3 – 2 – 1… Action Half-life.

By Quintin Smith on May 29th, 2008 at 11:14 am.

Mickey Mouse! Donald Duck!

[Quinns, the Indiana Jones of videogames journalism, takes a break from wrestling apes and discovering hidden temples to deliver another one of his examinations of old Flames. This time it's Half-life mod, Action-Half-life...]

Quinns: Anybody out there?

My eyes hovered over the chat ticker for a response. It was a stupid way for me to phrase the question. Of course someone was out there. That’s why the match hadn’t ended yet. I noticed I was bleeding, and pressed myself up behind a humming vending machine for cover while I applied a tourniquet.

Boff: Yes

Right. So I was up against Boff. No sweat. I mean the guy was a fine player and all, but I’d lucked into the assault rifle / bullet proof vest combo. Boff could be hiding behind twin pistols, grenades, the handcannon, anything at all, and I’d probably still have the advantage. That’s if it came to a proper fight, anyway. And I had no intention of letting it.

Quinns: Kung-Fu in the courtyard?

This was a time-honoured part of our game etiquette. The last men standing in a Last Man Standing game were to fight efficiently, both for the sake of themselves and the half dozen dead spectators. No one wants to run around an empty map for minutes on end before getting shot in the back, and no one wants to watch it. So we organised duels. Swapping from our guns to Kung-Fu attacks just made sure that no one could get the drop on someone else in a rendezvous.

Boff: OK
Quinns: OK!

Boff, my acting bad guy for this round, was waiting for me when I reached the courtyard, the fists on his blocky Mr. T character model raised in the comic way that indicates an unarmed character.

Like I said, I wasn’t going to let it come to a proper fight. By the time Boff saw I hadn’t put my gun away it was way too late. Poor Boff. To his credit he did manage a desperate dive to one side, but the poor lamb was just too exposed. One shot, two shots, three shots, four, oh, the guts, the spine, the delicate head. If he was my bad guy, I was the worst guy. The very worst. Purely for effect after the deed was done I turned slowly away from Boff’s body, then held shift to walk (not run) back towards the door I came out of. A cheat, a slime, a fox, but a winner. The worst guy. That’s me.

It was with a kind of blissful detachment that I noticed the match hadn’t actually ended. That meant Boff couldn’t have been the last player, and that someone else was hiding. It was a thought that popped into my head at the exact same time as a sniper rifle round, sending me crumpling to the ground right there next to Boff.

Llamadeus: lol
Boff: YOU MOTHERFUCKERS
Quinns: YOU MOTHERFUCKER

Remember: Don't shoot people with guns, kids.

This game was, and still is, Action Half-Life, an exquisitely balanced multiplayer mod for the original Half-Life that riffed on action movies. This was of course back in 1998, when at least certain brands of action movies were still a genuine cult thing and not just a genre flooded with comic book licenses, X-million dollars worth of CGI and a tongue that by 2008 has torn straight through the cheek and is now waggling grotesquely on the other side. Action Half-Life’s mission statement was by no means unique in trying to bring the bullet ballet of early John Woo to Half-Life multiplayer, but unlike The Specialists or The Opera it did a classy job of it.

Now this bit’s worth paying attention to, because the features that differentiate AHL from your salt and pepper first person shooter are not only consistently interesting, they’re also stuff that we really should be seeing more of today. There’s stuff to learn from this game.

First of all, the weapons. They’re balanced. No, wait – that’s going to mean something different to you than it should. I mean the throwing knives, the twin pistols, the sniper rifles, the sawnoff shotgun and the assault rifle are all as powerful as one another, and everyone spawns with (and can only carry) one. Let me clarify this a bit by explaining that the throwing knives are one-hit kill weapons, and while everything’s short on ammo, the assault rifle owner has to be especially careful.

