Cold Fear

Cold Fear was an atmospheric survival horror game released by Ubi soft for playstation 2 in 2005. There are currently PC and Xbox ports available.

Cold Fear

Story

In Cold Fear you play as Tom Hansen, a sailor in the U.S. Coast Guard who has been sent in to investigate a mysterious Russian frigate in the middle of the ocean. As Hansen, you find out that the boat is occupied by hostile Russian soldiers and by alien creatures that use humans and other life forms as hosts, to feed on and to use as protection from the environment. The aliens are a threat to Hansen from both inside and outside their host bodies. His investigation leads to the mystery of the ship and its lethal cargo.

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Gameplay

Cold Fear plays like any other game of its genre, but its play mechanics are most reminiscent of those of Resident Evil 4. In Cold Fear, players can assume a behind the shoulder camera angle, much like Resident Evil 4. However, unlike Resident Evil 4, players can choose between a fixed camera angle or a behind the shoulder camera angle. Also, unlike Resident Evil 4, the player can move while aiming a weapon. The game employs many scare tactics, as well, like those found in Resident Evil and Doom 3. For example, when opening a door, a creature may jump out at the player, or while talking to an NPC, a creature may just burst out of his chest. And unlike Resident Evil, Cold Fear employs a stamina bar, which decreases as the player does certain actions, like running, which means you’ll be taking constant breaks to make sure Hansen is rested enough to proceed.

The conditions on the deck of the ship can change how the player can control Hansen. Since the game takes place in the middle of the ocean during a huge storm, there’s bound to be a lot of movement of the vessel as it bobs up and down through the rough seas. The cargo ship continuously banks left and right while you’re walking on deck, making it more difficult to aim and walk a straight line. In some instances, the ship rocks so much, and to such a great degree, that Hansen gets knocked down and sometimes sent overboard. There are also many environmental hazards, such as swinging electrical wires and crates hooked up to ropes, which are also affected by the swaying of the ship, and can easily crash into the player if he or she isn’t careful. Waves crashing on to the ship’s deck may also damage the player’s health.

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Weapons

  • .45 handgun
  • AK-47
  • spear gun
  • shotgun
  • M39 grenade launcher
  • flamethrower
  • MP5

Cold Fear’s advertising campaign created some striking visuals and fake scientific websites describing the strange parasitical organisms that appear as the game’s enemies.

concept art

Cold Fear screenshot 2

fake scientific research photos made for the game’s viral advertising campaign

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Comments

Half-Life

Half-Life, often abbreviated as HL or HL1, is a sci-fi first-person shooter computer game developed by Valve Software, first released by Sierra Studios on November 19, 1998. Designed for PCs running Microsoft Windows, the game uses a heavily modified version of the Quake engine, called GoldSrc.

In Half-Life, players assume the role of Dr. Gordon Freeman, a recently graduated theoretical physicist who must fight his way out of an underground research facility whose teleportation experimentations have gone terribly wrong. The game was the first first-person shooter with a story told entirely in-game in real time, without the use of cutscenes. On its release, critics hailed its overall presentation and numerous scripted sequences, and it won over 50 Game of the Year awards in 1998-9. Its gameplay influenced first-person shooters for years to come, and has since been regarded as one of the greatest games of all time.

With over eight million copies sold since, Half-Life is the best-selling PC first-person shooter to date. The Half-Life franchise – expansions such as Half-Life: Opposing Force; standalone Half-Life: Blue Shift; mods such as Counter-Strike, Team Fortress Classic, Deathmatch Classic, Ricochet, and Day of Defeat; and its sequel Half-Life 2 – has seen over 15 million sales.

The game was also released for the PlayStation 2 on November 15, 2001. A Sega Dreamcast port was made, but was cancelled just 2 weeks before release. The fully-playable Dreamcast version has since been released onto the Internet.[10]

The titles of Half-Life and its expansion packs are all named after scientific terms. Half-Life itself is a reference to the half life of a quantity, the amount of time required for the quantity to decay to half of its initial value. Opposing Force is a reference to Newton’s third law of motion, while Blue Shift refers to the blue shifting of the frequency of radiation caused by the Doppler effect.

Contents


  • 1 Plot
    • 1.1 Storyline
  • 2 Gameplay
    • 2.1 Characters and creatures
    • 2.2 Weapons
  • 3 Development
    • 3.1 Ports
      • 3.1.1 Dreamcast version
      • 3.1.2 Macintosh version
    • 3.2 Later developments
  • 4 Reception
    • 4.1 Products
  • 5 Expansions
    • 5.1 Third-Party Mods
  • 6 Soundtrack
  • 7 See also
  • 8 References
  • 9 External links

Plot

Most of the game is set in a remote desert area of New Mexico in a facility known as the Black Mesa Research Facility, a fictional complex that bears many similarities to both the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Area 51, during May or December (as seen on calendars in the game) of 200X, meaning it takes place sometime between the years 2000 and 2009. The game’s protagonist is the theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman, a survivor of an experiment that goes horribly wrong when an unexpected “resonance cascade” (a completely fictitious phenomenon; see also constructive interference and prompt critical) rips dimensional seams, devastating the facility. Aliens from another world – known as Xen – subsequently enter the facility through these dimensional seams (an event known as the “Black Mesa Incident”).

