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The Half-Life Resurrection Thread: Preface (i.e., Read This Post First)

Started by Silver Sorrow, June 06, 2016, 02:10:03 PM

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Silver Sorrow

Virtual Reality: The Real World

Title: Title: Virtual Reality: The Real World
Author: Shaun Forsdyke
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: VR.zip
Filesize: 10.2mb
Number of maps: 11
Download: N/A
Score: 3.5 / 5

Note: The models depicted in the screenshots are a combination of the High Definition pack and some custom recolors of my own.

[As usual: what screenshots?]

Abstract:
If you've ever run out of anything to say while in public, I sympathize. I mean, as you can tell, I can spew words in all directions for days...on paper, virtual or not. In real life, I tend to lock up and just stand there, smiling like an idiot, waiting for verbal inspiration to strike. It almost never does, which is yet another reason that I never leave the house. Case in point: on a recent trip to Wal-Mart (DIE DIE DIE), I was mercilessly dragged kicking and screaming into a conversation with a nice pregnant employee, who liked the picture on my shirt. She mentioned that after she had her baby, she wanted to get a similar tattoo on her back, right above her name.

Now, I don't normally judge everyday people, and she was no exception...more power to her; however, I really don't know how to respond to things like that. I don't want to appear enthused, as I'm NOT, but I don't want to come off sounding scornful, which again, I'm not. I feel that if a person wants to become a walking billboard for their various insecurities and/or artistic aspirations, then that's their business. But I could not think of *one thing* to say to the woman...so I just smiled and said "huh!" and "yeah..." to whatever she said. I didn't feel like an idiot (he said sarcastically)...but I do this *all the time*, no matter the situation. I admit, I'm not really any good with people. So with a nod and an idiotic grin, I made my leave. I could've said, "Good luck with your tattoo!" but that sounded stupid, even to me.

[Nothing has changed. I'm still a social retard.]

The Basics:
New Models/Skins/Etc.: No/No/Yes
Gameplay: Survival. Or something.

Story?
Since Bowel Movem--er, Black Mesa is overrun by the military, you -- Shaun "I Was Named After The Author" Forsdyke -- and a bunch of scientists have dug into a forgotten part of the facility (as I've mentioned before, this place is bigger than Bill Gates' and Aaron Spelling's houses combined) and have set up Virtual Reality labs in order to train the scientists to face the enemy. Somewhere, someone is laughing at you, and you don't know why.

[For that matter, neither do I. What did I mean, exactly?]

Onward!
Workin' on a sex farm...oh, hi! Welcome back to the Fortress of Sorrowtude.

[I can't help it...that still amuses me to no end.]

Firstly, we're promised the opportunity to fill the boots of our favorite heroes. So if your Top Ten Favorite Heroes of all time are all Gordon Freeman (called "Shaun Forsdyke", in this rather solipsistic foray into the art of Ultimate Ego Gratification*), you should be happy. However, I wasn't too disappointed, as rendering my favorite hero -- the much-esteemed classical philosopher Testicles** -- would be a great deal of worthless effort.
[* I'm Just kidding.]
[** "I will have naught to do with a woman who refuses to blow hot and cold with the same breath."]

[As in a previous review, it should be pronounced "TestiCLEEZ." Clever, you know.]

I'd like to address the negative first, and just get it out of the way...or just tinge the entire review with a bitter aftertaste that may force you to take up toenail maintenance as a less-disheartening hobby.

It starts out with a cutscene -- not bad -- with voice acting right out of the Dude Method handbook (specifically, "Act, Dude!" by Robert "Dude" Buzzwell; available from Harper-Collins for $24.95). I felt like I was about to play "Bill and Ted's Totally Friggin' Awesome And Excellent And Whatever Virtual Reality Adventure"...the security guard in front of the lift -- you'll know what I'm talking about when you run into him -- is particularly...*interesting*, as visions abound of someone hunched over the computer mic, trying to add bass to his voice. Okay, okay...I'm just being irritable. The rest of the voices were okay, although sometimes (that is to say, "most of the time") they weren't loud enough to be heard, such as when a chopper was circling overhead.

And let's talk about flaky AI, shall we? When I followed the scientist in the first map, he kept getting stuck at the door which the security guard opened. He'd either stand stock-still in front of the door, or he'd walk in an endless loop in front of the door: back and forth, back and forth. I reloaded a couple of times, but it didn't work. So I hit on the idea of simply clipping through the door and finding my own way...and I was surprised to turn around and see that the scientist had opened the door and was approaching. In my second playthrough, this happened again. It's weird, and it probably happened only to me, but there it is.

And yet another gripe: when it came to a point where I was supposed to lead Barney to a certain door in a courtyard where an Apache (the helicopter, not the subject of an overused running gag) was patrolling, he'd either just stand there, or start firing at the thing. Since I had nothing rocket-natured in my arsenal, I figured that the idea was to wait until the chopper was out of sight, *then* have dumbass follow me to the door. It took a couple of tries...

...and here is where I might question the sanity behind this setup, but I won't...

...Anyway, that method worked on my very first playthrough. The second and third times, however, I was off my game and Barney kept getting (himself) killed. So instead of doing things patiently, I decide to take the chopper down with what I had. I used every single bullet and several shotgun shells until that thing hit the dirt. It wasn't pretty, but I was just in a bad enough mood to do something like that. Note to self: do not play mods while dealing with sinus problems.

[If I followed that rule, I'd never get anything done.]

As for fighting and shooting and killing things, the opposition was downright frustrating sometimes. I'd Macarena into a room, only to be faced down by a horde of Grunts...headcrabs everywhere...help me...

[I have no idea why I would Macarena into a room.]

HOWEVER! This pack -- and here's where I turn into my little Pollyanna self that certain people hate so much (ha ha! Suffer!) -- is otherwise well done. There are some funny moments, and there are some nicely-done setups that mean a great deal to a Scrooge like me. I mention specifically the garage where you go to find a Barney to open some ding-dang doors. You see him through the glass, then there's a cutscene showing artsy shots of the aftermath of carnage...bravo!

The maps are, for the most part, high quality. For example: the second map, where you zot in, looking at a chopper...truly a beautiful opening. There's an homage to "The Rock" in there, a room full of tripmines to puzzle over, a rooftop fight with a chopper wherein parts of the machinery on the roof explode, etc., etc. And the textures (both new and old) are used effectively; I make especial mention of the security office/freezer area in the second map. The outdoors are well-rendered, and fine attention is paid to detail. Wonderful maps.

Gameplay is sometimes aggravating, sometimes excruciating, but it's nothing you haven't seen in other mods. There isn't a lot of mind-blowing originality in the encounters you'll face, but they're tough enough to make you forget about having gone through this sort of thing before. So if you like fighting mostly headcrabs and Grunts (with others thrown in, yes), then you'll be happy.

Also...if you're a big fan of the "Dream Within A Dream" type of storyline, then you won't be disappointed.

[I hate that type of storyline. "Was it real? Was it a dream?" Fuck off.]

Caveat: health and batteries are a little rare, and ammo isn't exactly showering down from the Heavens upon your eager little dome at times, but it's playable. Just remember to conserve your ammo, check those corners, and STOP PLAYING WITH YOURSELF.

["It is God!"]

[Bonus points to those who can name that reference.]

Summary?
Good maps, good textures, good to download.

Rating?
3.5 out of 5.

Annoyance Rating: Oh, we'd be here for a while.

[...next...]
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

Silver Sorrow

Mission Failed

Title: Mission Failed
Author: neodelight
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: missionfailedsetup.exe
Filesize: 12.3mb
Number of maps: 15
Download: N/A
Score: 3.3/5

Note: The models depicted in the screenshots are a combination of the High Definition pack and some custom recolors of my own.

[NO.]

Note #2: When I installed this mod, it automatically installed to C:\Program Files\Sierra\Half-Life. Unfortunately, my path is C:\Sierra\Half-Life. So it's a simple procedure of just moving the folder to the right place (under your Half-Life directory). You may have to update any shortcuts you let the thing install on your desktop and Start Menu...however, the installation of shortcuts is an optional thing (unlike the installation path, oddly enough), and I usually don't go for shortcuts. You can just delete the shortcuts and run Mission Failed through the custom game menu.

[Now, I wouldn't even bother attempting to install a mod that's an .exe.]

Note #3: Also, there isn't a readme file included, so I had to get the contact/story info from the website. There is an in-game story, apparently.

[But, who cares?]

Abstract:
I don't know what the deal is, but I've seen several movies over the last few days that featured Tia Carrere being killed and/or beaten into a bloody mess. "Zombie Nightmare": a young Tia in her first role has her head splattered against a door. Exit Tia. A "Tales from the Crypt" episode: Tia is murdered in a bathroom, she sinks into a bath tub, blood everywhere. Damned disturbing. "True Lies": a great catfight between Jamie Lee Curtis and the deliciously evil Tia takes a turn for the worse when Jamie Lee cracks Tia's skull *several times* with a champagne bottle before escaping. Tia's character dies -- seemingly -- when her limo runs off the demolished bridge.

It's somewhat depressing, but at least we didn't see someone stuffing her crumpled, broken body into a blender, hitting puree, and drinking her like a power shake. I'm not even going to elaborate upon the scene in "High School High" where someone tries to drown her in a fish tank, as she at least survives...albeit to become John Lovitz' love interest. In which case, she should probably be *screaming* for a pitchfork to the face.

To summarize my thoughts on Tia Carrere: NO killing Tia. NO blood covering Tia. NO HARM shall come to Tia. She shall be given LOTS of money and BETTER ROLES featuring ridiculous amounts of FULL-FRONTAL NUDITY.

[Sure, I'm a repulsive little bug. But she's still my favorite.]

The Basics:
New Models/Skins/Etc.: No/no/new gfx, sounds
Gameplay: Grunts. Aliens. Stuff.

Story?
In this thrilling (I think, as I'm writing this part before actually playing the mod) prequel to Half-Life, you are a member of a special unit of some sort (direct quote: "trained to handle inconveniences in the international research and science competition"), code-named (code-numbered?)** 100X345. You've been sent to infiltrate an abandoned research facility on a small, possibly uncharted, possibly desert, isle in the Pacific. Your task is to make a nuclear reactor out of coconuts and...and...no, that's not it.*** You're supposed to gather information. Yes, that's it.

[** Alphanumerically-coded?]

[*** A three hour tour...[haunting refrain]...a three hour tour...]

Adding to your exceedingly bad day, a group of evil enemy foreigners* is trying to get into the base, but they just can't find the door to get in. Admittedly, it's a secret door, but you think there might be some evil enemy foreigner wizard sitting on a rock, trying to think of the password. "Speak Friend and enter? What the hell does THAT mean??"**
[* Although to be fair, they probably just want to know what love is.]***

[** Reference: Lord Of The Rings. Obviously.]

[*** Reference: do I really need to explain that one?]

[Thus far, the references haven't been too obscure. Let's hope I can keep that going.]

So as you explore, you keep turning up dead bodies and these nasty monsters who aren't dead, but they're all too happy to oblige *you* in this way. There's a connection here, one that links the happenings here to a place you've never heard of, Black Mesa, but you imagine it has a good beat and you could quite possibly dance to it.** You've also never heard of a scientist named Gordon "Sugar Lips" Freeman, but the names keep coming up. There's obviously no small amount of danger to the human race here, and Black Mesa is where the real invasion will begin. That is, if McDonald's is closed.

[** Not obscure, really...just nonsensical.]

Onward!
First off, for those morons in the audience who were too stupid to figure out that I actually liked Heart of Evil (the biggest clue: I gave it a 5 out of 5...check the score next time, genius), here is a simple, straightforward answer about this map pack, so the genetic misfires among you (they may or may not know who they are) won't get all confused by the multi-syllable words: this map pack is fairly good.

Okay, is that clear? Good. Now, I don't want to get an e-mail from anyone expressing puzzlement over whether or not I liked this mod. Most of you are pretty good about catching on, so I won't have to hold your hand through this one; the exceptions populating the empty spaces between you, however, can roast Hell for all eternity, being sodomized repeatedly by devils sporting gigantic genitals with barbs, for all I care. I also hope that they're driven irrevocably insane by the indelible mental image of their ugly, wrinkly grandmothers rubbing her naughty bits on their birthday cake. Enjoy, you maggots.

I'm not bitter, I'm just tired of fielding comments from mental midgets.

[Apparently, the backlash bothered me somewhat. I can't imagine why...obviously I had nothing better to do than brood over real and/or imagined slights.]

Okay. What begins as an ostensibly rational foray into the prequel business soon turns into something you might recognize as a fever dream you once had after being on the receiving end of Yet Another Random Schoolyard Beating. In essence, you run and jump and dodge and bleed and cry, all in pursuit of the G-Man.

This seems familiar, somehow.

[Ritualized hazing on the playground during recess on my first day of 1st grade in a new school. After they beat the crap out of me, everything was cool. This is one reason why I smile gently whenever I hear that someone my age has died after a long, painful illness.]

Uh...anyway, this isn't a clear goal at first; however, I become a little fuzzy on story elements when there's a lot of shooting and very little in the way of purpose beyond "shoot guy, run through door, figure out how to make laser beam work." Since HL was intended as an action-with-purpose game (as opposed to the "action-without-any-obvious-purpose-whatsoever" genre), I guess that purpose is inferred.

[An odd, possibly inflammatory paragraph concerning clear story and understandable English deleted.]

[I don't know what was deleted.]

Okay, never mind. The point is, you want action. Right? Or do you want one of Jack Nicholson's Pure Tequila Smoothies?** Either way, you'll be facing some very angry men. As the storyline makes me vaguely headache-y and tired, I'll just concentrate on the action. Or not. Whatever.

[** Whaaaaaaat???]

The action takes place in a collection of maps that do nothing for world peace.** There are labs, there are virtual conundrums, and then we have Xen. Quite a bit of Xen. Where'd I put that straight razor? At any rate, your trip consists of messing with lasers, navigating through destroyed and/or abandoned labs, dealing with aliens and Grunts, puzzling through a couple of areas that look as if they were inspired by a combination drinking binge/marathon "Alice"** session (although *sounding* like a negative statement, that was actually a pretty cool part of the mod), getting into a virtual info-storage system that reminded me of System Shock 2's final map somewhat, and other situations.
[* However, since "world peace" is a stupid, futile wish dreamed up by exceedingly puerile individuals who are too damn dumb to understand basic human nature, that remark wasn't a complaint.]

[** That would be "American McGee's Alice," I guess.]

The maps were usually interesting, with some unique twists here and there. My favorite of the maps were the ones that put me in the virtual world...those virii (or, "viruses" for those of you who never suffered through three years of Latin)** were a joy to kill, I might add. Although the main body of the pack has some good maps, the ending map -- set in Xen -- is something of a visual torture device. I've never liked the Xen textures, as they remind me of what happens when you decorate your dimension with rat puke. Otherwise, the final interactive map poses Yet Another Platform-Jumping Puzzle...

[** Although the claim affords me at least a modicum of smug pretentiousness, the sad truth is that I don't remember jack shit about Latin.]

You come into this mod screaming and covered in blood, so why not exit the same way?

[I'm not quite sure that works in context. But that's never stopped me before.]

Combat wasn't overwhelming, the maps were good-looking, the texturing was good, and I didn't die all that much. Everything else is mere fluff.

I may get e-mail from people mentioning that this isn't really a comprehensive review**...but since no one's actually reading them anyway, who gives a crap?*** After two years of reviewing maps, I'm a tad tired of Half-Life, sometimes to the point that I run out of things to say before I even play the mods. "Terrific," I say, "another HL mod. Let's break out the recreational drugs and drive to Texas naked!"**** Adding to that curious show of lackadaisicality on my part, I've discovered that, in fact, I could say just about anything in this space and never have to answer for it! So this is the perfect time to offer you, yes YOU, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity:

[** Let it GO, man!]

[*** Indeed.]

[**** Why Texas?]

