Older and more spiteful readers may immediately be thinking "but Meer already wrote about the RTS mod for Half-Life 2 months ago. Let's burn his house down and tell his mum that he's rubbish." It's true. I did. But! Stow those Molotovs, for I thought it well worth checking back in with HL2 Wars, what with the last version I squinted at being little more than a proof of concept.
Its development's been ongoing, and now, three of four iterations down the line, it's really starting to come together. V0.5 was released a couple of weeks back, and saw a shift to The Orange Box evolution of the Source engine - making for ultra-pretty. It's still very early days for the mod, but if you're any sort of Half-Life 2ophile, you really should go look-see.
It's not doing anything you haven't seen in any number of C&C derivations but, as I observed last time, it's remarkable just how well-suited the Half-Life 2 fiction is to an RTS template. It's not just that there's a quintessentially RTSy framework of man vs alien war. There's also this beautifully pre-existent unit roster - Combine Elite is costlier than Combine Soldier, an RPG Rebel's superior to an SMG-toting one, while a Vortigaunt is the humans' heavy weapons guy.. Meanwhile, you've got Antlions in there very much doing the Zerg thing. What this build has that t'other didn't is the building of buildings - and neatly, Stalkers are Combine construction units. It all fits, almost unnervingly so.
Only three maps, sadly, two of which dump you in the Combine's bio-mechanical booties, and there's a ton of bugs, balance issues and missing features (most of the AI, for instance). The interface continues to owe a heavy debt to Company of Heroes, but hey, at least it's borrowing from quality.
None of this will stop you enjoying yourself for an hour or so (but no more, as it's still very much in a barebones state) - it's very hard not to get all giggly whilst Commanding 75 Combine troops to Conquer a Rebel base. It also looks supremely pretty, as the HL2 models look a super-detailed treat when you're looking at them from a far-out overhead zoom, and the Source engine's physics gimmickery makes for excellently exploding toy-town buildings.
There's a long way to go if it's to become more than an adept curio, but if HL2 Wars can keep on marching ahead at the current rate, we're in for a superb mod, and a free RTS to boot. Starcraft 2? Pah. Nothing compared to Half-Life 2 Wars. Eventually. Maybe.
Where? Here. Also, here's some in-game footage of a recent build: