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First-person shooter

Torbjörn photo
Torbjörn

Blizzard multiplayer shooter Overwatch gets an old Swedish dwarf


Torbjorn
Jun 05
// Steven Hansen
Blizzard's first new franchise in 17 years, Overwatch, keeps adding to its cast of original characters. Well, as original as grouchy dwarves and Man With No Name knock off cowboys can be, anyways. The defensive-minded Torbj&...
BIOS photo
BIOS

Who put racing in my FPS?


These guys did!
Jun 05
// Vikki Blake
Former Far Cry 2 developers Julien Cuny & Louis-Pierre Pharand have formed a new studio to release their new take on first-person shooters... by adding racing into the mix. The Montreal-based developers describe the...
Rainbow Six Siege photo
Rainbow Six Siege

Rainbow Six Siege's Operators all have annoyingly awesome names


No care for fine interior decoration
Jun 04
// Brett Makedonski
Rock, flag, and eagle time; Ubisoft's slowly pulling back the curtain on all of Rainbow Six Siege's international operators, and today the Americans get profiled. As is to be expected, all of them have excellently punchy nam...
PlanetSide 2 photo
PlanetSide 2

PlanetSide 2 coming to PS4 June 23


PlanetSoon
Jun 03
// Zack Furniss
It's been a long time comin', but the free-to-play PlanetSide 2 is going to be on the PS4 in just a few short weeks. Starting June 23 you too can be overwhelmed by the enormous scale of the persistent war.  Ser...
Fallout 4 rumor photo
Fallout 4 rumor

Is this old Fallout 4 leak true? No gender options?


Fired employee tells all
Jun 03
// Jed Whitaker
[Update: Looks like this is most likely a hoax. The leaker said they had accidentally given information to Kotaku, which in turn caused her to get fired. Kotaku confirmed today that no information was ever given to them by th...
Killing Floor 2 photo
Killing Floor 2

Killing Floor 2 teases gameplay changes and new weapon


Barbecue some Zeds
Jun 03
// Zack Furniss
Despite being in Early Access, Killing Floor 2 has been the multiplayer title I've returned to any time I get a chance. While everyone is alternating between kids and squids and skids and quids, I've been dissecting Zeds...
Metro Redux demos photo
Metro Redux demos

The Metro games have hours-long demos on PS4, Xbox One


Sharing is caring
Jun 03
// Jordan Devore
4A Games has rolled out demos for the revamped Redux releases of Metro 2033 and Last Light on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, each offering "about one-third of the total game." For free. The trial for Metro 2033 Redux covers the ...
Team Fortress 2 photo
Team Fortress 2

The Team Fortress 2 Maps Workshop Beta has arrived


We're free from the tyranny finally
Jun 03
// Joe Parlock
A few years ago, I used to read through a forum dedicated to making maps for TF2. It had people producing stuff that might be even better than the official maps from Valve. They would collaborate, share tips, and teach each o...

Review: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare: Supremacy

Jun 02 // Chris Carter
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare: Supremacy DLC (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Sledgehammer Games (Current-gen) / High Moon Studios (Last-gen) / Raven Software (Zombies)Publisher: ActivisionReleased: June 2, 2015 (Xbox) / TBA (PC, PS3, PS4)MSRP: $14.99 ($50 Season Pass for four packs) First up is Skyrise, a map that takes place in futuristic Greece. Well, you wouldn't notice the setting unless you really looked, as the only clue is the Acropolis landmark on one side of the map. As it stands, it's basically a straight remake of Modern Warfare 2's Highrise. It's a classic arena in its own right -- but as I've said in the past, I'm not a fan of injecting remakes in a $15 DLC pack. Having said that, Highrise really holds up. It's a classic tiered map with plenty of high, middle, and underground paths, with a giant playground in the middle, and hidden side paths. It's a nice addition to the rotation, and enough time has passed between the release of Modern Warfare 2 to not piss me off. Parliament is set on the River Thames in London, and is yet another tanker map. It's almost like Activision needs to fulfill an imaginary quota of tankers in every Call of Duty, so this is where you can get your fix if you're a fan of steel traps. It's a lot like Skyrise in that most of the cool stuff is happening in the background, but there's some decent opportunities to jump around the map and over hazards like the river itself. It's not quite on par with Skyrise's layout, but I have no real qualms when it comes up, since it takes advantage of the increased Exo mobility quite well. Kremlin, obviously set in Russia, is extremely colorful, and sets itself apart from the rest of the pack immediately. I love that it feels like a legitimate map from an older game like World at War, as there's tons of detail inside and out, and nearly none of the layout is wasted. It's one of the best objective-based maps currently, as there are multiple chokepoints built into it, including one really rad area that involves a long road and a mounted machine-gun perch. Whenever it comes up in a playlist, my eyes light up and I mash the vote button. It seems like there always needs to be one bad apple in these DLCs, and Compound fulfills that niche. Taking place in a staging ground in Colorado, Compound is a boring, small map that serves no real purpose in Advanced Warfare, which is a much more mobile game than past iterations. From what I've played, opposing teams tend to spawn on top of one another, leading to a bunch of messy firefights. They tried to go for a more tiered design here, but it mostly fails because everything is so low to the ground. Thankfully, the Exo Grapple playlist returns for Supremacy, and I recommend playing it to get more mileage out of Compound. In case you were wondering, there's no DLC weapon this time around -- which I'm more than fine with. [embed]293187:58782:0[/embed] Like clockwork, a number of issues I have with Supremacy have been alleviated with the third part of the Exo Zombies tale, Carrier. I really love how Sledgehammer and Raven Software are moving the story along with the same cast of characters, and its narrative style is pretty much exactly where it needs to be. It's not as cryptic as Treyarch's method, it's not too on-the-nose, and it's far more interesting than Infinity Ward's alien-oriented Extinction lore. It helps that Bruce Campbell is now along for the ride, and he fits the tone of the game perfectly. Maybe he'd be better suited as a full-on Ash cameo down the line with a wackier take on the zombies mode in general, but he does a great job of acclimating to the already talented cast here. Carrier itself looks aesthetically similar to the first Exo Zombies mission, but the intricacies will soon start to pop out the more you play. One of my favorite bits involves a makeshift Pachinko machine on a random wall that takes spare grenades, rewarding you with cash. There's also a lot of cool skirmishes with humanoid opponents this time, which elevates the mode and gives it a certain degree of depth that exceeds your normal "horde" expectations. Objectives like defusing bombs while fighting off ravenous zombies do a great job of keeping you on your toes. Call of Duty: Advance Warfare's DLC drops have become incrementally more impressive as Sledgehammer is willing to take more risks. While I didn't think it'd be able to bring anything new to the table for its first Call of Duty outing, the studio has proven me wrong, surpassing Infinity Ward in my mind. While the jury is out on the fourth DLC for Advanced Warfare, Sledgehammer has already done enough to make me look forward to its next project. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Call of Duty DLC review photo
Third time is a charm
Another year, another round of Call of Duty DLC -- four rounds, yet again, in the case of Advanced Warfare. We've already had the Havoc and Ascendance packs drop so far as part of the Season Pass, and while they weren't bad offerings, nothing about them really vied for a purchase. With Supremacy, there may be a case for the pass, at the very least at a discount down the line.