Same goes for the equipment everyone gets, whether it’s night vision goggles, a bandoleer, a grenade, sneaking slippers, whatever. It’s all meant to be of equal use, and you only ever hold one thing. Again, let me clarify by explaining that certain sections of AHL levels are pitch dark, and the flashlight has the advantage of blinding anyone with night vision. Oh, and what you really want to do is have everyone randomise their gear each round. Trust me on this. Think of it as Battle Royale style. ‘This one’s super lucky!’ etc. Except there’s no axe because – seriously – who would want a fucking axe when there’s guns available? I mean, come on.

What this varying gear means is that throughout a game of AHL you’re always playing a load of headgames where everyone’s trying to play to their strengths while goading others into unfavorable situations, something that’s made easier by the (pleasingly vertical) maps which are always loaded with cover, dividing walls, walkways, sniping points, stairwells, pools, explosives, functioning doors, walk-in fridges and ladders. One map boasts an entire highly flammable gas station, another is set on two parallel speeding trains. These are maps built to change how combat plays out from room to room, and smart players can always use them to (sometimes literally) get the drop on their opponent.

It should be noted that clinging to your specialty rarely descends into camping- the game’s too fast paced, and standing still is going to get you shot. But it’s fast paced in a really cute way. The default avatar movement is actually slightly slowed, but by hitting the ‘stunt’ button while moving you dive in that direction. Dives forward or backward leave you prone and dives to the side end in a roll, so you get a second of speedy protection followed by a second of rigid movement. Incidentally, The Opera featured a whole lot of rolling and diving that tilted or span your view accordingly. It should take precisely two seconds of imagining this to understand that it is the worst idea in the world. The reason why AHL’s diving is a great game mechanic is just as simple. It means fights can be extended in a game that can still have the tension of bullets being cold and lethal. Duels in AHL can be over in half a second, or cautious players can drag fights across thirty seconds and several rooms.

That’s assuming you don’t bleed to death. Boy, do you bleed. What’s that line from Max Payne? Players leak like broken bottles of Tabasco. Failing to take a couple of seconds to bandage yourself up after you get shot results in a tumbling health meter and a nice blood trail for everyone else to track you by. You could argue that the best bit about this is how it slows gunfights down even more, and makes you withdraw or hunker down when you score a hit. That’s not true though: obviously the best bit about the bleeding is watching your enemy fall down face first from blood loss a few seconds after he kills you.

The reason I’ve got to chattering about AHL now (aside from to encourage you guys to put Team Fortress 2 aside for a spell and play the thing) is that I’m coming to terms with the fact that the mod community today is unlikely to produce anything like it. AHL was, like so many Half-Life and Unreal Tournament era mods, based on a cluster of simple ideas that were honed over years and multiple releases following community feedback. Maybe it’s because so much potential money is floating around the mod scene these days, but it’s hard to imagine that happening now. Everyone seems too scared of everyone else stealing their ideas, and of course, the simpler the idea the easier it is to quietly pilfer. Or maybe everyone’s just working on total conversions because that’s what’ll get them a job on a dev team.

That’s a shame, because we already have dev teams churning out games that need to be big and expansive to justify their price. But big, expansive games tend to have multiplayer that relies on practice and an understanding of their depth. And with the amount of great online games being churned out now, who needs that? Who wants to have to pick a game to commit to? Quake Wars or World in Conflict might seem fun, but are they fun enough to invest the 20 hours it’ll take to learn all their nuances? After all, doing that’s going to mean neglecting some other exciting new release.

Action Half-Life, on the other hand, can be understood completely in 15 minutes. It is a wonderful vagina of a game, being as it is astonishingly tight and just deep enough (Quinns! – Quinns’ Mother). And in case you’re still not entirely convinced, I’ve got another match I really, really need to tell you about.

The way you win in action-half-life is to shoot all the tiles on the wall. This will give you the ultra-tile bonus, unlocking an RPG-management screen where you can play with your inventory a little. Move the win-item to the win-bin and you are the winner.

I arrived at the gunfight too late, of course.

The factory floor was silent when I got there; the loser’s corpse and the winner nowhere to be seen. All in keeping with the evening’s tone so far, which had been fast and brutal. A little less chatting in our matches than normal, and they all seemed crammed full of scary marksmanship and rash judgements.

