Tagged: Half-Life

Mods and maps: Half-Payne.

When I wrote about Half-Life: Before, I had realized that writing about such a mediocre Half-Life mod felt disappointing to me. I usually try my best to avoid going for easy punches and writing about bad stuff. Besides, there’s other people that cover bad stuff so much better than I ever will.

So I wanted to make good and write about a different Half-Life mod. After all, Half-Life is probably the game that got me interested in mods, after Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. So after playing and writing about Before, I had stumbled upon an existing mod that had recently updated, and decided to give it a whirl once more.

I always get a kick out of crossover mods. Counter-Strike into Half-Life. Mario platforming in Doom. That sort of stuff. I don’t remember how I found this one, but last year I had stumbled upon one of the coolest crossover mods I’d seen. This Half-Life mod takes the concept and character from another iconic game franchise and transplants him into the original game.

This is why I said “grab your Berettas and painkillers” at the end of the Before article. We’re about to do some bullet time in Black Mesa.

“I was in a game modification. Funny as hell, it was the most horrible thing I could think of.”

Half-Payne is pretty self-explanatory: It’s Half-Life but instead of the crowbar-wielding silent protagonist Gordon Freeman, you play as Max Payne, the pill-popping, dual-wielding protagonist from the titular series.

I remember when this sequence was pretty cool.
A shame that every time now it looks out of sync…

Sounds pretty simple on the surface. Max Payne’s primary gameplay feature was the “bullet time” mechanic, one of the earliest action games to use that feature. Go into slow motion and shoot enemies with your trusty Berettas. That seems easy to make, right?

Continue reading…

Half-Life Before: A mod that should’ve gotten the red light.

I remember a couple years ago when Steam Greenlight was a thing. A way for more independent publishers and developers to get their games on Steam, Greenlight was a simple voting system where one’s game could be published under the system if it got enough support.

Unfortunately this lead to a lot of fairly questionable works hitting Greenlight. A fair share of games using stock assets from Unity, Unreal, and such. Others were people not understanding copyright law and posting stuff like World of Warcraft to Greenlight. One game was a fairly unremarkable team shooter that got re-posted to Greenlight several times after the creator had difficulty taking constructive criticism, even changing the name to “Tactical Anal Insertion” in a fit of rage.

On the bright side, games like Divekick, Broforce, and Undertale were some of the more standout choices that made it to Steam thanks to Greenlight. So it wasn’t all bad, even if there were people spending the $100 to release a proof-of-concept game that wasn’t even in a playable state.

Though, not everything was a game. Sometimes software made the Greenlight seal of approval. Even community mods like NeoTokyo made it into the mix, which was nice for people to get their project noticed. Though, much like a majority of Greenlight submissions, not all of them were winners, such as this one.

is it “artifact” or “artefact”? and what parallel world?

Half-Life: Before is a cheap free mod from developer Creashock Studios, a one-man studio who I hadn’t heard of until this game.

Now I’ve played a bevvy of Half-Life mods. Some of the best and most notable like They Hunger, Poke646, Azure Sheep and many others. Though for every good mod, there’s at least a dozen bad ones. Before falls into the latter category.

The thrilling introduction.

The story really doesn’t make a lot of sense: You play as Black Mesa scientist Andrew Winner as they’re teleported onto a cargo ship to… find something to go to Xen? The story isn’t that clear, and the brief amount of story given doesn’t explain much beyond what the Steam store page and the main menu gave me.

One option when you start is using this machine gun in this helicopter to take down the headcrab zombies. Or you could just take them down with your normal weapons.

Continue reading…

Counter-Life: Mixing two of my favorite games together.

If you haven’t noticed, I really like maps and mods. Mainly because I believe in new content being made by creators rather than developers packaged into $15 chunks. 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.

Gordon Freeman is a cold-ass motherfucker.

Gordon Freeman is a cold-ass motherfucker.

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.

“FOR GOD’S SAKE, OPEN THE SILO DOORS! SOME CRAZED MADMAN WITH A MAC-10 WANTS ME DEAD!”