As Freeman tries to make his way out of the ruined facility to find help for the injured, he soon discovers that he is caught between two sides: the hostile aliens and the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit, a United States Marine Corps Special Forces division dispatched to cover up the incident by eliminating the aliens, as well as Dr. Freeman and the other surviving Black Mesa personnel. Throughout the game, a mysterious figure known (but not actually referred to in-game) as the “G-Man” regularly appears, apparently monitoring Freeman’s progress. Ultimately, Freeman uses the co-operation of surviving scientists and security officers to work his way towards the mysterious “Lambda Complex” of Black Mesa (signified with the Greek “λ” character), where a team of survivors teleport him to the alien world Xen to kill the Nihilanth, the creature keeping Xen’s side of the dimensional rift open.

The game’s plot was originally inspired by the video games Doom and Quake, both personal computer games produced by id Software, Stephen King’s short story/novella The Mist, and an episode of The Outer Limits called “The Borderland.” It was later developed by Valve’s in-house writer and author, Marc Laidlaw, who wrote the books Dad’s Nuke and The 37th Mandala.

Storyline

The


The “resonance cascade”, as witnessed by Gordon Freeman.

Half-Life begins with a long expository sequence that situates the player in the game’s environment prior to serious action or gameplay. The player-controlled character, Dr. Gordon Freeman, starts his day riding a tram deep into the heart of the Black Mesa Facility, where most of the game is set, on his way to the Anomalous Materials Lab to begin work. The tram ride gives players a perspective of the facility, setting the mood and serving as a vehicle for some comic relief moments. The ride also marks the first appearance of the G-Man, first shown as a strange man in a blue suit watching Gordon from another tram. When Gordon Freeman arrives at the Anomalous Materials Lab, a front desk security guard informs him that a system crash occurred shortly before he arrived, which has complicated communications between the Black Mesa scientists. The player must then acquire his Hazardous Environment suit before proceeding to the test chamber.

On his way to the test chamber, Gordon receives a briefing from a group of scientists. Before entering the test chamber, his co-workers inform him that his job is to push a “specimen” into the scanning beam for analysis. As soon as he does so, a fictional time-space catastrophe called a “resonance cascade” occurs. This event opens a portal between Earth and a bizarre world called Xen. During this, Freeman is briefly teleported there and at one point sees alien life forms known as Bullsquids and Vortigaunts.

Back in Black Mesa, Gordon exits the test chamber and sees that most of the scientists he had spoken to minutes before are dead. After finding some survivors, he discovers that there are no means to communicate with the world outside Black Mesa. Scientists then implore Gordon to make his way to the surface to get help. Black Mesa has suffered massive structural damage, and to make matters worse, aliens from Xen begin randomly teleporting all around them. Some are shown to be “wild” alien animals who attack the player because they are unfamiliar with their new surroundings and feel compelled to defend themselves. Others, such as the Vortigaunts, are depicted as more intelligent and attack Gordon with a clear intent to kill. The player can also occasionally glimpse the G-Man, who watches from out-of-reach places and always disappears before Gordon can get to him.

As the player progresses through the game, he runs into scientists who inform him that human soldiers are on the way to the base to rescue them. However, once Gordon encounters the soldiers, he discovers that the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit, which has taken control of Black Mesa, is not just killing the aliens, but is also killing everyone connected to Black Mesa. After fighting the soldiers and eventually reaching the surface of the complex, Gordon is informed by scientists that the secretive Lambda Team may have the means to solve the problems brought on by the cascade. Gordon must then reach the Lambda Complex at the other end of the facility to assist them.

Gordon Freeman is subsequently faced with several tasks, such as killing a giant, rapidly growing tentacle creature, riding across the facility on a railway system in order to reach a satellite rocket that must be launched in order to reverse the resonance cascade, and fighting a group of mysterious Black Ops, before being captured by Marines and dumped in a garbage compactor. Gordon escapes without being crushed and makes his way to an older, secret part of the Facility where he discovers an extensive collection of specimens collected from Xen long before the resonance cascade.

Gordon again reaches the surface, which has become a war zone. The Vortigaunts, along with Alien Grunts and a giant monstrosity, have begun fighting the Marines, who are beginning to lose. They’ve called in reinforcements, but it isn’t enough to turn the tide. Gordon must scale cliffs and navigate bombed out buildings while avoiding both sides. Finally, Gordon reaches relative safety underground.

The Marines begin to evacuate Black Mesa and airstrikes begin. At one point, the player must use the military equipment to call an air strike to re-enter the base. Gordon navigates underground water channels and tries to avoid scores of alien soldiers as they pick off remaining Marine stragglers. After much struggle, Gordon finally reaches the Lambda Complex, which is revealed to be the location where they developed the teleportation technology that allowed scientists to travel to Xen in the first place. Gordon reaches the handful of surviving personnel, who have holed themselves up in a small stronghold, and discovers that, unfortunately, the satellite he launched was not able to reverse the effects of the resonance cascade because an immensely powerful being on the other side of the rift is keeping the portal between the worlds open. Gordon must kill this being to prevent the Xen aliens from taking over completely. The scientists activate the teleporter and Gordon is relocated to Xen.