Then I saw Egg. The victor, he was standing all the way over at the other end of the cluttered hall, 9mm pistol in either hand. And he was looking right at me. My own mouse finger twitched compulsively, keen to send rounds from my own twin revolvers in his direction. But I didn’t shoot for the same reason he didn’t shoot, a reason I hadn’t quite figured out yet.

By aiming down and then up quickly with his mouse, Egg made his avatar (Solid Snake, incidentally) perform a nodding motion, or maybe a small bow. I interpreted this as “You understand, of course, that this bloodshed was necessary. I respected my opponent, as I respect you. Surely there need be no more battle this day.”

I vigorously shook my mouse from side to side in response, hoping that this would get across my message of “You are ignorant indeed of my history if you believe I intend to shy from my duty as a soldier, and as a man. For me, entering this factory has stopped the world from turning. It can only be set in motion again when one of us is together with Jesus in heaven.”

I then took aim and fired a single bullet, a warning shot, into the wall just above his head. He continued standing perfectly still as I lowered my guns and reloaded that round. Click. Sure enough, he took the chance I was giving him and dived to one side, disappearing into the mess of machinery and crates that filled the room. It was on. And yet it still somehow wasn’t. As we ducked and leapt and shot it became clear we were both only trying to give each other glancing blows and flesh wounds. We weren’t fighting, we were choreographing something for the match’s spectators. And it still makes me smile today to think that we came to this decision together silently. Eventually I retreated out of the hall to the neighboring garage under a hail of hilariously inaccurate gunfire, where I ducked behind a truck.

The garage was where the death would happen. It was just so obvious. Dark, dramatic, full of huge oily vehicles that could crush you if only they were awake. The room ached for fresh blood, and I had no intention of letting it taste mine.

Or was I? I mean, I’m the one running from this fight, hiding and biding my time. Egg was the noble fighter who didn’t fire first. That makes him the good guy. Shouldn’t I lose for the sake of this scene we’re playing out? Or would deliberately losing taint things? Make it less authentic?

No time to think. The staccato tapping of Egg’s footsteps at the garage door told me he’d followed my lead. Making my way to the edge of the truck I hit backspace to throw my guns away, out into the open where he’d see them. Then I took out my grenade and started priming it.

Quinns: Do we really need guns for this?

There was a second clatter as Egg dropped his own pistols. Here we go. I stepped out in front of him, then dashed the grenade at the floor between us. But it wasn’t going to save me. Egg was already running straight for me, pistons up, sprinting straight over and then past the grenade.

One last chance. I slapped the stunt button while standing still, whipping myself into a fierce roundhouse kick. The timing was perfect. Egg caught the full force of my leg with his mouth and got sent soaring backwards, straight back into the blast of the grenade as it detonated. Boom. Game most definitely over.

Egg can’t have been the good guy that day, because the good guy always wins. I was the good guy. I was the best guy. And AHL is just the best game.
Remember - always murder people on wipe-clean surfaces. Avoid soft plush carpets.

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99 Comments »

  1. darkripper says:

    Is there anything like a Source followup, official or not?

  2. Dead Fish says:

    I played The Specialists a while ago, but it was too convoluted for my tastes. Since I liked the concept though, I’ll certainly give this a try! :) Very good story telling, btw.

  3. Fetthesten says:

    That vagina simile made me laugh out loud. Thank you. Not that the rest of the piece wasn’t brilliant as well, though. I fondly remember my days with Action Quake 2, and how we only played the city-block-with-construction-yard map. My handcannon inspired the sort of naked fear only men who’ve witnessed death first-hand are able to display.

  4. Ging says:

    Not really darkripper, no.

    The guys I work with have a design for a mod in a similar style (though perhaps closer to the specialists) for UT3, but we need to give our existing project a bit more love first.

  5. Norskov says:

    It appears that http://www.distraction-mod.com/ is a source follow-up in the making, with one of the coders from AHL attached.

  6. Lu-Tze says:

    AHL was my multiplayer poison of choice for well over 2 years. Knives 4 lief. Custom models gave me a beautiful balisong and there was nothing more satisfying than flinging them into people’s faces. Throwing them just before someone bursts through a door as you dive out a window, so the only vision they get is of a completely empty room and 6″ of steel about to go between their eyes.

