Tag Archive: modification


id software’s amazing run of first-person shooters in the ‘90s are in some of my top games of all time: Doom, Quake, even Quake III Arena was pretty good in spite of Unreal Tournament’s more fun, absurd nature. But one game I had a fondness for was Wolfenstein 3D.

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Wolfenstein is a fairly simplistic shooter by modern standards, but it started laying the groundwork for what made their games tick: Exploring areas, defeating enemies, and strafing around arenas like operatic ballet. What happens when you take most of that away and try to shoehorn in awkward mechanics that don’t fit? You get Wolfram.

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Already we’re off to a great start with this menu…

I have to give a shout out to the Video Game Music Preservation Foundation, which introduced me to this game. Being a fan of Wolfenstein and some of its other games, I had to see if this was the remake of Wolf3D that would be better than the original. The answer is no. Not by a long shot.

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Just like the 1992 original!

Wolfram recreates all of “Escape from Wolfenstein,” the shareware episode of Wolf3D. Levels are the same blocky shapes they were in ‘92, wall textures are a mix between remastered versions of the originals and ports presumably from other versions of Wolf3D, even the music is ripped straight from the original, but somehow sounds worse.

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Oh hey, colored lighting! This would’ve been cool in like, 1997.

So you’re probably thinking, “Hey, this sounds pretty cool! What’s your problem with it?” Well, let me explain.

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Wolfenstein 3D involves using the doors a lot to funnel enemies and dodge fire. Doors become your best friends here.

Wolfenstein 3D’s combat is fairly simple. Outside of some bosses, all the enemies are hitscan – once the enemy shows a certain frame of animation, the game determines if that was a hit or a miss, and if it hits, it calculates for how much damage you take – As you progress, you learn the better tactics of the game involves ducking inside rooms and strafing back and forth at an opened door to avoid getting hit as much. It’s fairly simple and arcade-like these days, but it worked well in the era when Wolf3D came out.

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Doom 3 was a pretty cool game for 2004. I replayed it recently since it had been several years and I was initially down on it, but after replaying it, I have some newfound respect for it. While not as groundbreaking as Half-Life 2, it was still a good game. Though it’s hardly a “masterpiece of the art form” as the box quote says.

I even have that PC Gamer issue, they were actually serious with that quote!

I even have that PC Gamer issue, they were actually serious with that quote!

Alas, from what I gathered, the Doom 3 modding community was sparse compared to classic Doom, even compared to its competitors like Half-Life 2. But one particular mod stood out, and it’s not surprising it exists considering id Software’s legacy:

It feels like 1993 and 2004 combined into some freakshow.

It feels like 1993 and 2004 combined into some freakshow.

Classic Doom for Doom 3 was one of those hyped mods in its heyday. Boasting a small team of developers at Flaming Sheep Software, these guys aimed to remake the 1993 classic on a modern engine. Of course, what better way to show off the modding skills of Doom 3‘s engine than with a remake of the original Doom?

So much for doing a UV-Max run...

So much for doing a UV-Max run…

There’s only four difficulty levels in this one, similar to Doom 3‘s skill levels. Alas no Ultra-Violence, but I’ll play on Hey Not Too Rough, the equivalent of “Normal” difficulty.

Surprisingly the development team made an intro to explain why you’re going in. It’s so corny, filled with amateur voice acting and really jerky animation. Basically they give a reason for Doomguy to enter Mars and kill demons, eventually fending for yourself. Granted, the intro can be skipped, but it’s fascinating to put a story on why things went to hell. It’s a sight to behold.

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Then you’re thrusted into E1M1: Hangar, with just a pistol. A remix of At Doom’s Gate starts blasting through your speakers. It’s time to kill some demons!

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If you haven’t noticed, I really like maps and mods. Mainly because I believe in new content being made by creators rather than developers packaged into $15 chunks. But also because people make really good mods.

Some of my favorite mods tend to be ones that only change that gameplay slightly while leaving the original content intact. Stuff like Police Brutality: wildweasel presents Terrorists!, like I mentioned in my Doom mods article a while back. So this time, I cover yet another one of those kind of mods.

So what happens when you take the world of Black Mesa in Half-Life, and throw in the guns from Counter-Strike? You get Counter-Life.

