Tagged: modification

Mods and maps: Half-Payne, where Max Payne invades Black Mesa.

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 nowadays 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?

Well, I figure that making something like bullet time work is a complicated process unless the engine is made for it. Remedy’s engine for the first two Max Payne games – and presumably the engine that Rockstar used for Max Payne 3 – was built to handle slow motion on the fly. The older GoldSource engine that Half-Life uses doesn’t really have such an ability built in but the later Source engine that powers Half-Life 2 does (“host_timescale”). Surprisingly, thanks to Half-Payne’s creator suXin, they somehow found a way to make it work, and it works gloriously.

(Update: After I published this, suXin, the mod creator, responded to me on Twitter by clarifying that the GoldSource engine does have support for slow-motion, it’s just not something that can be accessed normally compared to the Source engine:)

Credit to the mod’s creator for clarifying that for me. Original tweet here.

 

Similar to Counter-Life, Half-Payne gives you the dialogue of Max Payne from the previous games in the series, alongside some of the iconic weapons like the Berettas, the Desert Eagle and the Ingrams, alongside the normal Half-Life weaponry. Painkillers replace medkits, and since Max Payne is just an ordinary guy in a coat and not a scientist in a futuristic suit, all instances of HEV chargers and batteries are gone entirely.

It even says his name! How considerate of them.

Even all the enemies are unchanged from Valve’s classic game, which I can understand. I mean, replacing all the enemies with mafia goons or killer suits from past games would look even more tonally inconsistent than the mod already does. Maybe for a custom campaign, perhaps?

For additional tension, try playing the Black Mesa Minute mode throughout the campaign. It’s quite tough.

It’s got all the essentials of Max Payne: bullet time, some of Max’s iconic arsenal, even lines from the game. But it doesn’t end there. suXin added bonus modes from the Max Payne games, like a Black Mesa Minute mode based on New York Minute from the first game, and a score attack mode like in Max Payne 3. That and the existing game is good enough to make it fun to play through.

I may not have enjoyed VVVVVV, but having a mode based on it is good for a laugh.

But it doesn’t end there. Wanted to play the game more like SUPERHOT where time moves when you move? Wanted to play through the game but only shooting can make Max move? There’s a lot of bonus game modes in the game that while don’t completely fit with the theme of Max Payne or even Half-Life, that they give endless replay value beyond playing through the Half-Life campaign once through.

Surprised the scientists are pretty chill with a gun-wielding maniac helping them out.

They didn’t have to do that, really. Just having Max and bullet time would’ve been nice for me. But going the extra mile like this gives the mod a unique flavor despite being a “what if X was in Y” crossover mod on the surface. Even small touches like letting CD/MP3 music play through level transitions and having Max Payne 3-styled subtitles for everything are nice quality-of-life features that I wish all Half-Life mods had.

Someone should tell that alien to look behind him…

Something I hope they add in the future would be support for Opposing Force, Blue Shift or other notable Half-Life single player campaigns. I mean, they already use the Opposing Force Desert Eagle model, might as well go all the way.

If you wanna check it out, it’s available here. I will stress that this only works on the Steam release of Half-Life. suXin says this version is required, presumably because of updates in the GoldSource engine that are unsupported or missing in pre-Steam releases. I know there’s very few people out there still using the pre-Steam (or “WON”) version of Half-Life these days, but it bears mentioning.

Now I wonder if anyone’s ever done a mod where Gordon Freeman is in Max Payne. Bashing mafiosos with a crowbar would be hilarious to play at least once.

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 are we talking about here?

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 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.

So it’s a Half-Life mod. Some mods try to make the areas look unique and different, changing up everything so it barely resembles what Valve made, like Poke646. Others are content with just giving the player new levels to play with while leaving the Half-Life formula intact. This is not a bad thing, I’ve played a fair share of decent level packs.

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Operation Body Count: A little-known FPS reborn.

In the many years I’ve been writing about games, I try my best to broaden my horizons and check out stuff that’s not as well known, or written about. In some cases I just end up writing about obscure first-person shooters from the ‘90s most people don’t know about. Such as Operation: Body Count.

