Archives for posts with tag: mod

Gateways is a throwback to simpler times. While most Half Life 2 mods imitate the finely crafted levels of Valve’s masterpiece this one throws all pretense out the window in the hope of creating the most interesting combat scenarios that Half Life 2’s gunplay can deliver.

The mod begins by informing you that as Dr. Freeman, you have been captured by the Combine and must escape. Here’s where things get a little strange; at the start the mod has you running through astoundingly narrow corridors, looking at captured zombies in cages and pressing buttons to make something unpleasant happen to them. There are an awful lot of Source mods which funtion as a sort of electronic zoo, whereby you walk about and the mapper shows off his ability to make something interesting to watch.

That is not Gateways and the mod’s beginning minute is a complete misrepresentation of what this mod is about. It is completely incongruous with the true Gateways and is really quite a turn off compared to the rest of the mod, which is of a much higher quality than the opening few minutes.

Gateways is the antithesis of Half Life 2. Where Valve want the player to be immersed in something believable, Gateways is about presenting you with a visual spectacle of enemies and abstract environments. Each area you enter makes less sense than the last, yet the combat grows more fantastic each time. While some of the scenarios, such as killing combine soldiers arrayed Brady Bunch style along one side of a giant cube, are not terribly interesting, these are far outnumbered by more interesting encounters. In one level, I went from fighting hundreds of Antlions simultaneously to ducking behind stalagmites on a circular staircase, being shot at by combine turrets in a middle tower. Upon ascending to the top, I found a crossbow which I then had to use to knock over every turret on my way down. Outside the opening level the design is always interesting, although it never really moves beyond creative uses of func_brush (primitive blocks).

The mod is above all, extremely cathartic. It feels so good to be let loose with Half Life’s combat system, in a way that Valve never lets you be. Whether fighting hundreds of enemies or playing skittles with them, this mod never lets up with the intensity and the edge to the difficulty makes it quite the workout for your reflexes.  The game’s breakable wall mechanics are a both janky and gratuitous, but you’ll quickly forget about such complains as you suddenly need to test which weapons work underwater.  The game is broken up into four sections which you can tackle in any order, which makes progression feel all the more satisfying as you complete the Antlion level with a weapon you unlocked from the combine level.

Despite feeling janky and poorly made throughout the mod, Gateways is a pretty solid one and a half hour kill fest. The first time you press a button and enemies spawn you’ll feel pretty underwhelmed by the mod’s lack of ambition, but soon the inventive ways in which those enemies spawn will win your heart and the game will be impossible to put down for it’s duration. The visual fidelity even begins to seem charming in how appalling it is and the entire experience feels like a glorious throwback to when Id ruled the shooter roost. 9/10

This review is for the first “episodic” installment of the Portal Memories mod (for Portal). According to the team behind it, the mod operates under a “play as it grows” structure, meaning that there will be more content every few months which is good as the first release it pretty short and the design suffers for it. The entire episode consists of four maps and will run you perhaps a quarter of an hour to finish. Being the first episode, the developers seem determined to wean players back into the Portal mechanics by only giving you the power of blue portals, meaning that the puzzles are somewhat simplistic.  There’s a clever moment where the mod will surprise you by doing something that is both logical and unexpected, but it’s largely pretty simple stuff.

This doesn’t prevent one of the levels from being excessively difficult however. The level dangles across a precipice and it’s frustratingly easy to slip down to your death five or more times, attempting to complete a fairly simple puzzle.  What makes this even worse is that you usually fall onto a walkway below, however there is no way to either climb up from this walkway or throw a portal down to get yourself back into the level, forcing you to commit suicide. Which is pretty demoralising by the third time.

The game's "hub world"

The levels all look fantastic, a great deal of work has gone into making the chambers look visually striking. Although Valve deliberately eschewed having a lot of detail in Portal, Memories revels in having detailed chambers and it looks stunning. Particularly (and ironically), the perilous drop I complained about earlier is a real treat to see. What few animations are in the game are of surprising quality as well. The mod does recycle GLADOS’ AI cores however, which means you’re forced to listen to the blue core spout cake memes again.  The mod is mercifully free of rehashed lines from the original game however, so you can thank the team for that.

Despite the simplicity of the whole thing, I really enjoyed my short time with Portal Memories, even when I was repeatedly plunging to my death in a certain level. It’s attractive, has a nice core premise and an undeniably satisfying progression structure.  I am more excited about the mod’s second installment however, when they will not only be implementing more challenging chambers but also introducing the Portal 2 theme of the mod, which is designed as a bridging device between the two games.  8/10.

The mod is ~100mb and can be found here.

As good as the mod looks, it's the Portal 2 inspired areas which are most impressive.