Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Byte: Half-Life 2 Deathmatch

Having completed Half-Life 2 within a fortnight of getting it through my letterbox (you don't need me to tell you how good it is, I'm sure you've seen a review by now), I've been playing the newly released HL2:DM to prolong the experience just that little bit longer.

Valve have taken arenas such as the shower room in Nova Prospekt and the sniper warehouse in City 17 from the singleplayer game and turned them into Deathmatch maps. They work quite well, and though I was curious about how well the gravity gun would work as a deathmatch weapon, it's just as good as in the singleplayer game, if a tad unwieldy to use at close quarters in the heat of battle.

The players I've encountered so far appear to be firmly divided into two camps - the Mustwinatallcostsandcampthebestweapons people and the Mustonlyusethegravitygunbecauseusinganythingelseischeating people. I veered somewhere between the two, erring on the side of the former, hence scoring pretty consistently in the top 4 of a 16 player server, which was quite gratifying. Whilst bushwhacking people with a single shot from the .357 Magnum halfway across the map was quite cool for a while, there's something to be said for crushing people against walls with explosive barrels, radiators or filing cabinets. In the Nova Prospekt map, you can even kill people with toilets. TOILETS. Imagine the indignity of being slain by projectile porcelain. Not something I'd want to be on the wrong end of.

The netcode appears solid, almost as good as UT2004, and that's a high compliment indeed. Things only slow down when you've got a lot of people around you using the gravity gun, and the server has to crunch a lot of physics, but with the pretty even split between the grav gunners and the projectile personnel, that doesn't happen too often. Otherwise, I'm enjoying a nice smooth framerate even at maximum resolutions and detail with medium settings for FSAA and filtering, so it looks as good as it plays. With such a fast pace, and such a clean engine, it's reminiscent of Quake III in a lot of ways, though the weapon balancing isn't quite as good, because they're all stolen from the single player game.

For the gravity gun shenanigans alone, I can see myself playing this quite a lot more in the weeks and months to come. Hopefully some enterprising modders with come up with some gravity gun only maps, where your kill rate will be more dependent upon your speed of thought, and not the speed of your trigger finger. It'd be nice to see some maps where you can lay traps and really use the environment to your advantage, and have a more thoughtful and considered deathmatch game, rather than a simply pell-mell free-for-all. Not to say that the latter isn't fun, but it does wear thin pretty quickly...
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