Own *your very own* autographed Shroud of Turin! Hand-signed by the Savior of mankind Himself, this lovely former winding-sheet is a wonderful addition to any home, whether as a lovely wall-hanging or an attractive throw, for warm, snuggly use on those cold winter nights. Whether curing lepers or causing the blind to see, or just drinking beer in front of the TV, this blessing of Authentic Memorabilia will cause heads to turn! And if you act now, you can get your Shroud personalized! (see sample picture)** For more information, send $738,000 to:

[** The picture: scrawled across the Shroud is "Have a bitchin' summer! -- Jesus"]

Shroud Me!
c/o WegotyourmoneyNOWyoufriggingmoron Enterprises
Suite Suite Pain #1
Stinkfinger, HI 90125

e-mail: scully's_ass_ROCKS@hotmail.com

Expect your information to arrive -- or not, most likely -- after a seriously lengthy amount of time that is in NO WAY designed to make you forget about the whole thing, although we're counting on it to happen anyway. And by the time you remember it -- possibly one morning while you're eating your Rice Chex (TM) and you remark to your spouse, "Remember that $738,000 we sent to that guy for the Shroud of Turin thing? Did we ever get anything back?" -- we'll be long gone. Possibly in Hawaii somewhere, humping hula girls by the ocean.

[No one took me up on the offer.]

Summary?
This happens, that happens, and you get to play on a giant chessboard. Enjoy.

Rating?
3.3 out of 5.

Annoyance Rating: Medium?

[...next...]
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

Silver Sorrow

#152
Swiss_Cheese Halloween 2002

[This is the full version of the initial Swiss_Cheese Halloween that I couldn't remember if I'd reviewed or not. You can find the initial version review RIGHT HERE. (It's #86.) So I reviewed the full version after all, obviously. For once in my life, I wasn't just my imagination!]

Title: Swiss_Cheese Halloween 2002
Author: Swiss Cheese and others
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: shall.exe
Filesize: 29.2mb
Number of maps: 15 bsps
Download: N/A
Walkthrough: N/A
Score: 2 / 5

Note: There are two versions of the mod. This is a review of the singleplayer version...which goes without saying. You will need the singleplayer patch to play...otherwise, things would not be as great as they could be, so to speak.

[Just disregard the note. It doesn't matter.]

Note #2: The models depicted in the screenshots are an unholy combination of the High Definition pack and some custom recolors of my own, plus the models belonging to this mod.

[Again? NO SCREENSHOTS!]

Note #3: Today's Stuck-In-My-Head-Soundtrack is...Tori Amos' "Silent All These Years". The size of the drill bit I intend on using on my skull to release the demon is...1 inch.

[Actually, not a bad song to have stuck in your head.]

Abstract:
Ah, Halloween. The time of year when some of us park our fundaments in front of the TV and watch "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown", while others dress up in stupid outfits in hopes of wringing a few measly miniature Snickers (TM) out of our miserly neighbors. Since I gave up Trick-or-Treating as a serious pursuit sometime around puberty (last week), I can now sit on my late-twenties rump** and gripe about the stupid kids streaming to my door, and the complete lack of thanks I get for taking time out of my Charlie Brown-watching activities to give the little maggots their undeserved loot. But I give them candy because I'm a nice friggin' guy. I don't give them fruit or granola bars or zero-calorie "candy" made in a plastics lab...no, I give them *real* candy, because kids don't deserve to get cancer or go blind from Aspartame, or whatever sugar substitute is big this year. Might as well give 'em pure crystal meth, for all the good Equal (TM) does.

[** Now? This rump recently turned 45.]

Besides the candy, Halloween is a chance for the everyday freaks -- perhaps you know a few -- to get out and walk around without the requisite bag-over-the-head attire. At its best, Halloween provides at least one day of cavorting for werewolves, demons, zombies, ghosts, advertising executives -- aka "ghouls" -- and witches...oops, sorry: *Wiccans*. Wicca provides several benefits to the stupid...er... "disaffected" youth of today. For one, it allows that spooky, half-bright goofball chick sitting in the back of third hour Geography to give an actual reason for dressing like Morticia and acting like she had her brain sucked out via giant bendy-straw and replaced with eight pounds of pork fat. It also gives them a reasonable amount of experience in the handmade Wicca patio furniture trade. There's nothing like reclining on your patio in a well-made, handcrafted Wicca lounge chair on a sunny day in early June, sipping your "Eye Of Newt" Snapple out of a dog's skull, complete with fuzzy pink umbrella.

"Wicca! It's What's On Your Patio!"

[I just don't know what's wrong with me.]

The Basics:
New Models/Skins/Etc.: How many ways can I say yes?
Gameplay: Monsters. What, you were expecting squirrels strapped with high explosives??

Story?
One day, there was a little boy. He died. Another day, there was another little boy. He also died. On yet another day, there was a little girl. She died, too. The authorities quickly traced their deaths to an allergic reaction to honey, which the candy-making conglomerate of Big Really Awful Cash-Hoarding Satanists (BRACHS) was putting into their candy, because it was dirt cheap to get bee puke instead of real sugar. However, the BRACHS cabal paid  a lot of money to the media, the special-interest groups, and the parents of the bereaved boys and girls to keep it quiet. To this day, they are still putting honey into their candy, thanks to our National Pathological Greed Condition. The truth was out there, it was silenced, and many more little boys and girls will die horribly, their throats closing up, going into anaphylactic shock, thanks to the Big Bad Horribly Evil Candy Companies. The End.

[DISCLAIMER: That story probably wasn't true...but I wouldn't be surprised in the least if it were. I'm just deeply bitter that my formerly-beloved Candy Corn has honey added to it. Oh, and this was not intended to indict the fine candy company that is Brach's. Probably.]

[The reason I am so adamantly opposed to honey is that I am allergic to it. Plus, it's fucking BEE PUKE.]

Onward!
As of this writing, it's a week-and-a-half before Halloween, so chances are that it may not make it to posting are pretty good. It's my fault, since I do these things at the last minute. However, if you're reading this in November, then remember what the Fox Network (die die die) says: "Halloween isn't over until The Simpsons' Halloween episode runs!" This year, it's airing on November 3rd...so much for a timely end to Halloween.

[Time Travel Note!
Er...seeing as how I'm editing this review after Thanksgiving, it's safe to say that I missed the Halloween window entirely...the most kind thing to say about it is that I'm actually pretty early for next Halloween. And why is this review so late? Because I couldn't find a whole lot of positive things to say about this mod, that's why. The saying goes: "if you can't say anything nice, then keep your stinkin' pie-hole shut, dumbass" or something to that effect. If such were the case, then most of these reviews would be blank. So in the spirit of actually reviewing a Half-Life map, here you go.]

Anyway...I'm getting a strong sense of deja vu, here...anyone else? Hmmm? Yes, the first version of Swiss Cheese Halloween was nothing more than a one-map novelty item, the kind of map you play when you're bored with life and there isn't anything on the tube besides "Live Ass-Picking Bonanza With Jimmy Kimmel!"

[Revolting as it may seem, it actually sounds far more interesting than his dumbass talk show.]

Yet I got the feeling while downloading the almost 30mb file, that this one had more than one map where you skateboard all over the damned neighborhood shooting Grim Reapers (at least, I HOPED this was the case). Incredibly, this turned out to be true. We have something on the order of 15 maps, some of them actually playable. (Never mind me, I've just been in a bad mood since conception.)

Okay. Some of the maps are actually worth looking at for long periods of time, and won't cause any permanent blindness, unless you forget to take your insulin. The gameplay is workable (that is to say, one step up from deplorable), featuring YOU doing things you won't be too proud of. The sounds are mostly done, which is a remark I'll explain later, and the models are actually really good.

The maps first, then? Splendid. You are in a large neighborhood of homes decorated with Halloween regalia. This probably makes some sort of sense, as it's probably Halloween. You start out in your room, staring at a poster of a bikini babe...which is normal, I suppose. That is, if she were real and not a cartoon. Anyway, your friend mentions that you should go to his house and pick up his baseball bat...oh, and pilfer his dad's arsenal while you're there.

I make no further comment on the social and moral implications of that curious facet of this mod, besides "fucking stupid".

So I guess your first goal here is to find your friend's house -- if you're playing this mod on a tight schedule and are looking for immediate action, good friggin' luck -- which you can accomplish within oh, say, fifteen years. It's okay, because besides the fun of going into other people's more or less featureless homes, you can open their garage doors, stare at their one-frame-a-millennium TV sets (made by Zenith, apparently), or simply launch yourself down their "stairs" (really just ramps) and sue the crap out of them when you snap both ankles. Alternately, you could just pay attention to the opening cutscene flyby, where you see which house in where the arsenal is stored.

Loaded up? Good! By the way, the bowls of candy are your HEV batteries, the little orange bags with Jack O' Lantern faces are health, and those objects pointing out from an odd angle on your screen are your weapons. Please use them accordingly.

So...what's next? You see the house at the end of the street, the one that's boarded up? There's a book in the basement you should read...unless you want to run around the first map just being an idiot. So after the black-robed reapers kill every kid in the neighborhood, it's time to hop in the Evil Dead II-esque vortex and zip on through to the other side...of reality, I assume.

The maps take you: around your neighborhood, through a "forest", which is actually just walls with a forest texture applied (Matte Paintings Of The Damned!), through cornfields with a UFO, to an abandoned farmhouse with respawning witches and a really painful (so to speak) puzzle, into your own grave, on a walking tour of a graveyard, through a castle, on a REALLY long boat ride, to Hell, to the end. Everything in between is either fun or not (depending on your concept of fun), and they're sometimes...er...

Okay, ENOUGH of being somewhat nice about it. Let me set you potential downloading monkeys straight: when I first installed and patched this mod, it worked okay. Only one spirit.dll crash, but things actually functioned. Afterwards, I was looking at the directories when I discovered that the patch dumped a lot of the files in a folder where the update wouldn't do any damned good whatsoever. So I moved the files to their appropriate places and started my second go-round. Of course, the second map was completely different, so I had to take new screenshots. I went on as before.

After I got by the witch's brew puzzle, I was dropped from a height into a box. The changelevel didn't work. Enabling noclip, I floated up and down, trying to trigger the stupid changelevel, but according to the console, there was a cock-up somewhere in the naming, whatever...so I loaded the next map manually. I was in the graveyard. I gave myself the HEV and the crowbar (baseball bat) and found a victim. While beating the crap out of the monster, the game locked up. No, check that: my *computer* locked up. Completely. It crashed, and it crashed HARD. Reboot. Thoroughly disgusted, I deleted this mod from my hard drive, giving up the intent of a second playthrough.

Side note: the mod may have not had anything to do with HL crashing, as my install of HL becomes a bit cranky at times...but watch out anyway. The rest of this review concerns my first go-round. En-freaking-joy.

Even though all of the monsters are really just replacements of HL's standard AI, it's kind of curious that they feature no intelligence whatsoever. I mean, okay, HL's aliens were about as stupid as Al Gore (no offense to the aliens, who at least know how to stay down when they're dead, politically or otherwise), but the Grunt replacements showed very little in the way of reaction besides "run at player". Deja Doom, I think. Or Doom Vu? Both sound good. But it does make a ton of sense...who'd expect werewolves to be well-versed in squad-based tactics? "Private Bowser...FLANK 'EM!"

Which brings up the subject of sound...while the sounds were okay (besides that godawful South Park sound that played upon reloading the crossbow...more on that in a moment), they just didn't go far enough. Illustration: hearing an ethereal-looking babe say such creepy things as "Delta force clear. Roger," makes me extremely nervous; it's especially shiver-inducing when the Devil says "Go! Recon! Move in! Go!" You see what I mean? Of course you do.

Curious: I found that upon gibbing the Grunt replacements, I could get an extra weapon out of them. In the UFO map, the otherwise unarmed monsters would drop a shotgun, and another upon being gibbed. Later on, they'd do the same thing, except it'd be an MP5. Don't ask me why, I just play 'em.

Most of the maps feature you doing a *lot* of running. How much running? Well...let's see: if Point A (your neighborhood) represents "California", then Point B (Hell) could best be represented by "Uranus", with Points C through Z all the hell over the place between A and B. It's a long slog. The boat ride itself could be represented by purely theoretical integers as Points, although that'd probably just be cynical of me to say that. So try it yourself. [sarcasm]Those of you who were whining about Azure Half-Life's corridors will probably enjoy this greatly.[/sarcasm] So on your way to Uranus, could you find out a few things for me? Thanks.

1. I've heard Uranus is big and gassy. Is this true?
2. Can Klingons really be found around Uranus?
3. Which brings up the subject of the Captain's log...but never mind.
4. If you are Kristen Muranaga** and you're reading this (what are the chances?), I'd love to land on Uranus repeatedly.*
[* I am SO sorry. I should be spanked.]

[** Kristen Muranaga was an Import Model, or something like that. She also did a lot of topless work. So now that you have this invaluable knowledge, you are well-prepared to conquer all of mankind for your own purposes.]

Yes, I've been wanting to use that Uranus bit ever since it was funny (sometime between 1988 and 1994). Now you know how far I will sink for stupid wordplay. I feel so dirty...which is a good start.

[Seriously: I do apologize for that "joke." Most of these reviews make my stomach hurt.]

Another issue I had was with the scarcity of ammo. Sure, I almost believe that there's enough ammo for the first couple of maps (probably), but I would've liked being able to pick up an additional clip now and then. Okay, OKAY...I'm venting. The ammo was fine, more or less, except when I was stripped of weapons completely and had to kill the monsters with my friggin' face. Okay??

I'm not sure why, but this mod features you losing your weapons quite often. Go ahead...see if I'm lying. Better yet, DON'T, and just take my word for it. You'll be happier.

One weapon I didn't mind losing was the crossbow. I mentioned this several paragraphs ago in an aside, but it's so annoying that it deserves another mention: every time you pull the crossbow's trigger and load the next bolt, one of the South Park** kids yells something on the subject of nobody ruining his Halloween and getting away with it...I don't know what, exactly. I *do* know, however, that it was about as annoying as Jennifer Tilly lending her voice to the Books On Tape people. And speaking of annoying, I was about to kill that stupid cricket in the cornfield...
[** South Park is one of those shows for which I wouldn't mind seeing the creators torn in half for foisting upon humanity.]

[I don't know why, but I never warmed to South Park. While I think that its subversive-style humor would appeal to me, I never felt the need to watch it. Then again, I feel as if most things are a waste of my time, anyway.]

One thing to point out...again...is that you get to go to Hell. And they got it exactly right, for Hell is nothing more than platform-jumping, is it not? *I* think so, anyway. Although, I thought Hell would be more...I don't know, Hellish? I suggest a smattering of Manilow tunes to set the mood. One verse of "Mandy", and I'm hopping into the lava on purpose.

Of course, to get to Hell you have to endure the longest boat ride ever. I'm guessing that this is supposed to be the River Styx, yet the trip is oddly silent. *Completely* silent. So after a while, I started to make up my own soundtrack. "Doop dee doo dee-doo doo doo, dah doo doo dee dah dooooo..." That got old after a while, and I found my little simplistic tune devolving into a Keith Emerson-esque "dee-doop" improvisation ("dee-dooooooop doopa da-doopa da-doopa dow dow dow dow WOoooooooooEEEEYAY WOW WAAYOWW WOWOW wow wow wowwow wip-wippa pa-woooooooeeeee...plunkt!"), and then there was the desktop drum solo featuring Silver Sorrow: The Flamacues** Of Fate...it ended inconclusively, with my cat giving me holy old hell for stealing a riff from Blue Man Group. Like that's tough to do.

[** Not to be confused with ratamacues.]

Anyway, I started thinking about three-hour tours, since this boat ride was becoming a major part of my life...translating into time I would never, EVER get back. So the Eddie Murphy as Buckwheat thing woke up, and I began to sing:

"Slap y'ass dow idja heeya tay bowda fayfuh tip..."

It didn't go too well; it may have been the weeping. What cheered me up was the idea that the author*** didn't take a page from The Simpsons and force me to listen to "Lady" as I sailed down the Styx.
[*** I say "author" in the singular, as I am believing that human nature hasn't sunk so low that this map required more than one author.]