Review: Shooter

Jun 02 // Nic Rowen
Shooter (Book)Released: June 2, 2015MSRP: $5.00 Shooter is a collection of essays from recognizable names in game criticism speaking on a wide range of topics related to games that involve some kind of gunplay. Some chapters take a deep dive into the mechanical and technical details that make shooters what they are. Steven Wright's “The Joys of Projectiles: What We've Forgotten About Doom” for example, laments the rise of “realistic” modern shooters and how their largely interchangeable hitscan assault rifles have abandoned many of the mechanics that made early FPS games so pleasurable and skill testing. Others are more personal, such as Gita Jackson's touching reflection on how Counter-Strike could be seen as a microcosm of the (seemingly one-sided from her self-deprecating perspective) sibling rivalry she shared with her brother. Shooter strikes a great balance, it never gets so bogged down in technical minutia that it feels like a lecture in game design, but has enough mechanical grounding that it doesn't just become a series of anecdotes either. The games Shooter examines are varied and numerous. Of course genre forebears and trendsetters like Doom, Half-Life and Call of Duty are discussed as you would expect, but there is plenty of attention paid to less bombastically popular titles as well. Genre-defying shooters like Red Orchestra 2 with its brutally unforgiving depiction of realistic combat, and the insidious darkness of Far Cry 2, which sets aside the typical rationales for heroic violence to make the player complicit in something unsettling, get entire chapters dedicated to them. It's a great technique. By examining the few games that step outside of the bounds of typical FPS conventions and power fantasy dynamics and figuring out why they feel so different, it is easier to pinpoint the standard tropes and expectations of the genre that have become so ubiquitous that they are nearly invisible. Perhaps the greatest praise I can give to Shooter is that it made me reexamine and reflect on my feelings about a few games. When a piece of criticism grabs you by the collar and demands you take a second look at something, you know its doing it's job right. Filipe Salgado's chapter on the intentional ugliness and barely contained chaos of Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days almost made me want to play through the game again with a fresh set of eyes -- eyes more willing to see past the clunky mechanics and thoroughly unlikable protagonists to scan for deeper meaning. Almost anyway (this is still Dog Days we're talking about). At its best, Shooter feels like a lively conversation with some very smart people who enjoy, but expect more from, their trigger happy games. Its snappy, intelligent, and occasionally funny. At it's worst, the book veers into the pretentious. At times, it feels less like a conversation and more like an awkward dinner party dominated by a lecturing windbag everyone is too polite to interrupt. Thankfully these rough patches are few and far between. The rest of the book is well worth putting up with the occasional eye-rolling turn of phrase. Mostly though, Shooter feels important. The industry needs more “capital C” Criticism to unravel the subtext and ideas behind the games we love. Games mean something. They impart messages, communicate ideas, either by conscious choice on the part of their developers or by the assumptions they make -- the casual omissions and things taken for granted. We have to start examining these ideas in a mature, intelligent, and yes, academic way. Shooter isn't the first example of this kind of criticism in games writing of course; there have certainly been other books written, and articles penned (on sites like Destructoid, I might add) that dive into these waters. But, it is still very much a nascent field. Video games are a young medium, and we haven't had time to establish a critical tradition like film and literature has. We need to cultivate these voices; the generation of writers that will talk about games in a serious manner in the coming decades. What better way to stake a claim in this new field than to gather a variety of exceptionally talented voices to talk about and critically examine what is generally considered gaming's dumbest, most developmentally arrested genre? The thrill of shooting a Cyber-Demon with a rocket launcher may be obvious and simple, but there is a lot to unpack when you take a closer look.
Shooter Review photo
Looking at life down the barrel of a gun
Shooters seem simple. You step into the shoes of your typical tough guy space-marine or mercenary and empty clip after clip into the faces of Nazis, or aliens, or alien-Nazis from the vaguely disembodied gun bobbing up and do...

Call of Duty photo
Call of Duty

Call of Duty's newest DLC has some kickass weaponry


And a shark
Jun 01
// Brett Makedonski
Activision's going through that awkward time of year where it's gearing up to make a big splash at E3 with it's new Call of Duty game, but it's not quite done promoting its old Call of Duty game. That's how we get trail...
Titanfall 2 photo
Titanfall 2

Titanfall 2 won't appear at E3 2015


Respawn bringing no games to E3
Jun 01
// Laura Kate Dale
A few months back, we learned that Titanfall 2 exists thanks to a throwaway line said during an interview someone working at Respawn Entertainment. Since this news, many people have been predicting a reveal for the game at E3...
Dirty Bomb photo
Dirty Bomb