    Oh, and tossing them perfectly so they arced over the entire level and nailed that annoying sniper right up there in the corner, immobile but lethal.

    Also, you noobed someone in a Kung Fu fight. All respect is gone.

  7. Captain Bland says:

    Great article, but i have to disagree with Fetthesten, the vagina similie is the worst i’ve seen on RPS so far.

  8. Seniath says:

    It is a wonderful vagina of a game, being as it is astonishingly tight and just deep enough

    I can’t work out if that is the best or worst thing I have ever read. It certainly is something, however.

    On topic, I loved AHL so much. Myself and a few friends played it at a local cyber cafe, and it made such a welcome relief from the constant barrage of cs_assault that most other people there insisted on playing.

  9. Freelancepolice says:

    I loved the specialist personally

    Can RPS please do a feature on Hidden: Source. It’s definitely one of the best mods out there and can be played with as little as 2 people unlike a lot of team based games.

    Perfect for lan parties!

  10. Feet says:

    Lu: You just used “noob” as a verb. All respect is gone.

  11. Quinns says:

    Thank you Dead Fish and Fetthesten! You are the winners of this excellent freeware videogame we call Comments. Although seriously there is no urgent need for an AHL remake. The full game is right there! And playing games in decade-old engines puts hairs on a man’s chest and, uh, eggs in a woman’s ovaries.

  12. Schmung says:

    I went through a massive AHL phase as well. I also enjoyed the Opera, but it was rather too finickity to work properly. Simplicty was AHLs strength and it didn’t hurt that it had a ton of maps, several of which were very, very good. I always rather enjoyed Banana Mansion ( think that’s what it was called). It never quite held me after the initial release though and I ended up going the way of The Specialists, which was focused more on the stuff I enjoyed – more guns, fluid movement etc

    Source mod wise, I think Distraction is the only one being worked on actively, though I can think of at least three or four other attempts that have fallen by the wayside for whatever reason. I’m not even sure Source is the right platform for such a thing to be perfectly honest, but I’m hoping to be proven wrong on that one. Certainly a shame that a more mainstream title has never managed to do what these mods did so well. I tried Stranglehold and it felt like a pale imitation – all clunky movement and endless repetition.

  13. Laco says:

    My old gaming group just had our first LAN in ~3 years, and we mostly played endless rounds of Bananamansion and Calypso.. handcannon blasts accompanying that poolside music never get old.

    When I saw the topic of this post, I couldn’t quite believe AHL was featuring here on RPS in 2008 (don’t think I’ve ever heard it mentioned outside Half-Life specific sites before). Thanks for the stories, Quinns!

  14. Gulag says:

    NGJ FTW!

  15. Kieron Gillen says:

    Gulag: “Don’t mention the war.”

    KG

  16. Quinns says:

    I should probably specify that my friends and I had some great times playing The Specialists, but in a completely different way. The Specialists had that kitchen sink approach of cramming in every feature, game type, weapon, powerup and move the mod team could think of, which made it perfect for dipping into and fooling around in. It was a glittering mess. But it was AHL we kept going back to.

  17. caramelcarrot says:

    I have to agree that the HL2 mod scene hasn’t exploded like HL1 mods did. There were tonnes of great small games, like Holy Wars, Rocket Crowbar, Buzzybots, and big ones like The Specialist, Natural Selection, Frontline Force, Firearms and so on – each well developed and playable and with an active community. I’m not even sure where HL2 stands now on good mods, I did like The Hunted – it reminded me of Holy Wars in its simplicity and engagingness. By this stage in HL2′s life cycle, there should be some numerous solid mods – maybe HL2 hasn’t managed to keep quite so many people engaged in playing mods as HL1 in competition with other games.

  18. dishwasherlove says:

    It took me 15 minutes to find the HL1 “Box War” mod on the internet yesterday. 15 minutes. What is the world coming to. :(

    Also The Specialists was awesome….

