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In the spirit of "why the hell not", a group of five modders is recreating Half-Life 2 in the Half-Life engine. There may be practical reasons for using this mod – maybe you don't own a copy of Half-Life 2 but you do own a copy of Half-Life – but these demakes are usually done just to see if they're possible.
So far, so good: the team has already completed the game's first chapter, but they need help – especially from programmers and modelers. The mod's demo is currently available on ModDB, where you can also follow its progress.
"You might be aware that this has already been attempted already, but none of these have actually panned out," the description reads. "With Half-Life 2 Classic, we hope to communicate more with the community, so that even if we don't manage to recreate the whole game, we can still release a substantial part of it, which can be continued by someone else in the future."
Meanwhile, whether the mod will be a deliberately retro-styled outing, or whether they'll try to match Half-Life 2's fidelity, is yet to be seen. "We're still debating if we should stick close to Half-Life 2's graphics, or if we should downgrade them on purpose, and if so, how much. We may even make optional high-res models for the hd model pack, while keeping the base game's models low-res. But it depends on what most people want."
Check out the mod in action below. Cheers, Kotaku.
If you found science-fiction author and former Valve writer Marc Laidlaw's synopsis of Half-Life 2: Episode 3 interesting to read, you might find it interesting to play, kinda, sorta. Laidlaw recently published a gender-swapped, name-changed fan-fictionesque version of the possible major events of the never-published episode of Half-Life 2 called Epistle 3, which created a bit of excitement among Half-Life 2 fans and also spawned a game jam using Laidlaw's story as its inspiration.
There are a number of games already submitted to the jam, and I just played one made by Blendo Games, maker of Quadrilateral Cowboy and Thirty Flights of Loving. It's a Half-Life 2 mod called Tiger Team. It's only a few minutes long, and it takes you through some of the events, kinda, of Laidlaw's story, sorta. (Here's a version of the story with the game's real character names which I found easier to follow.)
I'm not honestly sure I knew what was going on with everything in the mod—there's a lot of bouncing around between scenes, and without having read the story I wouldn't have been able to follow a damn thing going on. But if you read the story and then play the mod, you should be able to grasp most of what you see. Besides, since we'll never get to play the real thing, this may be as close as we can get.
You can download the Tiger Team mod here.
Every year PC Gamer's editors and contributors vote on a list of the 100 best PC games to play right now, and every year our Top 100 list is contentious. A game is always too low, and another too high, and another unbelievably missing. Such is the inevitable fate of any List Of Things In A Certain Order.
But this year, we decided it would be fun to transform the heated comment threads under our list into a list of their own—the Readers' Top 100. Last week, I asked you to pick your top two games from our Top 100 list, and suggest two games to add. I then compiled the votes (1,445 of them), weighing the write-ins more highly than the picks from our list, given that it's much more likely that 50 people would chose the same game from a list of 100 than all write in the same game.
My totally unscientific method does cause a few problems, namely: how much more do you weigh the write-in votes? A multiplier of three produced the most interesting list in this case, though next year I may ditch that tactic all together and take write-ins only. The danger is that a write-in-only list might be more easily swayed by organized campaigns (though that certainly happened anyway), and for this first attempt, I wanted to include a baseline to build off of just in case the suggestions were too scattered, or too homogeneous.
It worked out pretty well despite the uneven, improvised methodology—but do think of it as a fun exercise and not a perfect representation of PC gamers' tastes. Caveats out of the way, check out the list below. (Games that aren't on our Top 100 list are in bold.)
For reference, the top 10 games on our list this year were: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Dark Souls, Dishonored 2, XCOM 2, Portal 2, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Mass Effect 2, Alien: Isolation, Doom (2016), and Spelunky. If you want a condensed sense of how our tastes differ from those surveyed, here are a few observations:
We like Spelunky a lot more than everyone else. It was in our top 10, but didn't even make it into the Readers' Top 100.
While Half-Life 2 has lost some stock in our minds, it hasn't in everyone's. It was 11th on our list, but 2nd on the Readers' list.