Dirty Bomb is hitting open beta on June 2


It's not quite Brink, but it could be
May 28
// Joe Parlock
I’ve mentioned this on Destructoid before, but I’ll be damned if I’m missing the chance to mention it again: Brink was a great game, people were wrong about it being bad. I bring that up, because Brink devel...
Borderlands photo
Borderlands

Legendary weapons now drop three times as often in Borderlands


Orange you glad you're still playing?
May 27
// Brett Makedonski
While dedicated players still roam the fringes of the Borderlands, Gearbox has been playing the part of mad scientist. Or, at least normal scientist. The developer's been toying with the way that legendary drops function in t...
Battlefield Spring  photo
Battlefield Spring

Battlefield 4's big spring patch adds weapons and a gun-swapping mode


There's a pdf and everything
May 26
// Jordan Devore
DICE rolled out its spring update for Battlefield 4 today and it's substantial enough to warrant a pdf with highlights. The short of it is five new guns, the return of Battlefield 3's Gun Master mode, and a revamp of the dama...
Halo 3: ODST goes 1080p60 photo
Halo 3: ODST goes 1080p60

Halo 3: ODST comes to Halo: The Master Chief Collection this Friday?


Free if you played before Dec. 19, 2014
May 26
// Jed Whitaker
[Update: The release date listing for the ODST campaign was a placeholder, according to the official Halo Twitter account. "We continue final testing and will make an official announcement once our release date is determined...
Battlefield photo
Battlefield

Battlefield Hardline's new add-on trailer has shades of Hotline Miami


Our first look at Criminal Activity
May 26
// Brett Makedonski
EA and Visceral would want you to watch this new Battlefield Hardline trailer and take away the broader details of the upcoming Criminal Activity DLC. But, that's near impossible when there are guys with guns weari...

