Half-Life

Year of the Dragon is a mod for the original Half-Life currently being created by modder Magic Nipples. When complete, it will let you play Valve's classic shooter not as a nerdy physicist who is somehow able to demolish SWAT teams, but as lovable purple dragon Spyro.

Year of the Dragon has been in the works since November of last year and has made plenty of progress. In the video below you can see how a third-person camera works with Half-Life, as well as check out the gliding mechanics in action. The gib test for Spyro's death animation is a bit off-putting, to be honest.

Thanks, Kotaku.

Half-Life

Occult Scrim looks like a fun twist on Half Life: it's not quite a fully top-down shooter, but it's nearly there, with the camera floating way overhead. Your job is to blast through enemies to rack up points, which you'll spend on new weapons and items when you return to your base, an armoury.

It's still very early days for the mod, and it doesn't yet have a release date, but it looks remarkably polished. The perspective works well, and your character—a black ops assassin—automatically adjusts their aim up and down depending on where your enemies are. It looks like it plays far quicker than the base game, with lots of enemies on screen at one time. 

The camera has two positions: you can bring it slightly closer to the action if you want to get extra precise. Even when it's zoomed out, the guns feel meaty and solid. I'm not sure how many of the weapons are new and how many come from the base game, but I'm impressed nonetheless.

Enemy behaviour has been tweaked from the original to make them more challenging to fight, and they'll do things like roll and strafe out of the line of fire. You'll face bosses, too, like the one below. 

Click here for its ModDB page. It's one I'll be keeping an eye on as it comes together.

Half-Life

Way back in 2012, the Black Mesa mod for Half-Life had lofty plans to entirely rebuild the game in the Source engine.

If you'd been awaiting the release of much-anticipated the Xen levels, we have bad news—it's been delayed again, despite the mod moving from a free-to-play to Early Access model in order to take on new staff and strengthen the development team.

"We are truly sorry for getting everyone's hopes up and then delaying... again," said project lead Adam Engels via a recent statement. "We worked very hard to make December, but we are not yet ready. As a team, we take FULL responsibility for that. We have an internal deadline we are confident in, and we will be getting everyone more details as we get closer to that date.

"Thank you again to our community and Early Access supporters. The funding from Early Access has allowed us to hire many new talented developers, and has allowed older developers to put more time in the project. Simply put, Xen has proven to be an enormous undertaking, and while we are managing it to the best of our ability, it is proving to take longer than we estimated."

But while Xen release has been pushed back, there will nevertheless be an update next month. Focusing initially on improving stability and "enabling the new tech on the Earthbound section of the game", the final chapters will drop once everything's "fully stabilised". Tweaks include lens flare, texture blends, and improvements to the dynamic lighting—for the full breakdown, pop by the update on Steam.

You can pick up the Black Mesa mod now for $8, saving 60 percent off the full price. 

Half-Life 2 also continues to thrive, and Gunship Mark II's work-in-progress Half-Life 2: MMod is also gearing up for release.

Thanks, GameInformer.

Half-Life

Though the chances of us ever playing a new, official Half-Life game again are slim, Valve’s seminal series still has its hooks in us, as evidenced by the latest issue of PC Gamer. Ex-Valve employees are similarly plagued by visions of Gordon Freeman, the latest being Cayle George, whose free Half-Life 2 mod is now available on Steam. 

Half-Life: C.A.G.E.D. follows hot on the heels of the game jam inspired by the tweaked Episode 3 story synopsis from Marc Laidlaw, though it has nothing to do with Episode 3, instead being a prison escape mod, full of shooting and environmental puzzles. 

George’s worked with Valve, Monolith and Guerilla Games, and was a designer on Portal 2 and Team Fortress 2, as well as being a Half-Life modder before that. 

The short, single-player episode comes with developer commentary, along with a soundtrack from Lazerhawk. You can download it from Steam for free, but you will need a copy of Half-Life. 

Half-Life

Has it really been ten years since we last partnered with bespectacled scientist Gordon Freeman, and his daring sidekick Alyx Vance? It has! Which is why PCG UK 310 has that gorgeous luminous orange lambda scrawled over its cover. 

Inside The Half-Life Issue, Andy chats exclusively to the makers of third-party remake Black Mesa, and we celebrate Half-Life 2 with analysis, stories and jokes in our five-part retrospective. 

Elsewhere, you'll find the second half of our massive history of FPS games feature, and Steven gets to grips with the first MechWarrior campaign in 15 years. Previews this month include the new-to-PC Final Fantasy 15, Biomutant, Anno 1800 and more. And if that's not enough for you, this month's issue comes with free games: Warhammer 40K: Chaos Gate, and a Sudden Strike 4 demo. 

Issue 310 is on shelves now and available on all your digital devices from Google Play, the App Store and Zinio (they may be slow to update—look for that glowing Half-Life logo on the front). You can also order direct from My Favourite Magazines or purchase a subscription to save yourself some cash, receive monthly deliveries and enjoy our exclusive subscriber covers. This month's is an absolute belter:

This month:

  • Andy gets exclusive access to Half-Life remake Black Mesa. 
  • We celebrate Half-Life 2 in our five-part retrospective.
  • Steven plays the first MechWarrior campaign in 15 years.
  • Part two of our colossal history of FPS games feature.
  • Tom recreates the PCG team for his review of XCOM 2's new expansion.
  • XCOM 2: War of the Chosen, Rez Infinite, LawBreakers and more reviewed.
  • Final Fantasy 15, Biomutant, Anno 1800 and more previewed.
  • Our CPU cooler group test.
  • And much more!
Half-Life

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.

Half-Life

Half-Life got a new update today, which is significant for only one reason: the game is old. Old to the tune of nearly 20 years. So it's cool that Valve is still supporting it, despite Valve clearly not pulling its weight in other areas (releasing or even working on Half-Life Fricking 3).

The update addresses some small bugs the likes of which don't seem too gamebreaking, but since Valve probably wants to keep this game evergreen on Steam, it makes sense to address them. 

And yes, I've read the patch notes several times and there's no clear or obscure reference to any much-anticipated third instalment. Just take my word for it. Don't waste your precious time on this earth deconstructing the below published patch notes.

Here they are:

  • Fixed crash when entering certain malformed strings into the game console. Thanks to Marshal Webb from BackConnect, Inc for reporting this.
  • Fixed crash when loading a specially crafted malformed BSP file. Thanks to Grant Hernandez (@Digital_Cold) for reporting this.
  • Fixed malformed SAV files allowing arbitrary files to be written into the game folder. Thanks to Vsevolod Saj for reporting this.
  • Fixed a crash when quickly changing weapons that are consumable. Thanks to Sam Vanheer for reporting this.
  • Fixed crash when setting custom decals
Half-Life

Half-Life: A Place in the West is a webcomic series set in Valve's esteemed Gordon Freeman-housing future world that's set between the events of the first and second games in the wake of the Seven Hour War. Created by Michael Pelletier, Ross Joseph Gardner, Heath Heil and Rachel Deering, issue one launch onto Steam towards the end of last year, with issue two landing in February this year. Now, issue three has a launch date: July 21. 

And to mark the announcement, Half-Life: A Place in the West Chapter 3 has a pretty nifty trailer. Observe:

Following the story of Albert Kempinski and his search for his kidnapped daughter, A Place in the West explores life and the trials and tribulations faced by the world's new cast of characters caught up in the dystopian city of New Franklin. The incoming third entry—named 'The Pit'—continues the exploits of Kempinski and his companion Leyla Poirier as they delve deeper into New Franklin's secrets. 

"The Pit is a culmination of everything we learned from the first two chapters," says writer and co-creator Gardner in a statement. "At a total of 30 pages, the condensed narrative is sleeker, much more focused, and really aims to bring the city to life."

Half-Life: A Place in the West in its entirety will run for a total of 13 issues—with chapter three due on July 21 for $1.99/£1.49. If you'd like to know about A Place in the West's origins, this article of Gardner's makes for pretty interesting reading. 

