogether new, and nothing to upturn the quite reasonable condescension of Roger Ebert and his peers in more mature media. But in an interactive genre bound to the traditions of the pop-up gun and invisible hero, it simply doesn’t get more sophisticated than this. [Aug 2006, p.80]
  57. Though short (with total gameplay running around 4-8 hours), the story is really told well and should adequately entertain fans. But the meat of any expansion - new environments, new weapons, and new enemies – is painfully thin.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 2653 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. ds
    Dec 6, 2009
    Half-Life, Half-Life 2...quite possibly the best FPS games ever created. Episode One, is just more of the same fantastic game. Plus the added Half-Life, Half-Life 2...quite possibly the best FPS games ever created. Episode One, is just more of the same fantastic game. Plus the added bonus of playing along side Alyx with superb AI. And added bad humor :p Full Review »
  2. Dec 15, 2012
    A short little story, but I explained allegedly happened after the explosion of City 17. Back to the Same, ie same graphics, same charactersA short little story, but I explained allegedly happened after the explosion of City 17. Back to the Same, ie same graphics, same characters and same gameplay. This does not prevent is good because if it's the same this never bored Full Review »
  3. Nov 30, 2017
    I liked it more than Half-Life 2. It felt more focused, without any tedious and unnecessary gameplay moments. I also found the graphicsI liked it more than Half-Life 2. It felt more focused, without any tedious and unnecessary gameplay moments. I also found the graphics considerably better. The negative side is the game is even more linear, stuffed with scripted scenes. At the end, I think this is a more polished game than the original, although pretty short.

    PS: Alyx is hot
    Full Review »