Review: Destiny: House of Wolves

May 22 // Chris Carter
Destiny: House of Wolves (PS3, PS4 [reviewed], Xbox 360, Xbox One)Developer: BungiePublisher: Activision Released: May 19, 2015MSRP: $19.99 (Season Pass $34.99) As I previously discussed, House of Wolves has been a mixed bag so far. Let's start with the good. Bungie has listened to fans when it comes to smaller quality of life changes. There have been incremental improvements overall like the ability to toggle the volume of the sound and music (thank goodness), fixes like the patch for the heavy ammo bug, and communication has been better since the debacle that came up before the launch of the last DLC. The loot system in House of Wolves is arguably the best part. It allows players, by way of items called Etheric Light, to upgrade their guns and armor all the way up to the new maximum statline. This includes all of your favorite vanilla Destiny guns like the Fatebringer, and any kind of Legendary armor, including that raid set you kept from Vault of Glass. It's no glamour system (Etheric Light is hard to get, thus implementing a grind of a sort), but it's far better than the previous loot mechanics, which forced you to re-level Exotics after having a chance to upgrade them once a week.Right now, I'm sitting on three max level 34s three days after launch, which, depending on your point of view, is either a good or bad thing -- and would be nigh impossible to do with vanilla Destiny or The Dark Below in week one. The problem with this new expansion isn't mechanics, it's content, and this "House" is practically vacant. [embed]292545:58616:0[/embed] The story might technically have a few more missions tacked onto it compared to the last add-on, but they're just as short and painfully recreated from previous assets. There's lots of bravado with the narrative, and the tie-in with the Queen is pretty cool, but half the missions are direct retreads disguised as DLC. One mission is literally just a Patrol quest. Like, the same exact Patrols on Venus you've done a million times, you just need to kill some Vandals for a few minutes. Another is almost a direct slap in the face -- as it's the exact same level as the first mission, just in reverse. As for the Strike, you can't just put a new hat on the Archon Priest and charge money for it. Another problem is that all of the old content is more than stale at this point. Most Destiny players have been playing the same old Nightfalls, using the same "cheese spots" for months on end. Where is the variation? Maybe as part of the newest House of Wolves patch we could get remixed bosses for existing Nightfalls to spice things up a bit? I'm not even asking for completely redone levels, just new boss tactics that offer something different instead of bullet sponges. Is it so much to ask that maybe Sepiks Prime glows blue or red instead of purple, and has a new power? The rewards have been remixed, but the actual encounters remain the same. I'm not going to run the same Nightfall for a chance at an Etheric Light. The worst part is that I'm already drained when it comes to the Prison of Elders, the "endgame" activity that Bungie dressed up and provided in lieu of a raid. I'm sorry guys, this just doesn't fly. Crota's End had it's fair share of hate, and some of it for good reason, but I remember very clearly how awesome it felt to drop into the unknown of that abyss on day one. Running through that totem relay with five other friends, racing into the light with Thralls at my heels, figuring out how to beat the bridge encounter -- all of it gave me a sense of wonder, just like the Vault of Glass raid did before it. Prison of Elders has none of that magic. It's soulless. As of today, I've completed the Prison eleven times in total across all three of my characters. It felt the exact same every time. The setup is as follows: you'll start off in an airlock, walk into a room (it's the same four rooms, literally the exact same ones over and over), and either kill enemies, or dismantle mines for three waves -- then move onto the next room. The red room will always feature the Kabal, the green room will always feature the Hive, and the two same-looking outdoor purple environments will host the Fallen and Vex. Sure, you may have to blow up a mine or stand in a circle to destroy it every two to three rounds or so, but ultimately, it's the same room with the same enemies over and over. All of the bosses so far are even reskins, adding insult to injury. At this point, it's clear that the name of the game is to clone assets and charge money for it. There's content, but it feels like a series of checkboxes rather than something meaty. Take the final boss of the static level 35 Prison of Elders challenge, the highest-level encounter available in the game right now. He's a reskin of the boss from the story (he is the exact same boss from the story), but now he kills you in approximately one hit because of Solar burn. The arena is a reskin of the same Fallen room that you've probably seen 10 times over at this point in the first week. There's around 50 adds in the room all shooting at you at once. Does this sound familiar? That's because it's pretty much every other boss fight in the game. There are a few nuances like mines (reskinned from the Prison challenges), and a poison debuff that needs to be passed around the party (or cheesed with a Warlock res), but it ultimately ends up being nothing more than "shoot the bullet sponge with the Gjallarhorn because that's the gun that works in every circumstance." I've completed the level 35 Prison twice (one with the above method and another normally),  and simply put, the two previous raids had far more depth to them. I've seen hundreds of variations when it comes to strategies for the Gorgon room, the Crota encounter, and the Templar. For 99% of the Prison of Elders, your best tactic is "stand in a corner and shoot." It's like the Nightfalls you've played 50 times over, but in most cases, even easier, and with less interesting locales and enemies. Trials of Osiris isn't much better. Because it's PVP-oriented though and thus inherently less predictable, it's not nearly as tiring as playing the same four rooms ad nauseam. It requires a premade group of three, at which point you'll battle through a gauntlet with no resurrection capabilities (outside of the Warlock) once the entire team is dead. Each "match" is won by the team who wins five rounds first. If you win a specific amount of matches (five is the minimum for anything good, so far I've earned up to six wins) without losing three matches, you can earn gear. If you do lose thrice, you'll have to re-enter the tourney and start all over. It's cool in theory, but the rewards are fairly shallow and the event only runs from Friday until the reset Tuesday morning each week. The loot table is basically a direct counterpart to Prison -- one gun per week, one armor piece per week, some cosmetic items, and a random mystery box. There's no real charm to it, you just grind out wins, and you get the gear that the NPC shows you in the Reef. Again, it's only available to play at certain times, which just feels like an incredibly odd choice. After all, why limit one of your only real pieces of new content to just a few days at a time? Surely Prison of Elders isn't supposed to last us until the weekend. It's also important to note that Trials is only running on one map per week. After the fifth round in the same arena, it started to get boring. It's a very cool idea that heralds in the first real competitive PVP mode to Destiny, but it needs work. I used to play Destiny every week with my large group of friends, who would often hang out in PS4 party chat as we ran through the two six-person raids, cycling people in and out. Not only has Bungie made the once massive scope of the game smaller with the two new three-person maximum events, but they've also lost the interest of many of my once-fervent comrades. Heck, to add insult to injury, Xur came today and only had old items for sale outside of helmet engrams -- I bought 20 of those and didn't get anything new. Destiny feels just as smooth as ever as a shooter, but at this point you should wait until after "Year One," as they are calling it now, to see if Bungie is going to come up with something new. I really hope the rumored "2.0" version of the game has completely new areas and enemies. But at this rate, we may even get a Destiny 2 announcement at E3, which will all but confirm the "beta test" status of the original game. Bungie took a rooster, slicked its hair back, and dressed it up as a human. House of Wolves is the Chicken Boo of video game DLC. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Destiny DLC review photo
Den of puppies
I am convinced that somewhere, all of the new assets for the Destiny: House of Wolves expansion were lost, forcing Bungie to restart the entire process all over again. Why else would almost the entire $20 premium DLC be a reskin?

