As long as I've been playing games I've wanted to make my own. Captivated by the possibilities of level editors, I started mapping in 1996 for Doom II. Not long after my gaming experience was changed by the release of Half-Life in 1998. This game got me hooked for the next couple of years and it should come as no surprise that as soon as I found Worldcraft, I was making my own Goldsource wolds. As we moved into the new millennium, online gaming started opening up to me and I found Sven Co-op in 2000 for which I made countless maps and content. I closed off 10 years of GoldSource development with the release of Land of Legends in 2009. Since 2008 I've picked up Source mapping and worked on maps for Resistance and Liberation, Overwatch and Fortress Forever. After that I worked on a discontinued MOD called "An Open Window\". After a long break of mapping, I got back into the game by creating the remake of HL:Uplink for Black Mesa: Source in late 2012.
As a huge Half-life fan I always love to see projects like these: bringing old content to life! Dark Interval gives you a peek into 'what could have been' if Valve continued on the path of the earlier drafts of the HL2 scripts. I own the book 'Raising the Bar' and recognised quite a bit of the artwork in this MOD.
Let's cover the artwork first: many of the outside areas are really well done. I enjoy that gloomy industrial feeling the authors have created here. There is quite a lot of space around you (which is very unlike HL). A few of the highlights can also be found inside, but some of the inside areas could use some visual improvements. Pretty often corridors and rooms you pass through are just empty boxes with props in it and I've even encountered rooms with just 1 texture all around. Quite the eyesore on an otherwise well done job.
While I'm allowed to complain: It's DARK! I've set my screen to the optimal gamma settings but still I have to resort to the flashlight a LOT! The mod could really benefit from some extra light.
Then the gameplay.. or rather the lack thereof. Dark Interval feels more like a scenic tour than an actual game to me. There is hardly any action and storywise it's quite bland. A few vital NPC's (lacking proper choreographed scenes) tell you where to go but all other characters are mute and inactive. I did enjoy touring around for a while but once Barney told me the metropolice were on to me, I imagined the game would pick up the pace. Yet, the combine still stare at me as if I was a regular person. A few good chase scenes (like HL2 did in the residential areas) would be good.
As I said, areas often look nice, but lack the dynamics to be really convincing. I hoped to see more life (such as the combine military parade or the dementors going around burning stuff) in these maps! Add more puzzles, add more action!
One last thing you should REALLY adress are the transitions between areas. In 1998 Half-Life was one of the first 3D shooters to adapt a seamless game experience. Valve would never resort to 'fade to black' travel which you used frequently. In some cases I looked behind me and I couldn't even see where I originaly came from. It's really a sign of lazy design and doesn't do justice to an otherwise pretty well done MOD.
Great experience for a small team MOD! It's quite lenghty compared to other mods and will keep you busy for a few hours, especially played on HARD mode. Hard difficulty in this MOD is quite harder than you remember from HL2.
Many HL2 features and puzzles can be found in this game and often with a new twist. The MOD's strongest point is the enemy placement. Monsters will often pop up behind you or flank you. Often the rooms are designed to bring out the best in combat. The walking flashlight was quite cool, but maybe a bit too long. Depending quite a lot on AI can cause problems, which it did in a few cases during my playthrough.
Storywise it's a nice twist as well, playing on the Combine end of the story. Many cutscenes and information on screen (or written on walls) mix this chapter into the HL2 storyline.
Where this MOD could use some improvement is in it's visuals. Some areas are really well done, while others are quite bland. Overall, I would recommend an overhaul of the lighting for all areas. Often lights are overbright and areas are so dark you are forced to use the nightvision 95% of the time. The nightvision creates a grainy overlay which makes the game look less good and it gives me headaches after longer periods of time.
In the start the item placement could be better too. I kept getting stuck in or behind props. This was less of an issue later on.
I encoutered a few small bugs during the game and some bigger ones towards the end which made me noclip to the next area one or two times.
All in all, really fun MOD to play. Could be ever better with new lighting and gameplay tweaks, but really recommend this one if you are looking for a challenge!
Very well done MOD, both visually and gameplay wise! It's pretty unique to start off right in the vehicle and there is also a lot of open space to explore (compared to the original HL2 campaign). The creator really gives players enough freedom to engage problems in several ways or visit certain locations in different orders. Very non-linear, and thus good!
I expected it to be short, but I hoped it would at least last till the end of the story line. Now it feels more like a preview than an actual release. But surely a lot of work has gone into making these maps, so I don't blame the author for this. Let's hope there will be more chapters in the future!
Little design critism:
Some doors are boarded up and can be broken by crowbar and some can't. It's best to chose one way to handle this mechanic, not to confuse players if they are doing anything wrong.
Visually, this is game is a great achievement! Everything breaths 80's and 90's USSR style and it's full of small details. Map layouts are a bit straight-forward but still offer a realistic feeling. The engine can't hold up with today's tech, but gets close to Source, although performance and stability needs to be improved. This is really how far you can push this old cart.
