Half-Life 2: The RTS

Really, saying Gordon Freeman toppled the Combine is like saying Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr won the war in the Pacific. Tibbets had the Enola Gay and the first Atomic bomb – Freeman had the HEV suit and the Gravity Gun. Of course he was going to win – but you can’t discount the guys who fought hard to get him to the right place at the right time.

Half-Life 2 Wars pays tribute to all those brave men and women who held off the Combine long enough for Freeman to break into Citadel 17 and randomly chuck some energy orbs at the walls. Or tribute to all those brave, er, mentally-enslaved Combine Soldiers who butchered half of humanity at the behest of a sinister alien power, depending on who you play as.

It’s an RTS in the Half-Life 2 engine, documenting the Rebel versus Combine conflict in the same way the Xbox 360’s upcoming Halo Wars converts Halo from fratboy shooter to armchair general strategising. It’s barely past tech demo stage at the moment, but it’s really lovely, a smart and pure celebration of the House That Valve Built. I shall be monitoring its development closely.

The nuts and bolts of RTSdom are there – the minimap, dragging boxes to select multiple units, build queues, capture points – but what’s really impressive is how neatly existing Half-Life 2 elements fit an RTS. Need to take down a Combine gunship? Then you’ll have to build a Rebel soldier with an RPG. Setting up base defences? The turrets and landmines we know from HL2 are your turtling repertoire. Combine Elites cost more to build than Combine Soldiers. Antlions Zerg. Zombies play the part of the neutral factions you’d find in Warcraft III or Age of Empires III – easily-aggravated beasts guarding useful assets. It just makes so much sense. I can’t believe no-one’s done this already.

It’s very, very early, with a lot of work to go – just two rather sparse levels, with minimal AI and no base-building as yet – but it’s a ton of fun to see the familiar in such a different, and well-considered, format.

Grab it from here. You’ll need Hl2 and Episode One to run it. If you don’t have them, then that would mean you haven’t yet bought The Orange Box, and that you are an idiot.


  1. roBurky says:

    Ooh. Do the combine get to launch headcrab bombs?

  2. The_B says:

    This seems awesome. My only vague concern is that the interface seems to borrow heavily from Company of Heroes. Almost too closely. I only hope they won’t run into legal issues.

  3. dartt says:

    The concept is incredibly cool. I hope you’ll be keeping us up to date with it’s progress in the future!

    Now that I think about it, it’s easy to imagine a few other Half Life features in RTS form. The headcrab shells could be a HQ attack like artillery in COH, the combine could be shuttled around in their civil protection armoured cars and scanners could scout the map.

  4. Alec Meer says:

    Yeah, COH is clearly the influence. But it’s incredibly early – it’s understandable it’d pilfer from somewhere just to reach proof of concept stage.

  5. Mouj says:

    Woohoo ! That just made my day !

  6. Chris says:

    Neat! I recall seeing this as a gamemode in Garry’s Mod sometime least year. Nice to see it taking off.

  7. Evo says:

    Shall have to pay this a look on my PC later :D

  8. go says:

    “… that would mean you haven’t yet bought The Orange Box, and that you are an idiot.”


  9. drunkymonkey says:

    I have to say I’ve always found the idea of an RTS based off Half Life to be great, and am also surprised no-one’s bothered to do it until now.

    I’m going to wait for more content to get my teeth into this particular beast, though.

  10. Alan Au says:

    Seems to “borrow heavily from Company of Heroes”? How about “borrow heavily from every RTS game ever made”?

  11. Lachlan says:

    This isn’t the first RTS mod for Half-Life 2 – see also the fun steampunk hybrid Iron Grip, where a team of FPS resistance fighters face the jackbooted minions of their RTS oppressor.

  12. Andrew Mayer says:

    What are the odds that they’ll actually finish this?

    It’s hard to fall in love only to have your heart broken…

  13. Theory says:

    What are the odds that they’ll actually finish this?

