PC Gamer

I can't remember how long it took me to finish Half-Life 2. It's been a while, after all. But I can say, with absolute confidence, that it was a lot longer than the breathtaking 40:49 it took the SourceRuns Team to do it.

As is usual with speedruns, this is not a typical playthrough of Half-Life 2. It's done using a 2006 build of the game that used the original engine, which has significant movement differences, as well as a long list tricks and glitches that have since been patched out. It's also segmented, which basically means that it's a group effort: Different players hammer through different bits of the game, and the best of them are stitched together into what you see in the video.

The net result is fast, furious, and funky, as the runners clip through walls, fly over levels, and blow past the talkie bits. It doesn't look like much fun in the conventional videogame sense, but it's a hell of a sightseeing tour, and a remarkable accomplishment, coming in at just one-third of the world-record mark the SourceRuns team set in 2013.

A spreadsheet that breaks down just about every element of the run you can imagine is up on Google Docs, and the SourceRunners have also posted a separate video explaining how clipping works on YouTube.

PC Gamer

Half-Life 2 turns 12 this year, and thanks to its powerful, if a bit creaky Source engine it remains as popular with the modding community as ever. Over the years we've seen all manner of excellent mods emerge, adding co-op or competitive multiplayer, shiny graphical updates, new story content, and even full conversions that bear little or no resemblance to the original game.

It's the latter two we're going to focus on today, as we round up the best single-player Half-Life 2 mods. We've chosen mods that stand up as separate adventures, sometimes set in worlds far removed from Combine Earth.

The Stanley Parable

This is the story of a man named Stanley. Or rather, it's the story of the story: a deviously clever, reactive adventure that second-guesses your every move. As Stanley or, perhaps more accurately, as the player controlling Stanley you're free to follow or ignore the various instructions the wonderful narrator bellows over you, resulting in a tangled, branching story that rewards your curiosity, imagination, and defiance. The original Source mod was later expanded into a full game, one our Phil thought extremely highly of in our review.

Download: ModDB, Steam.

Minerva: Metastasis

Adam Foster's Minerva comes close to the quality of Valve's own Half-Life 2 Episodes in fact, Valve was so impressed Foster joined the company. It's a sizeable story, about the length of an official chapter, with considered level design and a high level of polish. You begin the game strapped to the underside of a helicopter, before being dropped on a mysterious island with a sinister secret.

Download: Steam.

Mission Improbable sends you on a mission to repair a Resistance radio tower.

The Citizen

Gordon Freeman ends the Half-Life series as a crowbar-wielding superhero, a figure of legend in the Half-Life universe. Two-part mod The Citizen provides a new angle on the world, casting you as an ordinary oppressed citizen of City 17. Obviously, said ordinary man soon acquires a gun and starts killing people, but you might snap too if you called that dystopia home.

Download: ModDB.

Get a Life

This lengthy, ambitious mod swings from horror to all-out action. Occasional cutscenes tell the story of a subway technician suffering from leukaemia, but Get a Life's unlucky hero Alex also has to contend with the mod's new limb damage system, which causes effects like dizziness and limping, depending on where he's hit by enemies.

Download: ModDB.

Mission Improbable

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to step into the sneakers of Gordon Freeman and set off to repair a Resistance listening post. This impressive Episode Two mod begins with Gordon rowing to a distant coastline: a coastline that reminds you just how pretty the venerable Source engine can look in the right hands. The right hands in this instance are a couple of established game devs, and their experience shines through pretty much every crevice of this slick, well-paced adventure.

Download: ModDB.

Looking for a good laser puzzle? Try Research and Development.

Research and Development

Thanks to its then-revolutionary ragdoll physics, a lot of time in Half-Life 2 was spent throwing chairs at NPCs, or flinging teacups with the gravity gun. In that spirit, Research and Development does away with offensive weapons altogether, leaving just a couple of secondary tools to let you manipulate gravity or order Antlions about. Puzzles are the order of the day here, and it's surprising just how easily Half-Life 2's toolset translates to this new focus.

Download: ModDB.

Nightmare House 2

Where there are modding tools, horror mods are sure to follow. You don't need to have played the original in fact, it's included as a prologue, giving you the chance to explore both a haunted house and a spooky hospital. The horror on offer here is mainly of the jump scare variety, so if you were hoping for the psychological horror of Silent Hill, move on to the next item in the list. Nightmare House 2 is basically FEAR it even features its own creepy ghost girl but more FEAR is hardly a bad thing.

Download: ModDB.

Silent Hill: Alchemilla

The impressive Alchemilla drops you in the world of Silent Hill, endless fog, Dark World and all. Not only have the developers nailed the grimy aesthetic of Team Silent's classic series, they've matched its colour palette, borrowed its sound effects, and recreated its lonely atmosphere. It's such an uncanny representation that it may take you a while to notice there are no enemies traipsing around, but then those games were hardly known for their satisfying combat.

Download: Alchemilla mod.

