The player takes control of Barney Calhoun, a security officer briefly seen during the opening of the first game. While making his usual rounds at Black Mesa, the Resonance Cascade teleports an influx of alien creatures into the facility. Using what little equipment he has available, Barney travels through the facility and recruits the help of Dr. Rosenberg, who has a plan to transport the trapped scientists safely out of Black Mesa.
Compared with its predecessor Half-Life: Opposing Force, Blue Shift is considerably stripped back in terms of content, lacking many of the weapons and enemies from the original game. Blue Shift was the first game in the franchise to have a significant NPC helping the player during the game, and the game came with a free High Definition pack that upgraded the models to the source game. Barney would later go on to become a major supporting character in Half-Life 2.
Half-Life: Blue Shift contains examples of:
- Action Survivor: Barney Calhoun, especially when compared to Gordon. Both men spend a lot of their time trying not to get killed by the aliens and the HECU forces but where as Gordon becomes an Action Hero, Barney's story is all about getting out of Black Mesa alive and not having to risk his life for extra reasons outside of his control.
- Boss Battle: Averted, as this is the only Half-Life game without any boss fights. The game doesn't even have a Final Boss.
- Continuity Nod: On the initial train journey in Half-Life, you pass by a security guard banging on a door. In Blue Shift, the first door you come to malfunctions, and if you look around while waiting for the guard on the other side to open it, you'll see Freeman passing you by. Later on, you can overhear some marines complaining about having to do the crap work because Shephard's team hasn't arrived yet.
- Creator Cameo: In "Captive Freight" when you're traveling through the tunnels before reaching the train-yard, you will come across an opened box that just so happens to have gear shaped objects spilling onto the floor. Aka, a gearbox.
- Developers' Foresight:
- During the ''Captive Freight" level, you come across two scientists in your search for Dr. Rosenberg. If you actually try to backtrack with these two scientists following, you would come to realize that there is an invisible wall that will not allow the scientists to walk any further. That's because if you were able to backtrack far enough, you would come across the breakable wall that you would eventually learn about from Dr. Rosenberg that leads to where his colleagues are creating the portal device to escape Black Mesa. The reason for the invisible wall was so that you couldn't break the story and have two random scientists waiting at the elevator when Dr. Rosenberg leads you to it later on in the story.
- If the player destroys the wall hiding the elevator to the portal chamber before Dr. Rosenberg leads you back to it, you will soon realize that he will have a different line-of-dialogue regarding the fact that Calhoun has already found the hidden elevator instead of the normal dialogue to destroy the wall.
- Donut Mess with a Security Guard: The fat security guard in the firing range is seen trying to reach for his holstered gun while holding a donut with the closer hand. Later, a scientist tells another guard "Shouldn't you be off guarding some coffee and donuts?"
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Compared with the other Half-Life games, Blue Shift at least affords Barney a happy ending, though it's not easy.
- Let Us Never Speak of This Again: The ending smacks of this, as the G-Man seems embarrassed that Calhoun and Rosenberg escaped.Subject: Calhoun
Status: Out of Range
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- Scenic Tour Level: Just like the other games, the game opens with Barney making his way to an elevator while passing through security.
- Title Drop: "Blue Shift" is the In-Universe name of the security shift that Barney works on.