Gotta say this is a rather dull title screen.

For those unaware, Operation: Body Count was a first-person shooter released in 1994 by Capstone Software. In it, you play as a nameless commando who has to stop the evil Victor Baloch and rescue world leaders. It had a fair share of interesting features like AI buddies you could control to help you complete floors, semi destructible environments, a map of the area to avoid getting lost, and a semi-realistic environment in the days when things looked pretty abstract.

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I knew I had to get my hands dirty, but I didn’t think they literally meant it…

The game gives a really bad first impression where Our Hero has to fight the dreaded sewer rats under Baloch’s brainwashing for the first several levels. It also doesn’t help the game looks like… well, this.

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This guy couldn’t stop walking into me until I backed up so we could even hit each other.

It looks like a bad Wolfenstein 3D clone, doesn’t it? Well, it uses id’s Wolfenstein 3D engine as a base, which looked pretty cool in 1992-93. Many games ended up using the engine for their games, including Apogee’s Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold and Rise of the Triad.

But then Doom happened. Basically any FPS that still had the 90 degree maze-like look of Wolfenstein looked extremely dated, especially by 1994 standards. Even Capstone’s other big FPS of the time, Corridor 7: Alien Invasion, didn’t fare so well either for the same reasons as Operation: Body Count. I wouldn’t be surprised if many FPS developers were swearing their heads off when the shareware episode of Doom hit in 1993, with its open areas, tall floors, and level geometry that went beyond 90 degrees.

Ah, to think of what could’ve been…

Despite the game’s relative obscurity, a Doom modder by the name of Impie decided to take the fairly maligned DOS game and give it a Doom-style makeover. The result is nothing but amazing. Also called Operation: Body Count, the game is similar to the 1994 Capstone original, but with significant changes that make the gameplay more fun and exciting.

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I can’t see this without hearing him go “YOU LOSE!” at every opportunity.

Our Hero now has a name, Hector Juarez. The villain’s still Victor Baloch, but now instead of taking place in a single building, Juarez now must stop Baloch’s evil terrorist activities, killing big bads, and destroying anything in their path.

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Sometimes you gotta kill a few big bads to save the day.

Since this is a Doom mod, it still has a lot of Doom’s trappings. Still gotta find keycards, hit switches, and shoot your way through occasional maze-like areas to make it to the goal. It’s still got some of the elements of the original, from the mod’s weapons to the hostiles you fight.

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Goldfinger 64: The Game with the Midas touch.

It’s been a while since I covered a modification, but that’s because I don’t pay a lot of attention to the various mod scenes. It also doesn’t help that lately I haven’t played anything new, and often getting myself into a rut. But did you think that a Nintendo 64 game from 1997, one of the biggest first-person shooters of that era, would have a mod scene?

No, I’m not talking about Turok: Dinosaur Hunter – besides, the mod scene is strictly on PC these days – I’m talking about Goldeneye, Rare’s groundbreaking first-person shooter released on the Nintendo 64.

Goldeneye isn’t my most favorite James Bond game – that’s Nightfire, specifically the console version – but I still respect it as a good game that made a huge impact for first-person shooters on home consoles. So I was surprised to see that the game had a modding scene. Definitely not as big as the ROM hacks of Mario or Sonic, or even the thousands of Doom mods; but significant enough to be noticed.

Unfortunately, it seems to be a “separate the wheat from the chaff” problem, as this video from The Kins proves:

Thus I didn’t pay too much attention to the scene, since it seemed to be fairly amateur. But then a friend brought this mod to my attention, and suddenly my interest in Goldeneye modding scene was piqued.

Not the real film sequence but an incredible simulation!

Enter Goldfinger 64, a total conversion for Goldeneye that covers the story of the 1964 James Bond classic, Goldfinger. Goldfinger isn’t one of my favorite Bond movies either, but I understood that it was the turning point for the film franchise. A little less grounded in reality, with goofy villains, iconic film quotes (“Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”), and a time where you could have a character named “Pussy Galore” and not it be the butt of a terrible joke.

