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!
JUST TO SAY, THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW! IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE SPOILED, SKIP THIS PART OF THE REVIEW
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. http://store.steampowered.com/app/261980/
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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.