    My brother reminded me of the multiplayer component of They Hunger the other day also. Ah the nostalgia…

  19. Gurrah says:

    And AHL is just the best game.

    It sure is. When it comes to pure and refined action, AHL is the best thing that ever happened. I too can’t believe not a single developer has picked up the injury/bandage routines from AHL. A shot in the knee-cap and you’ll be able to trail your contestant from the puddles of blood on the floor, until he bandages himself, which’ll be enough time to close the distance and deliver the finishing blow. Tell your friends about AHL, there are still a few servers out there, MoA, GHG and a few others. You won’t regret it!

    I was reading a few other names in the comments that brought back sweet, sweet memories: Firearms Mod, The Wastes (aka Wasteland HL), Frontline Force… sadly HL2 didn’t spawn as many great mods as HL1 did.

  20. Nick says:

    I was an Action Quake 2 player, wonderful stuff indeed. Then Dirty mod, which was even better – it was sort of a mod of AQ2, only you could do wonderful things like double jump off walls and dual wield handcannons. It even kept track of exactly how many rounds were in every gun on the map and you could loot them from players dead bodies and such like. Very clever coding by.. uh.. someone called Grim I *think* it was.

    Never played the HL version though, sadly.

  21. Ging says:

    There are (in my eyes) two issues with the HL2 mod scene.

    1 – CS, look a the steam stats, between 1.6 and CSS you’ve got what feels a lot like twice the worlds population playing the damned thing and they’re just not interested in playing other mods if they aren’t CS.

    2 – Too many mod teams are attempting to launch their mods like a retail project, with no releases until it’s “perfect” – with the level of work required to make content for mods, this takes ages. This is somewhat linked to 1, as a “perfect” mod might take off like CS and let the team either get jobs or be picked up as a job lot and their mod taken to retail.

  22. King Awesome says:

    I used to help develop the various versions of The Opera when I was still a young gun. Contributing variously as a map designer, modeller and later on as programmer.

    I also contributed to the Unreal Tournament version of Action (AUT) when they were attempting to win the Make Something Unreal contest.

    All of the mods mentioned above (Action, The Opera, The Specialists and even Counter strike) as well grew out of the Action Quake milleu. It was mostly the same group of guys and gals hanging out on IRC in gamesnet and moving around between the different mods. Back then, in the hey deys of Half-Life 1 it felt like a real concentrated modding scene. Mods had their own rabid fanboys, and lots of them.

    In my opinion the final versions of action Half-Life were the finest works produced by this scene, simply because of the amount of polish lavished on the play experience. Everything just (and likely still does) worked.

    I think the scene mostly fell apart as the gamer base fragmented (no one clear game to mod from) leading to poor tutorials, a fragmented talent base to learn from and at the same time an exponential increase in art to match the original game’s production values. Thats probably why you don’t see its like much today.

    Incidentally it was Kieron’s review/blurb piece on The Opera (ridiculously positive as it was) that made me think I could really give it a go in this game making buisness. So thanks for that Action mods and Kieron.

  23. Nick says:

    yeah, half the point of mods is getting them out when they are at least playable, then keeping people interested with updates and whatnot – plus it helps to have some form of feedback. Otherwise people tend to give up following anything as it takes too long. CS wasn’t released perfect that’s for damn sure =)

  24. BlindPsychic says:

    You know I’m completely surprised you guys covered AHL, it makes me love this site even more. AHL, yeah, I was there from 2.5 through the dive breaking Valve patch of the HL engine, until the game fizzled out towards the end of Beta 6 (? I think it was, I’m not sure anymore). Played the MoA releases, and played it again last year to meet up with some of my old buddies. I agree though, that there’s a lot in AHL that should be picked up, most especially, in games that hail about realism, is having reload use your entire damn clip instead of replacing bullets magically. (Thats inspired by CS). I recommend all you guys give it a try though, don’t be scared off by the regulars on there, they’ve been playing this shit since day 1 pretty much.

  25. Kieron Gillen says:

    King Awesome: Wow. My pleasure.