SOUNDTRACK: "Laaaaaaaaaady! When you're with me I'm smiliiiiiiiiin'..."
SHOTGUN: Blam!
COMPUTER: Boom!

But enough about the horrors of gameplay. Let's speak about the horrors of modeling, shall we? Hmmmm? For the record, the models are great. From the MP5 replacement to the Asian vampire babe -- looking at her in HL Model Viewer, I'd have to say that she's my favorite HL model in the whole wide world -- the models are excellent. They alone are reason enough to give this one a whirl...again, *probably*.

Completely Pointless Activity Time: going through the models' textures, I saw that the Asian vampire babe's face resembled Lucy Liu somewhat (I'm not 100% sure, but she did have Ms. Liu's distinctive, slightly-mismatched eyes); the witch looked a lot like Tyra Banks, and the Bat/Snark looked like Adam Sandler. [rim shot]  But don't get me wrong...I didn't sift through the textures for mere prurient intentions; no, I wanted to get a good look at the models without being shot at. I also found out that the vampire babe and the witch wear thongs (or perhaps that's just wishful thinking).

The problem with the models is that sometimes you hit thin air while shooting. This is a bounding box problem, people tell me (but if it's wrong, then I've been talking to the wrong people)...the problem mostly has to do with the model replacement being larger than the actual model replaced. For instance, the vampire headcrab replacement: if I aim at her feet, then all is well. The aliens, for another thing...but let's not worry about it too much. The point is: if you're shooting something and there's no blood -- red or yellow -- then you need to aim a little lower.

And now, I am left with the final subject, which is gameplay. It...varies. Sometimes it's excruciating, sometimes it's merely hateful, but mostly it's just sorta stupid. I suppose you'd have a good time with it if you were some sort of masochist, but with a dearth of health and not a whole lot of ammo laying around, here's what I suggest: god mode. Be a tourist, look at the good maps and the okay maps, fight the denizens of this place, turn Hell into downtown Moscow in February, and try to just have a good time, despite the black despair that threatens to overwhelm you.

Of course, this thing may be better than I've put across...but I can't bring myself to care one way or the other. The mod feels unfinished.

Summary?
Excellent models, uneven mapping, gag-inducing gameplay, some puzzles that promote a tired, achy feeling. A so-so effort overall, with only three or seventeen places where I actually ripped my hair out. Give it a whirl, you may love it...but I seriously doubt it. Check out the Walter-as-Dracula model. Cute!

Rating?
2 out of 5

Annoyance Rating: Even God can't count that high. [Various things.]

[...next...]
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

Silver Sorrow

#153
Infinite Shift

Title: Infinite Shift
Game: Blue Shift
Author: Davide Di Bartolo (Crazy)
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: eng-shift.exe
Filesize: 2.53mb
Number of maps: 12
Download: N/A
Score: 2.5 / 5

Note: The models depicted in the screenshots are from the High Definition pack.

[Huh. Apparently these things had screenshots.]

Abstract:
As a change of pace, I'd like to open this review with something a little more patriotic than my usual rantings aimed at the incompetence of the Ford Motor Company (DIE, YOU GREEDY BLOODSUCKERS!!), the TV networks ABC and FOX, even that dumbass waste of skin, Al Gore (aka "Sore Loser Boy"). No, in the spirit of togetherness and community, I'd like you all to rise -- if you can't, just writhe -- and sing with me, our National Anthem. Ready?

Ahem. Mimimimimiyagiiiiii....

[Mimi Miyagi is a porn star. Or used to be. Maybe she still is. Who knows. She ran for public office as a Republican at one point.]

"FISH HEADS, FISH HEADS, ROLY-POLY FISH HEADS
FISH HEADS, FISH HEADS, EAT THEM UP YUM!"

Er...checking my notes, it appears that this is NOT our National Anthem, and is in fact the National Anthem of Canada. The hell with it! Thanks to the Clinton Regime, we're practically Canadians, anyway. Say, you're cute...what do you think: later on, we can meet at a hospital emergency room and wait in an extremely long line to talk to a halfwit nurse/clerk for the privilege of waiting in another, LONGER line for the purpose of squeezing much-needed medical attention from an uncaring doctor, who is currently being brought up on charges of forced oral sodomy involving an ex-member of NSYNC? What's your HMO, baby?

[Sorry. That's about as political as I get. Usually, I just ignore politics completely.]

The Basics:
New Models/Skins/Etc.: No. Nein. Nyet.
Gameplay: Stuff, or something like it.

Story?
You are Barney "Yup" Calhoun, hero of Blue Shift...okay, perhaps "hero" is a strong term; I'd say "half-bright guy who muddled through lukewarm combat and not-too-tough puzzles to help some scientists escape." After escaping with Dr. Rosenberg -- cue Arte Johnson as Renfield snarling, "Doctor Rosenberrrrrrrrg!"** -- something goes wrong and oops, you're transported to the alien dimension. They say "computer error", but you're thinking that the FOX TV network has something to do with it, as the evidence points unerringly to them. They killed "Titus", and now they want to kill you. Rotten bastards!

[** Arte Johnson played Renfield in 1979's Love At First Bite, which starred George Hamilton as Count Dracula and Susan St. James as the object of his pursuit. It also featured Richard Benjamin as his nemesis, Dr. Rosenberg. Great movie. "I do not drink...wine. And I do not smoke...shit."]

Onward!
Reinstall Blue Shift? Sure, why not...like I have nothing better to do with my time. Of course, I did find out that there's a v1.0.0.1 patch for Blue Shift, which I didn't even know (much less cared) about. How about that? Learn something new every day, despite my attempts to the contrary.

So what can I say? The maps included here are pretty straightforward with combat that doesn't hurt much, things that more or less happen, and you have to keep pausing the game to alt+tab back to Windows and stare at your Cynthia Watros** wallpaper for hours on end. Maybe that's just me. Anyway, would I recommend that you reinstall Blue Shift for this pack?

[** Cynthia Watros was on the aforementioned "Titus," and I was still pissed off about its cancellation, partly because Ms. Watros was on the show. But it was a truly great show. Damn Fox for cancelling it...damn them.]

I don't know, really...it's up to you. Blue Shift isn't a major installation for me, so beyond a few minutes of thumb-twiddling, I really wasn't put out all that much...I did get to clean up my desk while I waited, though (all those dead little wingless flies). Beside the point, really. The real question is: is it worth it? Yeah, I guess so. I mean, we aren't neck-deep in BS mods,* so you might as well give it a whirl.
[* Although by a strange twist of irony, it turns out that most mods are BS...take a look at the New Blood section and just *guess* how many of those mods will ever be released. Go on, I'll wait.]

[I'm still waiting. And will be forever. The New Blood section is gone for good.]

Combat is, as I mentioned before, largely painless. There were a couple of instances where death became something of a close confidante, but these were the standout cases. I cite the following examples: the outdoor map with the Apache (the helicopter, not the title of a song by Jimmy Thackery & The Drivers**) and all the Grunts waiting just around a corner, and most loathsome of all, the map with the THREE Tentacles in that tiny little rocket booster room. If my stomach wasn't hurting before, it certainly was after that. There was a map with a free-roaming Garg, but I just scooted by him...no problem. Mostly, you'll breeze through this mod with very few problems.
[* Yeah, I know...I was reaching with that one. Bite me.]

There are a couple of set-pieces that don't disappoint; the most surprising was, for me, when I ran around a corner right in the middle of a pitched battle between Vorts and Grunts. Oops.

Puzzles are kept to a distinct something-or-other...you start off with a bit of platform-jumping on Xen, which made me want to weep bitterly. But I overcame, and now...now, I'm a shell of a man. Anyway, the architecture is workable, and the gameplay, as was mentioned, is okay. It's not the most terrific mod you'll ever download, but it isn't a bad go, either. If an author can manage to bring his or her mod to where it's in between those two extremes, then all is well.

My question is, was it absolutely necessary to make this a Blue Shift mod? I won't say "no", since he does use some of the BS elements (Barney's armor, etc.), but I can see it being an *okay* mod for standard HL...but this mod demands notoriety for being the first mod created for Blue Shift, which is good enough for me. Oh, and if you know of a mod for BS that was created before this one, keep it to yourself...possibly up your ass.

Finally, there is a nudge-nudge mention or two of Hangar 16, which is worth perhaps seventeen thousand brownie points. However, these points are non-transferrable, and can only be applied to special sale items during our annual "Cup O' Mercury" Sales Event, when all of us here at the Hangar drink *gallons* of pure mercury in an attempt to die as painfully as possible. Join us, won't you? But, uh...you go first.

Summary?
12 maps, minor puzzles, easy gameplay...play on a higher skill setting. For Blue Shift.

Rating?
2.5 out of 5.

Annoyance Rating: 4 out of 10. [One point for each tentacle in that one room, and another point for the room itself.]

[...next...]
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

Silver Sorrow

Todesangst 2: der echte Feind

Title: Todesangst 2: der echte Feind
Author: Daryn "PeppyFool" Waite
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: t2defv11.exe
Filesize: 74.6mb
Number of bsps: 31
Download: N/A
Score: 4.8 / 5

Note: I'm tempted to point out that the models depicted in the screenshots are a combination of the High Definition pack, this mod, and some custom recolors of my own, but you probably know that already.

[And, by now, you probably know that there are no screenshots.]

[Also, I took the opportunity to see how often I could misspell "Todesangst."]

Abstract:
Does It Suck, Or Is It Memorex?
I bought a 30 pack of Memorex CD-Rs (700mb) recently, and I've come to realize, after many failed attempts to get my system to recognize them, that I am the somewhat disgruntled owner of a $10 paperweight. Of course, you get what you pay for...I suppose. But I once spent $25 for a 100 pack of 650mb CD-Rs a couple of years ago, and *they* worked fine. Conclusion: Memorex isn't worth the equivalent amount of camel pus. So being in a morbid turn of mind, I thought about some of the other things I could have spent my $10 on. The printable items:

[If I thought that was bad then, I wonder what kind of shit-fit I would've thrown over a $25 stack of BD-Rs that had the same problem. Or a $30 128gb USB stick that works only half the time...well, yeah: you get what you pay for.]

* Five or six of those stupid plastic snow globes you find in gift shops.
* A bundle of cheap white socks.
* Any crappy game that went for $50 two years ago.
* Kathie Lee Gifford's entire back catalog of "music" -- !!EXTREME!! Bargain Bin Diving! -- with enough change left over for a cheap icepick (for when the music starts).
* Quite a few nu-metal bands, 1,200 or so, since they're a dime a dozen. I'll have a LOT of help out in the yard this summer.
* A zillion free kittens...thus saving myself $10. (Which would be used in vet bills, litter, food...or I could just let them crap everywhere, get diseases and eat the ones that didn't survive. That's a pretty damn bleak outlook, now that I think of it.)
* Lunch @ McDonald's x searing stomach cramps + cheap toilet paper = ~$10 (with additional funds in escrow for -- *ahem* -- overruns)
* A can of Reddi-Whip and a roll of duct tape. Tape head shut except for one nostril. Plug can into nostril. Blast off. Meet Jesus.
* Fifteen minutes in a broom closet with Carmen Electra.

[Yawn.]

The Basics:
New Models/Skins/Etc.: do Ruffles(TM) have ridges?
Gameplay: Killing Grunts & Aliens and a peppering of cutscenes.

Story?
Following the events in the first story -- James Clavell's "Tai Pan" -- things seemed to be back to normal. You, Gordon "Auld Lang DIE, Motherf***ers!" Freeman, settled back into your miserable, boring life working as a lab fellow (i.e., "Shemp")** at Black Mesa. So of course, things happen.

[** Meaning, just another Stooge in the lab.]

If you find this section unsatisfying, then you are perfectly free to read the story for yourself, squidbrain.

[Well...that was rude.]

Onward!
"...and all the female Mechanists awoke with a funny taste in their mouths." Hello, gentle friends, and welcome once again to the Fortress of Sorrowtude. On the slab tonight is a tasty little autopsy called "Todesangst 2: Der Dutchman Awaits"...or something like that. So strap in, kids, because we...

...ah...I've just been handed a note. It seems that the real title is "Todesangst 2: der echte Feind" (translation: "There are not enough weasels in my underwear").

If you recall, there was a map pack to come out several thousand years ago, called "Todesangst" (translation: "Come to Butthead"). This release, of course, is the sequel. I mean, that's a pretty obvious statement, made even more so by the "2" in the title...yet I can't help but be slightly disappointed in the author's tasteless adherence to the conformity of puerile social conventions, i.e., the numbering scheme. The true nonconformist would have thrown off the loathsome shackles of such an unbelievably bourgeois reliance on the traditionally restrictive "common" thought...yes, I think if the author were a *true* Renaissance man, he would have called the release, "Todesangst Green: How Free Were The Oranges Of The Sky." Of course, I merely submit this as a possibility, and would never dream of constraining the author to *my* suggestions.

[I find that if I take a couple of Tylenol a few minutes before reading this shit, it helps.]

Despite this, Todeswonk** Two is a solid effort, its scope matched only by the sheer number of accents in any given cutscene. In fact, one cutscene featured Gordon and two scientists having this intense, important conversation, and all I could think of was "My God...there are three different accents in this scene!" Add to that the mercenaries screeching at me in Australian (like English, but different somehow), not to mention the Indian scientist, and I was having a globe-trotting vacation without fear of leaving my desk and getting some weird microbe from the S.S. Goofy.***

[** That's one.]

[*** Referring to the people who got sick on a Disney cruise ship (the Magic?) back in 2002. It was the Norovirus, called "the Norwalk virus" at the time.]

But on reflection, I appreciate the accents. As of this writing, I'm halfway through "Syberia"** and despite my traveling across Europe, I have heard very few accents thus far. Accents: you miss 'em when they're not there. This message has been brought to you by the Accent Council, who encourages you to try an accent today!

[** I should really play that again...ah. Turns out, the Steam version doesn't work at all (of course), but the GOG version does, and beautifully. I find that this is the case most of the time.]

All right, on to the mod, Toadstock** 2. It starts out pleasantly enough, with Gordon chatting with a couple of scientists...but things happen, of course, and Gordon's taken prisoner by some unpleasant characters. Walter -- DO NOT ask me who Walter is!*** -- mentions that these idiots are only mercenaries interested in theft. So you enlist the aid of the two scientists to distract the mercenaries and start searching for a weapon...not to mention a keycard to open a security door and find a button that would open a door to...

[** Two.]

[*** He's the scientist with glasses; the one that looks most like Kleiner in HL2.]

All right, all right. Enough of that. I'm not doing a walkthrough here. The point is, there's something to do right from the beginning, and I'm starting to think that's a good thing. So from there on, what happens? Well, you have mercenaries running around stealing things and killing scientists, we have a connection (notably in characters) to the first chapter of the series, and we also are introduced to several new types of Xen creatures, as well as actually going to Xen (God help us all). You also get to engage in lengthy, talky cutscenes with other characters, although there isn't a dialogue tree in sight...enh, I've been playing too many adventure games lately. My mistake.

Right up front, the gameplay is much the same as in any good HL mod: shoot stuff, find things of use, search for buttons/switches, look for exit. Thanks to the cutscenes, there's a concrete story running through the mod, so you know what you're supposed to be doing (most of the time) and, more importantly, *why* you're doing it. While you don't need to play the first part to appreciate this sequel, why would you skip it? Play it and get a better understanding of why this happened or who that is...you know, that thing we like to think of as "plot". Speaking of which, there's a couple of nice twists here and there along with a couple of surprises that make it a worthwhile download.

