Saturday, October 24, 2015

Half-Life: Peaces like Us

Oh boy, this one is a strange case people. Half-Life: Peaces like Us is one of those mods that has a unique premise, but in my humble opinion, doesn't really flesh out its true potential. The unique aspect of this mod is simple. Xen aliens are now your allies! Yep, that’s about it. Nothing really more to report in terms of different mechanics. Well, there has to be more to it than that! So let's dive into Half-Life: Peaces like Us, and see what would have happened in Half-Life if the Xen aliens WERN'T total assholes to humanity.


Half-Life: Peaces like Us is a Half-Life mod that actually takes place in an alternate universe that is outside of the main Half-Life story. In this alternate universe, at some point when the scientists at Black Mesa started to make inter-dimensional trips to the borderworld known as Xen, the alien beings there and the visiting humans must have had some sort of first contact, and resulting from this contact was some sort of mutual understanding, or peace treaty. Regardless, from that point forward, all Xen creatures are now allies of you, and everybody at Black Mesa. Note that the backstory that I just described is never directly stated, though it is hinted at through the mod. Mostly through text. Also, due to the outdoor environments and some specific scenery the mod has, it seems that the scientists built a sister facility to Black Mesa on Xen, possibly with the help of their new friends. Now that that is set up, let's talk about the main plot to this mod. Things begin with opening text that gives a summary that basically says that the Xen aliens and the scientists of Black Mesa have formed an alliance and are your allies. You are then thrust into the role of Gordon Freeman once again, waking up at 4:00am in the morning for work. You jump down from your "high-rise" bedroom, grab your trusty HEV suit, and go on your way. On the way you encounter a few Xen aliens, doing everything from making sure equipment works, to helping with experiments, to just goofing off. You eventually come to a security checkpoint, where a scientist and a security guard say generic lines from Half-Life that just happen to fit the situation at hand. Then, all of a sudden everyone hears an explosion from outside a window nearby. From the window the player sees the intimidating sight of an HECU helicopter which appears out of nowhere. It blasts a hole in a nearby wall of the facility, and drops off HECU soldiers before departing. From this point on, HECU soldiers begin invading the facility, killing humans and Xen aliens alike. Finding a crowbar not too long after, the player must take action, and drive the HECU from the facility. Not long after the initial attack, the player, while crawling in a vent, looks through a room in which they find a scientist, some HECU soldiers and the G-Man. It appears that the G-Man is working with the HECU, as the scientist is killed by the HECU soldiers at the G-Man's command after telling the scientist that it "Looks like we won't be working together.". After moving through some complex machinery and having a Gargantua help them get to a higher platform, the player chases the G-Man through a "Pushpod Train", only to get to the end of the ride with no G-Man present. The player then gets trapped by the HECU and the G-Man in a room full of explosive crates. After the room explodes, the floor underneath the player is destroyed, revealing the Xenian infrastructure underneath. From there the player moves through the "underside" of the facility, dodging HECU forces and traps all the way. After finding a way back into the facility, and rescuing a pair of Houndeyes, the player sees a strange unknown aircraft in the sky above teleport away. Following that, the player pushes through some more HECU held territory, and encounters a group of Black Ops female assassins, before requiring the aide of a Gonarch to help them progress. Unfortunately though, as the player tries to make their way across a walkway, it breaks and they fall into a teleportation beam projected by a malfunctioning device below them. Then things turn for the worst as the player enters a bizarre dimension where floating platforms provide a path, and strange, transparent versions of Xen aliens pose a threat. After travelling in this very odd place for a time, the player is then rescued by a Vortigaunt and a security guard who suddenly teleport in front of them. They have brought a ship as well, and teleport the player back to the facility. After acquiring more powerful weapons, the player takes the fight to the HECU invaders, as well as freeing some more captured Xen creatures. One Vortigaunt opens a door for the player, revealing a room that contains the "Xen Teleport System", a massive device that the player saw through a window at the start of the mod. After battling some more Black Ops female assassins, and leaving the room containing the device, the player is trapped in the dark, and caught by the HECU. The player is then brought before the G-Man in a cage, in a room sitting right in front of the "Xen Teleport System" device. With the player disarmed, the G-Man tells Gordon that it is "Time to choose...". Unbeknownst to the G-man or the HECU soldiers guarding him, the Vortigaunt that opened the door to the "Xen Teleport System" enters the room with the device, and activates it. Pointing the projection dish right at the room the player and the G-Man is in, the Vortigaunt blows a hole through the room overlooking the device, killing all of the HECU soldiers, and supposedly the G-Man in the resulting explosion. It appears to have been a grim victory however, as Gordon Freeman seems to have been killed by the explosion as well. We then see the Nihilanth, floating in its chamber, as it looks down on a lone Vortigaunt, and Freeman's corpse. The Vortigaunt bows to the Nihilanth, and the giant alien overlord begins a ritual. It extends its hands, and summons multiple spectral-looking Alien Controllers, before creating a huge ball of colorful energy. Sending bolts of lightning out from this energy ball, they surround Freeman's body, before bringing him back to life. Back in control, the player looks around, the Vortigaunt beckoning them to follow it. The Vortigaunt activates a teleporter, to which the player steps into, and then the credits roll.


