Gathering together the best shooters is no easy task, but if you’re looking for a new PC FPS to play, look no further.
Your favourite game is at number 51.
RPS Feature The Worthiest Reticules Of All Time
Not that much, really – which is hardly a surprise. Developers Crowbar Collective haven’t given up on it, as they said they wouldn’t, but expect future updates to be more along the lines of bug fixes than big additions. The mod won’t see Xen, for starters. The older version of the Source engine the mod uses isn’t up to handling the pretty Xen they want to make, see, and they can’t change it.
RPS Feature Mutton Dressed As Lambda?
Each week Marsh Davies latches onto Early Access like a brain-eating alien parisitoid and slurps up any stories he can find. This week we’re back in Black Mesa [official site] – the classy fan remake of Half-Life 1 in a hybrid version of the Source engine which was used for its sequels. An incomplete release of the project was made available on Steam for free last year, but the Early Access incarnation is a more polished, ongoing, funded development, with additional chapters planned, multiplayer, workshop integration and modding tools.
If the past is another country, then it’s one under constant mnemonic invasion from the present. This is doubly true of moments from a distant childhood, a time when experience was already enlarged so dramatically by the imagination, when the emotional significance of toys, or books, or games far exceeded their actual sophistication – and it is these responses which then endure in memory, rewriting the reality. 22 years of brain death has sneakily uprezzed my recollection of the original Syndicate, for example, transforming it into a glorious cyberpunk cityscape that its crude, mud-paletted pixels have never really deserved. So when I say Black Mesa is every bit as good as the Half-Life I remember playing 17 years ago, you’ll understand that I’m praising something much greater than an act of recreation.
RPS Feature The Fallout
There is a peculiar irony to the impression people have of gaming. When “videogames” are lazily portrayed in the wider world, they inevitably show a soldier being shot through a gun scope. Hell, even within the highest enclave walls, people are wont to dismiss the poor taste of others by snarking, “They’d probably like it if it had a gun floating at the bottom of the screen.” The first-person shooter is the most emblematic genre of gaming, and yet it’s now the most under-served, under-developed, and rarest of mainstream releases. There are barely any new non-indie FPS games. And it’s all Half-Life’s fault.
If we acknowledge that many jokes have been made about the Half-Life series then may we, you and I, accept that there’s no need for us to crack any more and vow never to ever again ever?
The commercial version of Black Mesa [official site], the fan-made remake of Valve’s seminal Half-Life, arrived on Steam today at £14.99/$19.99. On Steam Early Access, to be precise, as it’s still missing the Xen chapters. While those are absent, present are new additions since the free mod release like Steam Workshop support and deathmatch on six classic HLDM maps.
The leaked Half-Life 2 beta is an old, old story – and how it happened, and what happened next was documented masterfully by RPS chum Simon Parking a few years back – but a recent fan compilation of all the characters in it who never turned up in the finished article is fascinating. This is the Half-Life 2 that never was, and yet, to some extent, it does exist after all.
Read the rest of this entry »
Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
You read the headline and the tea spurts from your mouth. “Have I pla–!?” Half-Life! The gall of it! To suggest that not every PC owner has already experienced Valve’s formative first-person shooter. The frivolity of it! To give space to those who have might enjoy reminiscing or celebrating a game long loved but no longer frequently discussed.
I know – I’m just a mess about it myself.
Hold on a second, chums. Look at that screenshot again. That’s the opening scene of Half-Life with subtitles. Pretty important atmosphere-setting, isn’t it, that train ride narration? It makes Black Mesa seem so much bigger than us. Half-Life used an awful lot of speech to reveal what was going on, from our one-sided conversations with scientists to soldiers yelling at each other. Here I pull off an incredibly adept pull-back-and-reveal: those subtitles were added by a mod which only came out this year. A new version’s now out, with new ways to make this side accessible to folks who can’t or don’t want to hear it.
In almost every strategy, management or sim game I play, I will immediately turn off the music which comes with the game in favour of my own. That means that Steam Music Player sounds like a good idea to me even if I long ago abandoned mp3s in favour of streaming. The built-in functionality, which lets you browse your music library and control playback from in-game using the Steam overlay, has just left beta after its initial announcement back in February.
To celebrate, Valve have made the soundtracks for some of their games freely available to those who own the associated games, including Half-Life, Half-Life 2 and its Episodes, Portal, Portal 2, and the Dota 2 documentary Free to Play.
The road not traveled is uninteresting to me when the road we are travelling is winding, densely populated and has no speed limit. (The road I’m talking about is videogames.) That didn’t stop me being intrigued to find out more about Prospero via the latest episode of Valve Time Database. Prospero was one of two game’s Valve were working on when the company was founded in 1996, and Valve Time Database is a series of short YouTube videos detailing elements of Valve’s universe of games.
Episode 3 contains previously unreleased screenshots of the never released game, along with quotes from Half-Life writer Marc Laidlaw. I think the information is new, but either way it’s entertaining and embedded below.
RPS Feature In Defense Of Being Shit
Total Converts is a new weekly column about mods, maps, models, and anything player-created which you can use to amend or append your games.
Modding used to suck.
Back in 1999, I became hooked on Half-Life. Hooked in the way only 14-year-olds can, with a pure, uncritical love. The problem I had – familiar to many today – was that Half-Life was finite and I had no idea if more would ever be made.