Arizona Sunshine photo
Arizona Sunshine

Arizona Sunshine: The (Steam) VR revolution will, unsurprisingly, have zombies


Virtual reality zombie shooter
May 21
// Steven Hansen
I sometimes feel like I'm less on board with VR than most. It's a fun novelty to show a family member for 20 minutes, not something I'd like to be cocooned in for hours . Maybe that's why there's expectation of it doing gang...
Overwatch Cowboy photo
Overwatch Cowboy

BAMF cowboy McCree gameplay revealed for Overwatch


It's high noon somewhere in the world.
May 20
// Jed Whitaker
Say "Howdy partner" to McCree, the previously announced cowboy for Blizzard's Overwatch, in this hot off the presses gameplay preview. McCree may only use a six shooter, but it certainly doesn't hold him back judging by the ...
Destiny DLC review photo
Destiny DLC review

Review in Progress: Destiny: House of Wolves


Den of puppies
May 19
// Chris Carter
Destiny was one of the weirdest releases in recent memory. It was so unbelievably ambitious, but when it dropped, it was basically a fraction of what Activision advertised. As time went on many tweaks were made to the ga...
Old Doom 4 photo
Old Doom 4

Doom 4 used to look nothing like Doom


So this is why it's taken so long
May 18
// Jordan Devore
Ahead of its full reveal next month, Bethesda let out a couple seconds of footage for the new Doom. It looks cool to the extent that a snippet like this can look cool. Also, crucially, the footage is evocative of the series. ...
Cat Lart, Mall Cop photo
Cat Lart, Mall Cop

Asshole cat simulator Catlateral Damage out next week


PC, Mac, Linux, Ouya
May 18
// Steven Hansen
I went to bed at like 7PM last night without cleaning up after dinner because I am always tired. This morning, while trying to work, I had to clean up because my cat (he's so cute, yes he is, yes he is) kept jumping on the l...
House of Wolves photo
House of Wolves

Destiny: House of Wolves will launch at 10AM PST tomorrow


Pre-load today
May 18
// Chris Carter
Tomorrow, Bungie will deploy the new House of Wolves expansion for Destiny at 10AM PST. It will include the Prison of Elders arena mode, the new Strike, more PVP maps, and a new story, with the Trials of Osiris PVP mode ...
Halo 5 photo
Halo 5

343: Spartans were stolen kids sent in to 'clean up the ugly'


Lucky it's not real, eh?
May 15
// Vikki Blake
In the latest instalment of its viral promotional campaign HUNT THE TRUTH, Halo 5: Guardians developer 343 Industries has revealed "dark" information about how the Spartan Program came to be.  A (fake) interview by (fict...
Overwatch gameplay photo
Overwatch gameplay

