Paranoia - it is a our single-player modification for Half-life. You will play the role of a russian officer of the secret service. Your first impressions are that this mission will be just like any other, but you really have no idea what nightmares future events have in store for you...

An extensive playtest of the Half Life mod which has constantly put Source to shame. This is Paranoia, and it's almost here.

Posted by Koroshiya_Ichi on Nov 14th, 2007
Article

Im paranoid. Not because I believe that every facet of our society is the product of careful planning, global understanding and subsequent manipulation by the wealthy elite, that the reality of our existence is something so massive that our minds simpley could never comprehend it resulting in total mental and physical breakdowns on every level, or that the words justice, honour, mercy and equality are nothing more than ficticous buzzwords created to numb people to the fact that in a world as corrupt, ignorant, uneducated and ultimately selfish as this, no things can truly ever exist. No these are all purely coincidental.

I think I’m Paranoid because to a large extent the technological advances made in the gaming industry are causing a dilution of quality in the mod community. I’m paranoid that eventually more and more mods will fail to reach their potential, or truly express what they’re capable of creatively because they’re built on games which make it far too easy to produce decent results. I’m guessing 99.9% of you are now thinking “You wha?” so allow me to explain.

Open up the Source editor, create a basic map. Maybe a small room with a nice window complete with fancy shaders, a door which moves smoothly thanks to an advanced physics engine leading to an outdoor courtyard with a tree and NPC wandering round. Looks cool doesn’t it? And it only took half an hour or so to build! Now open the original Half Life Hamer editor and see how long it takes for you to create something similar. Don’t worry, the feature will still be here in a couple of months when you finish, I’ll wait.

Underground Labs Abandoned labs

The point I’m making is that it’s easier, or atleast quicker to create something which looks and plays good on modern tech than it is on older alternatives. No points for me on this one as it’s pretty obvious, and to some extent a good thing, afterall why on earth would you want to waste 5 months working on something you could do to a better degree on a newer game?. The thing is that 5 months in most cases would encourage far more focus, technical understanding and creativity than the required 5 minutes on a better engine. It forces you into squeezing every available drop you can from the technology which (call me a jaded pessimist) I think a lot of current titles are missing. Of course there are exceptions, there always are and anyone found suggesting that the likes of Talon 1-5, The Dark Mod or Nightfall are playing it cheap in this respect would need a swift smack, but the general principle remains. But what good are these somewhat opinionated words without the goods to back them up? Give us some proof that working with older engines can have better results! Where’s the evidence?

Well, it’s Paranoia, and it’s almost here.


I’ll be honest, Paranoia has stunned me from the beginning. Built on a game nearing ten years old, each update and screenshot has screamed quality on every level, and as the project races towards the finish line optimism is running high for both the developers and fans of this upcoming mod based in the Russian Secret Service. But no amount of nostalgia, creativity and respect for older technology can save any mod if upon release it fails to work as a good game, which it essentially has to do. I know a great many people would be thoroughly disappointed if all they had to say afterwards was “hmm, it’s ok for a Half Life Mod, would’ve been better on Source”.

Recently though team leader BuZZer allowed me access to a 2 episode beta build, to see if such concerns are founded and whether it is likely to hold its own against a tidal wave of titles built on more recent engines.

Your character wakes up in his quarters within an army barracks not unlike that we found ourselves inside during the training mission on Half Life: Opposing Force. From the word go you have to find your own way throughout the Barracks before you receive your first objective, during which you’ll come across a host of characters, rooms and details which really emphasise the concept of a living, breathing world. Approached incorrectly this style of design can have disasterous results, with the player becoming lost and dislocated form the game. Thankfully I never experienced this once during the two episodes, with just the correct balance of freedom and direction applied throughout.

The Army base for the most part serves as a training mission to get you to grips with your guns, and some features like the helmet and gasmask. It’s the ‘mandatory tutorial’ stuff but the team have made use of a good opportunity to introduce the player to the general feel and atmosphere they’re trying to create. It’s after this point that things really started to kick off.

I can’t give away any plot details, not because I’m a tease, but because the build is currently completely in Russian. While I’m assured the final version will ship in English, even without being able to read the messages or understand the dialogue it’s still very immersive and easy to understand. You begin in the back of an army truck with a group of comrades, and eventually reach what turns out to be a trainyard.

Here I got my first glimpse at some of the more technical aspects the Paranoia team have been working on. If the AI hasn’t been enhanced at its core, then at the very least they’ve done a remarkable job scripting it to behave in a more realistic manner. Your allies move and cover convincingly which is vital given the emphasis on team work as your progress through each section. A number of times I tried to test the AI by running way ahead of them in random directions, but at most the only issue faced was that they took a little longer to catch up. Unfortunately there are some aspects of the engine that just can’t be masked, and the inability to run and shoot at the same time does become strikingly obvious. It doesn’t really damage the gameplay as I found the best approach was to make use of cover and shoot form static positions anyway, but it does look odd to have teammates run up to enemies, stare at eachother for a brief moment then shoot. But for the most part the AI is flawlessly integrated with the level design.

Paranoia Concept

Speaking of which the level design itself can be described as a disturbing cross breed of Half Life, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and F.E.A.R (well, the good parts anyway). It’s a very bleak, dilapidated but extremely detailed take on urban environments and while I assume that the title Paranoia will have more in relation to the plot details, it suits the artistic style down to the ground as well. During this build nothing ever really happened to make me jump out of my seat or scream with fear, but I never managed to shift the feeling that something could. It’s atmosphere is thick and allows the design to do the talking, and when it’s as believable, intensely cold and powerful as what little I saw during this build you don’t need any of the more conventional horror tactics to scare the living crap out of someone.

The care and attention to detail in the design doesn’t just aid it artistically, it plays a big part in creating action sequences which are varied, keep you on your toes and feel very natural. You basically have three elements to Paranoia, you have your storytelling moments, your narrow corridor action moments, and your big open space action moments. It’s a crude way of looking at things but it’s an analogy you can apply to most FPS titles, but where Paranoia really shines is in it’s ability to make the whole thing feel like one seamless, well told story.

Given that this is only a beta build there are elements which are in severe need of polishing, such as item placement and general balancing. The pace of the mod is so far excellent, and I never felt short on ammo, but there were times where enemies made mince meat of me in a matter of seconds even on easy with full armor and health. I like my games to be hard (which is a good thing because to a large extent I do suck) but theres the world of difference between a game which is hard because your enemies are smart and organized, and a game which is hard because they’ve simpley got much bigger guns than you.

But this is something I expect will receive a lot of attention over the coming months and if the team can raise it to the standard they’ve set with all other aspects of the mod, we’ll be looking at something which can easily hold its own against anything with the source prefix.

Pros

  • Unnerving, realistic, extremely detailed and consistant atmosphere
  • Good adaptation of Half Life AI
  • Familiar, but fresh and varied gameplay
  • Organic narrative style

Cons

  • Yet to experience any of the more ‘horror’ style levels mentioned by the team
  • Balancing needs severe attention
Post comment Comments
joker_mx
joker_mx Nov 14 2007, 2:21am says:

The first paragraph of this beta review almost completely killed it for me, though I am happy that I did read through the whole article, which was good, I might add.

Mod teams like this (buZZer?) usually make their mods on older engines just for the challenge. I say this because I am a modder myself, and there's nothing more gratifying than knowing that you managed to push an engine, such as HL1's one, to its limits and create a great mod. Even though you know someone could have done a faster, better job using another engine, it's mostly a goal that you yourself struggle to reach.

It might also be because these old engines have this rustic, classic look to them, which can make your mod truly unique (can't say anything about Paranoia, I'd have to play it myself), and make it stand out from the rest.

Got a bit off-topic there, but to continue the comment, I hope this mod does live up to what their developers have said. If it does, it'll be one heck of an experience. I also hope that they do manage to finish it by the release date they've put.

Cheers, and nice article.

+2 votes     reply to comment
InAction
InAction Nov 14 2007, 3:33am says:

You managed to definitely boost my interest even more than it already was - here I was thinking it couldn't be bigger. Thanks for a great review, can't wait for it to be released.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Snake-Eater2k6
Snake-Eater2k6 Nov 14 2007, 4:38am says:

Ive been watching this mod since its conception and it rocks!
Nice article btw even if the first paragrpah was a load of babble

+1 vote     reply to comment
Halloween4
Halloween4 Nov 14 2007, 4:51am says:

I can relate to whats being said here as I myself am working on a T.C mod using the MAX PAYNE(1) engine MaxED(1).

Although I must say that even though the MaxED(1) engine is only 3 years younger then the HALF LIFE(1) engine, it is far more advanced, in fact it can do most of what the modern engines can do if you have the know how, & I would have to say all things considered that MaxED(1) is closer to the HALF LIFE(2) then it is HALF LIFE(1).

That being said it still has limitations, but I've still managed to stretched thoughs limitations to make the engine do a lot of things that it just wasn't design to. For instance, having NPC's that have just been killed rise from the dead with new Zombie skins right in front of your very eye's, to name but one example.

And that's why i've been so looking forward to this mod's release as I want to see just how far you've managed to stretch HALF LIFE(1)'s engines bounderies. Going by the screenies for this mod it seems that you've done so by quite a margin, at lease on the graphics front anyway.

It will also be great to have a HALF LIFE(1) mod thats a bit different as I found that after a while previous mods for this game became quite repetative because of the engines limitations.

GOOD LUCK with it mate.

+4 votes     reply to comment
stenchy
stenchy Nov 14 2007, 4:59am says:

I liked the first paragraph :)

+1 vote     reply to comment
Koroshiya_Ichi
Koroshiya_Ichi Nov 14 2007, 5:18am says:

cheers stenchy, perhaps it's an age thing ;-)

Though to be fair I can see why some people dont like it. Therefore in future articles I will endeavour not to incorporate such elements of humour, mild social/political critique or anything that could be considered detrimental to an otherwise 100% serious piece of games modding journalism, even if it does only comprise a single paragraph's worth of the overall literature.

Glad you like the article though guys, it's been completed for a while but due to organisational issues (particularly on my part) has had to wait a while to see the light of day.

Incase I didn't make it clear in the article, Paranoia is super, super cool, if the demo was just a small fraction of the quality we can expect from the overall mod, we be in for a treat :-D

+4 votes     reply to comment
Bluehawk
Bluehawk Nov 14 2007, 8:08pm replied:

Personally I took the opening as satire, irreverent humour, and didn't mind it at all. The actual review was nice too. Putting a mod like this on Source could actually make it worse I think.

+2 votes     reply to comment
Sallycin
Sallycin Nov 14 2007, 7:32am says:

Cheers on some nice writing.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Crispy
Crispy Nov 14 2007, 7:58am says:

Great preview article, save for some typos (50% can be found by spellchecking).

I liked the idea for the first paragraph but it was too thick with descriptors that made the sentences longer than they needed to be. I wouldn't give up on the style.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Crispy
Crispy Nov 14 2007, 7:59am says:

P.S. To tie in with what you said, the NightFall reference dates the article as older than it seems.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Snake-Eater2k6
Snake-Eater2k6 Nov 14 2007, 8:15am says:

Koroshiya_Ichi , i myself study socialism, politics and government it wasnt detremental to the article in any way but perhaps you just need to incorperate it in different ways , ie not to whack it all in the first paragraph :P

Like youve done in your recent comment :P
and kudos to you for 2 reasons:
A)good article
B)you got to play the beta demo before all of us guys ;)

+1 vote     reply to comment
Koroshiya_Ichi
Koroshiya_Ichi Nov 14 2007, 9:03am says:

"incorperate it in different ways , ie not to whack it all in the first paragraph"

hahahahaha!! fair point mate, fair point :-D That's just my style of communication I'm afraid, I'm exactly the same in real-life but it is taken into account and ill work on it in future, thanks for the constructive feedback

The article IS older than it seems. I finished it in June, went to work with Sharks a week later before I had chance to sort it out (hence some of the awful spelling) and it became lost in the giant mess of things upon my return. Literally today was the first time ive seen it in ages.

I'll fix those typos and references sometime this week though because such things are pretty unacceptable and i took 5 exclusive shots which should really be on there. Cheers again folks

+2 votes     reply to comment
DJ-Ready
DJ-Ready Nov 14 2007, 9:03am says:

Paranoia sure is a great mod from what it looks like but what I personally like most about this article is that mods build upon such "old" engines finally get some well deserved appreciation again. :)

+1 vote     reply to comment
joker_mx
joker_mx Nov 14 2007, 9:32am says:

Wait, WHAT?! This preview dates back to June? Well, that's a good indication, then. Imagine what they could've added.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Snake-Eater2k6
Snake-Eater2k6 Nov 14 2007, 10:07am says:

Christ this dates back to june! like joker said, a good indication of whats been achieved up till this point is still comparatively unknown.
They may have been upto much more behind the scene's and btw post those exclusive screens up ;)

+1 vote     reply to comment
J.D.
J.D. Nov 14 2007, 10:08am says:

2 Koroshiya_Ichi
hx 4 article, 4 your pov. ;]
2 joker_mx
Yeah, it's like an article from the past. :] Now it's a more scary, more adrenaline geared piece of FPS with 3 episodes, not 2 like in article.

+3 votes     reply to comment
Snake-Eater2k6
Snake-Eater2k6 Nov 14 2007, 10:10am says:

an adrenaline geared masterpiece you say AWSOME! thats what i wanna hear is there any confirmation on the release date yet?

+1 vote     reply to comment
Aeneas2020
Aeneas2020 Nov 14 2007, 4:51pm says:

course it dates back a fair way :D from what i recall their releasing at the start of december i've got my original copy of half life out waiting eagerly!

+1 vote     reply to comment
Foodstuff
Foodstuff Nov 14 2007, 7:05pm says:

Uh... so what's the game like?

+1 vote     reply to comment
SinKing
SinKing Nov 15 2007, 3:01am says:

Yes, the first paragraph is just one sentence and almost killed the whole article. You need to read an article over and over, before releasing it. It's nice you are writing about Paranoia and you make some valid points, but the structure of this article is not flawless.

0 votes     reply to comment
D3ads
D3ads Nov 15 2007, 5:05pm says:

Nice article, needs new media to compliment it though :P

+1 vote     reply to comment
Terminal58
Terminal58 Nov 18 2007, 5:34pm says:

I don't plan on this putting Source to shame at all.

+1 vote     reply to comment
Koroshiya_Ichi
Koroshiya_Ichi Nov 20 2007, 12:16pm says:

ah true, the build engine's still doing a good job of that ;-)

+1 vote     reply to comment
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Platform
Windows
Game
Half-Life
Developer
PARANOIA TEAM
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Official Page
Paranoia.level-design.ru
Release Date
Released Dec 3, 2007
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