Everyone agrees that The Witcher 3 is great. It was first on both of our lists.
Skyrim is still chugging along. It was 26th on our list, but came in third in reader voting.
Borderlands 2 wasn't on our list, but came in 5th. Did Borderlands fans came out en masse, or are we just weird for not putting it on our list?
14th place is pretty impressive for Life is Strange. Rimworld ranked pretty high, too. Either these games are more popular than we realized, or the survey happened to be circulated among their biggest fans. Probably a mix of both.
League of Legends fans showed up to challenge our preference for Dota 2. It came in at 18, while Dota 2 was knocked down to 73. Justice?
If you'd like to compare the lists directly, I've put them side by side in a spreadsheet. Thank you to all 1,445 people who responded to the survey! Feel free to suggest new ways to compile this list in the comments, and I'll take them into consideration next year. My skill with Excel spreadsheet formulas is at least double what it was last week, a cursed power that will only have grown by next year.
There's been a lot of Half-Life 2 talk lately, what with Marc Laidlaw creatively writing some gender-swapped fan fiction that revealed his vision for the missing Episode 3 and Lever Softworks speeding up the release schedule of its Half-Life 2: Aftermath mod. In fact, it feels like there there's pretty much always a bit of Half-Life 2 chatter drifting around because it's a celebrated hunk of first-person shootery and we're still wondering (well, maybe not so much now) if we'll ever see Half-Life 3.
It wasn't this most recent surge of Half-Life 2 nostalgia that led me to play through the final chapter of Half-Life 2 a total of 15 times in 2 days. I love Half-Life 2, and I'll still play certain chapters of it every now and then. But when I play it, I never play the last chapter, and I didn't want to this week, and I certainly didn't want to play it 15 times in two days. Also: I'll never play it again.
Why I played it this week: I was working on some Half-Life 2 stuff for an upcoming issue of our magazine, and my contribution involved using Garry's Mod, which I have not used in a very, very long time. I had a specific goal in mind: to reach the end of the game, where (spoiler) there's an explosion on top of the (spoiler) citadel, Alyx (spoiler) is there and shields her face, G-Man walks out of the explosion and says (spoiler) some things before stuffing Gordon Freeman back into the interdimensional broom (spoiler) closet.
Seemed easy enough. I wait for the explosion, then disable the game's AI using the console, which will freeze everyone in their tracks. Then I'll spawn a G-Man ragdoll, pose him next to Alyx, and I'm done. Five minutes, tops.
Except it's wasn't, because when you load that final map (d3_breen_01), it loads at the beginning of the chapter, where Freeman has stupidly and willingly climbed into a locking metal coffin like an idiot, allowing himself to be captured. So you take a coffin ride, there's a ton of moustache-twirling from Dr. Breen and a lot of chit-chat from everyone else before Breen, being almost as stupid as Freeman, sets you free.
Cool, I'm free. I noclip up through the map to the top of the citadel, but then realize, oh yeah, I need Alyx (I don't think I can pose her as well as she poses herself) and the explosion. I'll need to actually play through the entire chapter to reach the climactic end. So, I noclip back down into Breen's office but apparently I've passed through a trigger or something and the sequence won't continue.
I start the chapter over, ride the coffin, listen to the chats, Breen frees me, we pursue, he gets distracted while Skyping with a large alien cyber-maggot, I get my gravity gun back, I fight the Combine and remember how to get to the top of the citadel without using noclip to fly, I shoot orbs at the thingie, the thingie breaks, and Alyx hops out of a window I probably could have used to avoid that entire fight. There's an explosion, Alyx throws her hands up, I disable the AI, and everything pauses. Perfect! I open the Garry's Mod menu, spawn a G-Man ragdoll, and take out the posing tool. Only the posing tool doesn't come out. Nothing comes out. The only tool I can use is the regular old gravity gun.
Hum. That won't do. I reload the map to start again. Coffin, Breen, Combine, orbs, explosion. Same thing. Either the game or the mod isn't letting me use the tools I need at the end of the game.