Zen balls, angelic babe revealed in Overwatch gameplay


Some of my favorite things
May 14
// Jed Whitaker
Zenyatta and Mercy gameplay videos have been posted by the official Overwatch YouTube channel, and boy does the game look fun! Zenyatta uses his magical floating balls to attack instead of a gun, while Mercy has a magic stic...
Destiny DLC photo
Destiny DLC

Destiny: House of Wolves' launch trailer is out


Yes, people still play Destiny
May 14
// Alissa McAloon
Destiny: House of Wolves comes out next week, which means its launch trailer time. The trailer compiles most of the information Bungie has released via livestream over the last few weeks and gives players a quick overvi...
Rainbow Six Siege photo
Rainbow Six Siege

Rainbow Six Siege will arrive on October 13


Recent fan feedback taken into account
May 14
// Chris Carter
Rainbow Six Siege will arrive on October 13, 2015 on the PC, PS4, and Xbox One, Ubisoft announced today. In recent Siege-related news, the publisher has been hard at work combing through recent feedback regarding the alpha te...
Destiny photo
Destiny

'Late-breaking technical issue' delays Destiny's latest update


Will the delay keep the wolves from your door?
May 14
// Vikki Blake
[Update: It appears as if the issue is under control and will be patched today.] A "late-breaking technical issue" has delayed the roll out of the latest Destiny update. Patch 1.2.0 was supposed to lay the foundatio...