While I’m more a fan of the latter eras of Bond films – partially because I don’t like Sean Connery as a person, regardless of his acting abilities – Goldfinger is a goofy romp and a good starter James Bond film for a new fan. So let’s see how this team of modders took the engine of a 1997 game and based it on a 1964 film, shall we?

Here’s something you’d never see Sean Connery do: dual-wield Luger P08s.

One thing Goldfinger 64 does is expand on the film’s initial pre-title sequence. While the film only hinted towards Bond blowing up a drug lab and eventually getting in a fight with a cuban hitman, the game expands that into a three level challenge, hitting most of the story beats, but with some embellishments. Such as Bond just shooting the cuban hitman rather than throwing him in a bathtub and electrifying him with a fan.

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Wolfram: A Wolfenstein 3D remake actually in 3D.

id software’s amazing run of first-person shooters in the ‘90s are in some of my top games of all time: Doom, Quake, even Quake III Arena was pretty good in spite of Unreal Tournament’s more fun, absurd nature. But one game I had a fondness for was Wolfenstein 3D.

For a long time, I tended to look at the more community side of these games, looking towards the mods and user-created levels people made. Even for something like Wolfenstein 3D, which is nothing but 90 degree angled floors, there was some charm and enjoyment from them. Hell, I even found some amount of enjoyment in the third-party Spear of Destiny mission packs that FormGen put out.

Wolfenstein 3D is a fairly simplistic shooter by modern standards, but it started laying the groundwork for what made their games tick: Exploring areas, defeating enemies quickly, and strafing around arenas in a quick pace. It’s operatic ballet but with guns and nazis. What happens when you try to make it work in an actual 3D engine and try to shoehorn in awkward mechanics that just don’t fit? You get Wolfram.

Already we’re off to a great start with this menu…

I have to give a shout out to the Video Game Music Preservation Foundation, which for some reason has an article dedicated to this game. Being a fan of the Wolfenstein games, I had to see if this was the remake of Wolf3D that would be better than the original, like how Black Mesa to Half-Life. Sadly, I was in for a world of disappointment.

A big knife, blocky arenas… It’s just like the 1992 original!

Wolfram recreates all of “Escape from Wolfenstein,” the shareware episode. Levels are the same blocky shapes as they were in ‘92, the wall textures are a mix between remastered versions of the originals and ports presumably from other versions of Wolf3D, and the music is ripped straight from the original, but somehow sounds like it was ripped from somebody recording it off their speakers or something.

So you’re probably thinking, “Hey, this sounds like a pretty cool remake! What’s your problem with it?” Well, let me explain.

Wolfenstein 3D involves using the doors a lot to funnel enemies and dodge fire. Doors become your best friends here.

Wolfenstein 3D’s combat is fairly simple. Outside of some bosses, all the enemies are hitscan – once the enemy shows a certain frame of animation, the game determines if that was a hit or a miss, and if it hits, it calculates for how much damage you take – As you progress, you learn some of the tactics of the game involves ducking inside rooms and strafing back and forth at an opened door to avoid getting hit as much. It’s fairly simple and arcade-like these days, but it worked well in the era when Wolf3D came out.

I don’t know what this guy was thinking by running towards this door.

Wolfram, on the other hand, plays more like a modern shooter. Enemies try to do maneuvers like crouching and trying to move towards you, but for the most part they’re fairly stupid. Enemies never reload or take cover if low on health, they don’t flank or chase you, they’re rather static and don’t move. Wolfenstein 3D might not have had the most complex AI, but it was a lot less boring than this.

Probably the most awkward-looking iron sights animation I’ve seen in years.

There are several mechanics that Wolfram introduces that are baffling and don’t make sense in Wolfenstein 3D’s landscape. You can now jump, even bunnyhop around the landscape. Weapons have iron-sights which are slow to use and have little benefits compared to the standard hip-firing. There’s an awkward stealth mechanic where enemies won’t attack if you’re in the dark, but I never got it to work right. There’s even a flashlight, which isn’t that necessary considering all the excess colored lighting everywhere.

Hell, I’m pretty sure most of the models are ripped wholesale from other games. The enemies look like reskins of models from another game. Even B.J. Blazkowicz is ripped straight from Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, where B.J. now has gray hair and a combat vest compared to how he looks in the original. But, at least there’s an easter egg that features Fluttershy from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which I guess might be worth the price of admission.

