Home > Gaming, Mod > Paranoia – Half Life 1 Mod

Paranoia – Half Life 1 Mod

On the 3rd of December, a talented team of Russian modders released their single player Mod “Paranoia” on the unsuspecting Internet. Despite the fact that it has been in work for 3ish years and based on the Half Life 1 engine I was sufficiently intrigued to download the installer and give it a go.

From a technical standpoint it is, as expected, rather disappointing and it does take a while to readjust to the graphics of the original half life engine. Determined, however, to give the game a fair try I concentrated more on the other aspects of the mod.

You are a Russian Spetnaz soldier, and ‘wake up’ in your room (how cliché.) The level designers have done a good job in capturing post-soviet architecture and it provides an interesting insight into this world in much the same way as STALKER. This is where the similarities end, with uninspired texturing and poor initial map layouts and terrible lighting. The first level is always designed to familiarise the player with the environment he/she has just entered. Good games (and mods) give you a brief overview of how to control your character and a brief overview as to the environments you might face. Paranoia does do this, but in a horribly protracted way, leaving the player seemingly wandering in circles listening to subtitled Russian which gets boring fairly quickly.

The scripting is used fairly well but is let down by its complete lack of polish. Interactions with NPCs feel forced and judder-y which immediately starts to separate players from the game environment.

Combat is pretty painful. Its hard to go into a game without some expectations based on games that have “got it right first time.” The last FPS game I played prior to Paranoia was Call of Duty 4 and the difference could not be more stark, not just in terms of visual aspects (which of course cant be compared) but also in terms of fluidity and mechanics. With hit boxes which are laughably poor at times to terrible enemy model animation and AI this game started to annoy me at the first contact with the enemy (20-35 minutes in.) This is not simply due to the age of the engine, I still play Counter Strike (1.6) occasionally which is based on the same engine and there is no comparison, Counterstrike is silky smooth and actually has not aged badly graphically.

This is not to say, as the mod team has clearly put a lot of effort in, there are a number of interesting additions to the engine, like notes which can be read, a (very basic) mission manager and a point and click interface similar to the Doom 3/Quake 4 engine, however it is not enough.

I must admit I did not play too far past the first real ‘mission’ because all the annoyances were starting to mount up. The only thing that could save this mod would be a solid, immersing story line. Given the poor scripting, amateurish voiceclips and overall poor presentation I doubt it does and wont be playing it to find out.

Overall : 2/10

A lot of effort has clearly been put into some aspects of this mod and I am hesitant to put it down because of this, unfortunately a lot more is still needed and given the age of the engine, the team has likely run out of time.

UPDATE: I decided the give it another try and played through. It was not worth it, whilst the game did get better later on, the story line must have been conceived by a madman. (spoiler) After the initial encounter with the ‘terrorists’ you chase them into an underground base where you learn your Government had been conducting secret experiements in order to genetically engineer the perfect Spetznaz soldier. But it all turns nasty when you have to wade through a lab with zombies to another lab with genetic uber monsters, back to the first lab to find whats controlling the monsters…. you get the picture. Its disjointed and the story ‘borrows’ from games like They Hunger and the trigent parts of Far Cry, hanging together by a thread. All in all a revised rating would be 3/10 but only because the latter parts are slightly more polished than the start.

Categories: Gaming, Mod Tags: , , , , ,
  1. Cryptosapien
    March 22, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Giving 2/10 and 3/10 for Paranoia is somewhat brutally unfair. This happens to be the best HL1 MOD around. Technically, this mod even put HL Source to shame, as what most people thought such graphics cannot be done for HL1 which the guys at Paranoia. level-design. ru prove that it can be. There has been a lot of improvement during its release, I was actually one of those HL geeks that waited for this game to come out, and finally downloaded version 1.2 complete with the toolkits.

    It is safe to say that Paranoia has become a different game of it’s own. Calling it a mod almost belittles it from lavish reviews passed around by HL fans; it has become like a flagship for modest CPU’s against graphically demanding games that need to work out their technicality when releasing games with uberly high specs.

    My only cons with this game is that it was a bit short, but that’s only because I was having so much fun with it, that I didn’t expect it to be really really good. Another is that of it’s storyline, but given that it’s a mod, it is almost certain there will be series of this game in the later years that would plunge players into a deeper story. Lastly is the scare factor. When it comes to spooky, creepy video games, I like to get scared, I will consume it like a bag of potato chips as I did when I played F.E.A.R., Paranoia gave the same errie atmosphere of a techno-horror genre but again it was a short game and it ended just when it started to get erriely good.

    For this mod, I can give it a 9/10, 9 because level-design team had me thinking for a while there the difference between a mod and a stand alone game, and 9 because modest PC owners can play it, and 9 because it’s absolutely free!