I begin again. Maybe I'm being denied the tools because at the start of the chapter all of Gordon's weapons are confiscated by the weapon confiscating machine Breen has installed outside his office, probably due to all the other weapon-bearing scientists constantly riding inescapable metal coffins to the top of his office building to kill him. When Breen frees me, I use a console code to give me all the weapons, which I wrongly assume will give me all the tools as well. I fight through the Combine again (using the rocket launcher, because why not) to trigger the final scene, but once again I can't use the posing tool.
I begin again. It's been a couple hours at this point -- this is like a 15 minute sequence -- and I'm not sure I'll be able to get this pose to work at all. After Breen frees me, I start noclipping around the map because I can't think of anything else to do. At one point I apparently pass through a kill-trigger, presumably the one that ends the game if you fall off the catwalk while fighting on the roof, and I die. Since this is G-Mod and not Half-Life 2, it doesn't reload the chapter but just respawns me back at the start of the level with the chapter still in progress—this time with all my Garry's Mod tools working. A-ha!
So I just need to play through the chapter and die at some point. I start again, Breen frees me, I disable the AI, and everyone freezes. I give myself all the weapons, then walk into the corner, drop a grenade, and squat on it. I die, respawn at the bottom with my tools, noclip back to the office, and enable the AI. Everyone wakes up and continues as if Gordon Freeman didn't just blow up his own ass and then rise through the floor a minute later with a buncha weird-ass physics tools.
I continue through the sequence, get to the top of the Citadel, blow it up, and pause. My tools are gone again. Dang! (I don't actually say dang.) I don't know what happened, but it's been like three hours of this and all I've done is watch people talk and have a grenade go off three inches from my testicles. I'm done for the night.
I wake up the next morning and sit glumly through the beginning of the chapter again. This time I wait until later in the chapter, pause, die, and return with my tools. I fight through the Combine and make it to the top. Explosion, pause. Spawn a ragdoll.
My tools. They're sort of working but not really. There's no beam extending from the poser, but I can pick up the ragdoll. I can't turn turn the ragdoll, though, no matter how I try. I can move it, but I can't rotate it to face me. This won't do.
Maybe I'll forget the ragdoll altogether. I mean, G-Man walks out of the explosion anyway and stands next to Alyx, maybe I'll just use the faceposer to give him a different expression while he's standing there. I seem to remember being able to pose faces on 'living' NPCs. I play through the entire chapter, again, making sure to sit on a grenade and die at one point, then reach the ending. G-Man walks out, I pause, then shoot him with the face-poser, only I don't because the game won't let me use it.
Okay, new plan. I'll go up and pose the ragdoll before the explosion. Well, first I'll take a break to scream into a pillow, and then I'll go up and pose the ragdoll before the explosion. Then I'll go back downstairs, fight my way back upstairs, then when the roof explodes and I disable the AI, I should be all set with the posed G-Man in place. I pause, I pose, I go back down. I've done something wrong, though, because Breen won't wake up. He won't rise up through the citadel in his force-field while mocking me, so the ending of the game won't trigger properly.
I start over. Again. After the coffin ride and family meeting, I make sure Breen starts rising through the citadel before I start messing with console codes. I disable the AI, kill myself, respawn and fly upstairs, spawn a floppy G-Man, use the poser and face-poser, and everything is all set. Then the game ends and the screen goes dark, because Breen, even with no AI functioning, has risen all the way to the top of the citadel and escaped, thus causing me to fail my mission.
After a break to put my face in my hands and moan for a bit, I start again. By carefully noclipping I manage to avoid messing with the chapter's routine. I die, I fly, I pose, I return and run through the sequence again. At the top of the citiadel, Alyx hops through the window and runs smack into the G-Man I've posed. I've placed him right in her path.
I shriek in horror.
But Alyx is smart. She doesn't miss a beat and sidesteps the obstruction, bless her. The explosion explodes for the umpteenth time. I pick up the frozen Alyx and reposition her a bit. Weirdly, I notice the explosion has actually undone some of my ragdoll posing.
