[author]Snowcone[/author][i]Editor’s Note[/i]: Mods are perhaps the one thing that will always give PC gaming an advantage over console gaming. User created mods breath new life into a game and allow the game to be taken in directions that the original developers never intended or thought about. Many mods are started and die lonely deaths as half-finished works of art, while others flirt with copyright issues and very often get shut down long before release. Some mods, on the other hand, are wildly successful. The blockbuster game [i]Counter Strike[/i] began as a mod. One thing is for certain and that is mods are here to stay. With the release of [i]Half-Life 2[/i] and the new Source engine, I was interested to see what the modding community would be able to accomplish. One of our newest writers set out to explore the extensive world of [i]HL2[/i] mods, and this is what he found.
[url=http://www.hl2mods.co.uk]HL2Mods.co.uk[/url] lists 153 multiplayer mods and 33 single-player mods as being currently in development, but only 15 of them are playable in any form. Are any of them worth your precious bandwidth, I hear you cry? In order to answer this question, I have downloaded, played, and rated all of the multiplayer mods that are currently available. Bear in mind, however, that many of them are still in alpha stages and may improve over time.
[b][url=http://www.planethalflife.com/aoa/index.html]Art of Ascension[/url][/b]
According to its Web site, Art of Ascension is a mod that “combines the spirit of online role-playing games with the faster battling pace of classical first-person shooters.” This mod is really too early in its development to judge its worth. At the moment, it features no new maps or weapons, and the system for controlling your character’s advancement is command line-based. It is really impossible to tell at this stage whether or not this will ever develop into something worth playing.
[b][i]Verdict: Not worth it (yet).[/i][/b]
Dodgeball is (predictably) a mod that allows you to play everyone’s favorite playground humiliation game over the Internet on the Source engine. The maps are simple but well done, and the gameplay is fun and easy to get into. Needless to say, there isn’t much strategy involved, but once you get more than six people in a game, it becomes very entertaining trying to dodge the barrage of balls thrown at you and watching your opponents fly backwards when they are hit.
[b][i]Verdict: Worth a try, but won’t occupy you for long.[/i][/b]
FL3X DM is not a massively innovative or exciting mod. It is virtually identical to the [i]Half-Life 2[/i] death match but with the addition of turrets which players can place and get kill credits. This small change is perfectly well implemented, but it really doesn’t alter the fundamental gameplay enough for it to be worthwhile.
[b][i]Verdict: Don’t bother.[/i][/b]
[b][url=http://www.hl2ctf.com]Half-Life 2 CTF[/url][/b]
[i]Half-Life 2[/i] CTF does exactly what it says on the tin: it is a mod that allows you to play capture the flag in [i]Half-Life 2[/i]. Veterans of the Quake or Unreal Tournament series will be familiar with this type and just how fun it can be, and this iteration is no exception. The maps are well designed and easy to learn, which is critical in this type. This mod’s only letdown is the fact that there aren’t really enough people playing it, so it’s hard to get a good match going. Despite this, the [i]Half-Life 2[/i] CTF mod really is a must-have, especially for anyone who has never experienced this thrilling game type.
[b][i]Verdict: Get it. Now.[/i][/b]
[b][url=http://www.planofattackgame.com]Plan of Attack[/url][/b]
Plan of Attack is a mod in which a team of American do-gooders takes on a team of terrorists, and in which individual players earn money to buy better weapons every time they make a kill. Sounds familiar? Plan of Attack isn’t a [i]total[/i] Counterstrike clone, but it’s so close that it really isn’t worth the bother. In theory, Plan of Attack is ldblquotecf2 a multiplayer first-person shooter that highlights strategy[i], [/i]teamwork[i],[/i] and out-thinking your enemy,” but in reality, most rounds quickly descend into a team death match, and the concept of capturing or defending objectives (which the game is supposedly built around) is ignored. This mod does have solid new maps, character models, and weapons, but none of them is unique enough to make a difference.
[b][i]Verdict: If you have CS:S, don’t bother. If you don’t have CS:S, get CS:S instead of this.[/i][/b]
Sourceforts is a mod of two halves. In the first half, each team is unable to attack each other and must use the gravity gun and a pile of barriers to create a fort. In the second half, the two teams attempt to use their forts to give them an advantage in a game of team death match. This mod shows a lot of promise and has an interesting core concept, but it is really too buggy at the moment to be any fun. The tools to build your fort are very hard to use, and the shield that is supposed to prevent combat in the building phase doesn’t work properly, making it very likely that just as you are about to finish positioning a particularly tricky barrier, you will get a crowbar to the back of the head.
[b][i]Verdict: Wait and see.[/i][/b]
Source Racer is a mod with a simple premise: it allows you to race your friends around a variety of tracks using [i]Half-Life 2[/i]’s airboat vehicle. The airboat handles just as it does in the game, and the tracks are all well designed and good fun to race around. The only problem with this mod is that no one plays it. I tried on several occasions including peak weekend times and never found any Internet games.
[b][i]Verdict: Get it, but only if you have a lot of other HL2 users on your LAN.[/i][/b]
Strider Mod is a mod that spices up the ordinary death match by letting players drive the strider and combine tank vehicles from [i]HL2[/i]’s single-player game. There are several reasonably well-designed maps in this mod, and each of them features one tank and one strider. The strider is surprisingly well implemented: the animation is smooth, and it doesn’t clip through objects very much at all, and controlling it is straightforward once you get the hang of it. As for how it plays, I really can’t say. As with Source Racer, I never found a single game to join.
[b][i]Verdict: See above.[/i][/b]
[b][url=http://www.hidden-source.com]The Hidden: Source[/url][/b]
The Hidden is a new take on the old idea of having all but one of the players in a game going after a single player who has special abilities. In this case, the lone player is almost completely invisible but can only attack with knives and grenades. The Hidden features solid maps and character models, and it is played by enough people. So finding a game with enough players will be easy. My only beef with The Hidden is that the lone player is really too hard to see. Most rounds consist of wandering around the map in small groups for several minutes until you hear the sound of a swishing knife, and then spinning around while emptying your SMG until you see blood splattering from midair.
[b][i]Verdict: Definitely worth a go.[/i][/b]
Tim Coop pits a team of players against waves of super-tough [i]Half-Life 2[/i] monsters; and, if you find a good server that is running a good map and has four or five good people on it, it is easily the most fun of all the multiplayer mods. There is nothing quite like crouching at the end of a hallway with three of your friends and blazing away with all you have against the oncoming hordes of head crabs that simply [i]refuse to die.[/i] Unfortunately, finding the aforementioned good server, map, and people can be frustratingly difficult, but it is well worth persevering until you do.
[b][i]Verdict: Best thing since sliced bread (some of the time).[/i][/b]