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Review of version 1.2
The initial release was quite the romp with issues as stated in earlier reviews, but this version makes it a wholesomly improved experience over all.
For somebody who loves the original They Hunger trilogy, it's a delight to see the new setpieces and the twists to the atmospheric game world. The scenery looks great, in particular the volcano. This mod suprises and impresses when its flaws aren't bulging.
The maps do look nicer than the original, albeit I feel a lot of the outdoor areas are too cramped. Feels like the geography of Rockwell is completly different.
It is also unfortunate that, as a consequence of the claustrophobic design, the mod is a whole lot more linear than the original. The maps are shorter and doesn't feel diversive enough, meaning that you can't stray from the one path forward for a bit to explore the surroundings.
The combat is tons of fun (as of 1.2, remember.) The new weapons are fun to use, though You're still brandishing a crowbar. It is also a bit jarring to hear the enemies using combine voice-overs and citizens of City17 representing the few non-infected allies. I can imagine these things being fixed once the full version has been released.
As it stands on its own, it's a short, linear mod that is as of this writing unfinished. I am looking forward to the entire finished episode, and the rest of the trilogy - the second episode takes place in a town, so that gives the mapper some great oppurtunity to make wide levels that reward exploring.
You'd be forgiven for not thinking too highly of this mod at a first impression. The mod stars the developer himself, as voiced by himself, with a mod page full of promises, alcohol references, and "Half-Pun: The Game" being the title card. These are traits that I have seen in earlier okey-to-awful half-life mods, but as a amalgamation of all of it, Half-Rats manages to be something different. Rather amazing, in fact.
The mod drenches you in atmosphere as soon as you get to the start menu. From there you're engulfed in a moody and strange experience, futher enforced by the fantastic voice work. The opening dialogue had me succumbing to The Develeoper's repeated recommendation of drinking something while playing, so after getting myself a "Rusty Nail" I was right back into the fever.
Okay, some sort of a joke... The only thing not from the early 1900s is the developer's modding skills. Haha!? The map design is smart. Mostly straight forward, always clever. It manages to make the dreaded Sewer levels entertaining, and the wonderfully detailed indoor areas are what makes this a immersive mod. As said earlier, the voice acting is great, and so are the scripted sequences, the dialogue itself... And I'm still talking about a HL mod!
I suggest that everyone play this on easy or normal first time through. Combat is just challenging enough but can get hard at times, in particular since there is a need to conserve ammo, demanding some melee from your hand. Be also vary that pausing during any dialogue might mute it, a fault of Half-life itself.
Despite there being talks of references to earlier works, such as They Hunger, I didn't notice any of them in the mod. I might be shoutout-blind, or maybe, any and all of these references are so carefully hewn that they have become a part of the beast.
After what Half-Rats: A Fever Dream has given me, I have given in. I'm eagerly anticipating the sequel, and the rest of the "multimedia experience" That Half-Rats has told us about. Sir Half-Rats is not a mere developer, but a genuine renaissance man.
To anyone who's going to try this mod out: this is a story driven mod. There are lots of cutscenes, briefings and conversations, so relax until your mission has started.
I really like the setpieces in this mod. I found them clever and, despite that some of the scripted events are a tad predictable, they're all executed so well I didn't mind them.
The greatest problem I have with this mod is the level design. The layouts are good, but most areas beyond the HQ lack detail and props. The grey, empty corridors in particular, which there are many of.
Every now and then you need to backtrack to find some item or door that you've missed. It irritates me when I can't make progress due to a keycard puzzle, and the mod is full of them. The combat on the other hand is really nice, and it escalates in difficulty smoothly with each passing mission.
All in all, it is a decent mod. The creator's ambition is felt as you play. All that he needs to learn, is to put more detail into all the explorable areas, and to dare to try out new assets. If this had looked and sounded slightly different, it might have hit one of the top mark.
This mod isn't well-designed. To put it lightly.
Right at the start it puts you in dark corridors with headcrabs, zombies, a alien slave and hounddogs a little while later on. These enemies all have to be fought in the blackness while the player is given extremly limited ammo, and the crowbar.
The most cruel change in all of this is the damn crowbar, which to me is number one worst weapon conceived through all of half-life's modding community of all time, beating the Pingas Glock from Crack-life. Between each swing there is a delay which seriously screws with any player who wants to use it efficiently, or even just for opening some boxes. It only serves to blatantly pad out the time it takes fighting enemies and to beat the mod, and you're stuck with in in pitch-black darkness.
If you manage to survive that you get to properly see some of the mapping in bright ares, all of which are very basic. It could've been made in 2002 hadn't there been a few keycard puzzles up there.
All in all, it encompasses repeated dying and frustration. It sure is challenging, but it isn't any entertaining whatsoever. Let's hope the creator makes something better next time. Something with a little bit of quicker swinging.
Scientist Slaughterhouse: The Single Player Campaign.
A very unusual mod, in the sense that your enemies encompass Barneys, scientists and a itchysaur only. The mapping is very flawed, with remarkable things such as a spiral staircase you have to crouch-jump in.
I really liked the idea of going in and killing the scientists, like the HECU in original Half-life. I was all giddy as I clawed onto a window in which I saw a whole room of them evil scientists panicking. The best part of the mod is definitly that it isn't all just run & gun; the scientists barricaded themselfe and took to hiding, making the whole experience a puzzle game in which you have to find out how to reach every single one of them.
It is unfortunetly very flawed. Worth a go though for the unique experience.
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