    Not too bad if you ask me. They’re being very sensible about it.

  14. The_B says:

    Alan Au: I was referring to “almost as if they’re using the same assets for their HUD” sort of similar.

    But as you say Alec, it is very early days, so hopefully they’ll expand it and make it a little more personalised soon enough – not to take focus away from the rest of the game itself of course.

  15. Cargo Cult says:

    They’ve made a first, playable release – which can possibly be the hardest thing to do when making a mod.

    Yes, it’s a bit sketchy, yes, it’s a bit rough round the edges – but it works, and if they manage to continue work on releasing incremental improvements, then good things will happen.

    It’s already a million miles ahead of the endless concept-art-and-unskinned-weapons-renders ‘mods’ which seem to fill this world. I wish them the very best of luck!

  16. Five says:

    I already love pitching groups of enemies against each other with Garry’s Mod, but the potential with Half Life 2 Wars is astounding.

    The thought of a group of Striders marching along under my command made me faint with joy halfway through typing this comment.

  17. Dr Snofeld says:

    I hope the rebels get Father Grigori as a unit…

    And in regards to the HUD, almost every RTS since Warcraft 3 has used the same style of HUD. Exceptions of course include C&C3 and, I think, Supreme Commander.

  18. Piratepete says:

    or a squad of souped up chargers rorting round the map running over Hunters (which lets face it is the most efficient way of killing the little bleeders)

  19. Andrew says:

    Oh yes. Oh yes oh yes.

    I really want to play this.

  20. Crispy says:

    “This isn’t the first RTS mod for Half-Life 2 – see also the fun steampunk hybrid Iron Grip, where a team of FPS resistance fighters face the jackbooted minions of their RTS oppressor.”

    Correction: it is the first RTS mod for Half-Life 2, Iron Grip is FPS/RTS, this is ‘pure’ RTS. There have been plenty of RTS/FPS crossovers with mixed success:

    Iron Grip (the most notorious)
    Zombie Master (the most players)
    Insects Infestation (ants vs. termites)
    Empires (soon due to release its 2nd beta)

    I agree with Cargo. As much stick it might get for being quite buggy the core framework is already there to be built upon. As long as the core idea shines through in what is played, it’s never too early to release a mod.

  21. Electric Dragon says:

    Here be striders.

  22. Ed says:

    Looks interesting :)

    Keep us updated on any progress, I think I’ll wait a while before I try this out :)

  23. roBurky says:

    It is potentially a very clever idea. All the combat modelling, AI and so on is already in there from the parent FPS, and will already be quite superior to the average RTS. All they’ve really got to do is the interface.

  24. Malex says:

    This has my neither regions all tingly.

    My only hope is that they don’t bind themselves too tightly to RTS conventions. Personally, I hate the idea of magically popping buildings out of the ground that start fabricating human soldiers out of pure gold… or ore… or vespene gas. Whatever. Let’s try some new ideas that Blizzard didn’t use in 1994.

    Speaking of which, did I misread that, or does Iron Grip really pit a RTS player against a team of FPS players? …That tingling sensation is spreading.

  25. Andrew says:

    It’s very rough so far. Could really use some more intuitive selection, as shift-clicking doesn’t work so far to select more than one individual, selecting one troop in a crowd is pretty damn hard, and using special abilities is quite hit and miss.

    I placed a turret only for it to fall over instantly, which was amusing.

    Oh, and I think RPG-wielding rebels are probably insanely overpowered, as one rocket can take out an entire enemy attack force more often than not. Oh, and the camera really needs some angling ability, as the default view isn’t great.

    BUT. It has great potential. That they have it this far is wonderful.

    Looking forward to further improvements.

  26. Garrador says:

    Wow, nice to see all these positive comments!
    I coulden help notice some of you mentioned COH and HL2 Wars HUD in the same sentence. Hehe, well, you are right. I was somewhat inspired from that hud, as this is my first RTS hud (or hud at all) in any mod.
    I wasent quite sure where to start or how it should work and interact. But that layout sure is a good layout. I’ve seen the same in many, many RTS games out there.