Additionally, this mod makes an effort at centralizing your experience by giving you a hub to work from, once you reach a certain point. That is to say, that once you reach the place where Dr. Mengele and his assistant, Mr. Funnyname, are hanging out (okay, so I'm lousy with names), you'll revisit the same place several times after that in your Quest To Save Everything. I find that a nice touch, as I'm usually running running running everywhere all over the freaking place with no home to speak of. Nice of these guys to give me a sense of stability in this ever-changing world. *sniff*

As for the visuals...believe it or not, the architecture is worth looking at, even downright beautiful in many places, thanks to some excellent texturing and terrain work...the maps look splendid, especially Xen.* The trip to Xen is possibly one of the best attempts yet to make that contemptible locale a fun place to die (the depressurization scene alone is worth the price of admission). I would also give bonus points for the rugged beauty of the Norway maps if I were allowed to give out bonus points.
[* Did I just type that???]

So it's clear that much effort was spent on making the levels if not astounding, then at the very least pleasingly workable; aside from a few overly linear maps (for example: the outdoors section of Xen, where you run in one direction for a while until you reach the end and pick up an item, then run back), they also play very well. Adding to this map-riffic mix is the curious inclusion of five secrets spread across the mod. Finding a secret gives you a single digit, which when collected with the other secrets, gives you the passcode to a restricted-area keypad in the mod's Hazard Course.

Speaking of which: while some thought the restricted area was a bit of a disappointment, I can only ask, what was to be expected? Candy and ribbons? Never mind. The point is that the result is a charming little game you play with a swiveling cannon and a bunch of aliens. Not bad. And just for fun, punch the wrong code into the keypad. Watch the fun! *Feel* the fun!

Okay...I've covered gameplay, the maps...hmmm. What's next? Ah. The new stuff.

First, let's talk a bit about your new allies. Rather, you read in a mixture of disbelief and agony as I try to squeeze something funny out of this particular stone. Anyway, your allies are scientists and security guards, so there's little chance one of them will ask you how your weekend went, trying to get Opeth to make a firm transition to pure Prog.**
[** That probably needs some explanation, but I really don't care anymore.]**

[** Opeth eventually did make the transition...they've shed the death metal thing, mostly, with the complete absence of the growling. Good riddance, I say.]

Let's try that again: "...so there's little chance one of them will ask you how you like their new Import Model girlfriend/hood ornament."

[Going back to Kurt Loder, MTV news guy, who called Tawny Kitaen a "hood ornament" in reference to her splendid hood-polishing act in Whitesnake's video of "Here I Go Again."

Oh, and Import Models were (usually) exotic women in very little clothing preening and posing on or around cars (rice burners) that represented Car Culture status, rather than being used in actual street racing.]


Better? Not by much, but it's enough. Okay. In addition to the much-heralded (I think) return of Joe the security guard -- who figures into the plot more than you would think -- you have a few scientist colleagues with actual names. Of course, most of them get killed at some point, but that's pathos for you. The two most important scientists live to guide you along, so don't worry about having to protect anyone.

You human enemies, on the other hand, are made up of Schwarzgeist mercenaries (don't panic, that will be explained in-game), Scwarzgeist scientists (who are a pleasure to kill), and their little toys of mass destructions. Yes, on the technological side we're treated to a giant manned laser thingamabob, the M450 Robot Laser, which is essentially mining laser with a dude to run it. They blow up real good. But with great power comes great scorched earth potential, particularly in the form of a nasty piece of deathware, the Kamov Ka-50 attack chopper. May I say "ouch"? While the mining laser is several times, the Ka-50 only shows up in Norway; it's a bit underused, but with its firepower...that's probably for the best.

New monsters? Why yes, there are new monsters...sorta. Apart from the green-clad mercenaries, we're reintroduced to the unused -- by Valve -- models sitting in the original pak file: among others, we have chumtoads, floaters (called a "Bloater") and Mr. Friendly (named here a "Macrobrachius"), who isn't so friendly after all.*** They've been given some decidedly antisocial qualities, but who's to say I blame them? If I see some jerk in an orange Tin Man suit -- in my case, silver** -- tromping all over the puke-brown soil of my home, toting a gigantic array of weaponry, I'm gonna spit acid pellets at him, too! Well...not that I can spit acid pellets in the first place, much less *on command*, but...you get the idea. Thumbs up for breathing new life into these models, especially for making the killing of the chumtoad such a Pyrrhic Victory. Hint: pick up those anti-toxin canisters.
[*** Would you believe that remark took very little thought to form?]

[** My personal recolor of the HEV suit -- the arms, really -- was a shiny silver. You could tell that in the screenshots, sometimes.]

I'd also like to point out a couple of other notable monsters in the form of a zombie worker (the guy in the yellow jumpsuit) and the giant mutant rats, which are the size of a collie...which gives a whole new meaning** to the phrase "Lassie! Go get Gramps!" [screaming and tearing sounds]

[** It doesn't, but whatever.]

As for weapons, we have only one new weapon...but it's dandy: a hatchet. You can chop wood, arms, necks, etc., and it also comes with an alt+fire feature...throwing. Yes, you can whip this baby at someone's head and watch the fun as they die! Of course, you have to go and pick it up again, but we all need to get a little exercise now and then.

As a side note, I'd like to mention being able to use security camera consoles. While not integral to your survival or gameplay, they do add something realistic to the mix.

And finally, stick around for the credits!

Summary?
A story-driven mod with plenty of loooooooooooooooooooong cutscenes, a plethora of accents, a virtual bounty of things to shoot and/or humiliate in the nastiest way possible, and a cornucopia of gameplay. Enjoy!

Rating?
4.8 out of 5.

Annoyance Rating: 3 out of 10. [The explicatory cutscenes tended to go on for a while.]

The Grace Scale [1-10, low-end preferable]...Grace Gives It:
A Three Of Goodness.

[I think this is the introduction of the Grace Scale into the regular HL reviews. I may have done them elsewhere previously, but who cares?]

[Ah...the Grace Scale probably needs some sort of explanation. At the time, I had recently finished Gabriel Knight 2 (okay: "The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery"...happy?!?) and was quite taken with the actress playing Grace Nakimura, Joanne Takahashi. So I took screenshots of her various facial expressions throughout the game and used them to illustrate how painful (or not) a mod was to me. It wasn't funny.]

[Final misspelling of "Todesangst" tally: 2. I'm disappointed in myself. Now I know how my parents felt.]
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

Silver Sorrow

Escape From The Darkness

Title: Escape From The Darkness
Author: THIEF
e-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
File Name: eftd_final.exe
File Size: 79.5mb
Number of Bsps: 37?
Download: N/A
Score: 3.5 / 5

Note #1: The models depicted in the screenshots more or less belong to this mod. Let's give a big ol' cheer for terrific-osity.

[*sigh*]

Note #2: You know, if I were to relate all of the important information needed for this review using the readme file, then all of the little slots up there would be blank, not to mention the "Story?" section. The only info imparted in the readme is how to use the new monsters in any add-on maps you may want to make for this mod, although I cannot for the life of me figure out why you would want to do so. At this point, I really don't care about accuracy, so here's my warning to all the map- and mod-makers out there: the next time something like this happens, I'm just going to put my own words in the appropriate blanks...and you don't want me to do that.

[You really don't.]

Abstract:
I really enjoy watching American car companies prove without a doubt that they are 1) clueless, 2) hopelessly out of touch with what people want (at least, what people with *brains* want), and 3) irrevocably insane. Of course, we can point to the ongoing SUV trend as irrefutable proof of this madness, and some of us do so shamelessly...because there's nothing like a whipping boy to save us from having to come up with new material. Anyway, despite the fact that we (the USA) have more brain-dead trend-following morons than most countries (for an example, look to the Minivan craze of the early 1990's, wherein soccer moms across this great land of ours -- the USA -- had their hubbies invest in the most laughably-constructed vehicles since the Gremlin, so they could drive their low-IQ mongoloid maggots to public gatherings wherein they -- the maggots -- would mill around on a field and kick each other in the shins while the mothers sat in their minivans and did spike after spike of pure, uncut heroin), SUV sales are down somewhat. It could be that the price of gas is reaching the triple digits...who knows? So as a result, the car companies are getting even more desperate for sales, as they've taken to naming their monstrosities after aviation terms. For example, the curious Buick Aviator, sister to the Buick Navigator...and relative to the black sheep of the Buick SUV fleet, the Buick Bombardier. For some reason, no one likes to talk about that one...

[For some reason, the Buick Bombardier is a joke I use at every opportunity (but in context!). Well...the reason may be that I am a drooling simpleton. But it still makes me chuckle.]

[Also, the sheer twisty verbosity of that Abstract is downright painful. One of those "shoulda left it blank" moments.]

The Basics:
New Models/Skins/Etc.: Circumstances say "yes"
Gameplay: Somewhere in the region of "make the hurting stop!"

Story?
Murder Done Deadliest, Sorta
by Silver Sorrow

Chapter Oon-ta-Paaah vrit N'ik sooO: I'm Making This Up As I Go Along

Private Dick "Slick" Wisenbone glowered at his insanely beautiful secretary/somewhat insane occasional bed-fellow, Bunny Tokugawa, who was at the moment locked in a lover's embrace with the FedEx guy.

"I take it," he began calmly, "that the package has arrived."

"Repeatedly," she said nonchalantly, carelessly gesturing in the general direction of her desk. She missed its exact location by about 25 degrees, but it wasn't entirely her fault, considering the somewhat awkward position she was in.

Slick just stood there and trembled in rage at them for awhile, but since Slick's attention span -- rather, the *lack* of it -- was legendary in the P.I. biz, it wasn't long before he turned his attention to the package. The contents proved interesting...almost *too* interesting, he thought suspiciously.

With the FedEx guy finally gone, Ms. Tokugawa read over Slick's shoulder as she corralled (most of) her ridiculously large breasts from public view.

"Stop that," Slick griped, "I HATE it when you read over my shoulder!"

Bunny started to cry. "Why are you always so mean to me?? I do everything for you! I type, I collate, I file, I answer your phone, everything! I even boinked that FedEx guy because I remembered a name from your files and from a *completely* logical train of thought no matter what you may say otherwise I figured out that he was the client's half-sister's cousin's stepbrother's former roommate and he would provide important clues to the case that could crack it open completely and he DID have that information, Mr. Smarty Detective, but I'm not going to tell you now because you're so mean! I do it all for YOU!" She ran out of the office in tears, slamming the door hard enough to break the frosted glass.

Slick, meanwhile, was engaging in a thousand-yard stare. It wasn't clear if he was digesting Bunny's words, or merely his lunch...but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that he had actually paid attention to her misery.

[While I usually like most of these, this one just leaves me feeling somewhat bewildered.]

Onward!
This mod made me want to die.

If you'll excuse a possibly tasteless simile, this mod is much like a peppermint-flavored butt plug: you're not quite sure what its ultimate purpose is, or to which end it should best be used.** But if I had any choice in the matter, make mine Butter Pecan.

[** Get it?]

But (ha!)** as you can tell from my somewhat grim opening statement, I'm not jumping up and down in happy fun joy to play through this mod again; and while it's not a horrible experience in the classic sense of the phrase, it's kept from greatness by a few small niggling details...as well as many great big giant details, a few of which I will attempt to list here before I jab a needle full of Drano into my neck. Okay? Great!

[** Again: get it?]

To begin, I feel an anagram coming on...it's that ol' "tried & tired" thing. Yes, it's time once again to denigrate the gameplay: shoot stuff, look for exit to current level, repeat until mod ends. Some variation is attempted by the inclusion of minor puzzles and some map change glitches, which probably weren't intentional...or were they?

Before I get into my usual rut of ripping this pack a new one, I will say this for the mod: it at least *tries* to give us something new...such efforts exist in the form of giving the player a speaking part, fantastic visuals, a new End Boss Battle (which only reinforced my desire for the sweet embrace of death...but more on that later), and most effectively, putting a giant comical wok on the head of the average shotgun Grunt.

As for the player speaking, I couldn't really get past the overly-cheesy lines...I mean, I *expected* cheese...no, scratch that. I didn't expect for the player to have lines *at all*, but had I expected the player to have lines, then I would've expected those lines to be cheesy.

Help me.

Okay, here's a f'rinstance: upon seeing offices in disarray with bodies all over the place, Our Hero remarks that "it looks like my car"...to which I could only ask, "your car has books and dead bodies everywhere?"

Beyond that, the mod tries to be different graphically, and in this it succeeds. Yes, the maps are beautiful...yes, the vehicles and other stuff look good...yes, the reflective floors look excellent. Pushing the graphics to the limit is one thing, and this mod does so very well. But to actually play it...well, let's just say that as I found myself being pummeled, trounced, mutilated, zapped, mauled, spindled and humiliated throughout this mod, I realized that I was unconsciously muttering the word "crap"...a lot.*
[* This would make for an interesting character in a remake of Ivanhoe, or a similar work wherein chivalrous jerks in metal pants clank around and spout medieval twaddle at each other in Jacobean English. "Thou must defeat...Sir Crapsalot!" "Hither thyself to flight, foul knave! Forsooth, I hath a strong throwing arm!" FLING "ohmigod noooooooo!" SPLAT]

[Question: if they're wearing metal pants, how would they be able to crap in their hands so as to fling it at each other? Yet another instance where I wearily knead my forehead and mutter "shut the fuck UP, Silver."]

I remember playing part of this mod before, back when it was called "Dark Force". I didn't really have any hopes for *that* pack at the time, as...well...y'know, I can't rightly recall it with any reliability; I just don't remember actually playing it. Sure, I remember the maps, but...*sigh*. I suppose that's a prime indicator of how good something is if you actually remember everything about it...which I don't.

So when I discovered that it's now a FULL BLOWN MOD, I could only be somewhat intrigued as to how the author has managed to overcome the problem of the mod being memorable. In this case, curiosity takes bizarre delight in not only killing the cat, but also skinning it and turning it into a moccasin. Because playing this mod hurt...not the kind of hurt associated with, for example, "Wanted!" (as that's a different kind of hurt altogether), but more along the lines of being popped in the eyeball with the skinny end of a fishing pole repeatedly.

So with that said, let's ignore -- and ultimately crush like a puppy under a massive grinding wheel -- any indications of positivity that might be welling up within our souls, by focusing on the negative. Ready? Then take my hand and fly away with me! Into some power lines! Some specifics on the little things that made this mod a dicey conundrum for Yours Truly:

1. The red haze that obscured the screen upon being wounded. That *alone* drove me RIGHT UP the wall.

2. Getting stuck on the terrain. I mean it...I could be running full tilt and be stopped cold by something on the ground. It caused a lot of tired, achy moments in play.

3. The weapons furnished a special, albeit lesser, place in Hell because a) they obscured most of the screen during their idle animations, and b) had these spindly little arms attached to them that would be more at home in "Calvin and Hobbes" than Half-Life ("All right, Suzy...start running!").

4. Don't get me started on the HEV interface.

5. Combat. The whole thing is a bit bleak at times, but I suppose it's survivable (up until the end).

6. Lack of direction and a storyline. Why am I doing this? What's this about? Why are these people shooting at me? Why does that one guy have a wok on his head? These are questions I found myself asking, but I never really found any satisfying answers. You'd think that with so much obvious effort poured into the mod, some initiative would be taken to give us some background. And although there's an *attempt* at some sort of characterization in the opening cutscene -- your name is Alex Johnes, or something -- the so-called story is kept extremely esoteric and vague ("I refuse to let the player know what's going on!") until the very last map, by which point you don't care anymore and want to see if the sun is still out so you can go outside and bang your skull against a big rock while there's enough light left for you to see the results of your labors.

7. There is one map where all that's required is to walk across a broken tile path to an office surrounded by red water and bizarro graphics. Sounds easy, eh? Okay, why not add THE MOST ANNOYING SOUND IN THE WORLD, as well as NONSENSICAL FLASHES to COMPLETELY INDECIPHERABLE CHARACTERS with a frequency of perhaps EVERY THREE SECONDS, making simple progress forward virtually impossible without a GPS and a slide rule (however those would help). Who is the drill instructor? Why does Gordon look like ten miles of bad road? WHY AM I EVEN PLAYING THIS RRRRRGGGH...