Gordon Freeman is a cold-ass motherfucker.

Gordon Freeman is a cold-ass motherfucker.

I remember this mod in its early days, back when I used to lurk on a Half-Life mod forum. It makes sense that this exists, considering the popularity of both.

“FOR GOD’S SAKE, OPEN THE SILO DOORS! SOME CRAZED MADMAN WITH A MAC-10 WANTS ME DEAD!”

So the story is identical to Half-Life: You play as Gordon Freeman, except instead of an HEV suit, you have a kevlar vest and you get to fight with more realistic weaponry. Basically this is more of a weapons mod than something like They Hunger, which not only had new weapons, but new levels and enemies as well.

The arsenal from Counter-Strike 1.6 is in full force here, from the classic USP, AWP, and Deagle; to the lesser-appreciated TMP and M249. Though there are some new weapons, such as the M4A1 having the M203 grenade launcher like in Half-Life, as well as a rocket launcher that almost resembles a LAW.

This is the weirdest rocket launcher I've ever seen...

This is the weirdest rocket launcher I’ve ever seen…

In addition, some of the weapons have features not in CS, such as the P90 having a zoom in scope, or the Glock 18 actually functioning like its real-life counterpart as a fully-auto pistol and not the weird Glock/Beretta 93R hybrid it’s been since the beginning. So while it’s not a 1-for-1 conversion of CS‘s arsenal, it works. Hell, in older versions, you could have akimbo USPs and Deagles, in addition to the Dual Berettas. Man, those would’ve been fun to use…

Silly Barney, why are you just leaving stacks of cash lying around?

Silly Barney, why are you just leaving stacks of cash everywhere?

So how do you get these guns? Well, in Counter-Strike, you’d go to a buy zone and buy weapons with money you earn. In Counter-Life, killing enemies give you cash that you can go to a Health Unit or an HEV Charge station to buy guns, ammo and other important things like health and armor. There’s also money strewn all over the place, so you’ll likely have plenty of cash to buy what you need. When you get to Xen, the Longjump Module in Half-Life doubles as a mobile buy zone, where you can refill ammo when you need to, but by then you can’t buy new guns, so make sure you got the weapons you want before you jump to the border world.

This probably looks weird to everyone but Gordon, just seeing a floating menu where you could buy stuff.

This probably looks weird to everyone but Gordon, just seeing a floating menu where you could buy stuff.

There is a catch to this weapons system, though: You can only have one of each weapon type. One pistol, one shotgun, one assault rifle, you get the picture. This means like in CS, you have to drop weapons to buy new ones. I’m not a big fan of this, because I believe in having bottomless pockets to hold practically everything. But it’s not a deal-breaker, it just means planning for what weapons to use in the next area. It doesn’t take long to adjust.

The only other gameplay difference involve the NPCs. Barney’s been upgraded from using a dinky Glock to a more powerful SPAS-12, and the grunts have powerful assault rifles and shotguns. I’m not sure why they made the changes, but I approve.

Man, this place has heavy god damn protection...

Man, this place has heavy god damn protection…

While I enjoy the mod, there are problems. In addition to the weapons system, ammo has to be bought at the health stations, which can be frustrating when there’s long gaps between finding those to refill. Not only that, with their new guns, grunts are literal aimbots and will kill you extremely quickly with their new inventory. Armor ends up being ineffective in these cases, which sucks having to fight them in later sections.

Get your quicksave buttons ready, cause you'll be using it a lot.

Get your quicksave button ready, cause you’ll be using it a lot.

That’s Counter-Life in a nutshell. There’s a multiplayer mode that converts some notable CS maps like Assault, Oilrig and Prodigy as well as one of the billion Dust clones that came out during its heyday, but any multiplayer for GoldSrc/Half-Life engine games these days are deader than a dodo. It also seems redundant considering Counter-Strike in itself is a multiplayer game. Perhaps if it had a co-op/survival mode instead, maybe then it would’ve been fun to play.

Your 5.56mm bullets are no match for the Gargantua's massive flame arms!

Your 5.56mm bullets are no match for the Gargantua’s massive flame arms!