Alright, now that that’s over with, let’s get into gameplay/aesthetics. In terms of how well this mod uses its assets, it gets the job done. Not alot of new content is added, just cleverly mish-mashing old assets to appear new. I like this, it shows creativity and a "we improvise" attitude. This is another mod that uses the Half-Life HD Pack as a base, and I could take it or leave it, as I have stated before that graphics to me don't matter unless they are so awful it breaks the experience for me. The design of the facility on Xen is pretty standard. It just kinda looks like what would happen if the Black Mesa Research Facility merged with Xen completely. It does score a bit higher due to the fact that the facility itself does have some neat ideas. The "Pushpod Train" being one of them. Of course, the main gimmick of the mod is the fact that all Xen creatures are now your allies. What’s does this do in terms of gameplay benefits? Well, let's just say it pretty much amounts to a few neat things, and a reason to keep the plot going. I mean, the fact that a few Xen creatures help the player along their journey is neat, but the mod really doesn't expand on that concept more than that. Why not have a Vortigaunt follow you around like a security guard and fight HECU soldiers? Or a pack of Houndeyes? Heck even an Alien Grunt? To say that the concept of having Xen creatures as your allies is underwhelming is an understatement. Regardless, it's still a neat idea, and this mod seems to be the only one to have this concept and run with it.

Alright, it's time for pros and cons once again! Starting with the cons!

#1: WHY IS EVERYONE ON MY SIDE AGAIN? One of the things that perplexes me about this mod is the fact that EVERY Xen creature is allied with you and the rest of the Black Mesa team. I mean I understand the Vortigaunts, the Alien Grunts, the Alien Controllers, and the Nihilanth being on the player's side, because they show signs of sentient intelligence. Though, why are the non-sentient Bullsquids, Headcrabs, Ichthyosaurs, Gargantuas, and Houndeyes allied with you? I mean, in the context of this universe, these things are basically just animals. Driven by hunger and the need to survive. I mean you could use the argument that maybe all of the aforementioned creatures could have been domesticated, or maybe the Nihilanth has some sort of control over them to make them friendly to the Black Mesa crew. That’s fine, but those are still weaksauce arguments because it's never stated in the mod if one of those explanations is the case. Though, despite all of that, seeing Houndeyes do random things around the facility in the beginning of the mod is still cute.

#2: ANIME? IN MY HALF-LIFE? Now this one is a tricky issue to discuss. Like walking on a mine field really. I love good anime. I love talking about it, and it's an art form that i'm gaining more and more of an appreciation for every single day. The reason this is a con is because this mod seems to have a compulsion to include anime related imagery in it. What am I talking about? The very second you acquire the HEV Suit in this mod, near the center of the screen on your HUD, you can see an image of an anime girl looking at you with a stern expression. What is this exactly? Never explained. Though, if the player's health drops below the double digits, the girl changes her expression to a more frightened one. Maybe this was done as an homage to the DOOM series, where Doomguy's face is in the HUD, showing more and more signs of getting fucked up as the player takes damage. In terms of gameplay, this girl is frustratingly distracting, and in my opinion, should have been left out. Also anime related imagery can be found in the weird dimension the player eventually slips into, and even on the title screen for the mod. Again, I personally do not dislike anime, but anybody who does, either ignore the imagery, or just don't play this mod.