Even though I've locked all of G-Man's joints, his leg is swinging away and his briefcase is askew. Thankfully, my tool is still working properly. I wedge his bits back into place, noting how his limbs are a bit floaty in the timeless portion of the chapter. I take a hundred screenshots for safety, check the folder to see that the pictures are actually there, then take a hundred more. I never want to have to come back here again.
So that's why I had to play Half-Life 2's final chapter 15 times in 2 days. I have no doubt there was a much easier way to get this done, and I'm sure there will be plenty of helpful comments below to point them out, and they will probably make me weep at my lost hours.
On the plus side, I've got some closure with Half-Life 2 and if we never get a sequel, at least the ending to this one will be forever burned in my brain.
Every year, thousands of PC gamers bring their machines, their monitors, and their largest energy drinks to QuakeCon in Dallas for the largest LAN party around. While there are some basic pixel-crunching workhorses and sturdy laptops around, the vast majority of these PCs are sleek, liquid cooled, and sexy as hell. We round up our favorite rigs from QuakeCon every year, and in the process we walk straight past lovely, high-powered machines that any gamer would be lucky to own.
These few, though, represent works of art, feats of engineering, or staggering wastes of money, and we love them all. These are our 13 favorite rigs from QuakeCon 2017.
An otherwise ordinary rig, the use of rigid liquid cooling tubes, contrasting tube junctions, and carbon fiber everything made this shiny little fish tank stand out.
This year, the brightest lights on the networking command center belonged to this high-seas PC. A few modifications turned a limited edition boat-shaped case from into this orange-lit jewel of the QuakeCon fleet. Plus, if you put a Lego man near the bow, a magnetic trigger starts to play that classic The Lonely Island song, .
We’re not color scientists, but there’s something magical about this case’s bright purple LED lights bouncing off of the soft pastel blues and greens in twin reservoir tubes. Seriously, what is in those things? They look like tubes of rejected Maalox flavors.
There’s no gimmick on this case: it’s just a beast of a machine rigged with efficient liquid cooling lines and enough fans blow Hurricane Harvey back into the Gulf. Getting perfect bends in rigid coolant tubes is not easy, and this case gets every line in precisely the right place. A masterwork of great design and function.
Lego PCs are actually not that uncommon on the QuakeCon BYOC tables, but they don’t usually look so damn good. They also almost always lay flat for stability and safety. Not satisfied with that, this builder built an entire upright tower out of Legos, including GPU backplates and fittings for the case fans. He even drilled into Lego blocks to screw in the motherboard stand-offs! The entire thing is built with clear bricks and jammed full of RGB LEDs that rotate through a gentle rainbow pattern.
Custom built almost entirely out of acrylic panels, this PC is actually a two-rigs-in-one combo. An extra powerful motherboard and CPU support a second virtual machine that boots with its own dedicated GPU, its own monitor, and half of the machine’s eight CPU cores. Both monitors, themed blue and red for fire and ice, bolt onto the sides of the case itself.
There’s not much to this build, and that’s kind of what I like about it. In a sea of flashy neon reds and garish blues, this Mini ITX stood out like a clean shirt at a gaming convention. Everything, including the coolant, is pure white, then lightly accented with programmable RGB LEDs throughout.
We’ve really enjoyed seeing how 3D printing has changed the game for case-mods, and this build featuring a 3D-printed dragon coiling around a central coolant reservoir is a great example. Everything is flame-red, including the dragon’s light-up eyes. Press a button and the dragon breathes smoke, too, but we’ll bet you $1,000 you can’t manage to get a picture of a wisp of smoke in the dank blackness of the BYOC. Seriously, I tried everything to get that picture and I just couldn’t do it.
What do you do when you get sent a promo display box with an AMD Ryzen GPU inside? Most people would take out the GPU and install it in a computer, but not this guy, no sir. Instead he grabbed a whole PC and installed it into the box around the GPU. Laser-cutting the AMD Ryzen logo out of the top of the wooden box took some work, we’d imagine, but the end result is a PC in a convenient, handsome wooden gift box.
