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.