#3: XEN CREATURES ARE NOW FRIENDLY? OH THAT’S NEAT I GUESS... Like I stated earlier, the concept of Xen creatures being your allies is not fleshed out very well, at least gameplay wise. Sure, there is a Vortigaunt who, if you help it, opens a door for you that has a healing shower and extra ammo. Yay. All of the other instances of Xen creatures helping you are just there to help the player move the plot along. A wasted opportunity in my opinion.

#4: WHY IS THE G-MAN WORKING WITH THE HECU? This is something that is a problem in a lot of mods with their own story, but here I think it's the worst. The G-Man, for some reason that is never revealed to us in the story, is working with the HECU to capture Xen creatures and basically fuck up the probably very strained relationship between the Xen creatures and the Black Mesa personnel. Why is he doing this? Why does the G-Man even care about this? Now, the problem I mentioned at the start of this con is the fact that most mods with their own story cast the G-Man as some titular bad guy. They all have their own stupid reasons, but Half-Life: Peaces like Us literally has no reason to give. Why are the HECU even taking orders from the G-Man anyway? I mean, it's usually a common place fact that you can get a bunch of insane people to follow your agenda based on the fact they're crazy, but when you're talking about a military force with coordinated intelligence and resources they're usually gonna want something in return for their loyalty and manpower. What did the G-Man promise the HECU in return for all of their troops and support? Simple money? The direction to the fountain of youth? A planet made of solid gold? A Klondike Bar? Stock options? How about a copy of Half-Life 3? Guess what, it's never explained in the mod. The G-Man is the villain because the mod said so.

#5: THE ENGRISH. Okay so this is a weird case of engrish. The only real instances of engrish in this mod are in the level titles, and the opening text. Half-Life: Peaces like Us contains such level titles as  "I don't forgive!", "What is a purpose...?", and my personal favorite, "Another World". I'm going to state this again. Spellcheck exists for a reason. Use it people. Use it so I don't have to keep listing the engrish as a con. Please.

Okay, now it's pro time. It's about time the pros got here, I mean jeez, just look at the time. Time, time timey time.

#1: CLEVER USE OF ASSETS. As I said earlier, the way the mod reuses assets is both creative and neat. Especially in the area with the giant generators that have fans on them. Aside from a couple of areas that really scream "We ran out of ideas", this mod certainly knows how to teach old dogs new tricks, if ya know what I mean.

#2: THE DIMENSION OF SENTIENT GEOMETRY. I call the dimension the player falls in that because the blocks, squares, rectangles, and sometimes the very rooms of that place move at their own will. This place to me is the mod's best part. It's so strange, abstract and complex. Everything from the music, to the way you progress through the level is just so weird, I have to give the mod points for this section.

#3: FINALLY THESE ALIEN BASTARDS AREN'T TRYING TO KILL ME. Though I have given the concept of Xen creatures being your friends a lot of flak, I actually like the fact that I can call a giant blue fatty with flamethrowers for arms my buddy. Even if they never fight the enemy with me.

Okay, so Half-Life: Peaces like Us may not be the best mod out there, but it does have an interesting concept laid out. It's a shame that the mod doesn't even try to fully flesh out its concept. It does however have neat visuals, especially in the dimension of sentient geometry, and standard Half-Life gameplay that we all know and love.

Half-Life: Peaces like Us gets the final rating of 3/5. Thanks for reading everybody, and stay classy!

Here is a couple of links to the mod's ModDB page, for those who want to play the mod themselves! Also, you do need to install those two files in order to play the mod. Just saying.

Don't forget to post a comment on this webzone, share this page and follow me on Google+ and Twitter for more reviews of Goldsrc mods and Sourcemods here on Modzone! Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta take care of my pet Houndeye, Blinky.

Oh and I almost forgot, if you want to contact me, or play games, or just whatever here's a link to my Steam account. If you do this i'll give you a pizza roll. I have like 200 left. Cmon, don't ya want a pizza roll? Listen to your stomach.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Half-Life: Black Ops

So, this Half-Life mod is a strange one. It almost feels like the official expansion to Half-Life that Gearbox Software never made. You'd think it'd make sense for Gearbox to develop that one Half-Life expansion that featured the mysterious Black Ops, but they never made it. Thank god we have this mod to...sorta fill that gap. So, let’s jump in to Half-Life: Black Ops, and see if the Black Ops possibly had a story worth telling!


