Agent Red productions have graciously provided us with a preview build of Half Life 2: Retaliation, letting us play through the opening two chapters of the mod and I must say, it’s coming along rather nicely.
Retaliation follows the story of a member of Half Life 2’s resistance, trapped in Nova Prospekt during its invasion with Antlions. The invasion providing the player with an opportunity to escape marks the start of his journey on what the developers call, “long and violent mission to retaliate against the Combine,” hence the mod’s name.
You begin in a cramped cell with guards standing outside, silently watching. Shortly after waking, a pack of Antlions burst out through the ground and attack your captors before burrowing back into the fiery depths of Eastern Europe. This disturbance unlocks your cell door allowing you to wander the halls of Nova Prospekt semi-freely; it is after all a prison. These rooms all manage to feel as if they really are a part of the facility using similar texturing and architecture to those seen in Half Life 2, none of these locations are recycled however and make good use of lighting, subtly leading you in the right direction.
The gameplay largely centres around you traversing the environments opening new paths for you to continue your escape and the occasional fight against headcrabs or the Overwatch. There are a few puzzles scattered about but not as many as you would see in the original game.
One thing retaliation does, which a lot of other mods forget to do, is it reminds you that you aren’t Freeman, you aren’t the centre of this conflict but a mere inconvenience to the soldiers trying to keep control over the Antlion onslaught. It isn’t even until you are close to escaping that the Combine decide to put up a heavy resistance, with most of the previous firefights being initiated due to you walking into an area the soldiers were already busy holding.
While the mod uses a lot of textures from Half Life 2 and Episode 2, it still contains a lot of custom content, and it’s here that the work created by Agent Red really shines. The guns you know and love from the original games have been given slight alterations, from remodelling to new animations and sound effects. My personal favourite being the new version of the pistol, it’s still the same model and still does the same pitiful amount of damage as before, but it’s been moved a little closer to the player’s eyes and uses a new, lower pitched firing sound effect. This is all it takes to make even the lesser used guns feel viable. It uses a new animation when equipping it, rather than simply raising and pointing it, the player will pull the slide back, readying it for the murder of whatever may walk in front of them.
The new SMG1. Now with 70% more sight.
My playthrough ended with a surprisingly fun firefight where I had to defend against a number of Combine attacking me and my strategically placed turrets, which without the gravity gun was a lot more difficult than expected, these soldiers had a nasty habit of throwing grenades at the base of my turrets forcing me to stand them back up, simultaneously killing the one responsible.
So far the mod looks like it could be something special, providing the other chapters retain or even improve on the standard set during the opening two; I’ll be keeping an eye on Retaliation and hope to play the finished version when it releases Q4 2011.