Freeman on Xen.


Freeman on Xen.

On the strange border world, Gordon encounters many of the aliens that had been brought into Black Mesa, as well as the remains of HEV-wearing researchers that came before him. The player engages in one of the few boss-style battles against Gonarch, a giant headcrab with a huge egg sac. After fighting his way through an alien camp, Gordon arrives at a huge alien factory complex, which engineers and builds the Alien Grunt soldiers. After fighting his way through mysterious, levitating creatures, he finds a giant portal and enters it.

In a vast cave, Gordon finally confronts the Nihilanth, the creature who was maintaining the rift, and destroys it. As the creature dies, it explodes in a giant green blast that overpowers Gordon’s senses. After awakening, Gordon’s movement is restricted as he is confronted by the G-Man. Both are transported to various locales around Xen, while the G-Man praises the player’s actions in the border world. The G-Man explains that his “employers”, believing that Gordon has “limitless potential”, have authorized him to offer Freeman a job. The final teleportation takes the player to the original tram car, which appears to be flying through space. If the player refuses the job offer, the G-Man teleports him to a location in front of a considerable number of alien enemies, stating, “No regrets, Mr. Freeman,” as the screen fades out. If the player accepts, by stepping into a portal, he finds himself floating in nothingness and hears the G-Man’s voice one last time: “Wisely done, Mr. Freeman. I will see you up ahead.”

Gameplay

In this scene, the player must bypass a dam and reservoir guarded by an Apache helicopter, a group of soldiers, and a cannon emplacement. This shot shows the original MP5 sub-machine gun, rather than the High Definition Pack's M4 Carbine replacement.


In this scene, the player must bypass a dam and reservoir guarded by an Apache helicopter, a group of soldiers, and a cannon emplacement. This shot shows the original MP5 sub-machine gun, rather than the High Definition Pack’s M4 Carbine replacement.

Half-Life, a first-person shooter, requires the player to perform two kinds of tasks: combat and puzzle solving. Unlike its peers at the time, Half-Life utilized scripted sequences, which range from small events, such as an alien ramming down a door, to major plot points. While most contemporary first-person shooters relied on cut scene intermissions to detail their plotlines, Half-Life‘s story is put forth entirely through scripted sequences, keeping the player in the game at all times. In line with this, the player rarely loses the ability to control Gordon, who never speaks and is never actually seen in the game. Half-Life has no “levels”, opting instead for a continuous world divided by short load times to minimize interruptions in gameplay. That said, the game can clearly be split up into distinct “chapters”, the titles of which will flash up on the screen at the start of each one.

The game regularly integrates puzzles, such as navigating a maze of conveyor belts. Some puzzles involve using the environment to kill an enemy. There are few “bosses” in the conventional sense, where the player defeats a superior opponent by direct confrontation. Instead, such monsters occasionally define chapters, and the player is generally expected to use the terrain, rather than firepower, to kill the “boss”. Late in the game, the player receives a “long jump module” for their HEV suit, which increases the horizontal distance and speed of jumps, by crouching before jumping. This is used for platformer-style jumping puzzles in the later portion of the game.

Characters and creatures

For the most part the player battles through the game alone, but is occasionally assisted by non-player characters; specifically security guards and scientists who fight alongside the player, assist in reaching new areas and impart relevant plot information.

A wide array of enemies populate the game including alien lifeforms such as headcrabs, bullsquids, headcrab zombies and Vortigaunts. The player also faces human opponents, in particular HECU Marines and black ops assassins who are dispatched to contain the alien threat and silence all witnesses.

Weapons

Half-Life has a large array of weapons the player can use, including the trademark crowbar for mêlée fighting, the conventional firearms of the Glock 17 pistol, SPAS-12 shotgun, MP-5 submachine gun with grenade launcher, .357 Magnum revolver, and rocket launcher as well as unconventional weapons ranging from a crossbow to alien weapons such as Snarks – small, voracious, explosive alien insectoids – to experimental weapons including the Gluon gun and Gauss gun.

With the installation of the High Definition Pack, the weapons’ appearances are substantially updated, mainly due to a larger number of polygons in the models. Although their appearances have changed, they perform exactly the same as their original counterparts in terms of gameplay. The Glock 17 and MP5 are replaced by the Beretta 92FS and M4A1 as well.

Development

Half-Life was the first product of Kirkland, Washington-based developer Valve Software, which was founded in 1996 by former Microsoft employees Mike Harrington and Gabe Newell. They settled on a concept for a horror-themed 3D action game, and licensed the Quake engine from id Software. Valve eventually modified the engine a great deal, notably adding skeletal animation and Direct3D support; a developer stated in a PC Accelerator magazine preview that seventy percent of the engine code was rewritten. The company had difficulties finding a publisher at first, many believing their project “too ambitious” for a studio headed by newcomers to the video game industry. However, Sierra On-Line had been very interested in making a 3D action game, especially one based on the Quake engine, and so signed them for a one-game deal.