I know for certain that she wouldn’t like this place, and I’m not even a fan of My Little Pony.

Had Wolfram made levels to make use of these mechanics, it would work out better; but here it just seems like the designer learned to make these in a 3D engine and slapped them into recreations of Wolfenstein levels without understanding what makes Wolfenstein 3D work. Thus you end up with a Wolfenstein 3D remake that feels fairly amateur, and ends up being frustrating to play through. Wolfenstein 3D is an exciting game, and somehow this saps all the fun out of it. It’s a shame, really.

Oh hey, colored lighting! This would’ve been cool in like, 1997.

Now I’m not expecting a one-for-one recreation on a modern engine, but even if you’re gonna remake one of the classics, you have to understand what makes that enjoyable, if it’s fun to play, that sort of thing. Copying assets from other games and forcing in game mechanics that don’t fit can ruin the game considerably if not done well. There’s a reason the original kept it simple: Because it works.

While I can forgive this a little for being just a fan project, there’s many many better Wolfenstein homages out there. Free Lives’ Super Wolfenstein HD is a better game overall even though it barely has anything to do with Wolfenstein. Even MachineGames made better homages to Wolfenstein 3D as both The New Order and The Old Blood have nightmare segments where B.J. goes through those original levels. Those seemed more fun than what’s available here.

Now, I don’t hate remakes. In the right hands, a remake can be better than the original. But this particular remake is what happens when you put a remake in the wrong hands, trying to make a modern game out of a classic. If you want to see this for yourself, here’s their ModDB page. Perhaps you might enjoy this. For me, though, I’m better off with playing the original. Remakes are nice, but sometimes the original article is good enough.

Wolfenstein 3D screenshots courtesy of Mobygames.

Aftershock for Quake: The most terrible pun name ever?

“Direct from the Internet.” Kinda rude to take those without permission, you know?

PC gaming in the ’90s was a real wild west affair. When games like Doom took off, everybody started making shovelware compilations of anywhere from hundreds to thousands of levels. Most of them were downloaded off BBSes without crediting people, which is pretty scummy in itself. But if you had no internet connection, this was a way to get levels with ease.

After a few years of this, companies like WizardWorks started making their own unofficial expansions for games like Quake, Descent and Warcraft II. While this was an improvement – level designers could actually license their stuff for commercial use – the internet was really starting to bloom in the late ’90s, making these unofficial “expansions” obsolete.

Today, I’m gonna look at one of these unofficial expansions for a little game called Quake

This looks like something I’d see on some pick up artist’s vlog channel.

Forgiving the groan-worthy punny title, Aftershock for Quake is one of several expansions made to capitalize on Quake‘s success. Published by Head Games, this featured “advanced levels”, adding three episodes and a bevy of deathmatch maps.

Unlike the official expansions – Scourge of Armagon and Dissolution of Eternity – these have no new monsters, powerups or weapons. These are vanilla Quake levels, designed to run with a registered copy of the original Quake. The episodes are drastically shorter than vanilla Quake, only having five levels for each episode.

Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t get the installer to work on my PC running Windows 7 64-bit since it’s a 16-bit application. Thankfully, all I had to do was to copy the /AS/ folder from the CD into my Quake folder and I was off to the races.

The blood on the logo looks rather ominous.

There isn’t much of a story to these maps. Considering Quake‘s story was already bare-bones to begin with, this is relatively par for the course. With the exception of episode three, there aren’t any credits to who made this. It’s unfortunate, because I was hoping to see someone who would go on to later claims to fame in game development, as a “before they were stars” moment. Kinda like how Viktor Antonov worked on the infamous Redneck Rampage as an art designer before crafting out the styles of Half-Life 2 and Dishonored.

By the way, there’s no new music in this. All of it is recycled from Quake, with the exception of one level having no music whatsoever. It would’ve been nice for them to go all out, but I’m glad they even bothered to even assign music tracks. Makes me want to put in a music CD to get a different feel to it, like when I wrote about Red Book CD Audio a couple years back.