Thankfully the mod is not lost to time, it’s on ModDB and was updated to be Steam-compatible around 2008. The developer has moved on to other projects, though I can’t see what else you could add to this besides support for other Half-Life levels. It’s worth a look, even though Counter-Strike: Condition Zero Deleted Scenes is basically this but with extra polish. On the other hand, Counter-Life is free and requires only Half-Life to run.

Eh, I hate making choices. They’re both great, give both of them a spin. It’s a shame there was never a Counter-Life 2 for Half-Life 2. I’d totally play that with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive‘s weaponry…

Over the years, I’ve amassed ridiculous amounts of video game knowledge. I created the Secret Area as a good place to share said video game knowledge with people. Naturally, video game music is something I’m also interested in. While I am a bit of an outlier in terms of my game music tastes – I usually prefer stuff by American and European composers, and don’t really care much for Japanese game music past the SNES/Genesis era – I still love finding information about game music, much like a lot of things I like.

So I’m gonna get nerdy about video game music. I’m gonna write about something that came to mind fairly recently that I thought would be worth sharing. This will hopefully be the start of a new series where I delve into the oddities and bits of inane trivia of music in games.

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Poke646 is one of the best Half-Life mods out there. At the time, most Half-Life mods reused most of the existing templates that the original game used, making Black Mesa look like a research facility that spanned a whole continent. Mods like They Hunger and many others changed how people looked at Half-Life, but not nearly as well as Poke646 did. One day, I should write about Poke646 and its sequel Vendetta, they’re some of the best Half-Life mods out there.

The game’s credits, featured below, featured this haunting, ambient tune.

The hip-hop styled track really fit in line with the rest of the game, which also had some great original ambient music. Thankfully all this music is in the Poke646 mod folder, since I don’t know much about the composer of the ambient music, and there’s little information about it or the mod’s soundtrack online.

Cut to 2010. I had recently picked up Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction Special Edition for $35 at Ubisoft’s online store because of an issue of the special USB keys not working on some copies. As I was going through the game itself, a certain tune started to play that sounded familiar…

(WARNING: Plot spoilers for Splinter Cell: Conviction within.)

Yep. It’s the same song. Until then, I had thought that credits music was a unique track made for Poke646. In reality, it was a licensed song: DJ Shadow’s “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt,” from his 1996 debut Endtroducing…..

Ubisoft had licensed “Building Steam…” to play over this part of the game. Since it had been years since I had played Poke646, I had realized the tune sounded familiar but couldn’t quite place it until I replayed the mod much later. After knowing this fact, I bought the song not too long after, naturally.

Games using licensed music is hardly new, think of the many music games that have come out over the years. But most games usually have a composer do all the incidental music, rarely do they use a licensed song unless it’s made specifically for the game, like Eminem’s “Won’t Back Down” and “Survival” from Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty: Ghosts, respectively. Why Ubisoft thought the DJ Shadow tune fit this particular scene is a mystery that we’ll probably never know.

Speaking of DJ Shadow, he has contributed remixes to a few games himself, such as the “El Dorado Megamix” he did for the Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune soundtrack, and two tracks for Motorstorm Apocalypse. So he’s contributed music to the video game world, both directly and indirectly.

To bring it back around to Poke646, “Building Steam…” got a remix when Vendetta was released in 2006, adding some rocking guitars over the game’s credits. In a way, adding additional instrumentation to a song that heavily uses samples is interesting, because it’s using a song with samples as a sample for a new song. It’s fascinating, really.

Thanks to these mods, “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt” has become the Poke646 theme in my mind, which was used in some big budget game. Its inclusion in Splinter Cell: Conviction seems quite bizarre to me, especially since I first heard the song through a game mod many years before. Still a good song, highly recommend you give it a listen. Can’t say if the rest of Endtroducing….. is as amazing, but I’m willing to bet it’s a solid album.

I don’t follow many hip-hop or electronica DJs, but after hearing “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt,” I could probably get into this kind of music. Hell, I loved Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, which was mostly Amon Tobin’s work, as well as enjoying most of Crackdown‘s licensed music which was the same kind of style. Time to broaden my tastes in music…

Speaking of game music, I recently updated an old article from 2013 comparing the tunes from NES game show games to their real-life counterparts. No longer using volatile YouTube videos, I replaced them with convenient MP3s. Check it out here if you wanna read more of me getting nerdy about video game music.