The original code name for Half-Life was Quiver, after the Arrowhead military base from Stephen King’s novella The Mist, which served as early inspiration for the game. Gabe Newell explained that the name Half-Life was chosen because it was evocative of the theme, not clichéd, and had a corresponding visual symbol: the Greek letter λ (lower-case lambda), which represents the decay constant in the half-life equation.

The first public appearances of Half-Life came in early 1997; it was a hit at Electronic Entertainment Expo that year, where they primarily demonstrated the animation system and artificial intelligence. Valve Software hired science fiction author Marc Laidlaw in August 1997 to work on the game’s characters and level design. Half-Life was originally planned to be shipped in late 1997, to compete with Quake II, but was postponed when Valve decided the game needed significant revision.

In a 2003 Making Of… feature in Edge, Newell discusses the team’s early difficulties with level design. In desperation, a single level was assembled including every weapon, enemy, scripted event and level design quirk that the designers had come up with so far. This single level inspired the studio to press on with the game. As a result, the studio completely reworked the game’s artificial intelligence and levels in the year leading up to its release. At E3 1998 it was given Game Critics Awards for “Best PC Game” and “Best Action Game”. The release date was delayed several times in 1998 before the game was finally released in November of that year.

Ports

Half-Life was ported to the PlayStation 2 by Gearbox Software and released in 2001. This version of the game had a significant overhaul in terms of both character models, weapons, and more advanced and extended levels and general map geometry (see Half-Life High Definition Pack for a model-comparison). Despite the increased level of detail, the style of some of the models (most noticeably the human grunts) is also noticeably altered, meaning that whether they actually look better or not is subject to opinion. Also added in is a head-to-head play and a co-op expansion called Half-Life: Decay that allowed players to play as the two female scientists Dr. Cross and Dr. Green at Black Mesa.

Versions for the Sega Dreamcast and Apple Macintosh were essentially completed, but never commercially released. The Dreamcast edition was eventually leaked onto the internet.

Dreamcast version

Gearbox Software was slated to release a port to the Sega Dreamcast under contract by Valve and their then publisher Sierra On-Line near the end of 2000. At the ECTS 2000, a build of the game was playable on the publisher’s stand, and developers Randy Pitchford and Brian Martel were in attendance to show it off and give interviews to the press. However, despite only being weeks from going gold, it was never commercially released; Sierra announced that Half-Life on Dreamcast was cancelled “due to changing market conditions” onset by third-party abandonment of the Dreamcast. That year Sierra On-Line showed a PlayStation 2 port at E3 2001. This version was released in North America in late October of the same year, followed by a European release just a month later. Around the same time, Half-Life: Blue Shift, which was intended to be a Dreamcast-exclusive side story, was released on PC as the second Half-life Expansion Pack.

Although it has never officially been released, the Dreamcast version was leaked onto the Internet, and was proven to be fully playable; it contains the full versions of Half-Life and Blue Shift, both with an early version of the High Definition Pack, but has a somewhat inconsistent framerate and lengthier load times when the player moves from area to area. Also, there are some saving problems; the number of blocks required to save on a VMU increases rapidly as the player reaches the end of a level, then drops at the start of the next. While the game allows the user to remove files to increase space, sometimes it still isn’t enough.

Macintosh version

Though more or less complete and ready for mass production, the Macintosh port of Half-Life was scrapped because of incompatibility with the Windows PC version’s multiplayer mode. The developers also stated that mods for PC Half-Life would not be compatible with the Mac port. Additionally, concerns over the task load associated with providing technical support on more than one end platform at once may have contributed to the demise of Half-Life for Macintosh.

Later developments

   

Half-Life 2 and Half-Life: Source

The sequel, Half-Life 2, was merely a rumor until it was finally revealed at E3 in May 2003, which ignited a firestorm of hype surrounding the game. The player again takes the role of Gordon Freeman, this time several years after the Black Mesa incident in the dystopic Eastern European “City 17” where he must fight as part of a rebellion against an alien regime. After a series of controversies and delays Half-Life 2 was released on November 16, 2004.

To experience firsthand the processes mod-makers would have to go through with the new engine, Valve ported Half-Life (dubbed Half-Life: Source) and Counter-Strike to their new Source engine. Half-Life: Source is a straight port, lacking any new content or the Blue Shift High Definition pack. However, it does take advantage of vertex and pixel shaders for more realistic water effects, as well as Half-Life 2’s realistic physics engine. They also added several other features from Half-Life 2, including improved dynamic lightmaps, vertex maps, and a shadowmap system with cleaner, higher resolution, specular texture and normal maps, as well as utilization of the render-to-texture soft shadows found in Half-Life 2′s Source engine, along with 3D skybox replacements in place of the old 16-bit color bitmap skies. Also redesigned was the crossbow that will pin its targets to a nearby wall if they’re close enough. The Half-Life port possesses many of the Source engine’s graphical strengths as well control weaknesses that have been noted in the Source engine. Half-Life: Source is available with special editions of Half-Life 2.