PC Gamer

Tom Senior: Recently Game Informer disclosed the insights of a supposed Valve insider who insists that Half-Life 3 doesn’t exist in any meaningful form. RTS and FMV prototypes have apparently been toyed with, but the magical genre-shattering FPS sequel that the internet has been craving for nearly a decade isn’t real. Earlier this week Valve’s Gabe Newell did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit and suggested that Valve is still interested in revisiting the Half-Life universe, though “the number three must not be said.” Don’t hold your breath, basically.

Valve’s failure to release Half-Life 3 is not surprising because Valve has never announced Half-Life 3. The studio wanted to move from huge boxed releases to shorter development cycles and an episodic format, culminating with Half-Life 2: Episode Three. Episode Two ended on a savage cliffhanger, but that alone doesn’t fully explain why we want more Half-Life 10 years later. Half-Life 3 has taken on additional meaning. "HL3 confirmed!??" is a running gag, but a hopeful one. We want to believe.

For me Half-Life 3's absence feels like a symbol of Valve’s retreat from game development. I know this is ridiculous, because Valve is running Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive—two of the biggest games in the world. But I can’t enjoy Dota 2, because a) it demands massive time investment and b) in my experience as a new player in that community has been dreadful. I don't think I'm alone. I loved Left 4 Dead and Portal, and I had a great time with Alien Swarm, which Valve put out for free in 2010. I miss Valve’s humour and innovation, but if I’m honest I’m pining for Half-Life because Valve stopped making games for me. That’s a pretty petulant position, but there we are.

Samuel Roberts: I've always speculated that an unspoken reason behind Half-Life 3's continued non-existence is the burden to reinvent the first-person shooter again, just as Valve had done on two previous occasions. Is it enough for Valve to just make a super refined sequel, even if it doesn't have the impact of either of the previous Half-Life games? Well, yes—Portal 2 is exactly that model of follow-up. It wasn't a reinvention, it was a welcome extension of the first game's existing ideas. If the level and narrative design is strong enough, it doesn't feel like diminishing returns.

We need Half-Life 3 to complete the story of the series, but more than that, it's a better world for having more of Valve's single-player games in it.

Tom S: It is unfortunate that Half-Life 3 (or Half-Life 3: Episode Three) has become this mythical entity. We don't know what it looks like but it's everything we have ever dreamed a first-person game could be. That impossible expectation is good enough reason never to touch that series again. We've been banging on about it for so long that the stakes are crazy high now (and we are not going to stop, apparently).

Also shooters are in a good place right now. Last year brought us Doom, Titanfall 2, Battlefield 1’s Operations mode, Overwatch, and Rainbow Six Siege is ticking along nicely. If the rumours are true we could be looking at Destiny 2 on PC in the future. I’m hoping for another shooter from the Wolfenstein: The New Order team. I miss the jokes and the characters of the Half-Life universe, but the FPS hardly needs to be rescued.

Phil Savage: The thing with Portal 2, Sam, is that it did reinvent—just not the campaign. Through its level editor, It made Steam Workshop creation accessible to everyone, and not just people who are really good at making virtual hats. It worked! Portal 2's Workshop page contains over 557,000 items, and, while most of those will have never been played, it definitely extended the life of an otherwise unsurprising—albeit hilarious and with a better ending song—sequel.

I think that's what Gabe Newell meant when he said, in his recent AMA, that Valve's products are, "usually the result of an intersection of technology that we think has traction, a group of people who want to work on that, and one of the game properties that feels like a natural playground for that set of technology and design challenges." If Portal 2 was the Workshop, and Team Fortress 2 the ability to sell a fuckload of hats, what would Half-Life 3 bring to Valve's ecosystem? Maybe it's Source 2. Half-Life 2 was a great showcase for the original Source engine. Perhaps Half-Life 3 will be how Valve demonstrates the power of its successor.

