If you haven’t noticed, I really like maps and mods. Mainly because I prefer new content being made by creators for fun and not being sold as $30 expansion packs. But also because people make really good mods.
Some of my favorite mods tend to be ones that only change that gameplay slightly while leaving the original content intact. Stuff like Police Brutality: wildweasel presents Terrorists!, like I mentioned in my Doom mods article a while back. So this time, I cover yet another one of those kind of mods.
So what happens when you take the world of Black Mesa in Half-Life, and throw in the guns from Counter-Strike? You get Counter-Life.
I remember this mod in its early days, back when I used to lurk on a Half-Life mod forum. It makes sense that this exists, considering the popularity of both games. Counter-Strike was one of those mods that had a relatively slow burn, and then exploded by the time Valve acquired the team and released it commercially. These kind of crossovers are always neat, and it makes sense someone would blend two of Valve’s franchises together.
So the story is identical to Half-Life: You play as Gordon Freeman, except instead of an HEV suit, you have a kevlar vest and you get to fight with more realistic weaponry. Basically this is more of a weapons mod than something like They Hunger, which not only had new weapons, but new levels and enemies as well.
The arsenal from Counter-Strike 1.6 is in full force here, from the classic USP, AWP, and Deagle; to the lesser-appreciated TMP and M249. Though there are some new weapons, such as the M4A1 having the M203 grenade launcher like in Half-Life, as well as a rocket launcher that almost resembles a LAW.
In addition, some of the weapons have features not in CS, such as the P90 having a zoom in scope, or the Glock 18 actually functioning like its real-life counterpart as a fully-auto pistol and not the weird Glock/Beretta 93R hybrid it’s been since the beginning. While it’s not a 1-for-1 conversion of CS‘s arsenal, it works.
Hell, in older versions of the mod, you could have akimbo USPs and Deagles, in addition to the more iconic Dual Berettas. Those were rather fun to use, but I figure they removed them to strive for more “accuracy” to the original game and not to satisfy teenage fantasies of new weapons. Had this come out during Global Offensive, we probably would’ve saw a clunky revolver and an overpowered CZ75 auto pistol, so in the grand scheme of things they made the right decision.
So how do you get these guns? Well, in Counter-Strike, you’d go to a buy zone and buy weapons with money you earn. Since Half-Life is meant to take place in what could resemble real life areas, there are no “buy zones.” Instead, the a Health Unit or an HEV Charge station are the places to buy guns, ammo and other important things such as health and armor.
Getting kills will net you cash, but the mod also replaces guns and ammo with loose cash that can be picked up. Since money is strewn all over the place, so you’ll likely have plenty of cash to buy what you need. When you get to the infamous Xen, the long jump Module in Half-Life doubles as a mobile buy zone, where you can refill ammo when you need to, but by then you can’t buy new guns, so make sure you got the weapons you want before you jump to the border world.
There is a catch to this weapons system, though: You can only have one of each weapon type. One pistol, one shotgun, one assault rifle, you get the picture. This means like in CS, you have to drop weapons to buy new ones. I’m not a big fan of this, because I believe in having bottomless pockets to hold practically everything. But it’s not a deal-breaker, it just means planning for what weapons to use in the next area. It doesn’t take that long to adjust to this change.
The only other gameplay difference involve the NPCs. Barney’s been upgraded from using a dinky Glock to a more powerful SPAS-12, and the grunts have powerful assault rifles and shotguns. I’m not sure why they made the changes, but I approve.
While I enjoy the mod, there are problems. In addition to the weapons system, ammo has to be bought at the health stations, which can be frustrating when there’s long gaps between finding those to refill. Not only that, with their new guns, grunts are literal aimbots and will kill you extremely quickly with their new inventory. Much like in Counter-Strike itself, armor ends up being ineffective in these situations, which sucks when you have to fight them often in later sections of the game.
That’s Counter-Life in a nutshell. There’s a multiplayer mode that converts some notable CS maps like Assault, Oilrig and Prodigy as well as one of the billion Dust clones that came out during its heyday, but any multiplayer for GoldSrc/Half-Life engine games these days are deader than a dodo. It also seems redundant considering Counter-Strike is in itself a multiplayer game. Perhaps if it had a co-op/survival mode instead, maybe then it would’ve been fun to play. Oh well, we got Sven Co-op to fill that void.
Thankfully the mod is not lost to time, it’s on ModDB and was updated to be Steam-compatible around 2008. The developer has moved on to other projects, though I can’t see what else you could add to this besides support for other Half-Life levels. It’s worth a look, even though Counter-Strike: Condition Zero Deleted Scenes is basically this but with extra polish. On the other hand, Counter-Life is free and requires only Half-Life to run.
Eh, I hate making choices. They’re both great, give both of them a spin. It’s a shame there was never a Counter-Life 2 for Half-Life 2. I’d totally play that, even with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive‘s somewhat broken weaponry…