8. The end-boss battle. Skip a paragraph down, and it will all be explained.

Besides the nit-picky things, I was intrigued by the sheer number of cool new weapons available to the player. Despite those, I mostly stuck with the shotgun, a powerful little tool effective up to medium range with only one shot. My other favorite was a silenced MAC-10. And, of course, I enjoyed looking at the maps. Why is it that a summary of the positives end up in only one paragraph, while the negatives are all over the place? Am I on to something here?

Finally, I feel I must say a few appropriate words about the ending battle. Well...they're not *appropriate*, per se, when taken in context of a family-oriented website**, but it's safe to say that the fun guys who came up with the phrase "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" -- as well as the even more fun guys who turned it into an acronym -- had no idea to how vehemently I would be uttering their little addition to the English language. Oh, and how I used it. I became an artist of That Word, using it to color perceptions, change minds, disgust the elderly...in essence, it was a pure, shining moment that transcended all of my previous efforts at vulgarianism.
[*  I can only wonder at what type of family you have, if you look to this website to provide you with family-oriented recreation. "Look ma...I beat a giant bug to death with a crowbar! This is WAY better than church!"]

Weary to the core of my soul, I rested...then fired off a few more f-laden sallies. The monitor cracked, the keyboard thrummed, the cat puked. I was in a Profane State, culpable only to a Higher Power, and He was covering His ears. How I despised this moment...and yet, it showed me something of myself. And I will now share with you potential authors what I learned, in hopes that some of you can learn from my own discovery. Ready? Here goes:

STOP THESE CONFOUNDED INANE END BOSS BATTLES YOU STUPID NIMRODS!!

I suppose the best state of mind in which to play this mod would be abject happiness...a handful of Prozac washed down with a case of Jolt would be a good start. Afterwards, you may feel only *slightly* homicidal, as compared to the control group -- me -- who didn't take drugs, and as a result, killed seventeen innocent bystanders with a single thumb (not my own).

And I must admit that the stupid music didn't help; even though I consider myself somewhat open-minded about all forms of music (at least that's what I tell people...reality is something else entirely), the selections evident here went beyond my usual stolid endurance concerning aural adversity. When I'm edging around a corner, hoping to take some Grunts by surprise, I don't need a sudden, INSANELY LOUD assault of some braying ass of a malcontent blathering nonsensically to an irritating techno beat.***
[*  Despite arguments to the contrary, techno is *not* music in any conceivable sense of the word; I don't consider producer-crafted *noise* to be music, and those of you out there with brains and common sense should eschew such blatant greed as well.]

[While I'm on the subject...rap isn't music, either. Nor is hip-hop. And DJs are not musicians. Face it, people.]

Usually, I prefer no music at all when I play Half-Life, which is why I turned the !!#$%!! CD music off in the first place. If there is music added, I prefer it to be of a quality associated with, at the very least, base reptilia.** That is to say, it should be appropriate to the mood of the mod, and enjoyable. The "music" offered here is neither of these things, and I only forebear a pronouncement of death upon the author as part of an ongoing series of psychotherapeutic sessions designed to lessen my intense hatred of the human race.

[** Um...what?]

But despite my rather surly attitude, go ahead and give it a whirl; it's not the best mod, but it certainly isn't the worst by any means. It has some incredible visuals, as well as some nifty new updates to the weapons. Some of us, meanwhile, will be enjoying a fresh minty feeling *somewhere* in our anatomy...

[Referring back to the peppermint-flavored butt plug joke at the beginning.]

Summary?
It looks good; I compare its combination of so-so gameplay and fresh graphics to being flayed alive by the Girl Next Door.

Rating?
3.5 out of 5

Annoyance Rating:
Rather astoundingly high.

The Grace Scale...Grace Gives It:
An 8 of Pain.

[This is one of those prickly, irascible reviews that should never have been. But if its existence serves to caution me against doing something like this ever again, then perhaps it has served its purpose.]

[I also find it curious that a mod that obviously meant so much pain and consternation ended up with a higher rating than a lot of better, less painful maps. I just don't know.]

[...next...]
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

Silver Sorrow

Aftermath

Title: Aftermath
Author: Stuart Maine (MrBunwah)
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: aftermath.zip
Filesize: 805k
Number of maps: 1
Download: N/A
Score: 3.5 / 5

Note: The models depicted in the screenshots are a combination of the High Definition pack and some custom recolors of my own.

[No. Screenshots. Ever.]

Note #2: Interesting file destination...try to find the files after unzipping them!

Note #3: Yes, the screenshots have been brightened considerably. Thank you for noticing.

[Noticing what?]

Abstract:
It's covered in the main review. You'll see.

[Or not. I'm guessing not.]

The Basics:
New Models/Skins/Etc.: Nah.
Gameplay: Zombies. Headcrabs. Darkness.

Story?
You are Anonymous Q. McGeneric, a survivor in a post-Apocalyptic world. You've just stumbled over the remains of an abandoned outpost, which means that you and Burgess Meredith have something in common: you both need glasses. See, there's that "Twilight Zone" where he likes to read and then they drop the Bomb and then he has plenty of time to read but he breaks his glasses and...come to think of it, this analogy sucks.

[Indeed.]

Onward!
It was a dark and stormy night. Huh. No. It was dark, but it wasn't stormy...well, not exactly. It was kinda lightning outside, right? Like God was in on the joke and delighted in scaring the devil out of you, which is perfectly understandable, given the whole titanic Good versus Evil thing that's been going on for, like, a really long time now, even before there were such things as Adam Sandler movies. Some people say Evil started with Adam Sandler, which I can understand, but I think it started with Yoko Ono breaking up The Beatles. And it's safe to say that you *should* capitalize the "The" in "The Beatles," because otherwise you have "the Beatles," which tends to deflate their importance when you look at it from a respect angle, which is exactly what happens when you lowercase someone's articles. Which brings me to the subject of putting "the" in front of band names back in the '60's (the 1960's, for those of you who have a problem with that sort of thing)...I mean, what exactly were the media people implying when they'd have these bands as their guests and put a "the" in front of their name? "The" Pink Floyd, "The" Mott the Hoople, "The" Cream, "The" Led Zeppelin, "The" Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass...thank God someone finally had the good sense to put a stop to this sort of thing before it turned into some sort of Article Apocalypse, with "The" The Who, "The" The Beatles, not to mention, had this band in particular been around at the time, "The" The The.

[Demented rambling? Me?? Why, that's absurd...]

So it's safe to say that the night is dark, it's not *specifically* stormy, although lightning does occur, and The Beatles are just a fond memory.* So with this in mind, you decide to waltz into this abandoned installation and see what's going on. What could be more straightforward than that?
[*  Especially since the talented ones are dead. But I kid Paul.]

Okay, first: if, like me, you have a specific gripe about not being able to see things on the screen due to darkness, turn the game's gamma up all the way. Then turn your monitor's gamma up until you can actually make out objects in the game. Ready? Good. Now turn the gamma back down. Why? Because it's more fun that way!

[Sarcasm? Possibly. It's hard to tell anymore.]

Now that we can't see our hand in front of our face again, let's explore. Woo...talk about atmosphere. I'm not...uh...I'm not going in there. No. Because this is always the way, isn't it? You see the guy or the gal in the movie who's about to walk into a dark room and you scream nooooooooo don't go in there you fool, but they keep edging towards the door and the music builds and they go in and CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP they're a pile of hamburger with eyes.

So me, I'm staying out here where it's safe. I...what? Zombies? Wandering around outside? Well, why didn't you say so! Let's go inside where nothing bad can happen to us and...oh, rats. CHOP. CHOP. CHOP. CHOP.

See, it's not a question of facing shambling horrors, it's more of a question of where you wish to have your heart palpitations. The map is delightfully dark, the quarters spooky, the weapons present, and a reviewer is sitting in front of his computer wondering whether there are any doughnuts left. Since there are none -- doughnuts, that is -- this reviewer shall soldier on.

[There are very few things worse than an empty doughnut box.]

You really don't see one-off maps all that often anymore; when you download anything these days, it usually involves a custom game menu, sixteen thousand small maps and an MP5 replacement, at the very least. So it's refreshing to see a single-map release with more thoughtful gameplay than featured in some mods (not that I am thinking of any mod in particular).

In essence: this is a map to be played when you're all alone at 3am.** The puzzles (as such) aren't overbearing, the mood is tense, and the entire place is in serious disarray. The scientists are all zombies, there are headcrabs everywhere, and toxic waste is in abundance. This is my new technique: I will mention one thing, mention another, and then mention another. Tedious, isn't it?

[** Which is how I prefer it. People...blech.]

Speaking of tedious, try not to puke up a lung during the ending, which involves repeating zombies (You'll see what I mean when you get there)...but it's a good ending, I believe. In other words, it's a fun little map; wonderfully detailed and more than a bit nerve-wracking.

So give it a whirl and don't die, or anything.

Summary?
Dark. Monsters. Shotgun. Lightning. Toxic waste. Running down little old ladies in a '73 Charger. Or not.

Rating?
3.5 out of 5.

Annoyance Rating:
Low.

[No Grace Scale? Huh. Well, the next review didn't have one either, but the one after that did. So I don't know.]

[...next...]
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

Silver Sorrow

Bootleg Squadrog

Title: Bootleg Squadrog
Game Type: Opposing Force
Author: Brendon Chung
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: bootleg.zip
Filesize: 2.84mb
Number of bsps: 5
Download: N/A
Score: 4.5 / 5

Note: The models depicted in the screenshots are a combination of the High Definition pack and some custom recolors of my own. Makes you want to dance, doesn't it?

Note #2: I had to fiddle with the screenshots more than usual, since things are a bit dark.

[Enough about the imaginary screenshots already!]

Abstract:
A while back, I saw a commercial for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. A guy needs a ride, so he calls Enterprise; a friendly Asian woman arrives and drives him to his destination. There's only one thing wrong with this: me. I NEVER, EVER get a hot Asian chick to do ANYTHING for me! I could *order* one through the mail, and you know what I'd get? A duck! A mongoose! A 99 year-old retired Patent Office clerk who moonlights as a treasurer for the KKK! ANYTHING but a hot Asian chick! And should I acquire one by some odd quirk of fate, do you think she'd drive me anywhere? NO! She'd kick me in the nuts and whack me in the head with a splintery 2x4 until I puked blood...because that's what *I* would do in her position. I know me, and I'd do anything in my power to take me out once and for all.

Okay...I see by the rising tide of outrage that you're about to accuse me of objectifying Asian women, of attributing stereotypical slurs to the Everyasianchick (i.e., "Asian women are only here to please pathetic white men", etc.). Okay, so I've been working through some major guilt from when I was four and pushed an Indonesian girl off her bike because she wouldn't let me have a turn (on the bike...I was four, remember?)...and Yoko Shimada in "Shogun" really sent me for a loop...not to mention my Nancy Kwan thing...but rest assured that I have the deepest respect for Asians, both male and female, and I would do anything within my power to further harmony and peace and understanding and blah blah blah blah blah. Mostly though, I just want a [CENSORED] from Francine Dee.

[A [CENSORED]? What, exactly?]

[Yoko Shimada...Nancy Kwan...Francine Dee. If you care, look 'em up. I certainly don't.]

The Basics:
New Models/Skins/Etc.: Naaaah.
Gameplay: Squad-based OpFor combat.

Story?
Things happened in New Mexico. You -- Adrian "One Nut" Shepherd -- and your squad have been sent to pick up one Gordon "Dead By Dawn" Freeman and...I don't know, give him a noogie, or something.

Onward!
Bootleg Squadro*g*...? On second thought, I'll leave it alone.

All right, what do we have here? Hmmm...lessee...working with squad members, covering them, checking your fire, giving support, rescuing trapped members...and it doesn't suck. Impossible, you say? Not at all!

Usually, when someone mentions squad-based combat to me, I just nod sagely and look for something else to do...because I usually don't frequent the sort of places where such a phrase would be thrown at me in a casual manner. However, if someone *online* mentions it to me, I...well, I nod sagely and look for something else to do. That is to say, I'm not the biggest fan of team-based gameplay; in fact, it probably would have amused you to no end to watch the anguish I went through in the team-based maps in the SP side of Unreal Tournament. Like all good and true psychopaths, I work alone!

[In summary: I hate squad-based combat.]

So this comes as something of a surprise. Working together, basking in the glow that can only come from well-oiled teamwork,* and the knowledge that no matter what, your buddy's got your back. Okay, screw that. What's really important is that if you get stuck, there's always someone there with a LOT of firepower to bail out your pasty white butt (or any other color you may wish to identify yourself by...ashy gray, mottled ochre, ulcerated purple...whatever!).
[*  Come to think of it, I should probably write ad copy for the porn industry. "Watch these Marine studs demonstrate their well-oiled teamwork in: 'Drop & Give Me 69, Soldier'!!"**]
[** No offense to the Marines. Please don't hurt me.]

And it's a blast; probably the most fun I've had with OpFor in a while, after the Perfection Unparalleled that was/is Intolerable Threat***. And since I'm new to the idea of *not* using my fellow soldiers as human shields and/or a source of ammo, I found the size of this pack to be about right for me....initially. And now as I stare at the ruins of my life and wonder what to do next this evening (besides my nightly habit of performing the needlessly complex rituals for exacting unholy revenge upon those who have wronged me), I wish that there was more. So consider it highest praise indeed when your target audience**** screams "MORE"!
[*** Still available for download at many fine mirrors near you. Ask for "The Fairest One Of All".]
[**** i.e., those of us with nothing better to do than stare at a monitor for hours on end trying desperately to ignore the fact that our youth is slipping away a little more each day, never to return...not to mention the chilling fact that for each year that passes our hopes of finding That Special Someone decreases exponentially until finally we wake up howling at 3am tearing at what's left of our hair and lamenting our deepest sorrows: "why...WHY???" until we stumble into the bathroom and take a bath with the microwave...but your personal mileage may vary.]

[What an idiot.]

Your environments range from the familiar to the not-so-familiar (Obvious, party of one...your table is ready); in fact, this pack does in five maps what it took OpFor...what, three hundred maps to convey? Maybe that's an exaggeration. Anyway, you'll start off in a barracks, get to check out the area a bit, go to a briefing (guess who gets to work the projector?), and then head out to the Osprey and then on to combat.

The maps are...well, they're excellent. Really. But they're a bit dark, so adjust your gamma as necessary. They're decidedly Chung-ian, which is a good thing. A couple of years ago, I had played the first three of the author's "Citizen Abel" packs for Quake2 before I found other games to play, but I had enjoyed them enormously. So now I get a non-buggy and *working* HL/OpFor adventure to play (looking at "1986" with a non-malicious grin), and...is that happiness I feel? It's so hard to tell these days. It could be a panic attack, but probably not.

["Mild contentment," at best...but not happiness. Never happiness.]

One addition to gameplay -- in the last map -- is a series of small tasks (two) you must perform; both involve rescuing trapped teammates. The way that this portion is set up is truly wonderful...no question is left as to what you must do to accomplish these tasks. After two weeks of playing GTA III and dealing with objectives like "steal three cars and take them to such-and-such place -- in mint condition -- in about six minutes, watch out for traffic and gangs", I'm happy to have some *achievable* absolutes in life.

And speaking of gameplay, you get to choose your particular favorite flavor o' firepower before deploying. Quite nifty. And you still have your knife and your standard-issue sidearm. Me, I chose the shotgun for my first run-through (I guess because I'm just a shotgun-type of guy), but the second time? The SAW. Still a great way of saying that your really and truly care about the human race. Especially Barney. He knows that I care a lot.

[I meant that I shot him repeatedly with the SAW. Sorry if that wasn't clear enough.]

So essentially, this is what OpFor *should* have been. What else? Oh, just PLAY it already!

Summary?
Great maps, great fun, great googly-moogly.

Rating?
4.5 out of 5.

Annoyance Rating:
0 out of 10.