So in between rounds of laggy, 56k deathmatch with a friend, I turned to mods, custom maps, and anything else I could find which would allow me to wring more from my investment in Black Mesa. I hung out in IRC rooms, read map review sites and slowly downloaded files from Fileplanet. It felt like I was crawling through obscure corners of the internet, at a time when the internet seemed to inhabit a strange corner of the real world.
Imagine my surprise when I walked into a gift ship while on holiday in an English seaside town and found the CD pictured above. A collection of Half-Life add-ons for sale in the most ordinary place.
Like any form of competition, speedrunning generates arguments over authenticity. Does a speedrun count if it relies on a bunny-hopping mod, in-game glitches and different runners tackling different parts of the game in short segments? I’m not sure I care either way. No matter the methods, Half-Life 1 being completed in 20 minutes and 41 seconds is an accomplishment of endurance, skill and effort. More importantly it’s a beautifully entertaining video, full of ingenuity and grace and physical comedy. The new record time is embedded below. You must watch it.
RPS Feature Xen-o-phobe
Readers. I crawled to the end. You warned me. After part one of the diary, you really did warn me.
At the beginning, I thought Half-Life was the best game I’d ever played. There were so many finely crafted moments; so many things I learned. I avoided reading the slightest thing on it. I wanted it unsullied. As time went on in Half-Life, I gradually realised that each level is a discrete little chocolate box of incidents, scripted events, little puzzles and touches. There is so much attention to detail in the way that everything is centred on the player’s experience, how to psyche you out, how to spook you, how to mess with you. And then, as each new level drags on, you begin to wonder what it is you’re aiming for. By the time you reach Xen, you’re done. By the time you get to gonad beast, you’re completely, oh so really, done. But wasn’t it something? But wasn’t it really something? Read the rest of this entry »
Halfy birthday, Hap-Life! Well, I guess it’s technically the day after your birthday now, but an upgraded version of Source-powered Half-Life tribute Black Mesa still counts as a gift, I think. You might remember that the free labor of time, love, and more time was greenlit a while back, but now it’s finally taking the Lab Facility Train Ride of Ultimate Auspiciousness over to Steam. Better still, Gabe and the knights of the Valve table have given it their blessing, allowing the Black Mesa team to earn some especially pretty pennies for their hard work. The Steam version will include new features too, but not Xen. That’s apparently still “a ways off,” sadly.
RPS Feature Eat this, you outer-space octopus
Half-Life celebrates its 15th birthday today. Valve’s genre-exploding, literal game-changer first appeared on the 19th November 1998, taking the well-loved first-person shooter and crafting something extraordinary. It was considered a turning point. A new bar for games to beat. And one that was safely broken by, er, Half-Life 2 six years later. Below are some of RPS’s favourite memories of the old, old game.
I’m not sure how I missed this back in August, but it’s splendid enough to warrant a belated post on a Saturday. The two men of Corridor Digital have been creating extraordinary movie shorts for years (one of my all-time favourites being The Glitch), primarily based on videogames, featuring extraordinary special effects that rival those of big budget Hollywood studios. Certainly their profile is a lot larger in recent times, and their work is now very often paid for by the publishers of the games they’re recreating. (This live action video of Rayman Legends (no, really) being one of the most bizarre.) However, they still create projects for their own entertainment, and their origin story for the Gravity Gun is absolutely stellar.
RPS Feature G Man! G Man! G Man! G Man!
In the depths of late night despair you might sometimes lie awake thinking about how you are a life-long PC gamer and have never played through the original 1998 PC darling Half-Life. The thought lingers on you like some grotesque bug with the ability to whisper: ‘You are an impostor. You are fake. You are phoney.’ Well even if you don’t have terrible self-esteem, I do. I’m like Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed. Except the kiss is Half-Life. And Gordon Freeman is that guy from Alias that ends up kissing Drew Barrymore awkwardly on a baseball pitch.
Here’s my first time with Half-Life, documented in badly made videos recorded whilst I was travelling Europe.
“Added breakable functionality to all door types.”
Well, first-person shooters, it only took you 21 years, but you’ve finally cracked it. Our ultimate foe has at last been defeated.
RPS Feature This Mod Will Make You / Jump Jump
Maybe there’s more to Half Life 1 mod Cry of Fear than screaming, gibbering faces and jump scares – the trailers have shooting, conversations and chainsaws – but my nerves, frayed rather than reinforced by years of vacationing in Silent Hill, failed to survive the opening scenes when I played last night. There’s something about the look and feel of the dated engine that unnerves me far more than something draped in bells and whistles ever would, although I’ve just conjured the image of a jester at a rave and that’s as petrifying as it is ridiculous. The Half Life engine has taken on the quality of a museum or funhouse packed with animatronics, and it’s perhaps that aspect that is most troubling. Well, that and the jump scares. Here’s how I got on.
I’m off in the strange, far-away land of Las Vegas right now, and I just got done watching Gabe Newell and JJ “Warring Trek of the Stars” Abrams chat each other up on stage. I’ll have more from the talk for you soon, but here’s the big take-away: Valve and Abrams are officially collaborating. “What we’re actually doing here,” Newell said at the talk’s conclusion, “is recapitulating a series of conversations that have been going on [between Abrams and I]. This is what happens when game and movie people get together. And we sort of reached the point where we decided that we needed to do more than talk. So we’re gonna try and figure out if we can make a Portal movie or a Half-Life movie together.” Meanwhile, Abrams added: “And we have a game idea we’d like to work with Valve on.” Finally, Gabe wrapped it up: “It’s time for our industries to stop talking about potential and really execute on it.”