Half-Life Source has been criticised for not fully utilizing many of the features of the Source engine found in Half-Life 2, as it still uses textures and models from the original game. Due to this, a third-party mod remake called Black Mesa is also under development. Day of Defeat: Source was released on September 26, 2005.

On June 10, 2005, Valve announced through their Steam update news service an upcoming port of Half-Life Deathmatch, the multiplayer portion of the original game, much in the same fashion as the earlier released Half-Life: Source. No exact release date was given, simply the words “In the coming weeks…” On July 2, 2006, Half-Life Deathmatch: Source was released.

On June 1, 2006 Half-Life 2: Episode One was released. It is part of a three episode trilogy, of which the second episode is scheduled to be released in fall 2007.

Reception

   

Half-Life’s public reception was overwhelmingly positive in terms of reviews, acclaim and sales. As of 2007 over 8 million copies of the game have been sold, making it the best-selling first person shooter of all time.

Half-Life was critically acclaimed, earning an overall score of 96% on review collection website Metacritic.. IGN described it as “a tour de force in game design, the definitive single player game in a first person shooter.” Gamespot claimed that it was the “closest thing to a revolutionary step the genre has ever taken”. Gamespot inducted Half-Life into their “Greatest Game of All Time” list in May 2007.

Products

The popularity of the Half-Life Series has led way to an array of side products and collectibles. Valve offers Half-Life-related products such as a plush vortigaunt, plush headcrab, posters, clothing and mousepads.

Expansions

Two expansion packs by outside developer Gearbox Software have been released for the PC version: Half-Life: Opposing Force (1999) and Half-Life: Blue Shift (2001). The former, often shortened to OpFor or OP4, returns the player to Black Mesa during the events of Half-Life’s storyline, but this time from the perspective of one of the soldiers in the Hazardous Environment Combat Unit sent to cover up evidence of the incident. It introduced several new weapons (notably the M249 SAW LMG and a Barnacle grappling gun), new non-player characters, both friendly and hostile (Otis the security guard and the “Race X” aliens, respectively) and new, previously unseen areas of the facility. The expansion is shorter than Half-Life, having 11 chapters to the original’s 19.

The player takes control of Barney Calhoun in Blue Shift.


The player takes control of Barney Calhoun in Blue Shift.

Blue Shift returns the player to HL’s Black Mesa timeline once more, this time as one of the facility’s security guards. (This expansion was originally developed as a bonus mission for the canceled Dreamcast version.) Blue Shift came with an optional High Definition Pack that could update the look of Half-Life, Opposing Force, and the new Blue Shift content. In particular, the models’ polygon count and texture resolutions were increased. However, the style of some of the models (most noticeably the human grunts) was noticeably altered, meaning that whether they actually look better or not is subject to opinion. Some changes were also made to the in-game sounds, most notably the shotgun. Blue Shift had relatively little new content compared to Opposing Force: aside from a few models (jacket-less scientists and security guards, Otis, and Dr. Rosenberg) all content was already present in the original Half-Life.

Half-Life: Decay was another expansion by Gearbox, released only as an extra with the PlayStation 2 version of Half-Life. The add-on featured cooperative gameplay in which two players could solve puzzles or fight against the many foes in the Half-Life universe.

In 2000, a compilation pack titled the Half-Life: Platinum Collection was released, including (with their respective manuals):

  • Half-Life
  • Counter-Strike
  • Team Fortress Classic
  • Half-Life: Opposing Force

In 2002, the pack was re-released under the new titles Half-Life Platinum Pack[44] and Half-Life: Generations. These new iterations also included the Half-Life: Blue Shift expansion pack.

In 2005, Half-Life 1: Anthology was released, containing Steam-only versions of the following games on a single DVD:

  • Half-Life
  • Half-Life: Opposing Force
  • Half-Life: Blue Shift
  • Team Fortress Classic

Third-Party Mods

See main article List of Half-Life mods

From its release in 1998, Half-Life saw fervent support from independent game developers, due in no small part to support and encouragement from Valve Software. Worldcraft, the level-design tool used during the game’s development, was included with the game software. Printed materials accompanying the game indicated Worldcraft’s eventual release as a retail product, but these plans never materialised. Valve also released a software development kit, enabling developers to modify the game and create mods. Both tools were significantly updated with the release of the version 1.1.0.0 patch. Many supporting tools (including texture editors, model editors, and rival level editors like the multiple engine editor QuArK) were either created or updated to work with Half-Life.

Half-Life’s code has been released and is being used as a base for many multiplayer mods such as the immensely popular Counter-Strike. Other popular multiplayer mods include Team Fortress Classic (TFC), Day of Defeat, Deathmatch Classic (DMC), Action Half-Life, Firearms, Science and Industry, The Specialists, and Natural Selection. TFC and DMC were developed in-house at Valve Software. Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, and others that began life as the work of independent developers (self-termed “modders”), later on received aid from Valve. There was even a free team-based multiplayer mod called Underworld Bloodline created to promote the Sony Pictures movie Underworld.