[Too damn happy in this one. Next.]
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

Silver Sorrow

Plan B

Title: Plan B
Author: Adam Brown (aka Jeb_Radec)
E-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
Filename: planb1.1.zip
Filesize: 2.6mb
Number of maps: 3
Download: N/A
Score: 3.5 / 5

Note: The models depicted in the screenshots are a combination of the High Definition pack and some custom recolors of my own. Who's your daddy...but more to the point, who's your mommy? Is she hot? Is she seeing anyone, besides your daddy?

[*deep sigh of despair*]

Random Brain-Blurt Of The Moment: A little while back, people were going berserk over something called "nelly furtado", whatever that was. I once had an infection of the furtado once...a little penicillin cleared it right up. I wonder if the two were related?

["Nelly Furtado" does sound like a genital infection of some sort.]

Abstract:
[A short tribute to David Carradine's "Kung Fu" and The Frantics' "Ti Kwan Leep/Boot To The Head"...at the same time. A cautionary tale. Probably.]

"Ah, welcome grasshopper."

"Master, what IS this??"

"This? This is my humble abode."

"But the slot machines, Master...and the cheap women of easy virtue! I have never seen a cheongsam that short--oh my GOD what is she doing to that duck...???"

"I have new philosphy, grasshopper."

"What philosophy is that, Master?"

"Every man for himself. Now. Snatch pebble from hand."

"What?"

"*sigh*. New method of teaching, then. If not pebble, then perhaps something new."

"Like what, Master?"

"Boot to the head."

"Owwwwww! You booted me in the head!"

"You are lucky. So few grasshoppers learn so much so soon."

"You mind if I lie down here a moment?"

"By all means. You see class, that the path to enlightenment lies not only in hitting people, but also in shooting them in the kneecaps. Observe."

"AAAAAAAAAAGGGGH! You shot me in the friggin' KNEECAPS you...you..."

"So what have we learned, class? Exactly: do unto others before they do unto you. That is all. Bow. Good. Now remember that the buffet is open all night, and Wayne Newton shall be joining us this evening. Ciao, suckas!"

[Whatever possessed me??]

The Basics:
New Models/Skins/Etc.: Nope.
Gameplay: Grunts, aliens, puzzling things.

Story?
It is unclear just who you are, but I'd lay good money on the chance that once again, you're Gordon "Stardust In My Pocket" Freeman. You awake in a hastily-constructed cell in a musty storeroom...your only thought -- besides fresh boysenberry muffins -- is escape. Although if Sybil Danning is your sadistic warden, then you'll probably want to stay for a while. Ask her if she can introduce me to Linda Blair.

[There was a women-in-prison movie called Chained Heat, which featured Linda Blair and Sybil Danning showering together. I think. I don't remember the specifics, exactly.]

Onward!
To be continued...??? Aaaaarrrrrgh...

Okay, that probably needs an explanation. But first, I'm going to ramble nonsensically and make a lot of spurious, uninformed statements...as usual. Okay? Let's begin.

You begin this brave new life in a prison cell. Barney awaits outside the mesh, and you have no way to get out...or do you? The author wants to stress realism, i.e., things break when you mess with them. At least they do in *my* case. Everything I touch, I destroy. So this pack is perfect for me, because I'm always screwing things up unintentionally.

So anyway, the idea is to eliminate Barney and free yourself...but how? That light looks interesting, doesn't it? Why don't I...ow! It broke! But this thingy inside the light may be useful. Why don't I try it on this control panel over here and...yup. Electrical cataclysm! See you in hell, Barney! Now begins your journey of pain. A frantic crawl through some ductwork ensues, what with the explosions and such. You don't have an HEV yet, so you're going to have to be careful...

This is how it begins. It's a relatively short pack, but the possibilities are fascinating. This represents a more homogenous** way of dealing with your Half-Life world; solving puzzles realistically, having a definite purpose, wondering how much cat laxative I could feed my cat before it would constitute an overdose, etc. I enjoyed using what's left of my mind for once; between years of mindless shooters and synapse-popping adventure games, I'm happy to find a happy medium besides Thief.***

[** What?]

[*** No matter how I look at it, no matter how often I turn it over and over whilst glaring at its form, I just cannot make any sense out of "...a happy medium besides Thief." It just...hell. Let it go.]

And besides the interfacing aspect, the maps used to make this world material are beautifully done; if I were still playing with that PII-350, I think my framerates would be a little touchy. What sets this one apart is the attention paid to detail; most of it's redundant, which is why we call it "detail". Sure, it's one thing to make an ordinary concrete hallway with an ugly yellow stripe as decoration, but it's another to make a hallway with glass and lights in the walls. Guess which one looks better?

One minor concern, what I call "the sticking point" for some reason (why?? why??)** is being overwhelmed by aliens every so often...which may lead to some creative language on your part. Dropping into a tiny room filled with Houndeyes isn't my preferred cup of bile, but reloading and rethinking tactics works: instead of the shotgun, how about the MP5? Although I've come to feel that reloading from such a predicament is cheating slightly (as knowing exactly what's coming next takes some of the fun out of honest play), it doesn't bother me to the point where I'd actually force myself to suffer. So here's to quickloading.

[** Why, indeed.]

You may have noticed that this review, much like that Mini Me guy (I'd look up his name, but I don't give a crap),** is a bit short. That's because the pack *itself* is a bit short. Since this was one of the better releases I've played lately, I regret this set of circumstances; I'd like to spend at least six more paragraphs yammering nonsensically about nothing at all, but perhaps the next installment will allow me to do that.

[** Verne Troyer.]

So give it a whirl; I'll be over here -- in the dumpster, making banana-squirrel smoothies -- waiting for part two.

[I don't know if he ever made a part two. I cannot find it within myself to care either way.]

Summary?
Great maps, a largely hitherto-unexploited way of interfacing within the HL world, lots of electricity, aliens and Grunts. Stir briskly and let stand. Enjoy.

[I guess I was making a Kool-Aid analogy. Or something.]

Rating?
3.5 out of 5.

Annoyance Rating: 1 out of 10. [Alien ambush!]

The Grace Scale...Grace Gives It:
A Three of Good.

[And Grace is back!]

[...next...]
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

Silver Sorrow

Half Life: Trespasser

Title: Half Life: Trespasser
Author: Eivind "ArMed_elk" Larsen
e-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
File Name: hltres.zip
File Size: 11.7mb
Number of bsps: 8
Download: N/A
Score: 3.4 / 5

Note: The models depicted in the screenshots are a combination of the High Definition pack and some custom recolors of my own. So you have to ask yourself, What Would Silver Sorrow Do? (WWSSD?) Answer: I'd use custom models!

[Or, perhaps, "I'd Refuse To Post Screenshots!"]

Abstract:
Some Rejected Suggestions For Renaming The Abstract Section, Part One

"Abstract, Interrupted"
"Silver's Sense of Abstract"
"Moby Abstract"
"The Pina Abstracta Song" ("If you like reading Abstracts/catching cold in the rain...")
"The Pit and the Abstract"
"Abstracticus Interruptus"
"I, Abstract"
"Twelve Angry Abstracts"
"Excuse Me, But Your Abstract Is Unzipped"**
"Take This Abstract And Shove It!"
"The Abstract of Cthulhu"
"Abstract VIII: Abstract Jones Versus The Nuclear Hell-Hamster Of Death"
"The All-New Chevy Abstract: Like A Big Damn Immovable Rock"
"Playboy's Oriental Abstract Massage"
"Abstract & Hobbes"
"Tom Clancy's 'Abstract'"
"The Abstract Is In The...Argh!"
"Crouching Abstract, Farting Dragon"
"I Spend More Time In Writing The Abstracts Than On The Reviews Themselves"

[** This probably should have been "Excuse Me, But Your Abstract Is Showing."]

The Basics:
New Models/Skins/Etc.: Yup.
Gameplay: Humans shooting at me.

Story?
You are Mark "My Name Sounds Dirty When You Say It Fast" Hunt, a member of an elite (not "elitist") Marine something-or-other, who managed to avoid being reduced to your component atoms when Black Mesa went nuclear. Of course, the Brass called you a "deserter" (as well as "Peggy"), court-martialed you and sent your happy buttocks to a maximum security prison, where you've wisely decided to keep your impressive encyclopedic knowledge of Broadway musicals to yourself.

Two years into your hitch, you're visited by a Government Suit who offers you a deal. If you pull a little job for them, you'll be free to laugh and love again...but this time, within the perfectly acceptable parameters as defined by your established orientation, heterosexuality (we assume). You say "okey-dokey", which causes the guy to reel back in horror, but they keep you anyway.

So what's the job? Break into a secure weapons research facility owned by a multinational corporation* and steal a canister. Easy, right? Right! So this is where you are now: you're to infiltrate the facility, find an HEV suit belonging to one Gordon "Planet Caravan" Freeman and impersonate him, take the canister and get out. So what could possibly go wrong? How about a few radical terrorists -- probably Greenpeace -- making things difficult? Stir well and let mixture melt into something or other.
[* cue Napalm Death: "Multi! National! Corpo! Rations! Genocide! Of the! Starving! Natioooonnnnns!" (repeat until Bill Steer leaves)]

[Napalm Death. "Multinational Corporations."]

Onward!
In the long list of things of which I am extremely weary when it comes to HL gameplay, there are three items which irk me in particular. These are, in no particular order:

1. Headcrabs. Period.
2. Breaking crates for supplies.
3. Duct-crawling.

#1 and #3, when combined, have the potential to send me into a frothing rage...or just a kind of soul-deep tiredness that conveys the message "I'm dying inside". So you might say that some of the tried-and-true gameplay elements that are essential to HL smithery -- Headcrabs in the ductwork! Oh, how TERRIFYING! Hold me, Bernice! -- just irritate me now.

So of these three peeves, Trespasser violates two outright...but to be fair to the author, I must point out that in the interest of humanity, he has not included headcrabs. What's encouraging is that these questionable elements aren't the focus of the pack**...no, this pack's main goal is to kill you quickly with combat rather than boredom.
[** Explanation: as you all know, some mods revel in sending the player through endless ventilation ducts to get from Point A to Point B with the requisite headcrab around a corner as the MAIN THEME. A pox upon those blackguards!]

Which is to say that it's easy to die in this pack. Shotgun and Uzi-toting Grunts delight in sending you to your Just Reward (that is, if you consider an excruciating death a fair and just reward for your pitiful, meaningless existence), so I'd save often. Well...don't save often like *I* do, because if you follow my example to the letter, then you would save your game in possibly the most dangerous place imaginable or right before some unavoidable calamity. With a shrug and a smile in this Darwinian gameplay process -- to quote Crow T. Robot: "If you're dumb, you die!"** -- we backtrack to an earlier save...or just go play something else until the stabbing neck pains cease.

[** It's been a while since my last MST3K reference.]

My point? It's a mite tough, this pack, but not impossibly so. You don't get a whole lot of health or HEV juice, so the procedural by-word of the day is: "careful..." with a "...stupid!" tacked on for malicious measure. On top of it all, the Grunts seem slightly tougher than usual, even on Easy. Maybe it's just me. Maybe such recent girly-man pursuits as GTA3 and Thief have made me soft. Perhaps my embrace of the more larcenous pursuits (carjacking, running down hookers, stealing scepters, breaking and entering, violating others' civil rights with a gruesome little chuckle, etc.) has diminished my adeptness at HL's True Blue Hero Against Evil Conspirators style of play...but then again, my Deus Ex gameplay needs work in itself, if such is the case.

[Illustration: MJ12 troops advancing on my position...what do I do? Face a wall and fire off a rocket, that's what! Screw the world...eat screaming rocket death, JC! Bwa-hahahahaha!]

[Note to self: try not to edit these older reviews while under the influence of a cold. Everything just hurts worse than it should.]

So proceed with caution. Don't forget to do a little sightseeing though, as you will have interesting walls to scrutinize. Nice textures, in short. Getting in through the corporation's back door -- which may invite salacious comments from the Peanut Gallery, but take the High Road, m'boy -- shows off the not-so-polished side of an enslaver of humanity's public face (that is, if you're some sort of capitalism-hating limp-wristed pinko wussy who objects to Micro$oft's bid for world domination). And unlike my brutal molestation of the English language just then, it's fine for looking. Gritty walls, worn brick, masonry work-in-progress (Were ancient Masons responsible for these ruins? Read the book!),** the infrequent Trap Of Utter Hopelessness...it's all there.

[** I think that came from Time-Life's "Mysteries Of The Unknown" commercials.]

And it remains to be seen whether or not I can get through an actual sentence without yet another parenthetical aside (even though it's my trademark). D'oh!

What's that? Yes, there is a place where blithely wandering into a dark, suspicious room will produce quickloading results with some surprise. And while that sounds like a menu item at a Chinese restaurant***, it's actually such an underused element -- thankfully -- that it's a pleasant addition to the game: "Go down wrong hallway. Die." But enough about the corporation's complete ignorance of OSHA standards. Next thing you know, we'll be expected to believe that these guys actually made their ISO9000 certification as well... Anyway, I thought it was a nice touch to the pack.
[*** "I'll have the Quickloading Results With Some Surprise, please. And make sure there aren't any kittens in it this time."]

You'll soon come to some labs...or try to, anyway. The terrorists block your progress, so it's time to...CRAWL THROUGH THE VENTILATION DUCTS MU-HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!! Enh, well...one or two, anyway. What is really means is that you'll just have to go the long way around (including a jaunt through the sewer) to get to the offices. And once there, you'll be asking yourself one question: "Where the bleeding [CENSORED] did my weapons go??" That's right, you'll need to pass undetected, so no weapons. But don't worry...you'll get some when you need them later on. The rest of the maps feature control rooms, etc. Nicely done, too.

I must backtrack a moment: actually, you lose your weapons twice (!) in this pack, so don't be surprised the first time when you wander into a dark room and everything goes black. The sequence resulting from the ambush is a rather interesting one; in fact, it totally went wrong for me the first time. I spawned in the middle of a hallway with a shotgun Grunt and he chased me -- I ran away, yes...what was I supposed to do, kiss him? I had no weapons! -- to a larger room with a door-with-control-panel combo that only NPCs can open. And here comes Barney... I was a little bewildered by these events, wondering if running away from a Grunt was intended...while it seemed a little cruel, it wasn't something I've experienced too many times playing these mods. So at least it was different.

So on my second playthrough, I discovered that you're supposed to wake up in a cell and a scripted sequence involving Barney is supposed to occur. And it worked the next time I played as well, so here's to misinterpreting the world around me, wholly based on a glitch. Hooray for me.

The end fight is...well...it's survivable. At first, I had some problems because I couldn't figure out how to get a certain ramp to lower so's I could get into the !!#$%!! rocket, but upon noclipping around the silo, I found a nondescript button, almost camouflaged by its very existence, by the ramp. Of course! The problem is one of frantic searching. If you're in a circular room with multiple catwalks and no cover as zillions of Grunts take potshots at you, I assure you that you'll miss something important the first time around. On top of it, you have sixty seconds to find the ramp and make your escape. It's a frantic ending, and actually, I didn't mind it so much. It could have been worse, I always say. [cue acid rain]

The puzzle difficulty is on the light side of "Easy". Sure, you'll need to find a button or two...not to mention figuring out how to get a crate-holding mechanical arm to operate from afar, but nothing you can't handle if you've played through anything Quake-related...which carries its own set of unique problems, but that's intensive psychotherapy for another day.

In closing, I suppose I might say a few words about the new models. First off we have the new Grunts, who are pretty impressive; menacing, in a green kind of way ("Oh no...it's the Greenpeace death squads! Hide the woodcarvings and the whale-skin lampshades!"). Then we have the new weapon, the Uzi. It has an underslung grenade launcher and a giant orange arm attached to it. I'm guessing that the grenade launcher is there to accommodate the MP5's (or M16's) (or M4's) (or WHATEVER's) launcher, so that you don't look stupid conjuring grenades out of thin air...which might be a good trick, but it hardly makes for a believable weapon. ("My grenade launcher is invisible. Fear me, mankind.") Although when added to the compact Uzi model, it makes the weapon look a little unwieldy, especially when held out at arm's length; additionally, the Uzi is a little more effective when tucked in close to the body...but what the hell do I know?

