To Alleviate The Waiting For Episode 3

While the internet rumour mill’s been getting itself in a speculative tizz over the well-duh! revelation that there’ll be more Half-Life after Episode 3, I’ve been playing a rather good fan-made HL2 episode.

Residual Error Volume 1 may be lacking the narrative and polished puzzling of Minerva: Metastasis, but it’s a remarkably proficient all-action mod.

There’re a few moments where it throws odds at me which present a slightly fresh challenge from the old formula – just upping the number of simultaneous enemies in confined spaces to more than I’m normally comfortable with, but without doing the my-first-mod irritations of filling every last inch of floorspace with angry zombies. Challenging, but in a satisfying way. It’s got an effective survival horror feel to it, a few neat level design tricks, it has some interesting twists on familiar HL2 architecture and it feels oddly expert. Go play – you’ll like this one. And unlike Episodes 1 & 2, you don’t need to pay for it.

Oh, for some reason it tried to install itself into a folder other than my actual Steam one – watch out for that. I just cut’n’pasted the files into the right place in the end.

Also, I don’t think I’ve seen a Barnacle eat a Poison Headcrab before. So that was cool.

35 Comments

  1. Cruz says:

    I love me some Source mods. When not playing TF2, I’ve actually been playing (badly) the Empires mod, which plays like a Battlfefield game, with the added feature of resource gathering and tech trees. Is there any other game or engine out there with mods of such great quality as Source’s?

  2. Flint says:

    I find it somewhat sad that despite HL2 single-player mod scene /slightly/ coming alive recently, there’s no TC mods.

  3. WhoZeDuke says:

    Singleplayer TCs take a ridiculous amount of time to make, especially with todays technology.

  4. To Alleviate The Waiting For Episode 3 « Unleash your inner geek says:

    […] To Alleviate The Waiting For Episode 3 14 12 2007 Rock, Paper, Shotgun: […]

  5. Lh'owon says:

    Not that I seriously thought there wouldn’t be another Half-Life game, but I am glad to hear it confirmed. I think the Half-Life universe has a lot of potential to be realised, in a way that, say, the Halo universe no longer does.

  6. Gunner says:

    Another hl2 mod I’d recommend is the multiplayer Insurgency mod, which plays like a more realistic and tactical version of counterstrike set in Iraq and Afghanistan. At least some of the dev members were soldiers actually over there and they’ve tried to implement what they saw.

    Its still beta, but quite fun.

  7. Cargo Cult says:

    If you do want a total conversion, there’s the made-by-mad-Russians Paranoia for Half-Life. That’s the original, nearly-ten-years-old game, not its considerably younger sequel.

    It’s a few hours long, and while it’s a bit over-long in places with some lack-lustre combat (play on Easy, seriously), there’s some surprisingly effective and atmospheric storytelling in parts. (The English localisation is absolutely top-notch – it was organised by a translator friend of mine who’s got a thing about perfect spelling and grammar. He’s a pedant who wants to help the rest of us, honest!)

    I’ve put some no-these-aren’t-Source-honest screenshots up on my ModMatic blog-thing – if you’ve ever dreamed about joining the Russian Spetsnaz (which I suspect the makers of this mod have), give it a try.

  8. Ace says:

    I just agreed to a license agreement in Korean (I guess). Hopefully I didn’t just sign away my first born?

  9. Del Boy says:

    Cheers Cargo Cult, looks interesting.

  10. Hump says:

    Cruz, I’ve been playing Empires occasionally myself. A great underrated mod that probably won’t go anywhere due to the learning curve and need for a commander who is familiar with the details. If they could somehow program a bot AI to take over the commander tasks when no one is available it would go a long way towards giving it a fighting chance.

  11. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    Damn Cargo Cult. Made me remember I never quite finished They Hunger.

    Twas always fun belting the crap out of zombies with my umbrella.

  12. Garth says:

    Just out of curiousity, is anyone here that invested in Half-Life 2 that the thought of Episode 3 makes them wither in anticipation?

