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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.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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