Water

Until now everything we've featured has been strictly first-person, but Water bucks that trend. In fact, it bucks a lot of trends, given that it's a third-person puzzley adventure starring a mermaid. Yes, a mermaid. While you're (initially at least) limited to a fantasy city's waterways, this smart mod soon finds ways to get you exploring land too, using a number of innovative systems. The developers of Water went on to make From Earth, another, similarly inventive Source mod.

Download: ModDB.

Black Mesa

Well, we couldn't ignore Black Mesa, could we? For the unaware, this recreates the original Half-Life in its sequel's shinier engine, and it's been in development since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Much more than a simple port, Black Mesa updates Valve's game with fancier assets, new voice acting, a reworked campaign and more. The team have also excised Half-Life's much-maligned Xen section, albeit only temporarily until it's been remade to be, somehow, good. While the older mod is free, you'll find the newer version on Early Access, accompanied by a price tag.

Download: Official site.

PC Gamer

When IGN pressed for a status update on the rumoured Half-Life and Portal movies, JJ Abrams responded, "Not yet, but they're in development, and we've got writers, and we're working on both those stories. But nothing that would be an exciting update." Au contraire, Mr Abrams; confirmation of their existence is more exciting than you think.

If the concept of a Half-Life or Portal movie is all news to you, I'm not surprised—there was a brief flurry of activity on the subject in 2013, when Abrams and Gaben got together at the DICE summit to talk about cross-platform storytelling. Newell suggested that "either a Portal movie or a Half-Life movie" could work, while Abrams said he'd like to make a game with Valve.

Even further back, in 2010 Newell lamented the quality of pitches he'd received from a litany of Hollywood production companies for a movie based on the Half-Life franchise.

"Their stories were just so bad. I mean, brutally, the worst. Not understanding what made the game a good game, or what made the property an interesting thing for people to be a fan of."

Evidently he found common ground with Abrams, because it seems the collaboration has the green light.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Graham Smith)

Half-Life and Portal movies are “in development”, according to JJ Abrams. The director told IGN that “We’ve got writers, and we’re working on both those stories. But nothing that would be an exciting update.” Which means clearly Abrams isn’t familiar with Half-Life fans, who can see excitement in a cloud shaped like Gordon Freeman’s face.

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

A fan-made, semi-official follow-up to Opposing Force, the Half-Life expansion Gearbox made, is now out. Prospekt [official site] continues telling Half-Life-y events from the perspective of marine Adrian Shephard, who’s still chasing after Gordon Freeman. This time he’s helping Gordo, though, causing trouble out of sight for the Combine during HL2’s Nova Prospekt section and onwards. It’s the work of fan Richard Seabrook, and Valve have given him the all-clear to sell it. This can only be good news for my dream of Valve endorsing my career as a writer of erotic Dog/turret fanfic.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
Announcement - Valve
Now through February 12th, shop the Steam Lunar New Year Sale for great deals on thousands of games!* Check back every day to see new front-page features, or follow the Lunar New Year adventure story to explore the Steam catalog.




*Discounts end February 12th at 10am Pacific unless otherwise listed.
Product Update - Valve
A mandatory update for Counter-Strike: Source, Day of Defeat: Source, Half-Life Deathmatch: Source, Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, as well as the Source SDK Base 2013 beta branch has been made available. The patch notes are below.

  • Fixed a security issue related to the file system (thanks to Simon Pinfold for this report)

  • Fixed mp3 sounds causing occasional hitching and framerate stuttering

  • Fixed OS X players being limited to medium texture quality

  • Fixed maps compiled with static prop lighting causing crashes for players on medium or low texture quality

  • [SDK] Fixed steam.inf not being loaded from the base directory for SDK mods

  • [CS:S] Fixed server crash when running with 64 players plus SourceTV


The following fixes were already included in the previous update for Half-Life 2: Deathmatch:
  • Fixed ent_teleport causing a crash when issued by the server

  • Fixed buildcubemaps command not working for maps that already have cubemaps embedded

  • Fixed -buildcubemaps command line option generating black non-HDR cubemaps

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

We live in complex times. When I was a youngster, it was perfectly reasonable to buy a game simply because it had more monsters than the other games. Playing through shooters, RPGs and platformers alike, I’d be tempted to give up when I reached the point where no new enemy types were appearing. The very idea of a game with only one type of enemy, no matter how intelligent and believable, was poison. Give me all of your mutants, demons and aliens>, I cried, give them to me now>.

Here are a few of my favourites, ranging from the first-person shooters of my teenage years to the surreal horrors of my childhood.

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Hayden Dingman)

Here’s a bit of nostalgia for you: Sven Co-op [official site] is now on Steam. The seventeen-year-old Half-Life mod is available as a free standalone game, and thanks to a fair bit of generosity on Valve’s part includes all of the Half-Life campaign maps. For free.

That means you can head to Steam, download the game, and start playing co-op Half-Life right now. Again, for free. No need for you or anyone you’re playing with to own Half-Life proper.

… [visit site to read more]

...

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