Summary?
The gritty underbelly of a Big Bad Evil Kitten-Killing Corporation, exposed for the catastrophic Tummy Rub of Doom! Oh, and killing terrorists and impersonating a scientist. Enjoy.

Hangar16 Review Score: 3 / 5

Annoyance Rating: 5 / 10 [Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. OUCH!]

The Grace Scale...Grace Gives It:
A Five of Not Bad.

[...next...]
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

Silver Sorrow

Portrait of Freeman

Title: Portrait of Freeman
Author: Jack Amano
e-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
File Name: pof11.zip
File Size: 27mb
Number of bsps: 26
Download: N/A
Score: 3.5 / 5

Note: The models depicted in the screenshots are a combination of the High Definition pack and some custom recolors of my own, not to mention the models offered in this mod. With this knowledge in mind, your life is now complete.

[So I'm guessing that you're absolutely crushed to find out that there are, in fact, no screenshots whatsoever.]

Note #2: This review reflects v1.0 and not v1.1, the bug-fix version. Look to the readme file for more details on bugs.

[Or don't.]

Abstract:
Things I Am Thankful For, Part 974

The Time: Summer, 1993
The Place: a Dallas/Ft. Worth bar/club called "Joe's Garage"
The Reason I'm There: To see a couple of bands (Suffocation, Vader, et al).
What I'm Thankful For: That no one overheard my friend who, upon looking around, remarked, "There sure are a lot of drunk Mexicans in here."
What I Would Have Done Had Someone Heard Him: Shouted "KILL THE GRINGO!!" and ran like hell for the car while they cut him like a pig.

[Yes, this happened. Yes, I am thankful that I didn't die in Texas due to my friend's big fucking mouth.]

The Basics:
New Models/Skins/Etc.: Sources indicate this to be so.
Gameplay: Puzzles, Grunts 'n' Aliens, etc.

Story?
Ehhhhh...I really can't say for sure, but I think you'll figure it out by playing. Or not. Most likely not, although some of you may. Me? I cannot begin to understand, nay, *encompass* the profundity of the storyline. Or perhaps I'm looking for depth where none exists? Naaaaah...that can't be, because the Rule is clear: if you don't understand something, then it's really, really complex in nature. So why don't I come up with a simple story?

Once upon a time, there was a princess. She was bitchy and snotty to everyone. So one day, one of the palace guards chopped off her head and kept it in a beer cooler under the stairs. Everyone rejoiced and laughed and lived happily ever after. The End. The moral for the young people of today? Do not assume that "attitude" is a fitting substitute for personality.

Onward!
We'll return with Maxim's "Top 100 Hottest Women Who May Or May Not Have Once Been Men" in a second. For the moment, we entreat you to take a look at the screenshots for "Portrait of Freeman" (hereinafter referred to as "POF") instead. Go ahead, take your time.

You done?

Okay. Great. One word of caution, however...okay, scratch that. *Seven* words of caution: don't let the pretty pictures fool you. If you're into think-around-corners, puzzle-solving, somewhat-irritating, esoterically-plotted mod action, then this mod is for you. But if you're into fast-paced, shoot-from-the-hip mod action, then this mod is very likely not for you. If this mod is for you, then this mod is for you. If this mod is not for you, then this mod is not for you. I could go on like this all day.

My point is this: this is not a mod created for fifteen minutes of mindless Saturday afternoon gameplay. For example, you have the kids chained to the wall in the cellar, the wife is out putting a sizeable dent in your credit rating, the pets are currently buried in the garden and fertilizing the azaleas nicely, and you have perhaps an hour to yourself. Instead of abusing yourself raw again, you think "Hey! I have this computer and a copy of Half-Life...why not play a quick mod?" So you load up POF and...and...by the time you've shot your first alien, the Significant Other is back bearing gifts (for herself), the kids have slipped their chains and are setting fire to something important (probably something of yours), Fluffy and Bowser have risen from the dead and are seeking unholy revenge, and you have the nagging suspicion that perhaps you chose the wrong mod. Never fear! I am your guide...

...wait. No. Sorry, I got confused there. Instead of being your guide, I'm the guy who tells you how good or how bad the mod is. If you want a guide, good luck with that. I don't do walkthroughs anymore unless I'm heavily recompensated. Not money, no...maybe just a note saying "Hey, thanks for the walkthrough! I would've been lost forever without your help!" Is that so hard to do? What, you think I enjoy writing HL walkthroughs!? I hate them! I'm also beginning to hate YOU. So sit down and shut up. I'm going to talk about POF now, you ungrateful little weasels.*
[* I'm okay, I just needed to vent.]

Yet before we begin in earnest, let's take care of a technical matter first: disable the HD pack and/or any HD pack-oriented custom models you might have. The author states that he didn't test his maps with the HD pack, and I found this out the hard way when the game locked up on me during a Grunt-to-Grunt free-for-all. So I disabled the HD-related things in my various folders and resumed...problem solved. You may have similar problems, or you may escape scot-free (sniveling rotten little bastards**), but if you do encounter problems, try disabling the HD pack first.***
[** No offense, bastards.]
[*** And when I say "disable", I mean for you to rename it to something else, not go after it with the intent of putting it on life support. That's just stupid.]

So with that out of the way, shall I try to confuse you a bit? Good. Okay, now pay attention: the regular Grunts are your friends. Barney is your friend. However, the Grunts in red are your enemies, and Otis -- yes, Otis makes an appearance here -- is your enemy. Got all that? Outstanding. So when you wander into an area with standard Grunts, leave them alone. Okay? Terrific...we're really turning you into something presentable. Now here's the last bit: there is no last bit. Got it? Splendid. Let's move on.

When you think of Half-Life, what comes to mind? Me, I think about the fact that it's been almost five years on the shelves, and here I am, still reviewing mods. I don't work, I don't socialize, I'm...just...here. Ah...uh...eh...ha ha, anyway, some of you may connect HL with action, puzzles, science stuff, what have you. But with POF, we're presented with something of a conundrum: how do you balance action with strange puzzles? The answer, as provided by this mod: make the action, when it occurs, as irritating as possible.

In other words, actually getting to the action is something of a slog; after suffering through a long opening scene and wandering around a lab, we're expected to shut some thingamawhippet down...we get caught in the thing, then we wake up in the infirmary and, to all intents and purposes, we're hired for something, I'm not quite sure what. There's a language barrier, you see. We have aliens, a spaceship, killer Grunts, friendly Grunts, toxic traps, devious puzzles, and...well, what you've come to expect from this particular author, who is clearly deranged...in a good way, probably. Most probably. Without a doubt. Maybe.

The real focus of this mod isn't architecture (although there are some very nice structures here and there), nor is it action...no, the focus is on a distressingly esoteric plot with odd puzzles and a punch line that makes you wonder what the hell is going on over there in the Pacific Rim.

I mean, out of sheer morbid curiosity, I *must* ask several questions here: what is the deal with the Japanese and cloning? Is this some sort of national neurosis? Are they so concerned with losing their individual identities that they've become obsessed with cloning plotlines? And why do *we* have to be dragged into it? Can't we all just work out our cultural, societal and individual complexes beforehand?

[Do the Japanese really have an obsession with cloning, or was I just randomly lashing out?]

But why bother, really...the world is our therapist, as any fool will tell you; just spill your guts and watch the sympathy pour in!

But back to the mod. I find that I am in no way immune to the irritation caused by combat traps, or even boss-thing/monster/dude fights, which I rank somewhere below decapitating baby seals in terms of desirability. Being trapped by Grunts on one side and Otises on the other, not to mention fighting a flying [CENSORED]ing saucer that zaps me as it drops aliens...these are not my idea of bliss. I would even go so far to say that I'd rather sit on a mass of angry scorpions than be further subjected to such indignities.

That is to say, some of the combat was okay (ah, shit...another rhyme); the dark lab with the weird new zombies was scary and fun, and the fights between the Grunt factions were great as well...but the rest of it? Never mind, never mind. Forget the combat, because further griping will only harden my heart and sow the seeds of bitterness, and I don't think I could stand living if everything in the entire world wasn't hearts and flowers!

[Sarcasm. Probably.]

So what about the puzzles, then? Now you're in the right place: this author is known as the type of author who enjoys making his audience think...or at least, the type of author who enjoys laughing demonically as his victims weep bitter tears of despair. I did several times, but hey...that's just a typical day for me. The puzzles are logical when you look at them, but they may confound the hell out of you....you're in for a lovely time. I especially enjoyed it when blood started shooting out of my ears over the whole "how do I shut off this toxic gas??" debacle. One of my finer moments.

Again, we have the story...hell, I don't know. I made the connections myself -- cloning, aliens, whatever -- but I never got a clear idea of what, exactly, I was doing there. Which begs the question, was I *supposed* to know what I was doing there? Am I *supposed* to be mystified? Should I be using this many asterisks in a given paragraph? The questions just kept coming, and I was ill-prepared to set aside my own self-centeredness to find out. So to hell with it. Just play it and draw your own conclusions.

Summary?
The constant running back and forth that is Half-Life, leavened with puzzles and an almost indecipherable storyline. So if you get stuck or blown up, don't blame me...I just review 'em.

Hangar16 Review Score:
3.5 out of 5

Annoyance Rating:
My, my...7 out of 10. [Just play it, you'll see.]

The Grace Scale...Grace gives it:
A Four of Okay!

[...next...]
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

Silver Sorrow

Point of View

[This could possibly be considered a "lost" review, as I have no record of it in my notes. Someone had archived it online somewhere, but I don't know if it's still available as it's been a while since I "rescued" it.]

Title: Point of View
Author: POV Team (various)
Homepage: N/A
File Name: pov.exe
File Size: 49.6 mb
Number of Maps: 38, including the Hazard Course
Download: N/A
Score: 5 / 5

[Note: The models depicted in the screenshots are (except for the common black-clad Grunts and ultra-cool, recolored [single] Hivehand, which are mine... I've labeled them for you so you won't get confused) -- are you ready for this? -- completely native to this mod! Yes, I've soiled myself as well. Now we can be soiled together! ...okay, that was probably a little weird.]

[The only thing worse than dealing with screenshots is explaining why there are none.]

Abstract:
I love modern art. I love it to the point where I want to marry it, suffer through several years of hellish marital torment, endure a lengthy, bitter divorce, and then strangle it with my bare hands in a lawyer's office when the negotiations over who gets to keep the primary colors go wrong. With that said, I suppose I really don't like modern art at all. I suppose it all stems from the fact that we live in a world where the person who can actually draw is considered boring, whereas the one who takes a canvas and wipes his or her ass with it (title: "Yesterday's Lunch") is hailed as a visionary genius.

The finished product is left to us, the unwashed masses, to examine and make important-sounding observations about the technique ("Ms. Wang's ingeniously inveterate use of a brilliantly sloping pastoral stroke substantiates the 'je ne sais qua' qualms that the starving artist encroaches upon within the egregiously stifling parameters of ensanguined hyper-existentialism.")... and the only thing I can glean from this "artistic expression" is that the "artist" doesn't digest olives very well. Bottom (ha!) line: give me Monet. Give me Rembrandt. Give me dour, Dutch painters who rely heavily upon blacks and browns to convey both death and happiness. But if you give me a canvas with a simple swatch of red paint across it bearing the title of "A Soul's Deep Lament" or some such in the assumption that I will consider it as "art", I WILL kill you.

[In the years since this Abstract, I'd like to think that I've grown as a person, that I've expanded my horizons and adapted my likes and dislikes accordingly. I'm fooling myself, of course. However, despite my illusion of personal growth, I still feel the same way about modern art.]

The Basics:
New Models/Skins/Etc.: Duh.
Gameplay: Stuff. You know.

Story?
It's Half-Life, from the Xen aliens' point of view (hence the title). Well... sorta. If that were strictly the case, then that'd be kinda boring, wouldn't it? So exactly how do these fine individuals (DAV, Toadman, and our own Doc Brown) accomplish the effort of breathing some much-needed life into yet another look at Half-Life? With additional story and circumstances, ya wingnut!

It seems that those Xen aliens are a bit peeved that the humans, enemies of all that is good and decent (that's *their* story, at least), are invading their world. So they're going to use the humans' technology against them... by building absolutely the *biggest* of big-ass boots with the intent of stomping on the Northern Hemisphere (the Source of All Evil, according to people who don't bathe). Failing that, they've been developing an organic weapon to be used against the humans. You are a scientist working on this project, the Xen Techno- Biologic Unit (XTBU), and your name is Xonxt. I'm not even gonna *try* to pronounce that... I suspect that I'll need an extra jaw, or something. So guess what happens?

Yes, you guessed it: Demi Moore gets massive plastic surgery in a vain attempt to look 18 again.

Wait, no.

[Actually...yes. She did. But it didn't work.]

I mean, humans steal the XTBU...and your job is to hunt them down and add their dangly bits to your testicle collection. Of course, things get a bit complicated soon enough, and on top of it, you start to have deep philosophical insights on your own role in The Grand Scheme Of Things. So things happen.

Onward!
[Self-Edit: A rather lengthy, one-sided discussion on existence/non-existence deleted. I couldn't do that to "you", even though I don't believe any of "you" exist.]

[I'm funny that way.]

So I was sitting here in my Reviewing Suit (much like a clown suit, except for the spiked codpiece), wondering what to do next. Should I not review *this*, or should I not review *that*? Or not one or not the other? Maybe I should spend all day organizing my CDs by catalog number... or even...? But lo and behold (a practice which is, sadly, still illegal in twenty-six states), we have Point of View.

So is it any good? Can I, as a reviled member of the Critic Caste, find True Happiness in a Vort suit? These questions I hope to answer in this review, although if you want the short answer, then yes; it's a very good mod. For the rest of you, stick around... I have some amazing insights to not share with you. Maybe I'll even attempt to not do something different, which is usually the rule of thumb. Ready?

Of course you are.

If you do nothing else first, try out the Hazard Course. In fact, I INSIST that you take the Hazard Course first! By Hell, I'll whip the love of the Builder** into you if you don't... look, just try it. From the flyby, you'll know that you're standing on a big floating chunk of rock in Xen. First off, you'll be introduced to, for want of a better term that can be arrived at without opening up the readme, Xonxt's Diary. It keeps you updated about storyline, Xonxt's thoughts, glimpses into the Xen societal structure, etc. It's a fantastic device, simultaneously obviating the need for those long, boring expository cutscenes we've all come to loathe, *and* giving you an idea of what you should be doing next.

[** You know you've been playing Thief too much when you adopt the fanatics' deity into your own demented epithets.]

When you're done reading, look around. Inside the big floating puke-colored rock (it's not the author's fault that the Xen textures blow), you'll find several human devices to which you can accustom yourself, a small shooting gallery, etc. When you're done with opening doors and such, go back outside and jump into the working teleporter.

So now you've decided to start the game in earnest... let's cover the mod. Or dance around naked to the song stuck in our heads... hope you like Silver Apples' "Seagreen Serenades"!

[Silver Apples was just one of those bands, you know?]

Firstly, you are a Vortigaunt; those are the guys who shoot green lightning at you in the normal game, the only difference being that you're a "Super Worker" (assuming that you already knew that Vortigaunts were of the "Worker" ilk), with abilities that the normal Vorts don't possess, such as being able to wield Xen weapons, being able to think for yourself (unlike the Xen-types who voted for the Nihilanth-Gore ticket), etc. You also cannot "use" or command other Xenizens, so you're pretty much a dictatorship of one (although you've taken steps to install a "Homeland Security" agency of your own).* Okay? Swell.
[* I figured I'd try to be at least somewhat even-handed with the political jibes.]

Secondly, your natural defenses consist of a melee attack (primary fire) and a lightning attack (secondary fire). You're never truly unarmed, unlike the humans... although I've heard that female humans are never truly unarmed either, what with their wide-ranging knowledge of such esoteric skills as Fingernail Fu and Kick-'im-in-the-groin-itsu.