    I’ve found the Half-Life 2 story (avec episodes) to be largely forgettable. In fact, I literally have forgotten what I did for the large portion of Episode 1.

  13. King Awesome says:

    By the way, weighted companion cube plushies are now available from the valve store.

  14. Martin says:

    @Garth: I’m trembling, is that good enough?

    I love all of Half-Life 2 and especially so episode 2 (which I’m currently replaying with commentary mode on).

    Episode 3 can’t come fast enough.

  15. Pokeylope De'ath says:

    @Garth: WRONGY WROINGY WRONGS

    Half Life 2’s ongoing story has been the very lifeblood of what made them such great games. And, yes, I can remember episode 1 very clearly, especially the “lowlife” chapter that scared the squeeing weewee out of me.

  16. Matt says:

    I have enjoyed the half life story and episodes myself, particularly the last one. I am sure Valve will do a fantastic job of Half Life 3 and it will have all the polish and flair of the previous ones.

    However, I have to admit I was hoping they would take on a new project once the HL2 story finished. The humour and character they are able to add, along with the consistency and balanced gameplay of their games would have made a fresh new project an exciting prospect.

  17. Dracko says:

    So, what’s the plot if Residual Error? I just want to know what sort of game I’m about to experience, as I have limited space on my HD as it is.

    Paranoia is pretty good, but comes off as blatantly amateurish in parts. I like it for its atmosphere though. Some people might be put off by entire maps holding no enemies and very limited ammunition lying around, but considering how dangerous those fights are, it works well enough.

  18. Five says:

    If you want to try a really weird single player mod try Mistake of Pythagoras – a mistake that Pythagoras made in an alternative past is causing giant numbers to fall on people in the future.

    Ive got to try Residual Error, right after i try Minerva

  19. Andrew says:

    Residual Error Volume 1 was quite good from a purely action perspective.

    (Spoilers) A rather strange start, no real story, and you seem to pick up a white suit. However, when you get a crowbar, everyone is after you – and you fight amusingly against several “scientists” – ie; Dr. Klieners model, and rebels, and stuff. A bit confusing.

    It also ends a little abruptly, you open a door and the credits roll – no real “boss” or other part. I’d say Toronto Conflict: City 7 beats it in the “makes sense” category: link to torontoconflict.com
    (/spoilers)

    Still, quite fun action, if a little heavy on the shotgun troops, but it gives you plenty of ammo to use and things to shoot at least.

    Just make sure to pick up the (rather hidden) crowbar near the start of the game and don’t do what I did the first time – try and run past the armed guards into the next level section. :)

  20. Qjuad says:

    link to moddb.com

    A great article about Nightfall, the interesting looking single-player mod that recently went belly up. Written by one of the team, it’s an overview of the mod’s history and the dos and don’ts of development.

    If Black Mesa (http://www.blackmesasource.com) dies, I think I mighty cry.

  21. Kast says:

    I’m hoping for HL3 to be released alongside (but not packaged with) a drop-in co-op FPS/RPG called Prospero.

  22. Garth says:

    I didn’t mean to make it sound like “OMFG IDIOTS HL2 SUX” I only asked about fans of HL2’s story because, I was just so unimpressed.

    I mean, take vanilla HL2:

    -Gordon Freeman is awakened.
    -Aliens invaded.
    -Kill aliens.

    Mix in some of the most irritatingly on-rails levels of all time (hovercraft, nuff said) I just find it odd people are so invested in the story. What is the story? The combine invade, take over the earth, and people fight back? It was so half-assedly told throughout the games I was never really even aware of it. Compare it to Deus Ex, Marathon, Minerva, and I really don’t see what people are so interested in.

  23. Dracko says:

    Residual Error didn’t have much going on, least of all in the sense department, but Paranoia was pretty fantastic as a mood piece. Shame about the rock music at times. They really do need to leave more ammo lying around as well.

  24. Dracko says:

    Garth: It’s all in the details. It rewards paying attention and drawing your own conclusions. Every aspect of Half-Life 2‘s design, from enemies to environments, is considered and give hints as to what is going on, and more specifically, what went on.