The story of Half-Life: Black Ops is one that, while not terribly complicated, is at least a decent reason to involve the player's character. The game opens with a bunch of opening text that summarizes the idea of the Black Ops, and what they do. It's decent enough, and is set against cinematic panning shots of the environments. The area the story primarily takes place in is called Metro City, the base of operations for the Black Ops. The player character is known as Declan Walker, a male Black Ops agent who gets a mission from his superior. He must go alone and find Dr. Gallagher and assassinate him, as well as recover a briefcase the good doctor is carrying, which was supposedly stolen from the Black Ops some time ago. Unfortunately, Walker's mission isn't as easy as it sounds, as this mod takes place a mere twelve hours after The Black Mesa Incident in New Mexico. Due to this, Vortigaunts, Headcrab Zombies and other alien creatures are running amok in Metro City. The player has to track down Dr. Gallagher's whereabouts through the city's dark and dreary alleys with monsters lurking around nearly every corner. Also as its revealed early on, the HECU still have a grudge against any and all Black Ops personnel, and stand in Walker's way as yet another obstacle to avoid. Travelling from an abandoned night club, to an empty temple, Walker doesn't find Gallagher, but does find evidence that he is on the move, and that somebody is helping him. Eventually tracking down his target at a warehouse complex, Walker comes to find that Dr. Gallagher has killed himself, and that the person helping him was in fact a traitorous female Black Ops agent named Valerie Thorne. After Walker gathers the briefcase and is about to report back to headquarters, he is captured by the HECU and held prisoner in an abandoned prison complex. After some Vortigaunts teleport in and start to cause trouble however, the player begins their valiant escape from the prison complex. After many encounters with both the HECU and the alien invaders, Walker grabs the briefcase once again, and leaves the place, only to encounter a Gonarch blocking the way out. After killing the creature, Walker encounters his superior who shows him what is inside this briefcase. It turns out to be a nuclear device that the Black Ops plan to place inside the Black Mesa Research Facility, in an attempt to cover up the incident and halt the entire alien invasion. Your superior tells you to split up, and to meet him inside the parking garage in the facility so you can arm the nuclear device. After fighting your way into the facility to reach the parking garage, you find your superior dead next to the bomb. After Walker activates the device, something unexpected happens. A lone HECU soldier shoots Walker in the back of the head, supposedly killing him. We then see the soldier disabling the device, making Walker's mission all for naught. However, a few moments later we see the mysterious G-Man reactivating the device. This prompts the player to suddenly get up, and run like hell. With the entire facility exploding and crumbling down around him, Walker tries desperately to escape, but in the end his true fate is unknown, as the screen fades to black and the credits roll.


So now that the story is out of the way, let's talk about gameplay/aesthetics. Half-Life: Black Ops is honestly one of the more unique Goldsrc mods i've ever seen. It had a unique setting, with a somewhat interesting story to tell. I mean come on, who didn't want to play as a member of the Black Ops in Half-Life? Next to the G-Man, they were like the most mysterious faction out of them all. In terms of asset use, the mod does do a decent job with its resources. It uses the Half-Life HD Pack as a default for its resources, and the custom textures it uses for its environments are well implemented as well. Speaking of that, Half-Life: Black Op's custom setting in Metro City is a welcomed change from the same old Black Mesa Research Facility. The city's environments are both dreary and grungy looking, with abandoned alleyways and apartments. It really gives you a late 80s/early 90s feeling as you go through the levels. The mod's difficulty is also pretty well balanced, with a few beginners’ traps here and there, but not too many as to feel frustrating. The player's arsenal, while limited, has all the basic weaponry gaps filled to deal with anything that comes their way. Also, the mod has an interesting way of keeping the player's arsenal well supplied. As stated in the mod's training level, sometimes in the areas, you will see the Black Op's logo spray painted onto the wall, or on some object. This indicates a hidden supply cache nearby provided by the Black Ops which will house anything from ammo to health, to armor. The mod also adds a couple of new mechanics to mention, the first being the ability to "hack" into certain computer terminals to gain an access code for, say, a door you need to open. Secondly you'll be asked to sometimes find an item lying around, say an explosive or a valve, to help solve a puzzle. While these two mechanics aren't huge, I find they sort of help embrace the idea that you are a member of the elite Black Ops. Trained as a badass agent to handle any situation. One final thing I would like to touch upon in terms of the mod's aesthetics, is the way the mod tells its story. See, between level transitions, of which there are 4 in total, the story will be told through image slideshows with captions over them, in an almost comic book style. I have never seen a mod do this before to tell its story, and being a fan of comic books, I really liked this.