Numerous single player mods have also been created, like USS Darkstar  (1999, a futuristic action-adventure onboard a zoological research spaceship), The Xeno Project 1 and 2 (1999-2005, a two-part mod starting in Xen and again including spaceships), Edge of Darkness  (2000, which features some unused Half-Life models), Half-Life: Absolute Redemption (2000, which brings back Gordon Freeman for four additional episodes and another encounter with the G-Man), They Hunger (2000-2001, a survival horror total conversion trilogy involving zombies), and Poke646  (2001, a follow-up to the original Half-Life story with improved graphics).

Some Half-Life modifications eventually landed on retail shelves. Counter-Strike was the most successful, unexpectedly becoming the biggest selling online game to date and having been released in five different editions: as a standalone product (2000), as part of the Platinum Collection (2000), as an Xbox version (2003) as the single player spin-off, Counter-Strike: Condition Zero (2004), and the newest addition, Counter-Strike: Source, which runs on Half-Life 2′s Source engine. Team Fortress Classic, Day of Defeat and Gunman Chronicles (2000, a futuristic Western movie-style total conversion with emphasis on its single player mode) were also released as stand-alone products.

Soundtrack

Half-Life’s soundtrack was composed by Kelly Bailey.

  • 1. “Adrenaline Horror” – 02:09
  • 2. “Vague Voices” (Black Mesa Inbound) – 02:11
  • 3. “Klaxon Beat” – 01:00
  • 4. “Space Ocean” (Echoes of a Resonance Cascade) – 01:36
  • 5. “Cavern Ambiance” (Zero Point Energy Field) – 01:39
  • 6. “Apprehensive Short” – 00:23
  • 7. “Bass String Short” – 00:06
  • 8. “Hurricane Strings” (Neutrino Trap) – 01:33
  • 9. “Diabolical Adrenaline Guitar” (Lambda Core) – 01:44
  • 10. “Valve Theme [Long Version]” (Hazardous Environments) – 01:22
  • 11. “Nepal Monastery” – 02:08
  • 12. “Alien Shock” (Biozeminade Fragment) – 00:36
  • 13. “Sirens in the Distance” (Triple Entanglement) – 01:12
  • 14. “Nuclear Mission Jam” (Something Secret Steers Us) – 02:00
  • 15. “Scared Confusion Short” – 00:16
  • 16. “Drums and Riffs” (Tau-9) – 02:03
  • 17. “Hard Technology Rock” – 01:40
  • 18. “Steam in the Pipes” (Negative Pressure) – 01:55
  • 19. “Electric Guitar Ambiance” (Escape Array) – 01:24
  • 20. “Dimensionless Deepness” (Dirac Shore) – 01:24
  • 21. “Military Precision” – 01:20
  • 22. “Jungle Drums” – 01:49
  • 23. “Traveling Through Limbo” (Singularity) – 01:17
  • 24. “Credits / Closing Theme” (Tracking Device) – 01:39
  • 25. “Threatening Short” (Xen Relay) – 00:37
  • 26. “Dark Piano Short” – 00:17
  • 27. “Sharp Fear Short” – 00:08

(Note: Most of the tracks were re-titled and carried over to the Half-Life 2 original soundtrack; the names in parentheses are the revised titles used in the Half-Life 2 OST. Tracks 2, 12, 13, and 24 were remixed for the sequel.)

The tracks “Dark Piano Short” and “Sharp Fear Short” are later used in various forms of media, including the popular reality television show Fear Factor and Power Rangers: S.P.D

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Disgaea: Hour of Darkness

 Disgaea: Hour of DarknessDisgaea: Hour of Darkness

Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (魔界戦記 ディスガイア, Makai Senki Disugaia?, lit. “Netherworld Battle Chronicle: Disgaea”) is a tactical role-playing game developed by Nippon Ichi Software for the Sony PlayStation 2 video game console. It was released in Japan on January 30, 2003 by Nippon Ichi Software, in North America on August 27, 2003 by Atlus USA, Inc. and in Europe on May 28, 2004 by Koei. Disgaea follows the adventures of Laharl, a demon prince residing in the Netherworld.

Nippon Ichi has also licensed or produced a wide variety of Disgaea merchandise, including a manga. A sequel has since been released in 2006 titled Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, along with a 12 episode long anime.

Due to popular demand, Nippon Ichi announced that they would be porting Disgaea to the Playstation Portable video game console which was released on November 30, 2006 in Japan. A North American or European version has not yet been announced.

Contents

  • 1 Gameplay1.1 Laharl’s castle
    • 1.1.1 Dark Assembly
    • 1.2 Geo Panels
    • 1.3 Item World
  • 2 Characters
    • 2.1 Laharl
    • 2.2 Etna
    • 2.3 Flonne
    • 2.4 Minor characters
    • 2.5 Generic characters
    • 2.6 Secret characters
  • 3 Plot
  • 4 Episode titles
  • 5 Audio and visuals
  • 6 Awards
  • 7 See also
  • 8 References

Gameplay

Disgaea has many features which differ from those in other tactical RPGs. One of the game’s tutorial levels explains the ability of the player’s units to pick up enemies or allies and throw them to a different square on the map. Monster units cannot use this ability. The distance that a unit on the map can throw another unit depends on its character class; rogue class characters and Gordon have the best range in the game. It is possible to capture enemy units by throwing them into the player’s entry square on the map, after which they join the player’s party. However, bosses and humanoids cannot be captured.