  2. March 23, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    Whilst I do not disagree with your point about the technical achievements made by the mod team, I am looking at this pragmatically. Is the mod fun to play by modern standards?

    The answer is yes AND no.

    Yes because the later parts of the game (lab sections) are very detailed and well done given the engine they are running in. But whilst graphically it may be on par (or above) the level of CS 1.6, the gameplay is not fluid enough. Take for example Crysis, a beautiful game (or FarCry for an older example) that is exciting and fun to play.

    The reason is not the great graphics (or because either game has pushed the envelope) but because as a player, you feel engrossed in the environment. This is achieved through silky-smooth integration of the player and the game. The gamer has to feel the game understands what they are trying to do and their virtual character responds instantly and accordingly. In Paranoia, you shoot, walk, look around, but the motion capture of enemies as well as your own character are very poor, not to mention the strange hit boxes. The best example of this is on the ‘training’ range at the start of the game where you are left wondering what on earth is going on whilst listening to very poor and unhelpful dialog which adds nothing to the game.

    The story was cliche and tired but worst of all, it tried to combine too many genres. One moment you are a Spetznaz soldier, tasked with counter terrorism. Great, except your fellow soldiers have no AI to back that up and end up taking (laboured) prescripted paths. (Although this has nothing to do with the story, the section right at the start where you could not kill the two static enemies shooting at you annoyed me.) Then you are told the troops you are chasing have run into ‘an underground bunker.’ Ok, so you chase them into a very atmospheric (and well designed) series of labs and bunkers. I was geniunely impressed by this and especially liked the secret bunker.

    Then you are taken to another lab of mutants, then you double back to where the super-Spetznaz soldiers have been taken over by some strange PSI creature, then back to the first lab etc etc etc. You go from a ‘tactical shooter’ to a ‘story driven scifi shooter’ to a ‘zombie spray and pray’ shooter back to a story driven scifi shooter and back. These genres do not cross very well in the way in which Paranoia blends them together, although especially later the effort and innovation of the design team was evident.

    I do not dispute that,
    a) graphically they do push the HL1 engine, (although not at the start)
    b) there are innovative additions to the game (especially the explosion, but overall by modern standards it is still lacking),
    c) the later level design is atmospheric and fun to be in,
    d) the music was good later on (although got annoying as it played EACH time you saw those damn zombies),
    e) the soldier playing the guitar was funny,
    f) the mod was free.


    a) it IS just a single player mod for a badly aging engine, regardless of additions,
    b) it has a lot of gameplay issues and story line inconsistencies.
    c) it is repetitive and cliche in places,
    d) the early missions and barracks looked appalling graphically and did not thing other than delay the start of the game by almost an hour.

    If they could fix the gameplay issues, forget the early counter terrorism/tactical shooter aspects (which adds nothing) and include more character development and speech (like the female scientist in the middle) then I would give it a 6/10. However at the moment I am afraid my opinion remains the same.

    Thanks for visiting though and taking the time to give feedback 🙂

  3. March 23, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    One last point which I failed to raise either in my review or comment, at one point (level 13/14 I think) the map had a broken level transistion meaning I was stuck with no way to progress. To make a user resort to the console in order to cheating in order to get past a locked door (which failed to unlock via scripting) is bad but unforgivable for a mod so long in development. I should add that the game is now at version 1.2 and the version I played was 1.0 so this may have been fixed.

  4. Cryptosapien
    March 24, 2008 at 12:05 am

    Well I still believe its one of the best mods out there. And comparing it to well developed games like counterstrike (which also wasn’t that innovative during its first phases.) And full games like Crysis and Farcry won’t do a mod targetted for low specs, justice. Lol yes I’m stubborn! Haha, but I do agree at some of your points, I really enjoyed the mod however I haven’t played the first version – 1.0, maybe that’s why.

    PS. I came up to your site when I googled Paranoia. Neat site you have here too.

  5. mod tester
    June 2, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    listen man the grahics are all nice, the models r nice the animations r poor the story is OK but need improvemnet but the biggest downside is the AI the AI is exteremly poor i played it on hard like i do with every FPS game and it sucked the enemy just stupidly blow them selves up and yer id have to give this mod 3/10 id give it a 6/10 if it came out 2 years ago but the model work and mapping was excellent cant dispute dat but unfortunatley it was a let down

  6. ROTFL
    July 4, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    OMFG i cant understand how u can give this mod 2/10…Did we play in the same game?
    9,5/10 for me.

  7. Chrinik
    August 26, 2009 at 3:08 am

    Serriously…comparing this game to Crysis of all things?
    Remeber what the guys had to work with…HALF LIFE FRIGGIN ONE!
    Was Halflifes AI great?
    Were Halflifes annimations fluid?
    Heck no they weren´t, and i bet a big time that the developers COULDN´T code a better AI or improve animation in a game that provides no ground for it, and for NO CHARGE.