Alright, it's pros and cons time! Let’s start with my personal favorite, the cons.

#1: WHEN DID THIS STORY TAKE PLACE AGAIN? I think the worst thing about Half-Life: Black Ops was the story's place in time. See, the opening text crawl at the start of the mod describes events that happen from 1996 to 1998. Now, if you are making a Goldsrc mod that has anything to do with Half-Life's original story, you have to subtly and creatively find a way to make it tie into that story, without it seeming too intrusive or obvious. Now Marc Laidlaw, the writer for the Half-Life series, confirmed that the first game in the series and its expansions take place in the year 200X. Meanwhile this mod claims that it's happening in the year 1998, a mere twelve hours after the Black Mesa Incident. So, either this mod was made before Marc confirmed that, or the developer didn't do their research. Either way i'm listing it as a con.

#2: WAIT THATS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THERE! In the mod the nuclear device that is supposed to blow up Black Mesa is sitting in some random parking garage somewhere instead of in the back of a truck under the ordinance storage facility like in Half-Life: Opposing Force. Yet for some reason the mod shows that Adrian Shepard is indeed the soldier that shoots you and deactivates the device, and that G-Man comes and reactivates later. Like in Half-Life: Opposing force. This is what I was talking about in the first con involving subtlety and creativity when it comes to working around the original Half-Life's story. At this point i'm just going to say the mod is in an alternate universe and doesn't take place in the canon.

#3: THE ENGRISH. The engrish in this mod isn't that bad, but you can notice it from time to time. Spellcheck exists for a reason, and if you don't know why I regard engrish as a con, it's for this reason. It shows unprofessionalism, and can have a dampening effect on your entire experience while playing the mod. Let this be a lesson to everyone, use spellcheck, people will thank you for it.

#4: TERRIBLE SOUND DESIGN. In the training level of the mod, you are instructed by a male Black Ops assassin who for some reason has a voice changer lodged in his throat. It's not that the voice itself sounds bad, but that the voice was obviously edited and changed by some voice changing software after it was recorded. A tip for any mod developers out there, you're custom voices don't have to sound like they were dragged through a voice changer first if you're just making regular human voices. Save that for robot characters or something. To compound this, the custom footstep sounds that are in this mod range from okay, to downright annoying. Why this had to be implemented, I have no idea.

#5: WHERE IS THIS CITY EXACTLY? The player is never given any sort of context just where Metro City is. So it just seems sort of weird that the Xen aliens are invading it. I mean I guess it's within driving distance of Black Mesa due to the fact you and your superior drive there to arm the nuclear device, but it'd be nice to get an exact location for story consistency.

Now it's time for the pros section, oh good.

#1: INTERESTING LEVEL DESIGN. The level design in the mod is actually pretty well conceived. As I have mentioned before the dark and cramped apartments and alleys you traverse are both intricate, and claustrophobic. The way the supply caches are hidden is also kind of neat, with the player being able to miss a few if they don't check everywhere around them. Enemy placement is both practical, and efficient, with only a few being legitimate beginner's traps.

#2: THE COMIC STYLE CUTSCENES. Like I said, I love the way this mod tells its story. When you look at these slideshows, it almost feels like a comic book, with sound effects and everything. Sometimes they even have speech bubbles in them. Though I should point out that the graphics on these aren't actually drawn in, they are actually just the game's graphics with a cell shade effect over them. Still though, you can't deny that it's a unique style.

#3: THE LEGIT TWIST. Coming to learn that Dr. Gallagher was being helped by a member of the Black Ops was actually a pretty legitimate twist in this story. Even though we never found out who Valerie Thorne was, or why she defected from the Black Ops, or who those other two female assassins with her were, it's still nice to encounter a twist that doesn't suck.

Half-Life: Black Ops certainly is a tricky one. While it does fill the void of having a Half-Life game about the mysterious and enigmatic Black Ops faction, it certainly could have been alot more than it is. While it certainly has more effort than most mods, the breaks and damages it causes in Half-Life: Opposing Force's story lower it's score alot in my view. The almost frequent engrish also brings it down, but on all other fronts, it serves as a fun little "What if" Half-Life story, that has its moments. Thanks Walker old boy, you paid your dues.

