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9

Arctic Incident

Mod review

A very enjoyable winterized romp through some classic Half-Life set pieces. It won't hold you for overlong, and it won't overburden you with a clumsy narrative, and it WILL make you shiver for all the arctic style oozing out of it. A solid experience overall.

6

Wilson Chronicles

Mod review - 1 agrees - 1 disagrees

A fairly decent experience that recalls a lot of the pulse-pounding adrenaline of the original Half-Life. The maps look beautiful, albeit terribly designed from a gameplay perspective (unless I'm just an idiot, you'll spend a lot of time hunting around for doors that'll work. Expect to press "E" a lot.)

Story is thin as thin gets. You are man. You work at Black Mesa. You get HEV suit. You get gun. You shoot soldiers and aliens. Rinse, repeat. Dialogue is clumsily recycled from HL2 in a way that would have been excusable during the early days of modding for this game, but now just comes across as lazy and incompetent.

The penultimate map (a clerverly redesigned version of the Hazard Course from the original HL) fails to link up properly with the last map, which itself is a tonally inappropriate gun battle against hordes of soldiers. It's a masterstroke in losing player confidence, and I was rolling my eyes as the "to be continued" blurb flashed across the screen, as if I should be waiting with baited breath for the conclusion of this shoot-man chronicle.

I'm honestly not sure what compels mod makers (and hell, even studio developers) these days to release buggy, half-finished products. Is it a lack of discipline? A need to drum up hype among players? Why even release this as a beta when they could have had a slam dunk with more fine tuning and patience?

Anyway, all of this may seem to contradict my assertion at the top that this is a decent experience, but I'm going to hold myself to that. The gun fights are solid, the difficulty is appropriately slanted against you (at least on hard mode,) every gun you hold feels solid, just waiting to spit hot lead into aliens or soldiers, and the map aesthetics successfully recall the Black Mesa of old - aside from a few rather baffling anachronisms and pop culture references. I'm lookin' at you, Little Big Planet dolls.

It's just... kinda disappointing, in the end. But hell, for the low-low price of free you can do a helluva lot worse than this. My humble recommendation is that you wait until this is actually finished before playing, but you wouldn't be wasting your time if you played it now.

Still, give 'em a few months, I say.

6

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Lost Alpha

Mod review - 5 agree

Have a pastebin! Pastebin.com

4

tr1p

Mod review - 1 agrees

The only reason this isn't rated as a 1 is because the mod creator mentioned it'd be difficult as hell. That's fair - he did exactly as he said he would.

All that said... if I were to come up with an apt metaphor for playing through "tr1p," it'd be like placing your testicles in a vise and squeezing as hard as you can. It is not fun. There is no nuance to this, no puzzles to solve other than the "puzzle" of finding out where the hell you're supposed to go next. The map design (which is decent) offers no hints, other than the occasionally missed sound - this is not a player friendly experience and the designer seems to take a sort of pride in this fact.

I agree that games have become dumbed down and easier, but even MGS told you to look on the back of the ******* box when you couldn't figure something out. There's a difference between challenge and completely alienating the player, and this mod gleefully does the latter.

Anyway - you play as someone who is apparently Gordon Freeman coming back from a "48 hour shift" (what is he, a firefighter?) Mind you, this is all flavor description from the mod page, so if you just load it up without looking you'll have no clue what's going on. It's just a barebones set up intended to offer some lame and flimsy pretense to go out and fight zombies and a metric fuckton (a precise measurement, imo) of Combine troops.

This doesn't tickle the brain, it holds no nuance or detail that doesn't continually drive you into combat or offer much to think about. It's a big dumb set of maps where you brutally kill things and press the F9 key a thousand times until you either open up the console and give yourself God mode or, more preferably, exit out.

Give 'er a miss. Again, I at least salute the creator for explicitly mentioning that this would be difficult as balls. I just didn't realize he meant "to the point of not being playable."

8

Deus Ex: Nihilum

Mod review may contain spoilers - 1 agrees

Quick and dirty pros/cons list;

+A pretty well told Deus Ex story, with your classic web of conspiracies and betrayals. There's a few odd discrepancies with established canon. Overall, though, it's very well executed and well written.
+Characters are interesting, if not particularly memorable.
+I'm not going all affirmative action on you here, but I really appreciate the main character being black. More games need that kind of diversity.
+Maps are beautifully well made and filled with plenty of secrets - enough to delight any explorer.
+Locations are classic Deus Ex stuff, with seedy nightclubs and illegal laboratories.
+New guns are interesting and well implemented.
+Difficulty isn't too challenging nor easy.
+Lot of interesting new elements and mission ideas.
+Music is absolutely amazing and perhaps my favorite aspect of this mod. If there's a soundtrack around somewhere, I'd love to download it.

-Mad Ingram's voice acting... is not that great. And that's being charitable. He sounds stilted and addicted to Valium - if you intend to make another release, or patch or whatever, consider getting someone else to voice act Ingram. Most of the VA work is pretty good, though.
-The maps, while beautiful and well constructed, are almost too large and too empty at times. Berlin and Hong Kong are the worst offenders here. It felt like you could have decreased the map size, or at least filled these locations out more adequately.
-Some of the story beats are muddied or not well fleshed out.
-I wasn't a huge fan at the attempts at humor in this mod - both the fourth wall breaking references to Deus Ex itself and the obnoxious ham sandwich jokes. It's not funny just because you keep referencing it.
-There is a frustrating amount of backtracking in this mod.
-There were a few bugs, but I'm not sure if this is the mod's fault or Deus Ex's.