    KG

  26. Cooper says:

    And the award for best analogy of the year goes to…

  27. Aubrey says:

    I had fantastic times in AQ2 (and the Dirty mod was great, also) but only tried an early half life version of it… I’m sad I didn’t return to it later.

    Putting on the slippers, jumping around like a loon and kicking unsuspecting snipers off rooftops, where they crumble, and give you the points for the kill – that’s where it’s at.

    BarTender, TengenNewsEditor and Grim all have a warm place in my heart.

    And to re-iterate King Awesome’s post, there was really a completely golden time of modding around the quake/quake2/half life era, where so many whackey ideas were tried out. But as fidelity requirements of FPS engines increased, it was harder to get away with the ugly-but-fun stuff.

    Still – there are ways around that, if you can pick your aesthetic: Purity for example ( http://vectorpoem.com/purity/ ) or naissance (http://mavros.site.voila.fr/creations/naissance/naissance.html). And also, the indie community feels like the closest thing we had to the modding scene back then.

  28. Quinns says:

    King Awesome you are playing games with my heart. When you mentioned you used to work on The Opera I figured all the rest of that text would be an explicit attack on AHL and the article, but instead you are lovely.

    I reckon the saddest thing about the HL2 mod scene are the remakes of HL1 mods, like Zombie Panic! and PVK. Not because it’s pointless, but because so far none of them have comprehensively bettered the originals. And Half-Life 2′s SDK has been out for some 3 years now.

  29. Schmung says:

    Yeah, the learning curve with any mod like this is insane, the guys still playing are generally the hardcore that have been there since day one and know every little exploit, every nook and cranny of each map and every powerup location. It can make for a somewhat demoralising experience if you’re just trying to jump in and have some fun. I think The Specialists really suffers in that respect, which is a shame. I think these older mods are best enjoyed with friends – get a small server setup and relive the days of yore.

    On the source/HL2 front I think it’s the amount of work involved as well as the level of polish that people think is require that leads to all these never released mods. The investment of time and talent require for the art side of things is just so much greater than it was in HL1, back then you could get by with a few ropey models and cobbled together skins. Nowadays everyone expects a level of quality and polish that takes an age longer to deliver and thats without even talking about the level design. It almost goes without saying that the coding has reached a similar level of impenetrable complexity. It’s crazy and I wonder what place there will be soon for amateurs because the time required to produce things to the standard demanded by next gen engines is will soon make it completely untenable and thats a huge shame because it’s part of what makes the PC the platform of choice for the discerning FPS fan.

    I guess I’m particularly sad about this because it erodes my niche. Back in the days of HL1 I was in Uni and had time in abundance to work on this stuff. Now it takes me weeks to make even the smallest contribution, not just because I’m work for most of the day, but because everything is so much more detailed and involves so much extra work.

  30. Ging says:

    Quinn – the HL2 SDK has also gone through a number of revisions that have broken mods quite severely, either through a code update or the tool chain. (What is up with the HL2 art pipeline anyhow? It’s like something satan might come up with!) So the fact that it’s been out 3 years doesn’t mean too much.

  31. Quinns says:

    That reminds me. Ages back I figured I’d volunteer to do what I could to help Black Cat Games with whatever mod they were making next. Because I am basically crap I was limited to helping with voice acting, so I ended up talking to one of the voice actors. Turns out those guys own entire home sound studios with soundproof wall fixtures and £400 microphones. I was shocked.

    Ging: I Did Not Know That. How could Valve let something like that happen?

  32. JohnG says:

    Another ex AQ2 player here, I played competitively for most of my first year at uni, and was in one of the best European clans at the time ( [CHAOS] ) and I had such a blast. It was a fantastically balanced game, with maps and weapons for every style. It was such a shame Reaction Quake 3 didn’t take off that well, even though they got the pyhsics/balance almost exactly the same as AQ2.

    Man, thinking back now, I can still remember all the popular levels.. Urban, Urban3, TeamJungle, actcity2.. And even all the quick routes through and the like.. man I miss that year.