Half-Life: Black Ops gets the final rating of 3.5/5. Thanks for reading everybody, and stay classy!

Here is the link to the mod's ModDB page, for those who want to download and play it themselves!

Don't forget to comment, share and follow me on Google+ and Twitter for more reviews of Goldsrc mods and Sourcemods here on Modzone!

Oh and I almost forgot, if you want to contact me, or play games, or just whatever here's a link to my Steam account. If you do this i'll give you a pizza roll. I have like 200 left. Cmon, don't ya want a pizza roll? Listen to your stomach.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Half-Life: Before

Half-Life: Before is the most disappointing thing since my son. I mean how could you possibly screw up the entire backstory to Half-Life? It's like screwing up 3 prequel movies that tie in with a beloved set of three other films. Also, while my son eventually met his death by stupidly running into an active trip-mine after screaming at someone to open a silo door, the sad truth about Half-Life: Before, is that it will be around. Forever. It will never go away. It can never be undone.

Okay, seriously. As a huge advocate and fan of Goldsrc mods, I just had to check this out. People told me not to, they said it wasted a decent amount of space on your computer and that it was essentially a waste of time. However, being the fair man Iam, I decided to give this mod a chance. A chance to prove itself worthy of being on Steam itself, while other amazing Goldsrc mods like They Hunger, Sweet Half-Life, and USS Darkstar get to remain on other services such as ModDB. So, lets dive in and review Half-Life: Before!


So lets get into the plot of Half-Life: Before. The title hints that this is a prequel to the original Half-Life. Is it? Hardly. You play as Black Mesa research scientist Andrew Winner, who is on a mission to an alternate dimension where an artifact of supposed importance is being held. Your objective is to find the artifact, and bring it back to Black Mesa. You start the game off on a ship in the middle of nowhere during a rainstorm. You are then immediately assaulted by Headcrabs and Zombies. Picking up weaponry found around you, you begin to make your way to the ship's bridge. Along the way, you discover that Vortigaunts, Bullsquids, and even Alien Grunts are trying to stop you from reaching your goal. Towards the end of the inital journey, even a military force tries to hinder your progress. Upon getting to your destination aboard the ship's bridge, you come across a man with no name who tells you that the artifact you are looking for is below the ship inside the cargo hold. He also tells you to be wary of a genetically modified creature that the game refers to as "Genmod 262". He activates the cargo hold's doors and thus you must make your way back to your starting point, and leap into the cargo hold. There you find the artifact, as well as "Genmod 262" who bursts its way through a vent. Using it's long tongue, the creature devours the crystal artifact, and begins to attack you by summoning Alien Controllers and floating towards you, threatening to devour you with it's tongue. With nerves of steel and a quick trigger finger, you defeat "Genmod 262", gibbing its body into pieces, and freeing the crystal artifact. The player takes possession of it, and the game ends.


Okay, now lets talk about gameplay/aesthetics. The mod doesn't look terrible honestly. It has standard Goldsrc assets being used, and it even uses a few custom textures and effects to it's advantage. The rain effect while you are on the outside of the ship is competent to say the least. It uses the HD Model Pack, which grants it some extra points, though not with me. I could care less about the Half-Life HD Pack. As long as the gameplay is good, I don't care for graphics. Speaking of which, Half-Life: Before's gameplay is very, very, VERY basic. There is no real attempt for even basic complexity or challenge for the mod. You basically run straight forward, go up, backtrack, drop down, and run in circles. There, I just described the movement path for Half Life: Before in ONE SENTENCE. Now, nothing is wrong with simplicity if it's done right. Here however, it's done poorly, and hurts the mod's overall impression. The mod is also easy to the point of the player basically asking, "Oh why even bother?". Even on hard difficulty, the placement of the enemies, abundance of health packs and batteries, and bad A.I coding the enemies have make it a walk in the park. I only died once in this mod, and that was due to me not knowing about the 3 turrets right in front of the ship's bridge entrance. Those of you who call that "Challenge", no, it's a beginner's trap, plain and simple. For veteran Half-Life players like myself, the mod is just unsatisfactory, in more ways than one.

Now it's time for the pros and cons section. Let's go over my favorite part first, the cons.

