Excellent game, i didn't finish it because the version i got from steam kept crashing every five minutes but i still liked it a lot.
I actually liked the jumping puzzles too, it gave a sense of desperation and vulnerability, even if they were quite frustrating but lots of rocket jumping practice in tf2 has made crouch jumping second nature
To answer your question, Yatzee, I think Freeman is regarded as an icon in the Half-Life universe just for surviving all the shit went down in the original game. We're playing an incredibly resourceful and intelligent person who managed to see the end of a disaster before suddenly disappearing off the face of the planet.
I'd, frankly, hail anyone who pulled something like that off as the next Jesus.
Well, I found the "Freemans Mind" Version of Gordon most interesting - he simply declares that everyone else went crazy and that the universe tries to kill him for no reason other than being "awesome".
Also, there might be some glad to hear (yes, I am talking to you two guys) and several who might forgot about "Black Mesa", the fan-made remake, featuring an enhanched version of Half Life without chaning much of the basic gameplay (Health Pick ups, no iron sight except for the Revolver, better visuals,...) without sacrificing anything what was good.
There was even recently a leak of a video of a very recent build of the mod (4 to 5 weeks old). It has been taken down from YT since then, but someone else downloaded it beforehand and uploaded it. You can get it here [http://forums.blackmesasource.com/showpost.php?p=474349&postcount=545]. (Check the rest of that threat to find a Q&A about that video a bit earlier on)
And yes, HL1 did age well except visually. Nobody can really deny that it looks pretty bad nowerdays (but there are worse looking games, which came later), even the HD Models kind of save it a bit from looking like absolute ass.