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.

This is the weirdest rocket launcher I've ever seen...

This is the weirdest rocket launcher I’ve ever seen…

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. So while it’s not a 1-for-1 conversion of CS‘s arsenal, it works. Hell, in older versions, you could have akimbo USPs and Deagles, in addition to the Dual Berettas. Man, those would’ve been fun to use…

Silly Barney, why are you just leaving stacks of cash lying around?

Silly Barney, why are you just leaving stacks of cash everywhere?

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. In Counter-Life, killing enemies give you cash that you can go to a Health Unit or an HEV Charge station to buy guns, ammo and other important things like health and armor. There’s also money strewn all over the place, so you’ll likely have plenty of cash to buy what you need. When you get to Xen, the Longjump 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.

This probably looks weird to everyone but Gordon, just seeing a floating menu where you could buy stuff.

This probably looks weird to everyone but Gordon, just seeing a floating menu where you could buy stuff.

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 long to adjust.

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.

Man, this place has heavy god damn protection...

Man, this place has heavy god damn protection…

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. Armor ends up being ineffective in these cases, which sucks having to fight them in later sections.

Get your quicksave buttons ready, cause you'll be using it a lot.

Get your quicksave button ready, cause you’ll be using it a lot.

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 in itself is a multiplayer game. Perhaps if it had a co-op/survival mode instead, maybe then it would’ve been fun to play.

Your 5.56mm bullets are no match for the Gargantua's massive flame arms!

Your 5.56mm bullets are no match for the Gargantua’s massive flame arms!

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 with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive‘s weaponry…

From a game mod to Splinter Cell: How I discovered a song by accident.

Over the years, I’ve amassed ridiculous amounts of video game knowledge. I created the Secret Area as a good place to share said video game knowledge with people. Naturally, video game music is something I’m also interested in. While I am a bit of an outlier in terms of my game music tastes – I usually prefer stuff by American and European composers, and don’t really care much for Japanese game music past the SNES/Genesis era – I still love finding information about game music, much like a lot of things I like.

So I’m gonna get nerdy about video game music. I’m gonna write about something that came to mind fairly recently that I thought would be worth sharing. This will hopefully be the start of a new series where I delve into the oddities and bits of inane trivia of music in games.

2014-09-21_00001

Poke646 is one of the best Half-Life mods out there. At the time, most Half-Life mods reused most of the existing templates that the original game used, making Black Mesa look like a research facility that spanned a whole continent. Mods like They Hunger and many others changed how people looked at Half-Life, but not nearly as well as Poke646 did. One day, I should write about Poke646 and its sequel Vendetta, they’re some of the best Half-Life mods out there.

The game’s credits, featured below, featured this haunting, ambient tune.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv-PuH6BNiI]

The hip-hop styled track really fit in line with the rest of the game, which also had some great original ambient music. Thankfully all this music is in the Poke646 mod folder, since I don’t know much about the composer of the ambient music, and there’s little information about it or the mod’s soundtrack online.

Cut to 2010. I had recently picked up Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction Special Edition for $35 at Ubisoft’s online store because of an issue of the special USB keys not working on some copies. As I was going through the game itself, a certain tune started to play that sounded familiar…

(WARNING: Plot spoilers for Splinter Cell: Conviction within.)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNhxKNzeOHc&start=2155]

Yep. It’s the same song. Until then, I had thought that credits music was a unique track made for Poke646. In reality, it was a licensed song: DJ Shadow’s “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt,” from his 1996 debut Endtroducing…..

Ubisoft had licensed “Building Steam…” to play over this part of the game. Since it had been years since I had played Poke646, I had realized the tune sounded familiar but couldn’t quite place it until I replayed the mod much later. After knowing this fact, I bought the song not too long after, naturally.

Games using licensed music is hardly new, think of the many music games that have come out over the years. But most games usually have a composer do all the incidental music, rarely do they use a licensed song unless it’s made specifically for the game, like Eminem’s “Won’t Back Down” and “Survival” from Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty: Ghosts, respectively. Why Ubisoft thought the DJ Shadow tune fit this particular scene is a mystery that we’ll probably never know.