I’m not a big fan of list articles. At best, you could find interesting stuff that might intrigue you and maybe share to your friends on Facebook. At worst, you find terrible click-bait articles that seem to be written more for a paycheck than any informative value. It’s something I’ve refrained from doing here, as I prefer writing interesting long form stuff instead.

Seriously, this is what Cracked is now. I weep for our future.

Seriously, this is what Cracked is now. Remember when they actually wrote parody articles? Probably better than “11 Amazing Things You Didn’t Know About Your Pants,” anyway.

One particular list article by Cracked irked me considerably. A recent list, “6 Awesome Hacks That Did Mind-Blowing Things With Old Games” featured some cool stuff like Iron Man or the Incredible Hulk in Grand Theft Auto IV, or the entirety of The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind in Oblivion‘s engine. Even Just Cause 2: Multiplayer Mod, where you could go crazy in the world of Just Cause 2 with hundreds of people, made the list. But what was number one? Brutal Doom.

I won’t go too much into Brutal Doom as it’s made the internet rounds everywhere over the past couple of years, but it’s championed as the “definitive way to play Doom,” with more gore, violence, Mortal Kombat-style fatalities, even a key that’s simply dedicated to flipping off enemies. It’s amazing at first, but it outstays its welcome pretty quick.

I’m gonna be honest: I think Brutal Doom is an overrated, mediocre mod. The only thing it has going for it is the ridiculous macho factor, and that seems to be championed by every average dude who always writes about the Doom mod scene. Brutal Doom is usually mentioned as “the way Doom was meant to be,” but it really isn’t. Brutal Doom isn’t the way Doom was meant to be played, it’s Doom if it was a terrible caricature of itself. It’s the Doom comic in game form.

Seriously, I wonder if there's people who love this sort of stuff.

All this does is make Doomguy look like a god damn psychopath who should be in a mental asylum, not fighting monsters.

So, as a response to the article (as well as breaking my own personal rule of no lists), I’m making a list of 6 awesome Doom mods that aren’t called Brutal Doom. These are ones that the Doom community swear by, and are more worth your time than Brutal Doom any day of the week.

As always, these require Doom to run. You can get Doom II on Steam for the low low price of $5. After that, you’ll need a source port to play these. I recommend GZDoom (for Singleplayer) and Zandronum (for Multiplayer). While these mods will work perfectly fine with the default Doom II levels, I do recommend playing these with custom PWADs, which I’ll link to as well. Unless stated otherwise, these are meant to be played in single player.

Police Brutality: Wildweasel presents Terrorists!

(idgames link)

Ever wanted to be an action hero? Terrorists! will live out your dreams of being the next Chuck Norris. Armed with only a pistol and the ability to kick dudes in the face, this mod adds real life weapons and enemies for you to fight in.

Stopping crime the only way possible: with a six shooter and a bunch of bullets.

Stopping crime the only way possible: with a six shooter and a bunch of bullets.

In addition to the weapons and enemies, there’s also a new feature where you level up your guns by killing enemies with them. Upgrades start out simple, like faster fire rate, but as you level them up, they get more crazy, like a Beretta that converts to burst fire, or a revolver that becomes a long-range rifle. Even your melee and grenades can get upgrades, from electric grenades to explosive roundhouse kicks.

Our hero, kicking robots like it ain't no big deal.

Our hero, kicking robots like it ain’t no big deal.

Wildweasel’s made some other great mods, like the WWII-inspired Nazis! (which goes great with the Egyptian themed EPIC 2), and the action packed Diaz. Terrorists became one of my favorites, only because of the weapon upgrades. The three I just mentioned are all pretty good mods for Doom, and give enough gameplay changes to make it just as fun. For those who want to live out their action movie dreams without actually getting hurt, Terrorists! will do the job nicely.

(Disclaimer: I might have a slight bias as I am friends with the guy who made this mod. It’s still high quality, though!)