And then gameplay. The AI is stale and offer no challenge even on Difficult. Some monsters just don't make any sense (huge spiders? 0_o) or where you have to crush a giant. He just redicilously runs around following you and when you finaly get to crush him under a pounder (which are there for what reason? It's not a factory..) he just disappears into small gibs. The game could have done without this 'boss fight'. Also, the infected soldiers (I guess that's what they are?) don't make any sense. The virus makes them brainless zombies, so why can they use weapons and tactics?
Also, finding certain objects is a pain in the @ss. There's a clever system indicating which items can be interacted with, but for some wierd reason certain vital items are not included in this system. And so you walk around for 15 minutes finding a certain piece of paper in a hall full of paper. Anyone found that keycard in under 10 minutes?
Story is also very thin with characters popping up all of a sudden. I press a button on a pc and suddenly a cutscene comes up and there's a surving scientist.. who's been there for 20 years? Who is she? What? Where? Then the start and end in the hospital seems like something 'borrowed' from a certain movie.
Clearly, there are some really talented people on this team. Visuals and audio are great! But the 'underground-lab-virus-outbreak-zombie-thing has been done a 100 times now. For Paranoia 3, have a sit-down and a drink and come up with something new, something fresh: story-wise and gameplay-wise. Take all you know about zombie-outbreak games and movies, then turn it around, shake it up and lets see what comes out.
As a small HL2 mod, this would be a passable piece. The level design is ok, monster placement is ok but it doesn't really excel at any level. It's also quite short. At this point I'd say 6/10.
But what drew me to the mod was the title. A mod where you have to be resourceful seemed really cool. In the sewers, suddenly a CP voice sounded. My expectation: CP's will patrol the area and I have to carefully sneak past them or trick them somehow. But: No CPs, I could just walk through the sewer.
Then in the prison. Armed with only a pistol and limited ammo, I encounter 3 heavy armored combine soldiers with shotguns. It's a completely unfair fight, so I imaged: now I have to be resourceful! I pile up the boxes and carefully block their views so I can sneak past and try to find an alternative route. But: no alternative route. I actually have to engage those soldiers to get past them.
Later I'm in a city. Up ahead I can see a combine outpost but it's far out. Where I'm currently at, there's a bunch of zombies which pose no immediate treat. Maybe here I have to finally be resourceful. Maybe the mapper wants me to use these zombies to distract the combine. So I lure the zombies up to the outpost waiting for the firefight. But: there's no-one there. I can just walk straight through the city and the combine outpost. There is some howling from fast zombies, but they also do not show up.
After that I just literally ran past every encounter and finished the map within minutes without firing a bullet.
I realize my review tone is quite harsh but none of my expectations were met giving the single goal of this MOD: being resourceful. Currently the maps are just empty shells of 'what could have been'. However, this can be remedied. If the maps get a visual update they are good enough to be used again. But this time: think outside of the box! Come up with at least 3 ways to beat the encounters in these maps and make sure the player has the opportunity to use those alternatives!
Truly a lot of work has been put into this game, content-wise and story-wise. The prologue itself is longer than most other MODs and the first Chapter is nearly a full-length game.
Where Underhell excels is the gameplay, mainly the combat. Either zombies or soldiers, enemies are to be reckoned with in their own unique way. Less impressed was I with the minigun-scene and CoD-like jeep chase, which was really over the top. The gameplay features nice breaks from battle with searching for supplies and solving puzzles. The puzzles however mostly come down to flipping a switch and finding keycards. Some more innovation would be good in this area.
One of the gems in Chapter 1 is the amount of NPC dialogue. There's a lot of conversation you can listen to which brings the setting and characters to life. Other games don't really dare letting NPC's speak more than the minimum required amount of lines. Downside: NPC's are heavily based on stereotypes which makes them predictable, 2-dimensional and sometimes a bit annoying. I'd love to see characters with more depth and personal backstory in Chapter 2. Also, sometimes the animation is a bit choppy.
The selling point of Underhell is certainly the House. In here the developers can freely experiment with weird gameplay and effects, which turns it into a very interesting part of the game for the people who want to dive further into the depths of the protagonists brain. If you're done with all the psychological stuff, you just jump back into the main story. There is always something to do for whatever type of player you are or what mood you are in.
As for design, the Prologue had some rough edges. Chapter 1 is visually more appealing. I replayed the Prologue hoping it had been visually updated, but alas. For future updates I'd recommend polishing the older areas a bit more.
Conclusion: Underhell is a great MOD that grabs you with it's story and gameplay and makes you eagerly await the next installment.
This MOD is just a hacked (and also a really bad) version of SvenCo-op 4.7.
SixCentGeorge copied all content made by various artists especially for Sven Co-op and called it his own MOD without any permission from the original authors, including myself. The SC developers have not given him any permission to use their files.
Assaultstrike needs to be shut down.
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