  33. 9 says:

    Urban Terror is somewhat similar to AHL/AQ2, and since id has released the source for Q3A, this mod has become a fully standalone and free game with a lot of finesse like prince of persia style ledge climbing and wall-jumping, lots of varied maps and gamemodes, and a wonderful online community.

  34. Theory says:

    Ging: I Did Not Know That. How could Valve let something like that happen?

    Normally by removing internal functions they don’t use that a mod nevertheless relies on. Steam’s beta system was created in response and (perhaps because of that or perhaps in addition) I don’t think there’s been any trouble since.

    Anyway, I’m off to play some AHL. Hopefully there will be enough newbies around now to give me a chance. :-)

  35. Mman says:

    I’ll have to check AHL out at some point (especially if this article gets some non-superhuman players in the mod).

    On modding: It’s interesting how the length of time a game (that was a popular modding target in the first place) is modded for seems longer the older the game is: Doom is still going pretty strong, with a steady stream of high-quality releases (and that’s without going into stuff like sourceport work), Quake is also pretty similar, albeit somewhat less active. Moving on further, Unreal/Unreal Tournament modding seems to be on its last legs with mostly just a few final epic swansongs to be released. Half-Life 1 is also pretty much the same, although most of the final releases are already out (the Heart of Evil extension pack is pretty much the only thing I can think of on the horizon). Then, moving on again, well, it’s hard to say if Half-Life 2 has even really got started yet (although recently I have noticed the quality of small SP releases seems to be steadily improving in general, along with a few big ones like Get a Life).

    I’m not too put off by that though; with the situation now I get the feeling some sort of revolution is on the horizon that will make modding much more accessible again. it may already have started, since Crysis is getting a lot of mods and its real-time editing makes it FAR easier to get into modding than with most other recent games (although I’m not sure whether it has limitations at advanced skill levels).

  36. Tom Armitage says:

    AHL was lots of fun; it diverged from AQ2 when Gooseman went off to do CS, so the filmic fun was ramped up, and the realism down.

    My favourite thing about it was that whilst it had vaguely realistic aiming modifiers – crouched is accurate, standing less, running least – you were always 100% accurate in a dive, meaning there was a reason to throw yourself around.

    My favourite kills are still the silliest, to this day – diving through a window, both gold-plated Colts blazing, hitting a guy in the head is pipped to the post by any kill where you dropped your gun, kicked your opponent’s from his hands and blew him away with it.

    Fast, fun, and a great generator of memories. It certainly had a place of it own, and the emphasis on finding killer load-outs (most of which wouldn’t be available, because somebody else had the body armour) was nice.

  37. Therlun says:

    Great game.

    But the small community makes it difficult to play.
    From a certain skill level on it actually becomes Head Shot – Half Life. All the actual action is lost as diving, wall jumping and dodging simply takes to long and the only thing that matters is how fast you can headshot someone.
    Still fun, but less action packed than the chaotic, movement based duels in the beginning of your and the (other player’s) AHL carrer.

  38. Theory says:

    On ahl_hydro:

    Theory : let's jump off the dam doing kung fu

    And so we did.

  39. Radiant says:

    As 9 mentioned Urban Terror is still being updated and is very active.
    It also happens to be awesome.
    It’s a mix of AQ2 and CS where AQ2 died and split off into CS and AHL then when CS turned up the pseudo realism Urban Terror split off from there into something new.

    I never got into AHL after playing AQ2 for god knows how long [and before that QW:TF and before that QW:DM] it just never felt the same viscerally.

    I’m still in a Urban Terror Clan btw. [best looking website forum in the history of the world]

    Ahhh AQ2 how I miss thee.

    Mods these days just seem bloated and unappealing compared to these multi player gems *waves walking stick*.

  40. ron says:

    ahl took everything awesome about action quake 2 and turned it into boring crap.

    lilgorgor
    fear.net 4 life

  41. Ryan says:

    Great post. Not sure I’m convinced this will be fun. I agree with other comments, AHL was lots of good.