Speaking of DJ Shadow, he has contributed remixes to a few games himself, such as the “El Dorado Megamix” he did for the Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune soundtrack, and two tracks for Motorstorm Apocalypse. So he’s contributed music to the video game world, both directly and indirectly.

To bring it back around to Poke646, “Building Steam…” got a remix when Vendetta was released in 2006, adding some rocking guitars over the game’s credits. In a way, adding additional instrumentation to a song that heavily uses samples is interesting, because it’s using a song with samples as a sample for a new song. It’s fascinating, really.

Thanks to these mods, “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt” has become the Poke646 theme in my mind, which was used in some big budget game. Its inclusion in Splinter Cell: Conviction seems quite bizarre to me, especially since I first heard the song through a game mod many years before. Still a good song, highly recommend you give it a listen. Can’t say if the rest of Endtroducing….. is as amazing, but I’m willing to bet it’s a solid album.

I don’t follow many hip-hop or electronica DJs, but after hearing “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt,” I could probably get into this kind of music. Hell, I loved Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, which was mostly Amon Tobin’s work, as well as enjoying most of Crackdown‘s licensed music which was the same kind of style. Time to broaden my tastes in music…

Speaking of game music, I recently updated an old article from 2013 comparing the tunes from NES game show games to their real-life counterparts. No longer using volatile YouTube videos, I replaced them with convenient MP3s. Check it out here if you wanna read more of me getting nerdy about video game music.

Mods and Maps: They Hunger for Half-Life.

Half-Life is my most favorite game of all time. How I got to experience it for the first time is a story for another time, but one thing that really caught my eye was the mod scene for Half-Life. Much like Quake and Doom before it, people were messing around in WorldCraft making maps for the internet masses. Some were interesting, others were bizarre, then there’s the classics. The mods that did really interesting stuff for Half-Life, and end up being the must-play mods for the game. Such as today’s entry. Since Halloween is around the corner, let’s look at the zombified single player mod They Hunger.

They Hunger was originally released in 1999 as a PC Gamer demo disc freebie, followed by two additional episodes in 2000 and 2001. Neil Manke, who had made the Half-Life mod USS Darkstar for PC Gamer earlier in 1999, was already familiar with game modding for promotional purposes such as Coconut Monkey Adventures for Quake II and Soldier of Fortune for Quake. (Not to be confused with Soldier of Fortune by Raven Software, this SOF was based off a TV show.) Naturally, They Hunger looked to do something most Half-Life mods didn’t do at the time, and it definitely succeeded.

Continue reading…

The Half-Life 1997 Alpha.

Half-Life is one of my most favorite games of all time. It blended action, platforming and story perfectly to be one of the awesome shooters of 1998. But it wasn’t always that way.

Valve, back then a small development studio, made a press demo version of Half-Life that showed a drastically different version of the game: While the story was similar, almost all the levels and designs were different from what we got. Originally slated for November 1997, it missed the release date and came out a year later with many significant changes to the final product, all for the better. Getting a chance to play the Half-Life that never was is really a treat, which has many unfinished levels — some early versions of levels in the final game — as well as tech demos such as skeletal animation. You can shoot a robot and make it do that dancing baby animation that was popular in the late ’90s! Not only that, it has documentation about the game and Valve itself, a walkthrough of all the levels, even copies of Paint Shop Pro and WinZip for some reason…

Here’s me playing through one of the levels, The Security Complex. It’s one of the more complete levels of the game. I go through the stage area at least once, then show the solution as given in the walkthrough.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGCecUyAk9o&w=640&h=480]

Thanks reddit user jackaljayzer for uncovering this gem, who got it from a friend in Bellevue, Washington; and to Valve Time (har) for revealing the leak. There’s links in there if you wanna try it yourself. If somehow you are one of the few who have never played Half-Life, go buy the damn game on Steam already.

(The YouTube video is a sneak preview of what’s to come. Stay tuned…)