Early Access Review: Black Mesa

May 10 // Nic Rowen
Black Mesa (PC)Developer: Crowbar CollectivePublisher: Crowbar CollectiveReleased: May 5, 2015MSRP: $19.99 Now that I've had a chance to replay the original (selectively edited) Half-Life through the incredible reproduction effort of Black Mesa (which had its first part released roughly three years ago), I'm not sure that choice was so wrong. In the end I think I broke even. Half-Life was a monumental game that will always be rightfully remembered as a masterpiece for its time, but its probably not as fun as you remember it (headshots on the other hand are, and forever will be, a timeless source of joy). First thing's first, the Crowbar Collective has done an astounding job of dragging Half-Life into the modern age. This is not a mere port like Half-Life Source which used all the same assets as the original with a bit of spit and polish added in the form of a higher resolution and some dynamic lighting. Black Mesa is a remake, built from the ground up to fully realize the vision of what Half-Life could be on modern machines. More than a straight remake, the Crowbar Collective has played with the nuts and bolts of the game. Black Mesa rebuilds, trims, and expands different parts of the original for a smoother experience, while still staying true to what fundamentally made Half-Life what it was. There are new puzzles to work through, new and expanded areas to explore, and the availability of ammo and supplies has been bumped and nudged by a team that has spent ages agonizing over the pacing of the game. Action scenes are frantic and aggressive, with plenty of ammo doled out to deal with the additional enemies and larger set-pieces provided by Black Mesa. But when the action slows down and Gordon is guided towards evasion and caution, supplies dip to an almost survival horror level of scarcity. The push and pull of tension and action, going from a rat in the walls to a one-man army was one of the most intriguing things about Half-Life, and Black Mesa nails it better than the original. Some areas like the On A Rail sequence that infamously overstayed its welcome in the original, benefit from editing. Sometimes more isn't always better and Black Mesa makes some smart cuts getting rid of the fluffier and more frustrating aspects of the original. All of the edits are an improvement to the game. In fact, I'd say they could have probably brandished the razor around a bit more. Maybe we were just more tolerant of rampant amounts of bullshit back in 1998. Or, I suspect our memories of Half-Life benefit from a healthy helping of nostalgia and a lofty appreciation for everything that game did for modern game design. Half-Life basically wrote the book on immersive storytelling, first person exploration and strategically minded A.I for enemies, it had to be fun, right? Kind of? There are great times to be had in Black Mesa. When the game works, you can easily tell why Half-Life is so highly regarded as a classic. But then there is a looming dark side; a great number of hours when the game stubbornly refuses to be fun. The overly long underwater sequences that have you searching about in the darkness for some nook or cranny you missed as the last of your oxygen bubbles out of your lungs. The obnoxious clunkiness of trying to just MOVE around on physics enabled debris, let alone when the game demands you try to make a specific jump or escape from a screen rattling auto-turret under those conditions. The arbitrary insta-kill traps and monsters that force you back into loading screens and more than a couple “gotcha” moments that you couldn't hope to avoid without active precognitive abilities. Even with careful editing and a mind towards evening out the pace of the original, Black Mesa still traffics in an almost unconscionable amount of backtracking and finagling. There were several sequences where the solution to the predicament I was in was so awkward and stilted that I was sure I was doing it wrong. Of particular disdain was a protracted sequence set in a waste disposal facility that merged all the “joys” of water exploration, insta-death traps, pinpoint jumping between moving conveyor belts and confusing map design into a single ultra dense black-hole of anti-fun so terribly dark and spirit crushing that I'm still not sure I fully escaped from it. Maybe I'm being tough on it, but I remember Half-Life being smarter. I remember liking its world and characters better. Maybe it's age or maybe games have just moved on, but this time around I was more exasperated than amused by the shenanigans of the Lambda research team. The game has one joke -- you wander up to some poindexter in a lab coat, he says something silly/smug/abrasive, then immediately runs headlong into bullets/fire/devouring jaws (whatever option would make what he said seem more ironic). I like to imagine Freeman giving the leftover blood smear a knowing smirk each time. Granted, it's a funny goof the first two or three times it comes up, but when you're nine hours deep into the game and Professor Egghead is still predictably blundering into the crossfire, the dismemberment gets a little rote. I think its interesting that almost all of my criticism for Black Mesa is directly related to content from the original Half-Life. Every other effort is fantastic. This game looks great, especially considering its roots as a community driven mod. The soundtrack of original compositions is fucking banging. Every edit and change they made to the game was for the better. It almost makes me wish Black Mesa wasn't a remake-with-cuts of Half-Life. I wonder if the team would have been better served making their own thing, or maybe a “inspired by the events of Half-Life” complete re-imagining of the original game. The way I see it, there are two potential audiences for Black Mesa. There are the players who missed the original in its heyday because they were too young, or didn't have a PC, or thought Freeman's goatee on the box art made him look like a barista stooge, but love Valve's other games and want to check out the legendary classic that started it all. Then, you also have the true-blue fans of the original, the generation that cut their teeth on Half-Life and remember it as a wonderful and mind expanding experience who would love to recapture the joy of those heady days. I'm in the slightly uncomfortable position of telling both of those camps that they can probably take a pass on Black Mesa, even though I truly respect the work that the Crowbar Collective team has done with it. If you want to play a great Half-Life game that has aged fairly well, Half-Life 2 and its accompanying chapters are fantastic and Valve practically gives them out every Steam sale. Those games have all the best parts of the original Half-Life, while cutting out most of the chaff that bogs it down. If you didn't play Half-Life back in the day, I can't really imagine someone enjoying it as a game. Maybe as an academic curiosity, but not as a play experience. If you absolutely loved the original, you may very well find something worthwhile in Black Mesa. It really is the singular best way to play Half-Life. That said, you could also find something you don't like. A terrible truth, an awful secret, the knowledge that one of your favorite games is actually kind of a pain in the ass to play. It might be best to leave those pleasant memories as they are. There is still more Black Mesa to come; the game is in early access and right now the story concludes on a cliffhanger right before the Xen levels, where Freeman is thrust into an alien world of annoying platform jumping and floating alien bastards. The Crowbar Collective is actively working on that final chapter and plans to include it in the full release. Considering that even the most stalwart fans of the original generally concede that “the game was perfect (except for the Xen levels)” I don't think those last levels will really swing my personal opinion on the game. I will say this though, I can't wait for whatever the Crowbar Collective does next.
Black Mesa photo
Half as good as you remember
Half-Life was like a magic trick. It was a game you could show to people who weren't gamers and they'd get into it, a gateway drug. A real game (not some glorified puzzle book like Myst) that had the cinematic flair and prese...


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