You may remember the incredible from last year’s QuakeCon roundup. Well apparently some of you rowdy troublemakers in the comment section (you know who you are, and shame on all of you) gave that PC’s creator a hard time. “Oh, it’s just a mannequin with a PC wired into the chest,” you said. “I could do that,” you lied. This time around, this poor guy sculpted a life-size Feral Ghoul out of clay, made moldings, then recast them in clear resin. He painted it, slaved over it, and then installed a computer into it just to make you monsters happy.
Oh, and there’s a PIPBoy showing that its owner was full crippled, irradiated, and dead by the time the ghoul tore his arm off. Are you not entertained?
Full disclosure: I walked past this damn thing at least 20 times before I realized it was a PC. It’s so massive, I thought it was holding up the ceiling of the convention center. The towering Citadel from Half-Life 2 is at least nine feet tall, with a central spire reinforced by carbon fiber and a ledge cut-out showing off the central GPU. A red-painted valve on the side serves as a power switch, and yes, its creator has already heard every joke you can think of.
The internal components of this PC are all bolted to an aluminum chassis. Why? Because the entire exterior is made of gorgeous, painstakingly joined hardwoods. It would be easy to walk past this case as just another retail case, but cases like this can’t be bought. The entire aluminum chassis slides out for easy maintenance.
The Overwatch hero Bastion is a robot of many talents. Apparently, one of them is running video games. This huge sculpture of Bastion in his Tank configuration features two working tank tracks and remote control hardware that allow it to drive itself around. The entire PC is housed in the right-side track housing, which leaves plenty of room for a gigantic speaker that plays explosion noises through the gun barrell. Tragically, Bastion was driving himself into his place of glory for QuakeCon when someone tripped over him and crushed his gun turret. The creator spent the next two days repairing him in time for the show, because all art is suffering.
Following the publication of ex-Valve writer Marc Laidlaw's Episode 3 synopsis last week, speculation has taken hold of certain facets of the Half-Life community. Despite intrigue many questions remain unanswered, which has in turn prompted Lever Softworks to speed up the release schedule of its Half-Life 2: Aftermath mod—a mod designed to piece together the absent and elusive third chapter of Gordon Freeman's adventure.
"In light of recent events in the Half-Life community, the release schedule for this mod was sped up significantly," so reads the mod's ModDB page, off the back of Laidlaw's Epistle 3 posting.
In doing so, Aftermath's first release contains 11 test levels "created by Valve" between 2012 and 2013, said to be "intended for Half-Life 3", four demo levels designed by the mod's creators, a Combine laser cannon that can shoot through walls, an Armored Combine Soldier model and a City Scanner with laser gun - both of which are said to be "intended for Episode 3".
Future releases are "coming soon", while the mod's creators reckon it should be played in concert with the following Valve News Network video:
In an alternate timeline, we all got to play Half-Life 3 years ago. But in this one, we haven’t even been able finish the saga of Half-Life 2. Today, however, we can get a bit of closure, since ex-Valve scribe Marc Laidlaw has posted his version of Half-Life 2: Episode 3’s story in the form of gender-swapped fan fiction.
Episode 3 would have been pretty bonkers, judging by the synopsis, published by Laidlaw as a letter from mute physicist Gertrude Fremont, Ph.D. His site is, not surprisingly, struggling under all the traffic, so here’s an archived version.
Freeman, or Fremont, and their pals trek across chilly Antarctica after their seaplane gets shot out of the sky, eventually finding a defended facility and the Aperture Science vessel, Borealis. Well, they sort of find it. It’s phasing in and out of time and space. Eventually they get onboard, leading to what could have been Half-Life’s most impressive scenes: a fight on a ship that’s hurtling through time and space.
The ending leaves things open, and many questions unanswered. Mossman dead, Alyx disappearing with the G-Man, the Borealis largely useless as a weapon against the Combine---I mentioned getting closure earlier, but I take it back.
"My intention was that Ep3 would simply tie up the plot threads that were particular to HL2," Laidlaw said in June. "But it would still end like HL1 and HL2, with Gordon in an indeterminate space, on hold, waiting for the next game to begin. So one cliffhanger after another."