Anyway, overall I really enjoyed it. Had a few obvious problems with some of the writing and voice acting, but yeah. Good work.

7

Spherical Nightmares

Mod review - 3 agree

A decent-ish mod, filled with competent gun fights, puzzles, and adequate pacing. Story starts off intriguingly but quickly fizzles out in favor of pretty much non-stop action, which is disappointing. There's some nifty set pieces, though - particularly the tram sequence. Everything else is pretty much run-of-the-mill but, as I said, competent enough.

Ended very abruptly and left me feeling very cold about the whole thing. I get the feeling you can do so much better.

9

Estranged

Mod review - 3 agree - 1 disagrees

Can't believe I forgot to leave a review - it's been a while since I played this, but I loved what I saw. Sure, the zombie models aren't the most original, and the game is kinda easy and simplistic (some very solid, clever puzzles, actually,) but I was drawn in by the fairly interesting story and quality voice work. Eager to see where you go with this!

5

Triage

Mod review - 3 agree - 3 disagree

This mod is extremely unpleasant to play, and I mean that on multiple levels. It features brutal, unrelentingly repetitive gameplay which consists solely of being faced with hordes of enemies, hiding from those enemies in extremely bad cover, and shooting them in the face. Occasionally, your own rebel buddies will also be shot in the face. This is where the whole "mature storyline showing the effects of war" thing comes in, I guess. Many tears were shed over the demise of my poorly voice acted rebel buddies.

But the people around you aren't the only ones being shot in the face. You, too, will be shot in the face. It will happen a lot, probably five times per set piece, and you will begin to feel extremely angry. Before being shot in the face, your screen will begin to flicker a horrible, distracting shade of red and a horrible, distracting sound effect will blare in your ears, making it even easier for you to be shot in the face as you panic and scramble for cover which, as experience has proven, is practically worthless.

Between shooting people in the face and being shot yourself, you will putter around poorly lit corridors, flat, grey streets, and sewage canals where it is insanely difficult to move in a straight line an an infinite horde of rapidly shambling zombies will pursue you, often to the depths of Hell. These zombies are, by my scientific estimation, literally worse than Nazis. You will hate them as they continue to run towards you while you take cover from people intent on shooting you in the face.

It probably sounds like I hate this mod. To be honest, I liked the beginning section with the apartment raid. Before the mod started to get repetitive, it was an adrenaline rushing experience as people around you cry out, take cover, take poorly aimed shots at the enemy, and gunfire rings in a deafening crescendo all around you. It seemed closer to reality than the slog which awaited me.

But I digress. Don't waste your time with this one.

10

Black Mesa: Surface Tension Uncut

Mod review - 4 agree

Does exactly what it says, which is make the military pulling out of BMRF more plausible and eventful. This lets you play out sublimely scripted, one-sided battles where Xenians almost contemptuously cast aside and destroy all the tanks, jets and soldiers the military can throw at them.

In particular, the moment where the manta ray flies in to zap the tank was excellently done, both in terms of beautiful visuals and audio - you really brought a lot of otherwise lazy scenes from the original Half-Life to... erm... life.

Anywho, great job - I'd go as far as saying that the Black Mesa team oughta include these levels in their next release.

9

G String

Mod review - 7 agree - 1 disagrees

I'm not done with this mod yet. However, I feel like I've played enough to offer a complete opinion (and I wish I had more text characters with which to give it.) This mod is incredible; incredibly made, incredibly flawed.

Made: I adore the atmosphere; so much that I can scarcely quantify my adoration with an explanation. I adore how eeriely uncanny and plausible the vast vistas of desolation and future decay feels. I adore how it bravely wears its politics on its sleeve without actually shoving it in your face, a masterstroke of subtlety. Nothing feels grafted into this world, a world where the machinations of progress itself feel grafted onto every aspect of human life, and often for the worse. I adore this sense of danger and mystery you've so deftly crafted; words cannot describe how I felt, walking onto a ruined street and being genuinely fearful for what lay ahead, from the strange and terrifying things I would face to the sheer dessication the path ahead promised. I adore how unique this has been.

Flawed: The story is practically nonexistent and, when it's there, shockingly opaque. C-zom has more eloquently summed up my misgivings. Strangely, I don't really care, although this mod is in painful, desperate need of subtitles. I don't understand half of what any of the characters say. The shooter sequences are staggeringly inefficient and clumsy (dealing with the Combine-stand ins was almost never fun. Those robots, though? Golden. Amazing. Terrifying.) I feel like I have to do a puzzle every five seconds, for all the obstacles and obtuse paths you shove in our way. Again, that last point is not always a bad thing; I enjoy having to think on my feet. Sometimes.

Any other mod would receive at least a 7 for the above flaws, if it were a normal HL2 mod. But this is not normal: it's something special, horrifying, and ultimately unique, and for that it deserves a 9. Well done.

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