Half-Life Wars

By Alec Meer on July 23rd, 2008 at 8:30 pm.

Like playing Half-Life 2 from 200 metres away

Older and more spiteful readers may immediately be thinking “but Meer already wrote about the RTS mod for Half-Life 2 months ago. Let’s burn his house down and tell his mum that he’s rubbish.” It’s true. I did. But! Stow those Molotovs, for I thought it well worth checking back in with HL2 Wars, what with the last version I squinted at being little more than a proof of concept.

Its development’s been ongoing, and now, three of four iterations down the line, it’s really starting to come together. V0.5 was released a couple of weeks back, and saw a shift to The Orange Box evolution of the Source engine – making for ultra-pretty. It’s still very early days for the mod, but if you’re any sort of Half-Life 2ophile, you really should go look-see.

It’s not doing anything you haven’t seen in any number of C&C derivations but, as I observed last time, it’s remarkable just how well-suited the Half-Life 2 fiction is to an RTS template. It’s not just that there’s a quintessentially RTSy framework of man vs alien war. There’s also this beautifully pre-existent unit roster – Combine Elite is costlier than Combine Soldier, an RPG Rebel’s superior to an SMG-toting one, while a Vortigaunt is the humans’ heavy weapons guy.. Meanwhile, you’ve got Antlions in there very much doing the Zerg thing. What this build has that t’other didn’t is the building of buildings – and neatly, Stalkers are Combine construction units. It all fits, almost unnervingly so.

Only three maps, sadly, two of which dump you in the Combine’s bio-mechanical booties, and there’s a ton of bugs, balance issues and missing features (most of the AI, for instance). The interface continues to owe a heavy debt to Company of Heroes, but hey, at least it’s borrowing from quality.

None of this will stop you enjoying yourself for an hour or so (but no more, as it’s still very much in a barebones state) – it’s very hard not to get all giggly whilst Commanding 75 Combine troops to Conquer a Rebel base. It also looks supremely pretty, as the HL2 models look a super-detailed treat when you’re looking at them from a far-out overhead zoom, and the Source engine’s physics gimmickery makes for excellently exploding toy-town buildings.

There’s a long way to go if it’s to become more than an adept curio, but if HL2 Wars can keep on marching ahead at the current rate, we’re in for a superb mod, and a free RTS to boot. Starcraft 2? Pah. Nothing compared to Half-Life 2 Wars. Eventually. Maybe.

Where? Here. Also, here’s some in-game footage of a recent build:

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27 Comments »

  1. aiusepsi says:

    Might be interesting to see if Valve ever decide to switch genres and do something like this.

    Alas, we’ll probably never see a Seven Hour War RTS, due to the rather insurmountable balance troubles.

  2. Mike says:

    This really does get very good, and would be a great mod for Valve to pick up and publish. I’d pay to play a version developed with a full team.

  3. DSX says:

    Nice little fort video. That does show a lot of promise, could be the next CS in terms of mods, I’d certainly play it if it was really fleshed out some.

  4. Jack Monahan says:

    I’ve known about this for a while, but still haven’t played it. Love HL2, and despite long atrophied RTS skills I think I’d like to check this out.

  5. Theory says:

    It’s an impressive technical achievement, but there isn’t much of a game at the moment. It’s just building one of two buildings before building lots of soldiers before making them attack.

  6. Matthew Gallant says:

    Very impressive! I wouldn’t mind having the overhead camera be a little bit closer though.

  7. Muzman says:

    It looks too fancy and proper with interfaces and building and such, but is this any relation to Qwar/Qwar 2?
    That mod couldn’t really handle that traditional rts viewpoint, but zooming around as a disembodied god commanding your tank battallion and Icarus squadron was alarmingly fun.

  8. Frank says:

    Looks great! I’ve found that half of learning to play an RTS is familiarizing myself with the AI’s nuances; wouldn’t need any of that here, having killed dozens of all unit types. Needs houndeyes.

  9. PleasingFungus says:

    Fiddled with it when you last mentioned it, may have another look. I remember it running pretty slowly, but that may no longer be an obstacle. (Bwa ha ha ha ha!)