Thirdly, you have no armor... but you have a thick skin and can draw health points from using your lightning attack on humans and other biologics... which is all part of your Super Worker makeup. Actually, this is explained in the Diary, but you'll be gratified to learn of it early on. Being a health leech doesn't work on turrets and other types of technology; if you find yourself low in health on Xen and no humans to zap, you can find a healing pool somewhere (but not on Earth).

Fourthly... yes, you start on Xen. Don't panic, it's great.

Fifthly, at certain times you will be prompted to either read the Diary or break something in order to proceed, as indicated by a stylized "S" in the upper right and a breaking glass icon in the bottom middle, respectively. When the former happens, hit the key you assigned to "Story" in your config menu (mine was the easy-to-remember "s" key) and read. There are a total of 40 entries (collect them all! Win valuable prizes!), so this is a good way getting an idea of where you are in the game. It isn't absolutely necessary to read the Diary, but unless you're some kind of knuckle-dragging waste of skin, you'll enjoy the reading. The breaking glass icon informs you that you should break an object -- be it glass or a keycard slot, etc. -- in order to proceed; this prompt doesn't show up on the hardest skill, which is yet another reason for my belief that skill levels are a waste of my time.** You out there, of course, may enjoy the added difficulty. Me, I need all the help I can get.
[** Meaning, of course, that you get no reward for higher difficulties in Half-Life, beyond that ethereal feeling of accomplishment. Me, I prefer cold, hard cash.]

Sixthly, as mentioned previously, in your capacity as a Super Worker you'll be able to use other weapons. No, not human weapons... you don't have that many fingers. But you'll be able to use a Hivehand (and eventually two at once... I'll bet that looks pretty damned hilarious in third-person view), utilize Snarks and Chumtoads (which are held in your third hand... cute!***), command Stukabats to do your bidding... it's all good.
[*** Here's something to think about: if I can carry a Snark in my third hand (let's keep it clean, people), how about being able to use my other hands for lightning attacks? Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself.]

Perhaps I should explain the Stukabats and the Chumtoads. The Chumtoads are like Snarks, except they explode more violently; the Stukabats are like homing rockets, yet you don't need a launcher. Just let go and they will do the job. They're usually found clinging to ceilings, so all that's required is a lightning zap, which will cause them to drop to the floor, stunned, allowing you to pick them up. However, sometimes one won't be stunned, and will kamikaze... be careful. And like Snarks, Stukabats -- and Chumtoads -- will, upon finding no enemy to harass, will turn on you.

Seventhly, this is getting ridiculous. I started out trying to list just the basics, but it's turned into a symposium. So in the interest of moving on, I give you this: what's the difference between a fat mallard and Roman Polanski? Well, one's a thick duck, and the other's a sick... well... you know.

[No comment.]

So with that out of the way, let's take a look at the mod itself, as if we weren't already doing that. There are roughly thirty-eight (38) maps to play around in, and very few feature DAV's trademark "endless corridors" design... which is a shame really, since I've come to expect it. No, this time the maps are tighter in layout; that's not to say that you won't travel around your own two-fingered appendage to get to your clawed opposable digit a few times, but that's okay; besides Nathan Ruck, DAV is one of the few authors from whom I tolerate getting the runaround. Now, if you've played Azure Sheep and/or OpFor, you'll probably recognize quite a few of the maps. While Blue Shift and OpFor were content to merely touch upon the original HL story, this mod goes even further by encompassing the team's previous mods *and* the original story. So not only will you watch a certain Osprey crash-land into an electrified fence, you'll also meet up with characters from Azure Sheep.

Quite often, you'll find yourself wondering where you've played some of these maps before; I know I did, but I find myself unreliable in the abstract. Besides the brand new maps, many of those found here are from Azure Sheep, OpFor, etc. And they look great; the attention to detail is, as always, nicely managed. Xen, oddly enough, is well done both in visuals and design. There aren't any mind-numbingly stupid jumping puzzles, which deserves all kinds of happy awards.

However, you will find yourself in a maze of corridors now and then, but no little twisty mazes, all alike. Since the doors that open are obviously different from the ones that didn't open, I didn't have any trouble with the mazes (also, I've been taking my medication on a regular basis), but some of you may get lost. In such cases, I recommend the "Oh My God I'm Gonna Die Alone" method of play; it's characterized by demented jabbering and running through the corridors in a blind panic. You could let me know if you starve to death or not, but I probably don't care.

As you play this mod, you'll notice that the term "difficulty level" is something of a cautionary phrase; simply stated, you'll get your ass shot off frequently. POV isn't an impossible experience, but there are areas where you run the risk of an eye injury caused by a splintering F7 key. The most blatant offender of your sensibilities (not to mention your epidermis and internal organs) is the common turret and its varieties. Valve really knew what they were doing when they created the meaty thud of a round hitting flesh, because... yikes. And it's not just a "thud" in this case, but more of a "thud thud thud thudthudthudthud beepbeepbeeeeeeeeep"... that is, if you're wearing an HEV. Since you gain nothing in the way of health from zapping turrets and other automated machinery (you'll see what I mean by that near the end of the game), you will have to be very, very careful... otherwise, you're Vort meatloaf.****
[**** Is there anyone else out there who hates meatloaf? I thought so...]

[I've never liked meatloaf. But in the years since this review, I've actually had meatloaf that was pretty damned good. It pains me to say it, but I guess it means that mom just didn't make very good meatloaf. I'm sorry, mom.]

Bottom Line: save often and watch out for turrets.

POV's difficulty increases the further you progress, as any good mod will do; from the different types of human enemies -- Grunts, Special Ops-types, Barneys in HEV suits, Scientists in HEV suits, Heavy Weapon Grunts, Scientists with nasty needles -- and the miscellaneous turrets and other mechanical hazards, there will be plenty of opportunities for finding out how long it takes for you to flatline. Enjoy the pain!

Late in the game, there will of course be a serious twist to the story line -- there are a couple of twists and turns anyway -- so be ready for anything... not to mention... well, I'll let you find out for yourself. All I will say is this: allegiances come and go. There. Now repeat that phrase to the man in the alley with the banana-flavored wristwatch. He will know what to do.

There is a saying that goes "one man's meat is another man's bitter rant"... or something like that. I've seen comments in places that disparage DAV, his maps, his mods, etc., with that most verbose of comments, "sucks". Of course, those are *their* opinions, and as a fair-minded individual with almost god-like powers of withering scorn, I say that their opinions are wrong. POV is terrific.

So in conclusion, I suppose that this was really an in-depth look at the parts of the mod, and not the whole... but consider this: if POV wasn't worth the effort, I wouldn't have bothered.

Summary?
Seeing HL from the viewpoint of the aliens. Great story. Much combat. Much pain. Many ouches. Much fun. You download now.

Hangar16 Review Score:
5.00

Annoyance Rating:
3 out of 10 [very difficult in places; slightly mind-numbing at times]

The Grace Scale... Grace gives it:
A Two of Very Good

[...next...]
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

Silver Sorrow

Blood Bath

Title: Blood Bath
Author: BIGman10in (Scott Bell)
e-mail: N/A
Homepage: N/A
File Name: bloodbath.zip
File Size: 10.1mb
Number of Maps: A few...including some DM maps [*gasp*!]
Download: N/A
Score: 3.5 / 5

[Note: The weapon models depicted in the screenshots are a combination of the High Definition pack and some custom recolors of my own. And THAT'S why you see black HEV arms.]

[Or you don't.]

Abstract:
Lately, I've become fascinated by what constitutes "greatness" in our society; it seems that quantity rather than quality denotes a person's stature in our estimation. An author sells 30 million copies of his book? He's automatically a "genius" with his hand "on the pulse of the nation." (Or has his hand "in the pockets of the plebeians"...whichever.) It doesn't matter that the book may be a loathsome, horribly contrived lump of cat-splat...30 million mouth-breathing idiots bought it, therefore he must be worth something. I'll buy it too! And look at how many pages the book has! It MUST be a good book! He's the best author in the whole-wide world, including parts of Mars!

In the same vein, the music industry: take Britney Spears. Right...now put her down, dinglebrain. Ms. Spears sells 900 billion albums, so obviously she's on a technical and creative par with, say, Mozart or Beethoven, right? No, she's even better! She has a navel ring and those big bouncy things on her rib cage! And Beethoven and Mozart are dead! How icky!! Conclusion? Sales equal greatness, and talent is for losers. Dance like a spaz and sing like a stuck pig, and you're golden. This is our popular culture, and I wish someone would flush the toilet, already.

[Not to belabour the point, but popularity equals greatness.]

The Basics:
New Models/Skins/Etc.: Sure...why not?
Gameplay: Modified.

Story?
You are Scott Day-La-Bell, distant relative to Patti. You're eighteen years old and full of chemicals that are considered "controlled substances" when taken from their natural environment, the male human body. With this fact in mind, you are somewhat disenchanted with a girl who has refused to date you for various reasons. Dejected, you take a nap instead of going to a party.* Just as you're getting to the good part where Ann Curry pops her bra and starts doing something extremely interesting (yet clinically revolting) with a giant polka-dotted mutant Smurf, you're awakened by a noise...so you lay there for a few minutes to let the, uh...swelling...go down, because if it IS an intruder you don't want to give him the wrong impression.
[* A good move as far as I'm concerned, since parties are a good way to end up naked and strapped to a gynecologist's examination table while a curiously-coiffed woman calling herself "Mistress Kiki" repeatedly rams a splintery 2x4 up your woofter. However, if that's your thing, enjoy yourself. Tell Kiki I said hello and that I really don't miss my ear lobes one bit.]

[TRANSLATION: You're a horny teenager. The object of your affection has spurned your advances. You decide to take a nap instead of going to a party. In the middle of an erotic dream -- wherein a retired morning TV news anchor is about to abuse her lady parts with a Smurf -- you're awakened by a noise. You bide your time a while before checking it out because you don't want to meet an intruder whilst sporting an erection.]

Of course, you vaguely remember a news story concerning 27 disappearances in the area...but that's just coincidence, right? Right?? So you take a few moments to consider hastily assembling a makeshift zip gun from abandoned toilet parts and last night's Smoked Bat And Scallop Koulibiaca With Spinach And Black Truffles Wrapped In Phyllo With Truffle Beurre Blanc, but instead you opt for the Glock in your dresser. So you poke your head out into the hallway and...

[TRANSLATION: You get a gun and step into the hallway.]

Onward!
Here's the mod you want to download if you found "Half-Quake: Amen" too sadistic and regular HL not sadistic *enough*...so this mod roughly translates into "more or less good-naturedly sadistic." This could also be applied to listening to six straight hours of Yes, but no one's *that* desperate for pain.

So what's on the slab today? We have puzzles, super-strong scientists, bad guys, aliens, fiendish traps, countdown timers to destruction, and enhanced weapons. There are also a couple of DM maps in there, but we, uh...we don't cover those.

[Because multiplayer is the death of intelligent gaming.]

Let's take a gander -- maybe even a gosling or two -- at the maps. For the most part, they're spartan in design, unhindered by framerate-killing over-decoration. In addition, there seems to be a complete lack of massive, nausea-inducing areas, which makes me very happy; the maps are kept relatively small and low-poly. But that's not to say that the maps are bland and ugly...no, some of the visuals are pretty damn good. But eye-candy really isn't the point, here.

The point is that these maps represent a test of neuroses. Are you concerned that your HL skills aren't up to par? Does having low health give you anxiety attacks? Do you worry that you may have to fight using only the crowbar? Does the knowledge that your mother may know about the huge collection of Azerbaijani foot fetish porn you have hidden under your bed make you uncomfortable and prone to blurt out at family meals "NO! I don't have a huge collection of Azerbaijani foot fetish porn hidden under my bed!" prompting your parents to look at you funny and ask if you've been feeling all right lately?

If you answer "yes" to most of these questions (I don't care what you put down for the last question, it really isn't any of my business...pervert), then this mod will be your Waterloo. Or "Voulez-Vous". Or "Money, Money, Money". Or "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do". I don't know, it's *one* of those Abba songs, and you're going to feel it.**
[** "Take A Chance On Me," maybe? Naaaaah.]

To make you feel better about yourself, the weapons have been modified to represent your id (or ego, or superego...whatever) firing wildly at the forces which inhibit you, harm you, stagnate your creative energy, make you download "movies" involving barely-legal Japanese girls being violated in every imaginable way by fat cackling sadists and it's not YOUR fault, dammit!

That wasn't a confession or anything, right?

[I sure talked about porn a lot, didn't I?]

Regardless, the MP5 now shoots rounds at an alarming rate, as does the shotgun (love them, want to marry them). The Gluon Gun has been modified into a sort of pulse rifle, the .357 has been made stronger, the Glock shoots faster in "panic mode," and the crossbow is still the same pain in the ass to reload as it always was.

But why modify the weapons, huh? Why make things easier? Now hold on there, short stuff...who said anything about this mod being easy? There are super-strong scientists and a new type of Vort waiting to show you the folly of flesh. Meanwhile, if you need a training map to teach you how to run in a circle -- backwards -- while shooting, then I recommend the map with the pit full of those scientists.

Okay, okay. Things run in a sequence here: there's a beginning, a middle and an end, and we are expected to play them in this order. Linear thinking has never been my favorite thing, but I'll surrender, if just this once. I should say that the first map with combat is somewhat unfair (but not excessively so), what with being dropped in a room with several Vorts, no HEV juice and little ammo...but the alternative is...is...what *is* the alternative, anyway??

Well, anyway...moving on.

Once things get going, you may have to engage in a bit of puzzle-solving; nothing too strenuous, but satisfying once accomplished. For example, after successfully arranging some science-y computer things in a series of ascending steps, I wondered where my banana was...but all I got was a room full of laser-triggered ceiling turrets, the nasty ones with armor. All I wanted was a banana! So upon reviewing my jumping/hopping/tuck-and-roll skills, I soon enjoyed a mirthful round of reloading. Fun! I somehow made it to the other side of the room (bloody froth dripping from what remained of my gnashing teeth), but let this be a lesson to you: don't let your movement skills be diluted by hours upon hours of Thief. Or if that fails, just hit god mode. No one will see you do it...no one will be watching you; why don't you do it in that mode?***
[*** With profound apologies to Mssrs. Lennon and McCartney.]

[Reference: The Beatles, "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?"]

Further into the mod you will find a couple of traps and a not-so-irritating countdown/escape sequence, which is pretty good if you know what you're doing. Count on perhaps a couple of reloads for this. And then it's over!

See, it's a short romp; you won't have to invest hours of combat and puzzle-solving skills to finish, but you may have to pull out the ol' Patience Module (set to "Cloud Nine") once you get into it. And yet...and yet, I *liked* this mod. I may have found myself grumbling once in a while, but that's only a sign that I was actually involved. Trust me...or not. In fact, *don't* trust me and play for yourself, drawing your own conclusions. I wouldn't trust me as far as I could throw this monitor after a series of painful cortisone injections in the base of my spine.

[Whatever.]

Summary?
Short, painful, somehow fun!

Hangar16 Review Score:
3.5 out of 5.

Annoyance Rating:
3 out of 10.

The Grace Scale...Grace gives it:
A Four of Okay!

[...next...]
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers

Starfox



Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. -- A. Einstein

Silver Sorrow

I thought I had found most of them, but then I found something like 30 more. I figured that I should finish what I started -- for once -- and get those posted. (Even...*gag*...The Gate, coming up sooner than I like, much like a bile burp.) So even though it's been a couple of years since the last post, it always nagged at me that I never inflicted shared the remaining reviews.

Good nostalgia? Yes indeed. Some of these, though...painful. Sometimes I absolutely HATE my writing style, but occasionally I will admit amusement. But  most of the time I am silently apologizing to the female gender. :ss-shootme

So after the HL reviews are all posted (including a couple of never-published reviews, as well as my HL2 review which was only posted at the Hangar?), I'll get the remaining Thief reviews finished up (more than I remembered doing!), and then the standalone game reviews (NOLF2, Mirror's Edge, etc.).
It is the scent of garlic that lingers on my chocolate fingers