Samsara

(ZDoom forum link)

Ever wanted to play through Doom campaigns with characters besides Doomguy? Well, Samsara adds characters from many old games of the era, from Duke Nukem, to B.J. Blazkowicz, even the heroes from Chex Quest and Marathon make an appearance here. Now playing as each character will allow you to use only that character’s weapons, so you can’t run around with 4-5 weapons from different games, sadly. However, that’s a compromise I can deal with considering the variety of classic characters involved.

Yeah. I'm the Ranger, a friend of mine is the Chex Quest guy, and we're fighting a Baron of Hell. Welcome to Samsara.

Yeah. I’m the Ranger, a friend of mine is the Chex Quest guy, and we’re fighting a Baron of Hell. Welcome to Samsara.

I’ve always loved crossovers between different game series, official and non-official. Samsara scratches that crossover itch. Playing as the various characters gives a much different take on Doom. Nothing’s more fun than ripping through Chex Quest as Duke Nukem, or playing custom levels like Community Chest 4 with Ranger, or bringing firearms to the world of Heretic. There’s even mods that add the enemies from those games, giving us an unusual mix that you normally don’t see in games like this.

B.J. Blazkowicz, Duke Nukem, and the guy from Marathon, all fighting on the same level. What's not to like?

B.J. Blazkowicz, Duke Nukem, and the guy from Marathon, all fighting on the same level. What’s not to like?

Samsara is meant to be played online, either fragging with friends in deathmatch or working together in co-op, with each person choosing different characters for each situation. Though you can play this single player in GZDoom, it’s not the recommended way to play this. Get some buddies together in survival co-op and rip through as many levels as possible. Just make sure you put it on random character for the ideal Samsara experience.

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Half-Life is my most favorite game of all time. How I got to experience it for the first time is a story for another time, but one thing that really caught my eye was the mod scene for Half-Life. Much like Quake and Doom before it, people were messing around in WorldCraft making maps for the internet masses. Some were interesting, others were bizarre, then there’s the classics. The mods that did really interesting stuff for Half-Life, and end up being the must-play mods for the game. Such as today’s entry. Since Halloween is around the corner, let’s look at the zombified single player mod They Hunger.

They Hunger was originally released in 1999 as a PC Gamer demo disc freebie, followed by two additional episodes in 2000 and 2001. Neil Manke, who had made the Half-Life mod USS Darkstar for PC Gamer earlier in 1999, was already familiar with game modding for promotional purposes such as Coconut Monkey Adventures for Quake II and Soldier of Fortune for Quake. (Not to be confused with Soldier of Fortune by Raven Software, this SOF was based off a TV show.) Naturally, They Hunger looked to do something most Half-Life mods didn’t do at the time, and it definitely succeeded.

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I love Doom. The fast-paced action, the creative levels, the large variety of weapons and enemies. It’s no wonder it’s held up as a classic in the first-person shooter genre. In recent times, people have made Doom last longer by way of modding – changing Doom‘s weapons, levels, even adding stuff never before seen on the Doom engine. Some of these mods, like Alien Vendetta and Doom the Way Id Did, take an existing spin on the tried-and-true formula, while others like Brutal Doom change the game drastically. Those mods are famous and well-known among the Doom community for their good quality. I wish I could say the same thing about the mod I’m featuring: Sonic Doom II: Bots on Mobius.

It’s like I’ve hopped back into 1998! and not in a good way!

Sonic Doom II was the work of one SSNTails, a Sonic the Hedgehog and Project GeeKer fan. (Don’t be surprised if you had to Google search that last one, I don’t remember that show either.) Back then, mashing existing franchises with Doom was pretty common – there was the Aliens TC for Doom, as well as Batman Doom, made by the guys who would later go on to make Zeno Clash. Naturally, SSNTails decided to mix the speed and fun of Sonic with the run and gun tactics of Doom and see if he could make something truly amazing in the Sonic fan games realm. Unfortunately, he didn’t succeed in that.

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As much as I love the mod scene for old PC games, I realized I haven’t touched Quake‘s mod scene that much in the past few years. The last mods I played for Quake was stuff made for speedruns, like Quake Done Quick with a Vengeance. So for today, we’re gonna tackle some Quake mods that tried their best to be more like tactical shooters before that was even a popular thing. Both of these were released around the same time, and share a few similarities but both have their own unique quirks.