    Also, Company of Heroes’s UI owes an immense debt to Dawn of War’s. (When I first saw the demo of the latter, I thought, “Hm, this is familiar.”)

    Anyway, nifty!

    (Oh, hm, looking at the earlier post, the designer comments that he did indeed borrow from CoH. Okay.)

  10. Pus Filled Sac says:

    Awesome idea for a mod. It deserves to work.

  11. Alex says:

    Also, Company of Heroes’s UI owes an immense debt to Dawn of War’s. (When I first saw the demo of the latter, I thought, “Hm, this is familiar.”)

    Well.. both were made by the same company, Relic..

  12. D says:

    Triple points for these guys if you can build Gordon and go crowbar the enemy base in FPS mode.

  13. Mataway says:

    That could be a lot of fun. It would be interesting if it used the AI from the game, and you just told your soldiers generally where to go; kind of like Evil Genius. Striders are in, there’s a video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08rOuCEjbwA

  14. caramelcarrot says:

    Matthew Gallant:

    Very impressive! I wouldn’t mind having the overhead camera be a little bit closer though.”

    If you see in the video it looks like you can move the camera up and down – which I think should be a required feature of an self-respecting new RTS, having found out how obscenely awesome it is in Supreme Commander.

  15. Andrew says:

    Changing the altitude of the camera is hardly an innovation. :P

  16. Mr_Day says:

    @ D

    No! Do you not remember the Age of series? Nothing can redeem the game if the only unit in your army left alive is gordon, and he begins the laborious task of dismantling each building by hitting it with a crowbar.

    Good gravy, Darth Vader did that. Remember those Star Wars RTS games using the Age of engine? Darth Vader would twat Rebel buildings with his lightsaber. It looked ridiculous.

  17. Okami says:

    @Andrew: Changing the zoom level to the degree that SupCom allowed you to is an innovation. In most games the ability to zoom is mainly cosmetic. You’ve got your default camera height and can zoom in a bit, in order to see all the badly animated low poly soldiers with sloppy texture work jerking around..

  18. D says:

    @Mr_Day
    I think what you’re talking about comes from design flaws. If one side is completely at the mercy of the other, the game should already be over.

    So I still think it would be cool to play as FPS Gordon against an RTS controlled combine army. But it would probably lessen the mods impact (like any gimmick), so I don’t honestly hope for it.

  19. phuzz says:

    Reminds me a lot of the mod Antlion Troopers, well, in tone at least. There’s much fun to be had as a member of the combine facing off against wave after wave of antlions soaring through the air at you…

  20. Andrew says:

    @Okami – yes, I know, but to say that the implementation in HL2 Wars is somehow different from the camera in every single other 3D RTS game is a bit strange, don’t you think?

  21. Suraj says:

    Hmmm. I want to play as combine adviser thing and go ahead and win earth in 7 days :) Perhaps we could make earths troops a little more effective to make the game enjoyable.

  22. Radiant says:

    Any resource gathering?
    Rebel Harvester.
    Combine Harvester.

  23. moonracer says:

    While zooming in and out is pretty standard in most RTS, what I find lacking and frustrating is the lack of ability to change the angle in order to look towards the horizon. The lack of which prevents you from enjoying a close up broad view of the battlefield, forcing you to zoom out so far the graphics don’t matter much in epic battles.

  24. GeorgeR says:

    I’m with everyone else saying that Valve should grab this. It just keeps looking better and better.

  25. Josh says:

    I really didn’t notice the bugs of which you speak, Alec. The largest issue I had with the game was the pathfinding AI, which was downright retarded at times, but that was the worst of it. It’s surprisingly functional! Valve would indeed do well to get on top of this ASAP, as it could really, honestly do a great job as an RTS game. Someone email Gabe.

  26. droid says:

    People seem to want to play it as fps and rts. I think that it could be like Dwarf Fortress: you play it once as a rts against a human, then use the replay as the scenario for a fps game. If the main character does nothing his side will lose, replaying precisely the action that the rts went through. A competent AI on either side responds to what the player changes.

    Timing might be changed in the replay, have you ever looked at how long it takes to swing a sword in age of empires and compared it to how long a year is? The action in the rts could be considered an abstraction of the single player mode, with the fps combat having interesting details that would be too much bother in the rts.

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