Deathmatch, you know what it is, you've heard the term since id Software coined it in the 90s. But how many of you really dove into it? I'm not talking about playing it for a month or so and moving onto something else that has flashier bells and whistles... But really dove into its mechanics and how it functions and using that understanding to better yourself as a player.
If you do that, you really start to see the art of deathmatch. When you start to understand what separates the competitive player from the casual one in a DM game, a whole new world is opened up to you.
"But I suck at DM!" I've been there, having gone through the 90's era of deathmatch I used to be absolutely terrible at DM games. When it comes to many competitive players today, I'll still get my ass handed to me when I go up against them. However, with every loss there is knowledge gained. With every misstep, and ridiculous death, there is a question you ask yourself "how can I do that?" The biggest difference is whether you actually try to discover how to do that, or just give up and move on to another game.
Think of it as an artistic dance, not many can just pick their feet up and become Fred Astaire. Like any other game or trade, many hours and many periods of trial and error are the only way you can really improve. It is not an easy journey, and I can tell you there are those who are still picking up the most famous DM games of all time (Quake,UT) starting off fresh and getting slaughtered. Their victories only matched by those who are at the same level they are, but for those that stick around and really want to see what they are made of, end up being some incredibly good players.
You've heard of Quake, and you probably have heard of Unreal Tournament when someone mentions deathmatch. But very rarely do you hear Half-Life tied into that mix, rarely do you hear those intense DM stories come from the HL2DM or HLDM world. Why is it so quiet? Is it not as exciting or thrilling? Is it just bland?
These are the questions that ran through my head throughout the years, but I never really gave them much thought just because of how tied down I have been to Quake. It was only until recently where I really started analyzing those questions. Over the past year or so I have been trying to find a shooter that makes my palms sweat, that makes me think on my feet and gets my adrenaline rolling, but nothing has really satisfied me.
Over the years I've bounced all over the Quake universe, dove into UT for several years on and off, and had my way with crazy team play games like QWTF & TFC. I even experienced the silliness of TF2 and the harsh 't' shaped spray patterns of CStrike, but rarely did I dabble in the Half-Life universe when it came to multiplayer. Which I find really funny because my two favorite Sci-Fi "worlds"of all time are Half-Life and Aliens.
So I decided to take a stab at it again, and dive back into the quiet abyss of the HL2DM community – what is left of it anyway. My first hour I played with raw vanilla settings and had an absolute blast. It was probably the most intense DM experience I've had in a long time. I'd even dare to say it was more intense than Quakeworld (which I recently took a break from a couple of months ago).
There is a special charm to HL2DM, and after playing it again for another 2 hours tonight, I think I have found out what that charm is, and why I think it is important that I tell you about it.
It's not just about guns and map control anymore. With HL2DM, VALVe has added a new layer to deathmatch. I never really noticed it until now, but when it comes to comparing HL2DM to Quake or UT, I feel it is in its own league of DM. The biggest reason for this is the physics, as silly/gimmicky as it sounds, that really is the biggest game changer here. Before with games like Quake and UT, to win the arena you had to understand the layout of the arena, know where the weapons spawn, and how long it took for them to respawn, and where the mega healths and high rated armors were placed. HL2DM has kind of thrown that philosophy out the window, or placed it in the backseat.
Where Quake and UT are the dance of movement and map control, HL2DM is the dance of deathmatch. Throw away your conventional knowledge of aiming at your target and shooting them, while yes it still applies in HL2DM, it is not the governing factor of a skilled player. Physics is king, and understanding how your weapons react to the environment can make all the difference in the world.
When you can take a file cabinet and block a possible kill shot headed aimed at you, and then use that file cabinet as death incarnate... you change the dynamic of deathmatch. When a combine orb is bouncing around a hall way, and will vaporize you the moment it touches you, but you catch it and send it back your to your enemy with the gravity gun, you've changed the dynamic. When you see your target out of the corner of your screen and you have just enough time to aim your crossbow at the wall, fire it, and hope for the chance of that bolt bouncing off the wall and nailing your target to the ground – you change the dynamic. But changing the way you play DM wont completely change everything, or hide the nasty red pimple DM games have always shared.
Discouragement, it is a DM games worst enemy. When a skilled player matches up against a new guy and sends his ass on a one way trip to a rage quit, that big red pimple shows itself. With games like Quake and UT, in the standard DM environment you spawned with the weakest weapon, and little to nothing for protection with no elements to aid you other than trying to beat the other player to the closest weapon or armor, the red pimple shines. I believe in HL2DM has slightly improved on this issue.
