A Physics with Astrophysics graduate and level designer specializing in the Source engine. You can contact me here or by yelling really loud.


Half life: Precursor

Before I begin, this will contain spoilers so if you don’t want any stop reading and play Precursor first http://precursormod.com/

Still with me? Then I’ll begin.

I enjoyed Precursor quite a bit, it’s got some good action and a very classy intro, one I could easily imagine in a proper Half Life game. The setup is clear: you’re part of the resistance and GMan’s job for you is securing White Forest before Gordon sets HL2 in motion. You get some very cinematic and impressive scenes with flashes of GMan, tonnes of atmosphere before you’re obliterated by the rocket launch. If the first page of a book is supposed to grab the reader, the first 45 seconds of precursor will certainly grab you.

A Flash of the launch button Gordon would press less than a year after the events of precursorFor the most part Precursor follows the conventions used in the rest of the HL games like lambda signs signal stashed goods or the intended direction of progress, however I’m sure that around a third of the doors I tried to open throughout the course of the game being locked. This goes against one of the conventions of the Half Life games set up by Valve: only doors that you can use have handles, they even mention this in one of the commentary nodes.

Another broken convention is that of mechanics being taught in a safe situation first, towards the end you’re ambushed by a lone hunter (which had an amazing reveal only moments before). It has some kind of recharge unit where it runs off to heal itself before it dies. Now if you’re anything like me, you didn’t get that close to it and when it ran off you could barely see what it was doing and were busy reloading or scrambling behind a rock smashing up crates then before you know it the hunter was back in your face. Well it took me until my third life to realise it was running off and healing itself (all the while I’m thinking: ‘This thing has a lot of gorram health’), Then a further attempt was needed after I realised it had not one but two more of these recharge stations. I understand the need to make a boss fight hard, but changing the behaviour of an enemy everyone already knows how to fight isn’t fun, it’s hellishly frustrating. Sending in two or three hunters would have been a better solution, the last hunter standing could still have run away just the same. The running away also was a little odd, mainly because it was walking and suddenly invincible.

The citadel is remarkably present in the skyline once again

Precursor boasts some good visuals even if a lot of fade distances and areaportal windows have quite harsh settings. The range is quite nice, you get to go from the suburbs of City 17 through the industrial sectors, then ride a train and end up in the forests of Episode 2, although it’s clear you haven’t reached your goal of white forest. Which leads me on to the disappointment in Precursor, the ending is abrupt, you get the same style of text on the screen as is shown at the start when your objective is stated (or when you die under certain circumstances in HL2) informing you that you’re not there yet. At this point I’m thinking ‘Oh good, a sequel is on the way’. But straight after you get an epilogue scene, you’re being congratulated on securing White Forest. Looks like there is no sequel after all and the middle and end of the story was just stolen from you leaving a really bad taste even though the mod, as a whole, was very good.

If you got this far and still haven’t played it, go do so, I haven’t spilt all of the beans and it’s well worth it. http://precursormod.com/

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