    Right now we are working on the MP release of this mod, and I’m working on the other teams HUD atm.

    As for the early release and all the good feedback from a still buggy build, we are very motivated and will deliever a much more stable and fun build next (wich is the MP package)

    Once again, I thank you for all the great feedback. I also thank you on behalf of Sander and Cat, where Sander is the coder and founder of this great mod idea and Cat is animator.


    Øyvind “Garrador” Andersson

  27. Wes says:

    There are a lot of MMPORG and RTS fans among the Valve developers. They are very much also WoW players and fans of that cash-flow model. One has to think…”What will Valve do after EP3?”

  28. Extreme Microwave 2236 says:

    Half life 3.

  29. Garth says:

    Jesus, damn whomever posted that Iron Grip link. I’m reading all the backstory, and now I have to play the game.

    Thanks a lot.

  30. Frans Coehoorn says:

    This is brilliant!

  31. Joonas says:

    This is looking very cool indeed. Will be the first HL2 mod I will try on for a size.

    Not looking forward to the base building though. It almost turned me off Compay of Heroes. Ground Control got it right: focus on how to best use the resources you have, not on building factories making an endless supply of men.

  32. Alan Au says:

    Indeed, I miss the days of Myth and no-base skirmishes. For one thing, it would mean that players would suddenly have an incentive to guard that expensive rocket-rebel.

  33. Columbus007 says:

    This is a great idea. I do think that their should be Hero units though – it would be able to reference another aspect of the HL2 universe…

    Dog – obvious bruiser
    Barney – raises morale of close soldiers?
    Eli – raises tech level / build rate

    Breen – free upgrade to the Combine Elite?

    Acid Guard?

    Just a thought

  34. MoneyMoose says:

    Awesome! I’m going to try it out. Hopefully it actually has good gameplay and doesn’t just revolve around it being HL (though I’m sure it’ll be fun).

  35. Half-Life 2: The RTS « Unleash your inner geek says:

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  36. Miggie says:

    will there be advisors for the combine to use that would be awesome

  37. Miggie says:

    i have got it but when i get to the loading screen after you pick the mission it crashes someone help

  38. Rock, Paper, Shotgun: Celebrating The Birth Of Father Christmas » Blog Archive » Mod Gods says:

    […] old. I hope the kids still think we’re hip) in the list. A quick scan turns up Minerva, Half-Life 2 Wars, First Contact: Planetfall, Red Alert: A Path Beyond, Fortress Forever, Battlestar Galactica Beyond […]

  39. SoldieR says:

    Great mod!but i think you should some fixes like in the 2nd
    mission which is quite laggy.
    And add some too like in the combines you should add some
    metropolice with smgs and pistols.
    And the rebels too you can add some heroes like alyx,gordon,barney ect…

  40. Lil hankey says:

    Wow this is cool IF it dose go throgh I realy want yo see the synths like strider and hunter also the ones you see in the citdel. I do hope they come out with some combine buildings. lets face it all the units coming out of the citadel would be drag. or would it be like empire at war where you buy and they send them to you with a touch of starcraft zerg infetion of command posts! or carried in via razor trains wow this could be the coolest game ever

  41. meatwad260 says:

    i wish you could play as zombies!that would be pretty cool just controlling the un-dead.im gonna play as the combine all the way through,the rebels dont even have any good vehicles.i wonder if there will be a multiplayer?

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  44. Xavier says:

    i it is a great idea. personally im a fan of all the half life games and am waiting with crossed fingers for this to finish. one idea i have tho is that, you need the rebels to have the vortegan as minor heroes. I mean come on how did no-one think of that.the vortigan could repair vehicles and you could them the option to put guns on the air-boats and so on, you should also have the ability to bring a vortigan to a dead ant-lion queen and harvest the bug bait and control a small colony of ant-lions