Mac Half-Life (Very Beta)

Towards the tail end of Jan­u­ary, alert Mac-based Steam users may have noticed a sur­pris­ing addi­tion to the Library sec­tion, depend­ing on what they’d bought from the for­mi­da­ble PC selec­tion. Above the Half-Life 2 entry, which surely any self-respecting gamer has obtained, there now lurks a Half-Life (Beta).

This is, just as it says, a (very, appar­ently) beta ver­sion of the orig­i­nal Half-Life game using the orig­i­nal Half-Life engine, the pride of 1998. This is not to be con­fused with the more-recent-although-hardly-new release of Half-Life: Source, a recre­ation of the orig­i­nal game with the Half-Life 2 Source engine. That engine being the pride of 2004. God, I’m so old.

Nope, this release is aims to be true to the orig­i­nal to a fault, replete with the blocky mod­els, sparse voice act­ing and quite aston­ish­ingly low res­o­lu­tion tex­tures we’ve come to know and love. Quite why this has come to pass is some­thing that no-one seems to have the low down on. Per­haps it was sim­ply a cod­ing exer­cise to port this to OSX and Linux given to the interns at Valve that co-incidentally marks the 15th anniver­sary. At any rate, on an oth­er­wise mis­er­able week­end that saw me unfit for any­thing more worth­while, it appealed enough to my nos­tal­gia cen­tres to give it a bash.

Now, to be clear, this was more of a stroll down mem­ory lane thing than me look­ing for a seri­ous chal­lenge. I was more inter­ested in see­ing if I remem­bered the game rather than giv­ing it a seri­ous playthrough, although the ini­tial office sec­tions seemed just as I recalled. Mechan­i­cally, it’s just the same, so I decided to ham­mer through the rest of the game with all speed, pri­mar­ily by cheating.

I men­tion this in case it has any bear­ing on the bugs uncov­ered, although per­haps the first bug I found is that most of the stan­dard con­sole cheat codes aren’t hooked up to any­thing. Sure, you can type ‘god’ in as often as you want, but it’s not get­ting you any closer to being a deity. Like­wise, ‘give’ stub­bornly refuses to give you any­thing, how­ever ‘no tar­get’ works quite well against any­thing other than a few boss road­blocks and gun emplacements.

With the game’s ene­mies reduced to stand­ing still and star­ing blankly at you, the game’s rather quicker to get through. Turns out I didn’t remem­ber the game quite as well as I thought, hav­ing com­pletely for­got­ten the ‘Blast Pit’ sec­tion, although the rest of it up until ‘Sur­face Ten­sion’ was broadly familiar.

How­ever the game pro­ceeded to rather fall apart at this point. After get­ting past the Apache hov­er­ing around the dam, we reach a sec­tion where we crawl through some of the game’s many pipes (seri­ously, around 96% of this game takes place in an air duct, inside a pipe or crawl­ing on top of a pipe) to reach a mine­field guard­ing a storm drain. My first, route one attempt at cross­ing the mine­field did not work so well. Ka-boom.

Any­way, click­ing to reload puts you back in the pipes, near to the exit and just before an area load­ing trig­ger. Unfor­tu­nately now going through this load point causes the game to crash, and I’m dammed if I can find a work-around. You could skip ahead and load the next area with a con­sole com­mand, but you arrive there naked and item­less, and with no way to ‘give’ your­self any­thing (includ­ing your iconic HEV suit ‘n’ crow­bar combo) it’s not much of a fun experience.

In des­per­a­tion, I fig­ured I’d reload a save from a while back and see if the same fault occurred. Firstly, it did, but sec­ondly and rather more bizarrely, the save file had devel­oped a kind or pre­cog­ni­tion. By which I mean that even though I was start­ing back near the start of the ‘Residue Pro­cess­ing’ chap­ter, it had hand­ily pre-killed all of the ene­mies and pre-collected all of the power-ups I’d picked up in the pre­vi­ous run-though. Trav­el­ling with­out mov­ing, wheels within wheels, plans within plans.

So, yes, what I’m get­ting at is that the Beta label is quite well deserved in this instance, and per­haps it’s best to leave this until the rest of the kinks have been worked out. Admit­tedly, I didn’t spend too long look­ing for a fix, in the main because I was get­ting dan­ger­ously close to the rub­bish Xen sec­tions, and I have bet­ter things to be doing with my time. Well, by which I mean King­doms of Amalur, which I at least hope is a bet­ter thing to be doing with my time.