    And I have had no problems whatsoever with the hovercraft section and that hardly counts as on-rails anyway.

  25. The_B says:

    Quite frankly, I agree with Dracko. I love the breadcrumb discovery of the plot of HL2 if anything.

  26. Dracko says:

    It’s also of note that originally, writer Marc Laidlaw intended for each iteration of the franchise to take place another decade or so, again leaving the player to pick up the pieces and attempt to understand what happened in his enforced absence. Which could have lead to something positively alien later on, I’m sure. They went for the episodes though because they liked the characters and characterisations.

    We’ll see how it goes, but if Half-Life 3 is planned, I wouldn’t be surprised that the end of Episode 3 sees Gordon put back in stasis and this pace resumed anew.

  27. Garth says:

    [quote]Garth: It’s all in the details. It rewards paying attention and drawing your own conclusions. Every aspect of Half-Life 2’s design, from enemies to environments, is considered and give hints as to what is going on, and more specifically, what went on.[/quote]
    So the story is that the Combine are kamizaki lemmings, humans are all brain dead and can’t get out of the way, and humanity got fucked by aliens?

    I’m not trying to be a dick, I just keep being told it’s ‘something you have to look for,’ and as someone who finds every scrap of every piece of game possible (Deus Ex related: I found every Jacob’s Shadow chapter, read every news clipping, etc) it makes me pause when I find almost nothing. So what should I have found?

    I’m not saying the method of story-delivery is bad, I’m saying I can’t find a story at all.

  28. Garth says:

    Appologies for the ‘quote’ part – my bad, heh.

  29. Martin says:

    @Garth: Well, for me it’s very much about character development. Sure, it helps if you’re a guy but it’s hard not to have some sort of feelings for Alyx. Will she and Gordon ever do more than just stare wistfully into each others eyes?

    As for the aliens – aren’t you wondering what the hell they’re doing on earth and how the G-man fits into all of it?

    Valve aren’t pulling the punches either. I won’t spoil episode two for anyone but they do their best to tug on your emotional strings at the end of it which makes me itch to see how things unfold in episode three.

    And why is it so vital that we find that “thing” (trying to be spoiler free) that Alyx father is so scared of before it falls into the hand of the Combines? What can it do?

    I’m actually playing HL2 just for the atmosphere and story which resulted in me cheating through the final quarter of EP2 just to get to the ending.

    I know it’s “wrong” but I paid good money for the game so I play it how I like. ;)

  30. Dracko says:

    Garth: I’m not sure what to tell you. My advice is keep an eye on the newspaper clippings (I didn’t find Alyx’s childhood picture until my most recent playthrough), for instance. Unlike Deus Ex or System Shock 2, this sort of background information isn’t delivered to via a text screen or the like, which I think is welcome, personally (One of the best things, and I’m surprised no-one has copied it since, about Doom 3 were the computer interfaces that didn’t take you out of the game. Alternatively, one of my gripes with BioShock was that you had a map screen that gave everything away, yet the maps you saw on walls in-game weren’t detailed enough to provide you bearings). There’s also such things as the graffiti on the walls giving you an idea of what exactly an Overwatch footsoldier, a hint of massive biomechanical engineering which is pressed upon you more strongly as the game progresses, which, compounded by the Striders and other living transports, makes you understand in what way the Combine use the resources of their conquests, including the indigenous population. It’s stuff like that that, at least for me, helps me build up a sense of a world in flux, a world that I (Gordon Freeman) missed about ten years of. I think it’s a great narrative effort.

    And as for the complaints of the A.I., this is one of those counter-arguments that leaves me confused. It’s hardly developed, no, but the level design worked in its favour for the set pieces, and as far as I can tell, it knew when to retreat or rush you. Maybe it’s just because I play at a slow pace by default, so they don’t exactly force me into situations where I’d have to take cover all too often or the like. But I enjoy doing so, because it’s a role-play effort as much as anything else. That and allies did know when to step out of the way, at the least.