Joe Donnelly: Sam and Tom's points about reinvention and the rude health of modern shooters are bang on the money, and while the FPS genre isn't in need of the same revolution brought by Half-Life 2 12 years ago, Half-Life 2 itself still one of the best first-person shooters on the market today. I revisited the Orange Box last year on a whim to see how Gordon Freeman's second outing fared against today's standards—a whim which had me rooting around Nova Prospekt a full week later, delighting in the how much of the game's wit, humour and expert design I'd forgotten since my first playthroughs.

We've missed this, and it was only by returning after such a long absence that I realised quite how much I miss this. To this end while seeing Half-Life 3—or HL2: Episode 3—powered by Source 2 or something newer would be lovely; I'd just as easy take a concluding chapter powered by the original 2004 engine. And, judging by some of the responses to Gabe Newell's mid-week AMA, I seem to be far from alone. This covers the want element, but do we need Half-Life 3? I reckon yes: evolution and nostalgia aside, denying players the chance to tie up Freeman's loose ends while treating themselves to another helping of what made number two so enjoyable is not only a disservice to players, but an injustice to videogames in general.

Tom S: Some fans have wondered if Valve could do a comic, or another similarly light-touch release, to tie up the end of the story. This seems like a good idea, and I enjoy Valve’s comics a lot.

I do wonder why Half-Life 2’s story still carries weight all this time later though. Half-Life opened with a B-movie premise—experiments gone wrong, the military sweeping in to cover things up. It gained a lot of detail with Half-Life 2, but it’s still pulp sci-fi to me. I mean, there’s a whole zombie movie pastiche in there.

Chris Thursten: Half-Life has always had revolutionary storytelling, but never a revolutionary story. The groundbreaking implementation of elaborate scripted sequences in the first game is why people remember it so vividly. The game never took control away from you: you were there, in Black Mesa, watching that otherwise-familiar B-movie premise explode to life around you.

Half-Life 2 took that further, and grounded a more sophisticated (but still familiar) story of near-future resistance in a believable dystopia. It has been widely imitated, and for good reason. It was a compellingly presented world populated by well-performed characters. Again, you felt like you were in a real place to an extent that you hadn't necessarily been in previous games.

In addition to advancing the FPS as a whole, then, Half-Life 3 would presumably need to advance our understanding of what a gameworld can be. This is where it gets much more complicated, I suspect. The advance of game engine technology has slowed. We're not blown away by see-saw physics any more. I wouldn't be surprised if Valve had experimented with VR with this in mind. Because what else could they do?

Aside from some staggering advance in graphics tech—that would still need to run on regular PCs—the best they could do is kidnap you, stick you in a helicopter, fly you to antarctica and force you to live the conclusion of Gordon's journey in real life. I mean, they could probably afford to do that. But should they? I've seen Westworld. The answer: probably not. (But please do it anyway, Gabe.)

Tom S: That’s settled, then. We do need Half-Life 3, and it needs to be an experiential future-tech extravaganza with deadly IRL headcrabs and reality-shattering see-saw puzzles. Get on it then, Valve.

PC Gamer

Now that our game of the year awards are out of the way, we can get to the serious stuff: ventilation shafts. They’re a pillar of modern game design, shunting players from one level to the next, telling spy wannabes that a square aluminum tunnel is all espionage requires, and giving the hunted a temporary haven from their mouth-breathing pursuers. The most iconic protagonists in PC gaming depend on inexplicably designed air convection systems to save the world time and time again.I'm going to revisit a few of the most recognizable vents from PC gaming history and evaluate them based on rules I’m making up as I go. One lucky duct will win the coveted PC Gamer Gust of Approval for best vent.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution 

Gif sourceThe original Deus Ex invented the concept of ventilation shafts, and as a result is exempt from competing. Unfortunately, further iterations of ventilation shafts from the new handlers at Square Enix didn’t do much to blend them into the environments or make them feel like genuine air ducts. Instead, they serve as well-lit (somehow), long graves where you hide your dead. How many bodies can you fit in an impossible space? Deus Ex: Human Revolution steps beyond the veil.Even worse, the vents aren’t in compliance with the ASHRAE standards for acceptable air quality. According to section 5.1.1 of the guidelines, “Where interior spaces without direct openings to the outdoors are ventilated through adjoining rooms, the opening between rooms shall be permanently unobstructed.” These dead bodies are breaking the law.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

They are deeper, wider, and more Jensen-sized. Seriously, they’re massive. And they’re always hiding behind vending machines and small crates, leading directly to and fro with plenty of slats along the way just in case you need to see where all the guards are hanging. Subtlety doesn’t circulate in the near future, I suppose. Air isn’t getting through those suckers in a sensible way. It’s a fact: these vents blow.