The game also has “cycles”; at the end of each trip through the storyline, the player can choose to restart the story from its beginning and maintain each character’s statistics and item inventory from the previous game. Characters that join and leave the party as part of the game’s story will only be usable in the same parts of the game that they were before, but they, too, will retain their items, abilities, and stats. This complements Disgaea’s high character level ceiling of 9999, while also giving the player additional chances to see Disgaea’s multiple endings.

Disgaea’s configuration allows the player to select the audio and soundtrack in the U.S. release from English or Japanese. The song “The Invasion From Within” by Tsunami Bomb was licensed for the English audio track by ATLUS due to its organ opening and fast pace, and is only played when English is the selected language. The option to select the language is not present in the European release of the game, because the European release used a lower capacity storage medium (CD instead of DVD).

Souhei Niikawa and Yoshitsuna Kobayashi, the game’s producer and main programmer, have explained the intended humor of Disgaea; they give the example of Captain Gordon being a satire of American comic book characters. Episodes of the game are separated by previews, parodying such previews at the end of anime series episodes. Most of these have voice-overs by Etna and do not accurately reflect the plot of the next episode; one of the characters calls these previews Etna’s fantasies. The game is also filled with Prinnies, penguin-like creatures that explode when thrown. More information on their origins is revealed as the game progresses – they contain human souls and labor in the Netherworld and Celestia to atone for their sins. Character designer Takehito Harada described the prinny design as becoming less realistic as development continued.

Laharl’s castle

Laharl’s castle acts as a hub, allowing the player to access the other locations in the game. Each episode of the game gives the player access to a new set of maps, which must be completed in order to proceed in the plot. With the exception of the Item World and the Dark Assembly, all sets of maps are accessed by speaking to a dimensional gatekeeper. With the exception of some maps, maps can be accessed and played again at any time, occasionally with minor changes.

Unlike many other RPGs, the world of Disgaea has only one set of stores where items may be purchased, consisting of an armor shop and a weapons shop directly within Laharl’s castle itself. These shops are described in-game as the Netherworld branch of the Rosen Queen Co. The overall quality and types of the items sold in these shops can be changed through proposals to the Dark Assembly. A hospital where characters may be healed in exchange for payment is also present in the same area of the castle and rewards Laharl and company by giving them items when they receive certain amounts of treatment.

Dark Assembly

At the other side of the castle, Laharl and the members of his party may appear before the Dark Assembly, an area where non-player characters may vote on proposals to aid Laharl’s party, including proposals to unlock special maps required for some of the endings or secret characters. Senators have a visible predilection toward the party that affects their votes. Votes can also be affected by bribes with items from the player’s inventory. Each proposal to the Dark Assembly costs “mana”, which is built up by characters as they defeat enemies. If a proposal fails to receive sufficient votes, the player may attempt to pass the bill anyway by choosing to “persuade by force” and defeating the opposing senators in battle. The proposals available to place before the senate depends on the number of promotion examinations completed by a character; these examinations consist of a battle with a handful of monsters on the floor of the Assembly.

Geo Panels

Some maps in Disgaea contain Geo Panels, which are represented as squares on the floor of the map of a particular color. Colored objects on the map known as Geo Symbols may be present on either Geo Panels or regular, uncolored squares on the map. These Geo Symbols can usually be thrown. When a Geo Symbol sits on a Geo Panel, it gives the all Geo Panels of the color it sits on a property, such as making all units on them invulnerable, or decreasing the HP of friendly units on those panels by 20% at the end of each turn. When a Geo Symbol is destroyed on a Geo Panel of a different color, it causes panels of that color to change to the color of the Geo Symbol and damages units on those panels. If another Geo Symbol is on one of the panels when it changes, it too is destroyed, and the Geo Panels begin to change color and properties again, creating a chain reaction. This chain reaction can be of any length that can be supported by the number of colors of panel and symbols on the map. Some Geo Symbols have the color “clear” and cause the Geo Panels to become regular map squares when destroyed. Removing all of the Geo Panels from a map will cause a blast of energy which hurts all enemies on the map and results in maximum bonuses for the player, referred to in the manual as the Panel Termination Bonus.

Item World

Laharl’s party may also enter the Item World from the Castle, going inside an item in their inventory in order to increase its attributes. The world associated with an item contains up to 100 randomly generated levels. Inside the Item World, monsters called Specialists raise the statistics of the item they are in when defeated. Often, the maps are full of Geo Symbols.

Each floor has a gate, a special map square that can be used to go to the next level in the item world. However, a monster with the unique class “Gate Keeper” will sometimes block the gate. The Gate Keeper must be defeated to use the gate. Every once in a while, rare items, such as the Legendary Cosmic Blade, show up on a bonus list of items rewarded when all monsters on the map are defeated.