    HL1 got great reviews, but if you compare it to better, modern Fpses sure you start to wonder why the fuck it got good reviews back then.

    So i give my review right here in the comments section, since i played the mod through on my first go, because i had a crap PC back then that couldn´t even play C&C Generals on Max settings so i wasn´t spoiled by friggin Crysis!
    I was a Consolegamer anyway…
    I will include my opinions of the first few levels since i feel it nessesary.

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Beware Spoilers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I downloaded this mod because i recently got HL-1 and thought it was a total waste of time…not even the story got me sucked in because i hated all the jumpy platforming shit. It´s a FPS so i wanna shoot things alright.

    I looked into Mods for HL1 and since i´m a fan of psychological horror (not the kind that throws gore at the screen every 5 seconds like recent “horror” games and movies.) i heard that Paranoia was worth a look.
    I saw screenshots and conceptional drawings at the ModDb and sucked it straight of the net.
    After a few problems of getting it to run, which traced back to my 64mb Onboard grafics card (with which you aren´t even supposed to play it, i did anyway, because i´m badass…and poor) i found a grafical bug that made every transparent object intransparent…
    I found a fix and everything was cool.

    The game was utterly ugly for me because i used a crap PC, but since i was used to it, and generally don´t hog grafics, i didn´t mind.
    The not properly working flashlight provided a great deal of shock to the later levels XD

    So i got in the game…i started in the main base of the Spetznaz operatives (that IS original…tell me one game that has you be a soldier and starts in your friggin BED!) in my room…
    The text on my screen tells me to go around the base and do some errands and training. I read a note that was lying on my desk and went off to do whatever the game demands to get my hands on a weapon and shoot zombies.

    I talked with all the soldiers and wasn´t really impressed, but also not bored, at what they had to tell…like that officer who told you about Afghanistan and sitting on his bed sobbing, or the guitar playing dude.

    The all russian voicework gives it incredible immersion…you really feel you are in a RUSSIAN base, and not in an american base entirely populated by heavyly accented men like in some games…

    The base layout was confusing…i serriously got lost and wandered around the base for 10 minutes before finding that ONE DOOR that lead me to my next step.
    Maybe they could install some arrows on the walls and floor, having pictionarys on them or even Russian text which translates when you go near and press a button…

    After basic medical equipment training (press x to heal) and some general equipment training (this be your gasmask, it protects you from gas, this is your helmet, it protects you from bullets in your face!) i was told i should go and do a firearm training, since i´m an officer and can´t allow to get rusty on weapons.

    As i aspected, the all russian equipment looked quite nicely and shot like brick shitout but it was supposed to be like that…
    I grabbed an AK-74, Makarov Pistol and PKM machinegun and tried them out on the targets that where placed with distance markers and generally screwed around with them alot. I found the “iron sight aiming” to be a crux, since all it does is make your weapon more accurate, and move it from the side to the bottom center.
    You couln´t really “sight” with this, it´s like you switch from hipfire to chestfireing, which i don´t recommend at all…

    After waiting what will happen next a message interrupted my Gunfun by telling me to go meet the commander for some Counter Terrorist kickass.
    He tells me there are some terrorists taking some facility hostage and we need to save the civilians asses.

    Next moment i find myself in an APC with other armored and armed guys, checking their guns and listening to the briefing.

    Then we arrive at the scene…the visuals shocked me…so much friggin detail.
    Everything seems as it would have served a purpose prior to your arrival, nothing seemed out of place.
    Going into the complex i thought shit is going to hit the fan now and i will be shooting at lots of cannonfodder, like i wasn´t facing a terrorist group but the entire russian population…but no…
    Nothing happened…at first.
    You sneak into the complex, and your first firefight happened like it should do, YOU give the command, shoot some guys, your guys burst in and kill everyone in suprise…that´s Spetznaz for you…

    I found the combat to be somewhat bland, because of the uuuurgh hitboxes, that would require me to unload a complete mag to drop one guy because it wasn´t registrating my bullets ripping his torso appart…
    That was solved after switching to bursts and single shots and generally since i found the PKM, but a clean headshot is a clean headshot, i don´t want the badguy to shoot at me afterwards…

    I also found that ammo was quite sparce, so arround with firing loads of bullets into enemys to finally find the one spot that kills them, i ran around with the Makarov for half the games starting levels, because badguys also don´t drop ammo…
    I found that to be confusing, but since in HL1 the enemys also didn´t drop loot i was convinced it´s engine limitations.

    Then i found PLATFORMING!!!
    I hate platforming in shooters…but here it kinda works because i´m not a doctor trying to survive a failed experiment and develop USMC endurance, fitness and marksmenship the instance it happened, i was a Spetznaz operative here…an Elite Specops crew of the Soviet military!
    So i sneak around shit!

