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Half-Life mod Echoes pushes both its engine and players to their absolute limits

A new lease of Half-Life.

While Black Mesa may be rebuilding Half-Life's world on a slightly more modern foundation, modder James "MrGnang" Cockburn reckons there's some life in Valve's old GoldSrc engine yet. Half-Life: Echoes is an impressive mod released last Friday, putting the player in the shoes of a scientist elsewhere in the Black Mesa facility when everything goes to hell. Cue the usual running, gunning, fighting soldiers and weird aliens, all while marvelling at some genuinely impressive architecture that I just hadn't thought possible. Just be warned - this one pulls no punches.

After binging on Jazztronauts the other weekend and seeing hundreds of charmingly clunky, boxy environments made with newer software and fewer restrictions, Echoes is a testament to how much more important a craftsman's skill is than their tools. While systems-wise it doesn't do much beyond what we saw in the likes of Gearbox's Opposing Force expansion, it's genuinely impressive (at least to me) how good it looks, as you can see in the trailer below.

For those who want a longer peek, streamer and speedrunner DraQu took a stab at Echoes today. While he took around three hours to complete it, that's after many quicksaves and loads. Judging from his run , you might want to stick to the lower difficulty levels. While Echoes is very polished, I get the impression that its creator has fallen into the all-too-common trap of forgetting just how hard you can push mere mortal players. Health and ammo pickups are scarce, and for much of DraQu's run, it seemed like he was below 50% health, although he was really impressed with it too.

If you don't mind going through the wringer, lowering the difficulty or just cheating every now and then to top your health up, Echoes seems like a no-brainer for fans of the original Half-Life. It's more of the same, but more detailed and atmospheric than I've ever seen it before. It reminds me of the explosion of hyper-detailed maps the Quake mod scene have been producing in recent years. Who ever said you can't teach an old Houndeye new tricks?

Half-Life: Echoes is out now and available on Mod DB. You'll need the Steam version of Half-Life to play.

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Dominic Tarason