In HL2DM, no longer do you have to 'escape' and pray that you make it to a weapon because you cant defend yourself. Here you spawn with your gravity gun, smg, pistol, 2 grenades and a melee weapon. This lets you pack enough fire power out of the gate to be able to hold your own.
--The gravity gun: will give you a distinct advantage being able to use the objects in the world as defense or a one-shot kill wonder projectile, or perhaps even give you the chance to catch a combine orb or grenade and send it 'priority first' back to the owner.
--The SMG: will give you a slight punch to take out a weak player or suppress a target from a distance, and if you're lucky enough to spawn next to an SMG grenade, give you a greater chance of taking out nearby targets much faster.
--The Crowbar: can be your close encounter finishing tool should you end up in that situation,
--The Grenades: become extremely useful especially when you use your gravity gun to send them greater distances or cook them so your target doesn't have time to dodge it.
--The Pistol: I've taken so far to be a last resort weapon.
This video is a demonstration of highly skilled HL2DM players: These guys have thousands of hours clocked into the game so don't expect to reach this level immediately – but if you can understand and learn the basics of what they use so well, you will definitely be on your way to becoming a skilled DM player.
Those few weapons and tools have completely changed the atmosphere of deathmatch. Yes you can still get spawn killed, it happens in any DM game. Now you wont feel like a poor sap with no way to defend yourself when you spawn near an enemy target – use the world to your advantage – that is something Half-Life 2 taught us when it came out. Even though this will not completely end the hideous red pimple of discouragement that DM brings to many new players, it at least treats it to where it is not as much of a sore as it used to be.
Beyond the way the weapons and tools have changed the art of deathmatch, movement is still a solid factor in HL2DM. Its a bit of a mix of 'bursting' the sprint and qw style strafe jumping mixed together. These take time to learn and master, and there are many people out there who try to help new players understand how they work. Fortunately for HL2DM, the requirement for movement is not as crazy as it is in Quake, where literally every where you move you're strafe jumping, circle strafing, etc. In HL2DM, from what I have experienced, it seems to come in bursts on most stock maps. Break into the competitive style maps and you'll see it used more often.
So is HL2DM Bland? Does it not carry the excitement as other DM games? I personally do not think so, I think it actually brings a breath of fresh air to the Deathmatch genre, fresh air that has been hiding in the jungle for many years, like the illusive fountain of youth. But unlike the fountain of youth, this really exists, and we are playing right now, so you should join us!
Deathmatch is a tricky beast, and as I said before its biggest enemy is discouragement. It's hard to balance giving the freedom to a player to develop intense competitive skill, while still catering to the new guy who has no idea wtf is going on. However, the plus side to many DM games That the veterans and skilled players are more than willing to help new players; especially when it comes to a game mode that has slipped into the shadows over the years. We want to help you, we want more players to play against, we do not want to see Deathmatch become a 'interesting' side show. We want to rekindle its flame.
But because of discouragement , lack of knowledge or dedication, it has slipped into the shadows practically unnoticed. That worries me, I'm worried that come Half-Life 3, and Source Engine 2.0, Deathmatch will not be around in the Half-Life universe. That, because of its lack of interest and/or understanding, it will not be on the development table at all. I wrote this article because I believe VALVe really has something that has changed the dynamic of Deathmatch
I am by no means a pro player in HL2DM, but I'm definitely not a noob to Deathmatch, so I hope that this information and my words have piqued your interest in trying it again. I hope that the video shown didn't discourage you but rather lit a fire under your ass, like it did mine. Please feel free to ask me questions on how to improve your play style when it comes to DM games, or how to break into this game because I will be more than willing to help, so will many of the skilled players out there already.
Whatever you do, at least give it a shot. Try to experience it with the knowledge that I gave you today, because most likely you will have the same reaction I did which was "Holy shit, I just got owned, but that was FUN!" There is something special about being launched out of a window by a flying toilet only to have successfully returned the favor by smashing someone into a wall with a car.
Good Luck, Have Fun!
If you wish to add me on steam my username is:
wλstelander (copy pasta this it due to symbol)
And if you wish to give HL2DM another go, you can join my server with your friends, or with me, and experience what has been missed by so many.
Hostname: Questionable Ethics | HL2DM
(you can add the server via favorites tab in your steam server options or connect via console)