Obviously this might as well be fanfic at this point. Laidlaw is no longer with Valve and who knows if we’ll ever see more Half-Life. But it’s a fascinating look at what could have been.
The lesson here is “never go to sleep.” All sorts of things happen while people sleep. Cats go on adventures, presidents threaten nuclear war and, well, ex-Valve writers post thinly-disguised plot summaries of the unreleased and, so far as best guesses go, long-cancelled Half-Life 2: Episode 3. Long time Half-Life scribe, the excellent Marc Laidlaw (who left Valve last year), casually tossed out a link to his website last night, which led to a short story about Gertie Fremont, Alex Vaunt and their climactic battle against evil alien invaders the Disparate. (The site’s having a wobble, but the page is archived right here).
While that might sound like satirical tomfoolery, the actual story very much> sounds like how the final chapter of Half-Life 3 could have played out. It involves time-travelling cruise liners, resurrected overlords, the heart of the Combine and the fate of one Doctor Gordon Freeman.
This is really happening. (more…)
Earlier this week, we watched some SGDQ speedrunners , Half-Life 2’s wettest level. Normally, you coast through with a boat, stopping here and there to shoot aliens and open gates. It’s a relaxing venture compared to Nova Prospekt’s turret hell.
Ditching the boat makes sense if you’re trying to go fast, but modder WALLe’s anti-boat agenda runs deep. They’re redesigning the entire Water Hazard level to be playable from start to finish without a floaty friend. That doesn’t mean they’re just putting out a mod that lets Freeman fly or plops handy planks throughout the entire sequence. It’s being completely redesigned, featuring a small story, voice acting, music, and maps made for feet. See it for yourself in this early demo playthrough.
The footage doesn’t look too thrilling, but I suppose it’s the novelty of the mod’s intent that overrides what a quiet experience it might be. I mean, if you take the boat out of Water Hazard, I’d expect it to be quiet. There’s no boat making boat sounds. It’s boat-less. Er, BOAT-LESS. The capital letters are there to emphasize exactly how little boat there will be in the final release.
It’s possible to ignore the boat almost entirely in Half-Life 2’s first notorious vehicle level, and speedrunner Woobly demonstrated it last night during his Summer Games Done Quick run of the classic FPS. Dubbed Boatless by the HL2 speedrunning community, the strategy isn’t exactly new, but for those who only hear about speedruns when the Games Done Quick carnival rolls into town and hate the Water Hazard chapter, it’s a revelation.
A few tricks go into making the run possible, the most important of which is save deletion. It’s a method of creating and deleting saves to reset Freeman’s weapon inventory and health. Since most of Water Hazard’s water is, well, a hazard, it’s nearly impossible to swoop through the radioactive liquid without marooning yourself eventually. With save deletion, runners can just save, delete the save, and die to get healthy again. It will also spawn the boat nearby, no matter where the runner leaves it behind.
Before save deletion was discovered, the run wasn’t possible even if players somehow survived the ordeal. Throughout the entire level, there’s a single trigger that requires the boat, and it’s right at the end. Gordon doesn’t have to even be there. Save deletion lets runners spawn the boat right at the end when it’s needed, so some NPCs can talk to it and open a gate.
But to swoop around like a damn bird on a surfboard and fly over most of the map, runners use variations well known Source exploit to gain speed called accelerated back hopping. To do it, you need to jump forward, turn around in the air, and jump right when you land. The Source Runs wiki explains how this process actually gains speed:
“When you exceed the game's speed limit, the game tries to slows you down whenever you jump, back to the desired speed. By default the game thinks that you're moving forwards, so when you exceed the speed limit, it'll accelerate you backwards. If you are facing backwards, this will only increase your speed. So, the faster you're going, the more you will get accelerated.”
By gaining speed and hitting certain surfaces at angles that don’t trigger damage, runners can treat level geometry like a stunt course. It’s just like real life, basically.
As impressive as Woobly’s SGDQ run is, it’s nothing compared to the World Record run by Rainnt, set just under a month ago. To see their near perfect Boatless run, skip to the 20-minute mark or so.