    Ryan
    lessons in brevity: http://www.mofata.com

  42. Baltech says:

    By Jove! This brings back memories! I played this mother from… 2.1 on I think, maybe earlier. And I kept on it ’till 4 (but don’t pin me on the accuracy).

    I seriously need to give this a go again. See, if the old reflexes still can put out as much as back when.

    Anyone here who’s been in a clan back in the day? My compadres were named [Riot] if that rings a bell…

  43. TychoCelchuuu says:

    I have to say I still enjoy The Specialists more but I guess I’ll DL AHL again if all these RPS chaps are trying it out. Great mods, all of ‘em.

  44. Joinn says:

    Ah, yes, AQ2, good times galore. [PhD] forever… :)

  45. Chaz says:

    AHL was brilliant fun back in the day, and it still stands in my memory as one of my favourite mods, second only to Infiltration for UT. Not sure I’d ever want to revisit any of those mods though, and possibly spoil the memories. Things have moved on, it just wouldn’t the same any more.

  46. terry says:

    Pistons up? I know it was a garage but still…

    Excellent article – I can spot these by the fact I have never played this game and yet feel like I have.

  47. Al3xand3r says:

    Let’s not be too quick to blame developers for the lack of quality projects. There are also several well developed HL2 mods, but nobody plays them. Why? Cos the community seems to have degraded to whiny ass bitches who expect an AAA game for free. Pritates Vikings and Knights II, Fortress Forever, Empires, Insurgency, The Decimation, The Hidden, are but a few examples of some great talent and dedication. But again, nobody played them or supported them enough to warrant a bright future. Some of them are still ongoing, some seem to have stopped further development thanks to no player interest. Plan of Attack just came to mind, being one of the first total conversions with great production values, released some years ago. Nobody played it, it died ages ago, even though it looks good with some good ideas (though not fully developed) to this day. Shame shame shame shame SHAME! It reminds me of the UT2004 mod community. So much talent and work wasted. At least a few good things spawned from it, I loved Metaball, Red Orchestra, Alien Swarm, good to see a few developers moving on to retail (RO and AS). Currently, I weep for projects which have not had a release yet, with years and years of dedication and hard work on their backs, who are destined to also die despite the quality of the project… Off Limits comes to mind… Oh well, I’ll still play all of them so long as there are servers available and a few more people to play with.

    PS: Yeah, “nobody” means nowhere near the amount of players you’d need to consider it succesful, nowhere near the amount of players who used to play the good HL1 mods. Bah. [/rant]

  48. caramelcarrot says:

    Al3x makes some good points. Is it that the FPS market was much less fragmented back when HL1 was at its peak? Lots of developers seemed to have learned about how to make a decent MP game (probably partially because a lot of the original HL1 modders have moved onto game companies! most of the talented people I knew from mapcore are now working for a whole spectrum of shops), and so you end up with a dozen different multilpayer communities with little movement between them, and so a poor mod community. Back when HL1 was hot, I think it was basically competing with just Q3 and UT (Strangelove mod was awesome) – who had a few decent mods between them, but nothing on the scale of HL1.

    Maybe steam killed us with choice?

  49. KindredPhantom says:

    Interesting article and I’m glad to see some mod coverage on RPS.

    Quinn have you tried any of the multiplayer mods created from HL2? I think an article where you play the current offerings and give your experiences and opinions would be an interesting read as this one.

    I think the problem with modding nowadays is that in order to have a lasting player base you have to release retail quality mods. The playerbase demands the quality and are always asking for more, more maps, more weapons etc
    If this is not delivered your playerbase will quickly dissolve and head to CSS.

  50. Schmung says:

    Al3xand3r : I know what you mean. I can tell you that the guys at Insurgency are still making good (if fairly slow) process. They’re pretty damm organised, but it’s an excellent example of how long it takes to get anything done with the complexity of modern engines. Off-Limits is still going as well, albeit at a snails pace. Hardly surprising when you consider that there’s just a few people working on it. Still, the alpha I played last year was great fun even at that stage and I have high hopes for it.

    It does strike me as somewhat strange in these days of super fast internet that despite the number of people who have Steam and some form of source engine – some of these mods seem to be dying.