Ex-Valve chap launches Half-Life mod C.A.G.E.D.

While Valve Software are unable to continue Half-Life in a way they like, some former employees seem drawn back to HL after leaving. Former Half-Life writer Marc Laidlaw recently leaked a Half-Life 2: Episode 3 plot idea and now Cayle George has released a new Half-Life mod. Available now free through Steam, C.A.G.E.D. [official site] is a short singleplayer episode set in a prison. I found parts frustrating but if you’ve missed the Half-Life look, feel, and weapons, this is a pretty flashy reason to return.

Cayle George mapped in the Half-Life mod scene yonks ago, worked professionally through several studios including Monolith, into Valve to work on Team Fortress 2 and Portal 2 as a game and level designer, then back out again to Guerrilla Games. (He’s also a serious pinball player, ranked second in the world.)

C.A.G.E.D. is fun enough. Scuttling around inside the walls of the prison was pretty neat and George uses some neat tricks to make Half-Life feel newer than it is. One puzzle feeling out the edges of the security system was good fun. It has some neat in-game cutscenes, though also one confusingly out-of-place one. It bops along nicely to music from Lazerhawk. And after years away, I did quite enjoy leaping around with Half-Life’s unique movement feel.

The mod’s flaw is: Half-Life has so many rubbish guns. The shotgun is a pale shadow of what video game shotguns can be, the SMG struggles to hit a man from ten metres, grenade physics are terrible, and the pistol ends up far more important than it should be. C.A.G.E.D. does let us briefly play with some of HL’s better weapons but mostly it’s the trash. Coupled with enemies doing loads of damage, the mod isn’t challenging as much as frustrating.

But I am glad I played it last night, and did return to check out a bit again this morning. My first playthrough took 35 minutes so it’s not a big commitment either.

George has also included an audio commentary mode, activated in certain points by touching big yellow speech bubbles in that classic Valve way. It’s pretty neat for hearing some of his inspirations and Half-Life technical tricks, like faking buoyant crates using lasers and trains.

C.A.G.E.D. is based upon a level George made for Project: Quantum Leap, a 2002 singleplayer episode which brought together 20 disparate maps from 15 different mappers. It’s remade and reimagined here, and far fancier.

Hit Steam to download C.A.G.E.D. free. You will need Half-Life to play it, mind.


  1. dystome says:

    You know your ‘find out what “be excellent” means’ link points to a ‘Service Unavailable’ page.

    2017 eh?

  2. kitten says:

    Played through it just now. Would not recommend it to anyone ever. But hey, if you do decide to play it, the rocket launcher gets a limited amount of ammo and you do NOT want to use it for anything that isn’t an attack helicopter. I ended up having to “sneak” my way down under it and throwing a cooked grenade at it from below after having died 57 times having tried to run past it.

  3. Scripten says:

    …I always kind of liked the HL/HL2 shotgun, with its silly double-barreled alt-fire and everything.

    • MrUnimport says:

      HL2’s shotgun makes up for the SMG and pistol single-handedly.

    • booflax says:

      True, in both games the alt-fire shotgun blast was the go to damage dealer. It’s iconic in my opinion, and the standard which I judge all FPS shotguns by.

  4. rootfs.ext2.gz says:

    I got suckered in by the fancy trailer and nostalgia, played it and pretty much hated it (only got so far as Chapter 2 I think?).

    I thought I’d miss the first person platforming, but no, not really. And 100% spot-on about the guns. I missed it earlier and was about to go on a massive rant about them, but you pretty much nailed it. It also seems unfair as the enemies seem to do more damage?

    (I suspect they do the same damage per bullet, but since the enemies are AI and are trained to just shoot at you, they are more effective with their accuracy than some bleary eyed idiot such as myself).

  5. booflax says:

    Half Life comes from a completely different time in FPS gaming. It has some left overs from the Doom era where the enemies had massive hit points. The guns aren’t so much rubbish as the enemies have tons of health, the guns function just fine.

    You have to play it smart and lure enemies around corners, then shoot them point blank with mouse 2 with the shotgun. The SMG is a little tricky to master and was way more useful for the alien enemies in the original Half-Life. The soldiers were mainly killed by the pistol, shotgun, SMG’s grenades, gauss cannon, and ghostbusters gun in the original.

    As far as the grenade physics? Yeah this was 1998 so they’re extremely wonky but reliable once you learn how they work. They worked the same in Counter-Strike 1.6 mind you, and that game was the competitive benchmark for all FPSs.