#1: THE LENGTH. Half-Life: Before literally only clocks in at about 17 minutes at best. For someone who has never played a Half-Life game in their life, it might take around 26 minutes, depending on the difficulty. For a Half-Life master, it might take them less than 15 minutes. The length of the mod REALLY compounds how terrible and compressed everything feels, and I do mean everything. The story, the gameplay, and the experience is just hampered by this mod's ridiculously short time. I'm going to say, on record, that Half-Life: Before is the shortest Half-Life game I have ever played. Not even Half-Life: Uplink was this short, and that was a DEMO.

#2: LAZY USE OF ASSETS. In the mod, "Genmod 262" is lazily represented by a slightly altered Nihilanth model, with a Barnacle tongue. The creature never truly moves, more so flies towards you like the static prop that it truly is. This may be a small complaint, but this really set my expectations low when I played. Not only that, but some of the dead bodies of people you find on the outside hull of the ship are lazily represented as well, especially in the facial department.

#3: UNSATISFACTORY STORY. Alot of Goldsrc mods suffer from this problem, and Half-Life: Before is no exception. "Why do I care about this artifact i'm after?" is the question that ran through my head the whole time I was playing. Maybe some players don't care about story and only want an excuse to violently kill and mutilate alien monsters. Thats fine, but a story for the players who DO care would have been nice.

#4: LAZY PUZZLE DESIGN. Part of what makes Half-Life games special, is their synergy between intense, and harrowing combat sections, and somewhat complex, tricky puzzle sections. There is only a total of 2 moments in Half-Life: Before where you must use your brain, and they are made up of "Move this crate to this place so you can jump on the platform and keep moving". Then again, I guess the mod wasn't long enough to have complex puzzles, huh? Half-Life: Before honestly just feels like one long combat section with barely any thought put into it.

#5: THE ENGRISH. Now, I understand that the developer for this mod may not speak English as their first language, but, people, spell check exists for a concrete reason. I've played lots of Goldsrc mods by foreign individuals, and they manage to have perfect English text. While this isn't a huge issue, this con compounded with all the others, really weighs the mod down in the grand scheme of things. Hopefully the developer learned from this mistake, along with many others for their next project.

#6: THE BLARING MUSIC. Half-Life: Before has custom music, and jeez is it annoying. Not only does it not fit the mood of a Half-Life setting, but it's blaring nature can often get distracting. I had to turn my volume down just so it wouldn't destroy my ear drums. Strangely enough, the music never seems to stop. Even when you pause the game the music still plays for some reason. Heres a free tip for any Goldsrc mod developers. If you are going to create custom music tracks for your mod, take a page out of Half-Life: Opposing Force's book and create themes that fit with the setting.

Now it's time for the pros, if there are any!

#1: DECENT EFFECTS. Like I said previously, the rain effect in the mod is actually pretty decent. Not alot of Goldsrc mods actually incorporate rain into their environments, and so I must give Half-Life: Before a point for that.

#2: THE GLOCK'S MAKEOVER. The handgun in the game has been changed. Would I say for the better? Eh. It has new animations, sounds, and a slower firerate. Though, it can kill a Headcrab in only one shot, so there's that.

#3: GOOD VOICE ACTING. The man with no name I mentioned earlier who opens the cargo bay doors for you, actually has a decent voice. In fact, it sounds alot better than most custom voice acting i've heard, in much better Goldsrc mods no less. Whoever did that voice needs to be commended. He very possibly has a future career in voice acting.

So, whats my final verdict for Half-Life: Before? Well, lets just say I don't know why this mod has the right to be on Steam. In my honest opinion, lots of better Goldsrc mods deserve to be on the platform a heck of alot more than this short, lazy trite. I still regret the fact that this thing took up 70mb of data on my computer. That space could have been used for ANYTHING ELSE, but no. To add a bit of clarity, Half-Life: Before could have been something great, had more effort been put into it. I know that it was made in 2009 and was probably a haphazard first project by the developer that served as a test to see if they could actually make games in the first place. Though, thats not my place to care about that. I judge things for how they are now. Besides, this mod is still pretty awful, even back in 2009.

Half-Life: Before gets the final rating of 1.5/5. Thanks for reading everyone, and stay classy!

Here is the link to the mod's page on Steam, for those who want to play it regardless.

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Oh and I almost forgot, if you want to contact me, or play games, or just whatever here's a link to my Steam account. If you do this i'll give you a pizza roll. I have like 200 left. Cmon, don't ya want a pizza roll? Listen to your stomach.