    I’m not sure this is the answer you’re looking for, though, but I find that at the very least – I’m biased because I think Half-Life 2 hasn’t been surpassed until the ever recent Call of Duty 4 (Or, okay, Portal) – Valve are pointing in the right direction. Theirs is still a rather experimental effort – I know some people who hate the mute protagonist, and feel like there’s nothing to Gordon, but I disagree and believe it’s a narrative technique exclusive to the medium and well worth employing – but it’s got some great ideas which are influencing how we perceive games and how they can best be used as narratives without abusing the game design.

    Garth, if you’re someone who loves finding everything in a game, have you ever played the Marathon series? I dare say it rewards, in spades, that sort of approach, and best of all, it all works within not only the context of the story but also of the game design. I consider it one of the best series of games ever made, in any case, and it’s a shame it’s been overshadowed by its contemporaries.

  31. Dracko says:

    Speaking of Doom III, I’m reminded of this essay which goes on to discuss the matter of interactive and reactive surfaces and how they can best be used to improve gameplay.

  32. Garth says:

    “Garth, if you’re someone who loves finding everything in a game, have you ever played the Marathon series? ”

    I thought I had mentioned it earlier (I guess I hadn’t, oops), but the Marathon series is my favourite game for story, ever. More than Deus Ex, even.

    If I were to compare Marathon and Half-Life 2, it would be more than there were amazingly fantastic characterization via Durandal (a name I’ve used online for years), Tycho, and even Leela. Not to mention the Gherrit White-style screens.

    I just find that the HL2 story approach is a little too open, and really it boils down a little too much. Again, you’ve told me about the methods of giving you the story (which I totally agree with), but the story itself is rather ‘meh.’ Compare the descriptions of Combine Soldiers to the (never-ending) search for whether or not you were a cyborg in Marathon, or what exactly the end of the universe meant.

    I like the silent protagonist too — it allows you to add your own character and whatnot. However, I didn’t really find a lot of other characters I even gave a damn about.

    As to the A.I., I’ve never, ever been so angry at ‘allied’ NPC’s in my entire life. This counts WoW, Deus Ex, Quake 4, etc. They were constantly in my way, and I was forever dying to grenades because they all decided to get stuck in the doorway behind me.

  33. Garth says:

    Sorry, missed the above post:
    “As for the aliens – aren’t you wondering what the hell they’re doing on earth and how the G-man fits into all of it?”
    The aliens are invading because that’s what aliens in sci-fi shooters do. I’d assume it’s to get more soldiers via combine dealies, and the G-Man is some guy who has crazy machines that manipulate time/space. Hell, when you go through a teleporter and it screws up mid-tele..port, you even see him in a room with computers. with some soldiers. I loved how, until that point at least, you had no idea what/who/etc he was. Other than that though, everything is either vague to the point of being extremely un-necessary, or so in your face (aliens beat humans, humans suck) that you just push past it.

  34. Dracko says:

    I’ll address the rest later as I’m tipsy and not all that willing, but when does this exactly happen? I’ve never recalled seeing the G-man surrounded by troops in a teleport facility.

    I prefer the theory that he’s some sort of panuniversal fixer working for intelligences far beyond what we understand and is simply shifting a small conflict on some backwater planet on Earth to the natives’ favour. But of course, we’ll have to see where Valve lead us with all this. In any case, I severely doubt they’ll ever provide us a final answer, and indeed, as the franchise only follows the perception of Gordon Freeman, it seems reasonable to assume it will end with what happens to him, all said and done.

    The Combine, as it has been implied, are a colonising force that takes from the resources of every culture it comes across. It’s considerably more interesting an approach to the invader trope than you seem to give credit for. Honestly, I find them to be conceivably the most credible alien presence seen in fiction in a long while, along with all that Dr. Breen later gleans over towards the end of the game.

  35. Michael says:

    Hey i really liked the half life games, but i really wanted to ask you guys about half life 2 episode 2, so when eli died in episode 2 in the end , by those creatures which are the advisors, i was wondering if its is posible that eli might come back to life in hlaf life 2 episode 3 is that true or what?

    message me back