Some fairly interesting commentary on variability in video game difficulty settings.  I would agree that Half-Life did have some strangeness to its level of difficulty (as I recall, I finally found the balance that I liked by using console codes to specify the exact percentages of damage that my weapons and enemy weapons would do). Personally, so long as you have enough granularity in difficulty settings that people can play the game (through to completion) in whatever mode they want, from easy to challenging, then the game is doing something right.

It’s worth reading the entire article, and the accompanying comment thread, but I especially liked this comment, posted by bit-tech member Bauul:

I used to be one for going at it on hardest possible settings, but over time and with age, I now almost always play it on easy.

Why? Because every time I have to redo a section, that’s a bit of fun gone. Every time I get frustrated and find a part difficult, that’s a bit of stress I tried to avoid by picking up the game in the first place. I know the challenge often can be the fun, but I like to build up to that challenge. If I find a game too difficult too early on, I simply won’t play it any more.

I think this is a good explanation of why I tend to take the same path: I want to have fun with games, and struggling with them takes away from their stated purpose of providing the player with an enjoyable time.