Half-Life: Firearms (PC) review
"Maybe Iím just skeptical by nature. Or perhaps the community outlook for user-made modifications is overly optimistic. Itís important to keep in mind that user-made modifications Ė and this goes for any game, not just Half-Life Ė are made by amateurs, and their chances of being even remotely worthwhile are abysmally low. The general attitude seems to be: ďWell, itís a new game, and itís totally free! How can you possibly go wrong?Ē Yet time and time again, a new modification is released which pr..."
Maybe Iím just skeptical by nature. Or perhaps the community outlook for user-made modifications is overly optimistic. Itís important to keep in mind that user-made modifications Ė and this goes for any game, not just Half-Life Ė are made by amateurs, and their chances of being even remotely worthwhile are abysmally low. The general attitude seems to be: ďWell, itís a new game, and itís totally free! How can you possibly go wrong?Ē Yet time and time again, a new modification is released which proves that yes, you can indeed go wrong with a completely free game. Half-Life: Firearms is a textbook case of this tragic affair, and I assure you itís not the only one Ė there are over 200 modifications for Half-Life.
The first-person shooter genre is oversaturated with realism games. There needs to be a throwback to less realistic games; lord knows the genre needs it. Firearms isnít just a failure as a Half-Life modification Ė it exemplifies nearly everything that can possibly go wrong with a realism shooter. Even the most seemingly novel realistic elements have terrible adverse effects. The result is a game thatís utterly boring at best, and barely playable at worst.
Eschewing the dubious ďone-life-per-round styleĒ gameplay, Firearms uses the reinforcement system. However, this is just a fancy misnomer for continuous, but limited respawns. Even a feature as simple as this isnít without fault. It works perfectly only if the two teams are exactly equal. Otherwise it actually favors the team with fewer players, because it puts less stress on that teamís reinforcement reserve. Though as interesting a flaw it may be, it generally doesnít have an incredibly prevailing effect.
Firearmsís objectives seem quickly forgotten in the heat of battle, but sadly this is because Firearms puts such a strong emphasis on conservative tactics Ė namely camping Ė rather than the action actually being exciting. Movement is so incredibly awkward that the game almost begs you to stand still. With just a few lines of code, the Firearms team wonderfully dispenses with one of the most long-running staple features of the genre: strafing. Why would you do that? I donít mean to hyperbolize; you can strafe, but itís so dreadfully slow that it has absolutely no practical use.
Perhaps the Firearms team wanted to intimidate gamers into playing their game, because I canít think of any other plausible reason why theyíd implement such an unnecessarily large arsenal of weapons. A large arsenal would be more acceptable if it was reasonably varied. The Catch-22 there is that itís almost impossible to make a large arsenal of realistic weapons both balanced within the context of the game, and true to their real-life counterparts. Both cannot be achieved, so the latter was done. Unfortunately, there simply isnít enough to distinguish one automatic from another; itís not even a matter of preference Ė the mechanical difference between each weapon is simply far too slight. After a few plays, the superficially large arsenal doesnít seem so large anymore.
The gameís method of selecting weapons allows players to have multiple weapons, and even multiple assault rifles. But this is just another needless novelty. Traditionally, the entire point behind having multiple weapons is for the purpose of backup. Miraculously, this never comes in to play due to the unnecessarily long time it takes to switch weapons in Firearms. Iím sure this is realistic; I think if you handed me three different guns and told me to switch back and forth between them, Iíd have trouble doing it quickly. It just has absolutely no place in a game, and it completely counteracts the point of having multiple weapons. Each level is strewn with boxes of ammunition, which is just another disincentive for using multiple weapons.
Apparently, the Firearms team really wanted to flood players with options and features. Itís too bad that nearly every single one of these is either superfluous or hindering. Besides being able to select weapons, Firearms gives you an array of skills to choose from, including marksmanship, medical, and demolitions proficiencies. After getting ten kills, you can choose another skill. Normally, this would cause a problem with the better players having better characters than the less skilled players, but with the exception of artillery and medical skills, they just donít have any overarching influence on the gameplay.
Various elements of realism have been peppered throughout the game, but they never succeed in heightening the excitement. Perhaps the most glaring example is the gameís system of sustaining damage. Specifically, falling from a considerable height will cause your character to sustain a leg injury, thus slowing you down. This is realistic; it even makes perfect sense realistically, but itís just patently absurd within the context of the game. It doesnít enrich the gameís realistic atmosphere (which it doesnít have in the first place), it just annoys you by cutting your movement speed considerably. And better yet, if thereíre no medics in your immediate vicinity, youíre stuck with the injury until you die.
Firearms rarely plays like a good game, and it rarely looks or sounds like one either. Itís clear that the Firearms team has been studying their weapons. This is evident in their design. But the Firearms team clearly knows next to nothing about human anatomy; judging by the models, they may even have a very clear disregard for it. As good as the weapons look however, their animations are incredibly jerky and unnatural. One thing that bothers me about most shooters is that I can never actually get the sense that guns are supposed to be loud. And in Firearms, gunshots are relentlessly understated. From a visual and sonic standpoint, it seems like realism has been almost entirely neglected. This is ironic, because this is actually where realism can most practically be implemented.
The most important point isnít that Firearms does a horrible job of implementing realism Ė itís that this horrible implementation of realism makes the game absolutely no fun to play. Iím always willing to download a new modification, but I know that I may just as well be waiting for the winning numbers to a lottery ticket.
Community review by radicaldreamer (January 20, 2005)
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