First on our list is a mod called Navy Seals Quake. This mod features a bevvy of new weapons such as the Mark 23 SOCOM pistol, the MP5 (and its silenced variant), a Mossberg tactical shotgun, even an M16 assault rifle with grenade launcher. There are three unique levels made for Navy Seals Quake, though selecting New Game oddly takes you to the default Quake start level. The levels all feature you going in and killing everything while completing objectives like destroying a jet and disarming “RADEK” bombs. You can also play through regular Quake with these new weapons, giving you a different taste of the game, but only a handful of characters were replaced, leaving you with custom marine models mixed in with default Quake enemies like Ogres and Scrags.

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(This is a blog post I originally wrote in late 2010 on my original blog. I’m reposting it here.)

I’ve always considered myself a fan of PC gaming. The best thing I’ve loved about PC gaming can be summarized in one word: Mods. Ever since the days of hex-editing levels in Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, mods have been prevalent in PC gaming society. While gaming has shifted more towards a console focus in the past five years, mods are still present today. Two years ago, I did a dedication to Half-Life‘s tenth anniversary by covering a bunch of Half-Life mods. While I never got to cover every single one due to time constraints, I always wanted to go back and record some new videos for some of the mods I didn’t cover. Maybe later this year.

So on a Friday afternoon, bored with little to do, I decided to rewatch Mathew “Film Brain” Buck’s review of Mission Impossible II. Remember that action flick that got parodied a lot in the media around 2002? Yeah, I never saw it and don’t intend to any time soon. But that film reminded me of this mod for Max Payne 2. It was called Mission Impossible: New Dawn.

Unlike other games like Half-Life or even Quake, Max Payne modding wasn’t as prevalent. Most of the mods I saw just added music tracks and Matrix-like action movie moves to the core game. Or, in the first game’s case, the famous Kung-Fu mod. I remember Mission Impossible: New Dawn being a big freakin’ deal back then, it was going to be a complete Total Conversion of Max Payne 2 to resemble the Mission: Impossible movie series. This was made around 2004 or so, before even the third movie was in planning stages.

Now that I reinstalled Max Payne 2 recently, I decided to downloaded the mod, to see if it held up after all these years. And… it didn’t, really. Although, I expected that to be the case. Since games evolve at such a rapid pace, games tend to age faster than other mediums like TV shows or movies. But in the case of this mod, it’s about average quality when it came out, and still average today.

The cutscenes look really stiff. Even by 2004 standards, they look stiff. Models standing around, barely moving their mouths, awkward camera angles, and models not even animating properly. I know something’s wrong when the first Max Payne did animation better than this. I do have to give the mod team some credit, there’s a lot of homages to MI2. There’s some decent voice work in here as well, despite the voice over for Ethan Hunt does a crappy job at sounding like Tom Cruise. It even has music from the films, and oddly enough, music from Crimson Tide, Paycheck, and Metal Gear Solid 2 of all places. Now if only I could make sense of the plot, which is more action movie than it is Mission Impossible.

So I decided to record some footage of me playing it to give you an idea on what this mod looked like. This is from about halfway through the game, and is on the easiest difficulty (Medium). As you can tell, I suck at Max Payne. But oh well, I just wanted to show you the quality of the mod, not my “l33t gameplay skillz, dawg.” Look as it even takes the Gunkata concept from Equilibrium, but it doesn’t work well at all in the game and is absolutely dumb.

Unfortunately I cannot tell if the mod team worked on anything before or since this project. But it’d be funny to know some guys who worked on a dinky Max Payne 2 mod now work in a development studio working on some recent budget Xbox Live Arcade title or something.

You can give the mod a shot here. It requires Max Payne 2 to run, and since Valve had their Steam summer sale recently, there’s probably a bunch of gamers who want to find new ways to enjoy the Max Payne games. The Fileshack mirror works and that 2-3 of the others don’t, not sure on the rest.

Man, this makes me want to find some other mods and write more about those. I used to play PC game mods like a madman, it was my way to extend the replay value out of these games. Hell, my early blog posts back in the days of Livejournal mention me covering some Wolfenstein 3D mods back in 2001. That shows you how old I am and how long I’ve been on the internet.

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