Scientist, soldier, security guard and now silent cat: these are the tales of Half-Life the first. The mod known as Cat-Life was announced some time back, with its concept hitting twin notes of absurdity and “that makes a lot of sense, somehow.” It’s Half-Life with a cat. I’m pretty sure you weren’t able to work that out for yourself from the name, so I thought I’d better explain it for you. It’s the first-person-shooting videogame Half-Life, but starring a domestic feline instead of an improbably athletic physics dork. Do you understand? With a cat. Oh, you still don’t get it, do you? Well, a demo of the mod’s just sprung up. Perhaps that’ll explain all.
While the idea evokes an immediate chuckle, the game itself plays it largely straight. I’d have thought the rampantly silly concept needs to be acknowledged as such, rather than pitching moggy adventures as gritty survival horror. But then, perhaps that’s all the joke it needs.
It’s certainly pulled off a cat’s perspective, the low-slung crawl and the natural night vision, but a cat pushing buttons and swiping at Headcrabs doesn’t quite ring true. Giving up upon encountering and out of reach ledge and letting out a sustained, desultory yowl or just curling up for a nap in an air vent would feel more authentic. Though a game of sleeping and screaming wouldn’t be for everyone, I’ll admit.
Essentially, it’s still a bit too Freemanesque, at least as far as this limited and very early demo goes – the key difference being the beast’s limited offensive powers. Headcrabs: fine. Everything else: runrunrun! This means the challenges are primarily environmental, figuring out ledges and jumps to progress. Which makes it slightly sad that it’s using HL1 rather than HL2, as Source’s smashy-surfaces and balance trickery would have suited feline frolics that much more. Still, I’m keen to see where this goes, and what new’n’odd challenges it heaps upon poor kitty.
Here’s a year old video that gives a good sense of how the demo moves and plays: