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Strider Mountain review

Xul Blog

Somehow it was not possible post this as a proper review (apparently it's not allowed to post reviews for that mod, tsk tsk, no idea if that was intentional though)...So for the time being it's going to be here.

Version: 3 (the latest as of now).


Now, everybody. It seems that Gordon has found himself near a mountain base of the Combine. There's a Strider factory hidden in the mountain, and the only way to it is through the said base, which somehow comes as no surprise. Also the player will get the opportunity to reach the summit, but I assure you that there are already some Combine pansies that will interrupt the admiration of the landscapes. So let's get to it.

SPOILERS END HERE... Mostly. Anyway, the mod is still an FPS, the story doesn't really matter, does it?

First off, graphics. For the non-orangebox version of the Source engine, these are still pretty impressive. Great attention has been paid to details, if you're looking for an example of crude level design, you will not find it there. At the same time, the mod is optimized well enough not to require a high-end machine, which is good. Texture alignment is perfect in most cases, and the custom textures themselves are very well done. The only weakness is that for many surfaces there are no custom bullet hole decals or puffs, e.g. shooting snow results in concrete dust and a hole not unlike bullet decals on a brick wall.

Audio is generally good. Sounds of machinery, good custom music, believable custom vocals. However, sometimes highly dramatic music starts playing, but nothing really imporant happens. Or maybe that's supposed to make stuff more unpredictable, I don't know. Some sounds, however, seem rather out of place, like a Stalker laughing madly (you have to hear it to get what I'm talking about), or baby Strider shrieking (seriously, what the hell). Some sounds also seem to be playing in the moment and place chosen only to startle you.

The level design blows. You away. Really, if you played Redemption for the original Half-Life and considered the variety found there good, this mod is for you. The player finds himself blasting through a Combine garrison, some small town, rocky mountain areas (no pun intended) with and without snow, aforementioned Strider factory, underground tunnels, and more. Most of these places look like something you could find in real life, no exagerration on my part.

The gameplay quality varies and depends on what you expect really. There is an objective in each mission that must be accomplished, rather the same one in every chapter, plus some extra ones that make the mod more interesting and diverse. You'll find yourself pulling some switches obviously, some of which are hard to find, but most are not, not a lot of frustration regarding that. The mod makes use of vehicles and a crane, and these actually fit in rather well, you most likely won't have an impression that you're doing things that make no sense whatsoever. There is also one mounted custom weapon that vaporizes enemies (not unlike the energy orb attack of the assault rifle, but hitscan) and some handheld custom guns. Most of them are sadly just models and operate in exact same way as original Half-Life 2 weapons, though. There are a few custom enemies, such as soldiers using hi-tech camouflage, cannons shooting rockets, and a baby Strider that plays no role in the mod really. The rest of the new foes consists basically of reskinned standard enemies (the winter Combine camouflage is pretty cool, anyway). The combat itself is very predictable though. Combines attack in great numbers, (trans)human wave style. Some of them are strategically placed, but most just rush at you in great numbers, making explosives very useful. Sometimes you can simply take a few out with an assault rifle burst if they run out of a doorway in a straight line. It's a bit like Half-Life version of Indiana Jones, I think, because each time you do something more or less important, expect a lot (and I mean lots and lots) of soldiers emerging from somewhere near you, ready to attack. Sometimes there are way too many enemies, if that's combined with water and/or rough terrain, the combat can get really challenging and sometimes even frustrating (I played the mod on medium difficulty level). The gameplay is actually almost entirely script-driven, e.g. if you don't visit a room with a permanently locked door, soldiers won't open another (previously locked) door, so you have to do it to progress. There are almost no places that you can ommit during your quest, and the mod is entirely linear, so there is practially no replay value. The mod is long, though, so it provides many hours of entertainment nevertheless. There are a few minor bugs and inaccuracies, too. For example, the rifle model that soldiers have seems to be OICW, but when you pick it up, it's an entirely different weapon. Also you might run across some invisible soldiers (not cloaked ones, actually invisible ones) that don't react to your presence and regain their looks only after being killed. In addition, on rare occassions it's possible to get to places that the player supposedly isn't supposed to visit, you'll notice missing textures then. However, in all but one case you could go back from there so it didn't really require reloading a saved game.

I give Strider Mountain 8 out of 10, it's actually an amazing and well-tested mod considering its length.

UPS: challenging and fun gameplay, awesome level design, good graphics, good sound and music, long mod

DOWNS: entirely script driven gameplay, Serious Sam style combat more often than occassionally, not enough custom content, minor bugs

Waiting for a scratch

Xul Blog

Although Half-Life 1/2 modscene is alive and well, there's something it's ultimately lacking: abundance of horror-themed releases. Ever since the original They Hunger trilogy was completed, there have been very few mods that could live up to it in terms of atmosphere, level design and length of gameplay experience. Realistic (as of 2001) environments, balanced weapons and eerie soundtrack utilizing the game's cd tracks as well as looped radio music added to the pure terror, as did the audio diaries recorded by inhabitants of a town overrun by monsters. Interactivity was also groundbreaking, considering the fact that TH was a free mod made for a 1998 game. Words cannot give the feeling of terror when one of your bullets hit a lightbulb, leaving you alone in the darkness with fleshhungry zombies. Same went for shards of glass lying on the floor, cracking loud when stepped on in the least appropriate moment.It would be unjust to ommit the few horror projects for HL1, though. Heart Of Evil (recently remade), Mistake (and the sequel, Mistake-1) and surprisingly spooky Afraid Of Monsters also left a lasting impression that this mod genre is not dead. There is also BrainBread, a multiplayer mod excelling in splatterific action that provided me many hours of online carnage, and Zombie Panic that has its source version already, also a pretty good mod. However, with my opinion, only Heart Of Evil (even the original) and Afraid Of Monsters can be a match for They Hunger, the earlier one in terms of pure carnage, the latter even beats TH's atmosphere hands down. I might be biased though, as I am an avid Silent Hill player.Of course I might be mistaken, if you know about any other horror modifications for Half-Life 1 or 2, please name them in your comment. I mean mods that are released, I am aware of a few HL 1 and 2 horror mods that are in development. I keep thumbs up for Rumpel and Resident Evil: Twilight team especially.I'm itching to get my hands on some new horror mods for these games, and as of now, I'm still waiting for a scratch.

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