    Skipping (to not spoiler you EVERYTHING) a few levels and falling into what seemed to be the final “beginning” of the game, i found myself in a strange underground environment, my AK-74 lying shattered on the ground, and with rural paintings on the walls and my Squadmates over radio, and, accourding to his accounts, he was not far beyond me.
    So i rushed through the lonely complex hearing poundings all over the place, to maybe get in contact with him, but i soon felt very, very alone when an abrupt radiocall came in of him telling someone to “stay back” and “they do not die!”.

    Running to maybe help him in his struggle, i soon found his body…mutilated and his knife next to him, and his AK bend in a way that he couln´t possibly do by dropping it.
    I picked up the knife and some ammo and read through the notes, which told me of some suspects who “behaved strangely” or that they died after having Cat-eyes implanted into them.

    Utterly disturbed i found a hallway with more corpses, and just as i walked past them, a russian metalband was playing again, and i turned around to look into a bloody eyesocket.

    I serriously jumped off my screen at this moment and started pumping lead into his brains…but oddly enough, he did not fall.
    I ran for my life, thinking that this game maybe has immortal zombies and that this was supposed to make them more scary…firing away at them until one droped…
    “I CAN kill them!” was my battlecry and i fired aimed shots at their heads and trying to not get them close to me…because once a zombie came close to me, it would quickly take away all my health points which i was utterly suprised they can pull off.

    After my initial battle with the Zombies, hitpoints and ammo dropped to a critical ammount, because hitboxes and steel-like zombie-skin used away most of my ammo, and i was not gonna use that knife on a group of 3…
    So i was getting kinda nervous, which is a plus!

    The enemy design however, is oddly close to the zombies of HL1 in the first few encounters, but they get grosser and grosser the more you progress…There are also more then one kind of the “standart” zombie, which all look different, so you don´t get a clone army running towards you.
    They also get harder to kill, making you even more nervous.

    You see, this is what made this game so scary for me…the crappy hitboxes gave the feeling that these enemys are way harder to kill then you, and that made every encounter with them truely thrilling.

    I found the plot to be okay…i later reunite with my unit and go back into the evil bunker with a buddy and some serrious weaponry, which settled me a bit, and find out more about the experiments conducted at the facility…and of course, i beat all the terrorists and a HIND XD

    So grafically, i´d give it a 10/10 because it even looks better then the game it´s based on, which makes grafics 100% for me because once you look better then the main game, you put work into it.

    Gameplaywise i´d give it a 6/10, because of the shitty hitboxes turning my accurate gaming marksmenship into a laughable attempt…
    They work with the Zombies, but not with the Terrorists, since the Zombies then seem “invincible” and therefore more threatening…
    But a human taking 20 5.45mm bullets up close into his chest just seems odd.

    Sound…well, i like metal, thats good for them…but EVERYTIME an enemy appears, you hear the same actionpacked soundtrack!
    Something psychologically unnerving would have been appropriate some times.

    But the environmentalsounds are awesome, so that safes it up for a 7/10.

    Overall i´d recommend this mod when you take it for what it is…
    It´s not a Call of Duty 4 or a counterstrike, and it doesn´t want to be…so comparing Paranoia with them is like comparing Swiss cheese with Gouda…it´s both cheese, but entirely different cheeses, you either like both, or one, or neither.
    It´s grafical upgrades complete with bumpmapping make it look awesome (i has new PC nao XD) and sure are one thing of a kind, it´s psychological terror weighted deep in me since the enemys where so unfairly ballanced that they seemed impossible at first.
    The Hitboxes got better btw, now it´s far more easy to skillfully strafeheadshot an enemy around corners, like you are used too by COD4 and CS…

    The helmet and gasmask seemed like gimmicks for me, since you only need the gasmask about 1 or 2 times, and the helmet NEVER…
    I have not noticed any kind of difference, only that i saw less good and that my armor was depleted quicker then average, but actually, it doesn´t make a difference in combat.

    So download it…it´s worth a runthrough and check out, either you love it, or hate it XD

    • Chrinik
      August 26, 2009 at 3:26 am

      And lets all remember that Counterstrike recieved a shitload of updates to make it what it is and once it hit fame with the public, Valve jumped in and helped them develop it further…
      So comparing the work of an established Dev-team to some russians NOT CHARGING MONEY FOR IT because they couldn´t make it as good as a commercially sold product, is kinda lame…

  8. Sojourner
    September 29, 2009 at 2:43 pm


    This is a HL1 mod! Why on Earth are you comparing it to FarCry, Crysis?

    How they made Hl1 graphics look like that instantly deserves it a 6!

    I agree with the rest of the guys this mod is 9!

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