The Build Engine is a fascinating piece of tech. Made by a young Ken Silverman, the engine was made as one of those engines that could rival Doom in features, and was used to great effect with its design, features and most importantly, interactivity. Build brought us some of the coolest mid-90s FPS games: Shadow Warrior, Blood, and of course, the granddaddy himself, Duke Nukem 3D.
With news breaking of someone leaking a work-in-progress build of Duke Nukem Forever from around 2001, I’d be kinda getting an itch to go back to the ‘roided up wisecracker. Problem was finding good Duke-related content.
While Doom’s mod community is well documented and reported upon, I feel the Duke Nukem 3D mod community is talked about a lot less. Granted, there isn’t a whole lot of outstanding mods, and some of the more notable ones like Plunder & Pillage have an unfortunate history behind it. But somehow, I found a modification for Duke Nukem 3D that for a good while was my go-to if I wanted to play a game that wasn’t a Call of Duty title.
Duke Nukem: Alien Armageddon is a modification for Duke Nukem 3D using the eDuke32 source port of Build. At first glance, you’d think this is just a few new levels and maybe a few monsters. Oh, it’s much, much more than that.
Made by a team called “Dukeboss,” the team mostly consists of sebabdukeboss20, a modder known for the AMC Squad for Duke Nukem 3D, and DeeperThought, whose Duke Nukem Attrition mod for Duke Nukem 3D was something I played constantly for years. There’s a myriad of other developers involved, including mappers, artists, even voice actors; but those are the most notable members of team Dukeboss.
Alien Armageddon is a combination of Duke Nukem 3D with a myriad of new items and features. The original episodes from Duke Nukem 3D: Atomic Edition alongside two of the official expansion packs – Duke It Out in D.C. and Duke Caribbean: Life’s a Beach – which add new cutscenes, animated features and even abilities like an RPG system and an AI partner. I’ll get into that more in a bit.
Please note: This article was written in June 2022, which covered version 4.54, the most recent version of the mod at the time of publication. As the mod is often updated to add new content or fix bugs, some of the things mentioned here may differ from a more recent version.
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:)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.