Watch Dogs 2 

Pitiful, but so pitiful, I can’t help but love it. There’s been no effort made to hide that this vent in a multi-billion dollar tech company building was built specifically for drone passage. (Just a heads up, this is how you get raccoons.) Watch Dogs 2 makes little effort to mask its videogame vents as anything but transparent chunks of level design. It’s one of the bigger problems I had with the game, that it promises options for infiltration, but vent layouts are so arbitrary and assured to lead directly between points of interest that they start to feel like a big billboard, stating ‘Sneak here!’

Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes 

Gif sourceOK, so it’s more of a drainage system, but it might also push some air around. Note the more rectangular design gives the impression that they’re a tighter fit than most videogame vents, which makes for a more immersive ventilation shaft experience. Were I in a crime film, I’d consider using such a discreet, small passage as a good place to hide the murder weapon. Were I in a videogame, I’d glitch through the floor and fire my weapon with reckless abandon. In conclusion, I love the compress of MGS5’s passages, but otherwise, they rarely make sense. Often, they’ll just lead from a hole outside a building in a direct line inside. You’re going to get raccoons, damnit.

Half-Life

So very, very dark. Like a damn vent should be! If I’m supposed to suspend my disbelief that these big metallic crawlspaces are mean for air circulation and not hiding headcrabs, I want them to at least distract me with tension. The vents are otherwise featureless, vanilla shafts. Four walls, grey, nothing particularly special about them. At least they acknowledge you’re going to get critters with such impractical vents, even if they’re interdimensional face suckers.

Half-Life 2

Talk about sequelitis! No innovation. Expect more flat, boxy aluminum textures, more headcrabs popping out to say hello, and most grievous, of course, are the impractical air convection layouts. The thought makes me shiver, not because it’s abhorrent, but because damn, it’s cold in here, Gordon!

Batman: Arkham Series

Gif source

Gotham’s vents are comically large. Bruce Wayne isn’t a small man, especially with an extra few inches thanks to bat ears. And crouching isn’t easy in all that armor—it’s going to bunch up, Bruce. I’m sorry but your tummy is getting pinched beneath those plates. God forbid you drop a quarter. To accommodate all that batmass, the vents essentially serve as a venue for badguy shadow puppets and an echochamber for the Joker’s prolonged loudspeaker monologues. They’re a nice place to hide in if you’ve been spotted, but their design won’t win any awards from us. Often they serve as a comically short passage between two rooms, ensuring the only air they’re circulating is Wayne’s big ego.

WINNER — Alien: Isolation

We praised Alien's production design during release, and Creative Assembly's extraordinary attention to environment detail extends to the design of its vents. The aperture entrance to each vent is accompanied by a slick cylindrical animation and shrill soundbite that sounds like a sword being pulled from its sheath. Foreboding, a bit, considering there’s probably a hungry alien in there.Isolation’s detailed lighting and shadows give the impression that Sevastopol is a hulking, intricate tangle of retro-futurist industrial design. As you crawl through every vent and maintenance shaft, you’ll get small glimpses into the guts of the station, a smoky mess of pipes and dim lights and scattered tools. The result is a space station that feels so vast and cobbled together that its tiny passages and maintenance systems feel plausible. Vents that don’t make sense, make sense on Sevastopol.To the team at Creative Assembly, you’ve creatively assembled good passages behind the walls for players to bonk around in that don’t feel like a mad maintenance man’s pet project. Your congratulatory PC Gamer Gust of Approval should make it your way soon.

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