Wonder why they put both a knight and an ogre as if they’re equal threats? One has a grenade launcher, for chrissakes.

Episode 1 has some interesting design. E1M1 starts you with an ogre, a knight, and a pool with armor in it as a secret. A later level has you hit a hard to see switch to move a boat across to grab the gold key, otherwise you die in hot slag.

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Better get that quick save key ready. I shudder to imagine trying to do this with keyboard only.

A lot of the level design for Aftershock feels very amateur. Lots of precarious platforming over death pits, unclear instructions, and rather plain-looking level design. A lot of the levels are simple, poorly lit, boxy, and have no sense of balance. One level starts you near a rocket launcher, but then drops you into a trap room with two shamblers, a few fiends, and a couple of pentagrams and megahealth to aid your fight. A lot of these levels have several “kill all the enemies to progress” rooms, and it’s a bit frustrating.

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I dub this image “myfirstquakemap.map.”

Granted, this was around 1996-97, and people were still trying to figure out this fancy new 3D engine, but if you’re selling this level set for money, you gotta make sure it can hang with the big boys of the official product and its expansions. And the first episode gives a rather less-than-stellar impression.

On the bright side, the makers of the mod didn’t seem to know how to strip the player of their weapons upon completing an episode, so if you’re playing the episodes in order, the later episodes can be a breeze because of a full arsenal.

I’m sorry but what the hell is this

 

Out of all three episodes, episode 3 is the one that feels more fleshed out. With more custom textures, and even proper credits — the whole episode’s made by one Greg MacMartin, who’s still in the biz today working on Consortium and the Homeworld games — this is the best of the stuff on display. Though he did have a fascination with putting the gold key in death trap areas…

This is rather cruel enemy placement for a key.

While I didn’t have any strange bugs while playing, I did experience a rare game crash. When I finished E3M5, Quakespasm, the source port I use, crashed with an unusual pushwall error. I was worried that this was an issue with the source port, but surprisingly I could not recreate the error after that. If there’s anyone reading who’s Quake-savvy who could explain what a pushwall error means, let me know in the comments.

That’s about it on the single player front. Aftershock for Quake also comes with about 13 deathmatch levels also made for the expansion, but most of them are simple box levels or have gimmicks, such as the two LAVABOX levels.

Since Quake multiplayer was in its infancy, a lot of these were likely made for 1v1 skirmishes. None of these maps are anywhere near levels of DM3, but when you just wanted to frag your buddies, you were happy to get whatever maps you could get your hands on.

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Now who the heck would want a pool full of hot slag?

You think that’s it, right? There’s enough there to give you something to play around with. Remember when I said that these were made when shovelware compilations were extremely common? Hidden on the disc is a level creator, called Thred, and a bunch of levels that come with it separate from the main Aftershock campaign. Though, the back of the box calls it the “Aftershock 3D Level Editor,” which sounds like a fake program I’d hear on a TV show.

There isn’t anything outstanding in this collection – no Iikka Kiranen levels or anything cool like that – and some of these levels are merely tutorials for how to do things in the Quake engine. Most of these levels are freely available online through places like Quaddicted, but you’re probably not missing out.

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Dare you walk down the ramps of death?

Aftershock for Quake is not an amazing expansion. Episode 3 and the various DM levels are the only reason to check this out, the rest of it is shovelware fodder that was prevalent during this time. I only spent a few bucks on this, so I don’t feel cheated out of this, but I got at least an hour or so of fun playing what Quake‘s community maps were like in 1996, so there’s that.

As far as I know, this is abandonware.  Head Games no longer exists, and there’s probably no penalty for pirating an unofficial Quake expansion over twenty years after its original release. While not as outstanding as some of the other expansions, it’s a cool curiosity from years past. These kind of shovelware expansions should be documented more, there’s probably some interesting stuff about them we’re missing out on.

Demon Gate cover courtesy of Mobygames. Aftershock for Quake cover courtesy of the Quake Wiki.

Updated 8/1/2020 for paragraph changes and some updates.

Mods and Maps: Classic Doom for Doom 3, A Combination of Two Classics.

Doom 3 was a pretty cool game for 2004. I replayed it recently since it had been several years and I was initially down on it, but after replaying it, I have some newfound respect for it. While not as groundbreaking as Half-Life 2, it was still a good game. Though it’s hardly a “masterpiece of the art form” as the box quote says.

I even have that PC Gamer issue, they were actually serious with that quote!

I still have that PC Gamer issue. They were actually god damn serious with that quote!

Alas, from what I gathered, the Doom 3 modding community was sparse compared to classic Doom, even compared to its competitors like Half-Life 2. But one particular mod stood out, and it’s not surprising it exists considering id Software’s legacy:

It feels like 1993 and 2004 combined into some freakshow.

Classic Doom for Doom 3 was one of those hyped mods in its heyday. Boasting a small team of developers at Flaming Sheep Software, these guys aimed to remake the 1993 classic on a modern engine. Of course, what better way to show off the modding skills of Doom 3‘s engine than with a remake of the original Doom?

So much for doing a UV-Max run…

There’s only four difficulty levels in this one, similar to Doom 3‘s skill levels. Alas no Ultra-Violence, but I’ll play on Hey Not Too Rough, the equivalent of “Normal” difficulty.

Surprisingly the development team made an intro to explain why you’re going in. It’s so corny, filled with amateur voice acting and really jerky animation. Basically they give a reason for Doomguy to enter Mars and kill demons, eventually fending for yourself. Granted, the intro can be skipped, but it’s fascinating to put a story on why things went to hell. It’s a sight to behold.

Wouldn’t be a reimagining of classic Doom with the intro and that iconic music.

Then you’re thrown into E1M1: Hangar, with just a pistol, just like the old days. A remix of At Doom’s Gate starts blasting through your speakers. It’s time to kill some demons!

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

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.

Gordon Freeman is a stone cold killer. Strange how we don’t pay much attention to that here, or even in the original game.

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.

“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. 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.

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Doom modding in the ’90s: My recent fascination.

One day, I was checking out some YouTube videos, until I had stumbled upon this one by Pordontae:

I was gonna write something about that Doom level set featured in the video, but I realized there wasn’t anything particularly unique about it. Some of the levels feel bland and featureless, often with no sense of balance. E2M9 has a fight between one spider mastermind and three cyberdemons, for crying out loud! But it did give me an idea. that’s not the main reason why I liked this level set. It was the random sounds that the creator replaced.

Playing this level made me realize how amazing the Doom mod scene was during the mid-to-late ’90s. END1.WAD is the epitome of a 1994 level, according to the Doom Wiki. During the heyday of Doom modding, everybody was making their own levels to play around in Doom, in varying levels of quality. Some have held up and get universal praise from Doom veterans. Others are forgotten, an experiment often made by a teenager who didn’t pursue game development further.

Modifying an existing game wasn’t a new concept, but Doom was one of the few to openly embrace it in its early days. This lead to many creative levels, some made by people who’d later become famous in their own right.

Though this wasn’t always the case. Since the tools were fairly new, most people were making fairly dreadful levels, usually plagiarizing parts of the original Doom levels, or in some cases created tutorial levels. Such as FEAR21.WAD, which looks so obtusely designed that it’s like if Salvador Dali made Doom levels. Here’s a UV-Max (All kills, all secrets) run from Doom speedrunner ryback:

 

This above is an example of what most people had to offer. For 1994 standards, it was great to have another level to play, but it’s very tough to play today unless you’re like me and have a liking for crap, for sure.

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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. Often times it’s rather crufty trivia that I couldn’t resist sharing, but other times it’s about my personal experiences with games, much like this entry.

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. Such as how a game mod introduced me to a hip-hop artist’s music by accidentally hearing it in a AAA game.

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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 much as Poke646 did. People were even pointing out how creator Marc Schröder basically made an art style that predicted the later City 17 style of Half-Life 2 years before its announcement.

But I’m here to talk about the music. The game’s credits, featured below, featured this haunting, ambient hip-hop tune with prominent piano accompaniment.

 

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, which makes it easy to listen to outside of the game.

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 rather familiar…

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