Every ten levels has an item boss – level numbers 10, 20, 40, 50, 70 and 80 have Item Generals, 30, 60 and 90 have Item Kings, and 100 has an Item God. The strongest of each type of weapon and the three ultimate items – the Yoshitsuna, the Super Robo Suit, and the Hyperdrive – each contain an Item God 2. Defeating these bosses also increases the attributes of the item. The Yoshitsuna can only be acquired from an Item God in a Legendary Cosmic Blade, the Hyperdrive is rewarded the first time the player defeats an Item God 2, and the Super Robo Suit can be stolen from Tyrant Baal. The Item World can only be exited at the end of every 10th level containing an Item Boss, or at any other time by using an item called Mr. Gency’s Exit, a play on the phrase “Emergency Exit”.

Characters

Main article: List of Disgaea characters

Note: Significant plot details follow.

Laharl

Laharl

Laharl

Laharl is the main character and antihero of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, He is the son of King Krichevskoy, former Overlord of the Netherworld. After awakening from a two hundred year slumber at the beginning of the game, he discovers that his father is dead and almost all of his vassals are gone (most of them are, in fact, trying to take Laharl’s place, rather than trying to serve him). As the rightful heir to the throne, Laharl sets out to conquer the Netherworld and establish himself as the one true Overlord.

Laharl is incredibly arrogant and always tries to prove that he is the strongest demon in the Netherworld. He does, however, possess incredible power for his appearance, which, despite the fact that he is a 1313 year old demon, is still that of a small human child (his large hair “antennae” and billowing scarf are meant to mask this fact). Will he succeed in his quest, and what kind of Overlord will he become?

Etna

Etna

Disgaea 2: Etna PVC FigureDisgaea 2: Etna PVC Figure

Etna

Etna is one of the few former vassals of the late King Krichevskoy who remained in his castle after his death. At the beginning of the game, she awakens Laharl from his two hundred-year nap and tells him of the events that occurred while he was asleep. With the help of a Prinny squad, she fights alongside Laharl in his quest to become the new Overlord. Etna is driven throughout the game by a deep loyalty to the late King Krichevskoy, and she becomes Laharl’s closest, though not necessarily most trustworthy, vassal. Her carefree manner masks a devious and clever mind. What is she really after?

Flonne

Flonne

Flonne

Flonne is an Angel Trainee who hails from the land of Celestia, where the Angels reside. She was sent to the Netherworld by Seraph Lamington, the ruler of Celestia, and was ordered to assassinate the Overlord, King Krichevskoy. Shortly after her arrival, however, Laharl and Etna inform her that King Krichevskoy has, in fact, been dead for over two hundred years.

Eternally optimistic and cheerful, Flonne is the most innocent and naive of the three main characters in Disgaea. She is deeply devoted to both Seraph Lamington and to the concept of ‘love’. Perturbed by Laharl’s rejection of everything to do with love, Flonne decides to follow him and learn if demons actually are incapable of feeling it. Can she teach Laharl the true meaning of love?

Minor characters

Laharl and the others face a variety of challengers to his throne. One of these, Vyers, who refers to himself as “the Dark Adonis” and is renamed “Mid-Boss” by Laharl, is the first demon that Laharl confronts in his quest to claim the title of Overlord. Vyers reappears throughout the game as a somewhat comedic would-be rival to Laharl. Other demons Laharl must fight include Hoggmeiser, a pig-like demon with a self-proclaimed love of money, and Maderas, a vampire that attempts to blackmail Laharl into fighting a battle under very unfavorable circumstances.

Later in the game, they meet several characters from Earth, starting with Captain Gordon, the 37th Defender of Earth; his assistant Jennifer; and the robot Thursday. Laharl makes Gordon into one of his vassals after defeating him in battle. They also encounter Gordon’s rival Kurtis, who holds a grudge against Gordon and considers himself to be more worthy of the title “Defender of Earth.” Gordon and Kurtis are both under the command of General Carter, the leader of the Earth Defense Force.

Other characters include Big Sis Prinny, who seems wiser and more mature than the other Prinnies, the paranoid Archangel Vulcanus, who hates all demons and is suspicious of Flonne, and Seraph Lamington, the ruler of Celestia.

Disgaea Reigning Overlords Figure SetDisgaea Reigning Overlords Figure Set

Generic characters

In addition to the plot-related characters, the player can create generic characters that are used only in battles. There are 3 different types of generic characters – humanoids, monsters, and Prinnies. Monster classes can obtained after the player defeats at least one of them in battle. Some humanoid classes are available at the beginning of the game, and others must be unlocked. Prinnies are basically the same as monster characters, with one major exception. A Prinny, unlike other monster characters, explodes when thrown during a battle.

Secret characters

Secret characters can also be found in Disgaea. Priere from La Pucelle: Tactics is the Overlord of an alternate Netherworld. Marjoly from Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure is the final boss of the Beauty Castle; she has items equipped that come from other Rhapsody characters — Myao’s Ears, Gao’s Guts, Crowdia’s Beauty, and Nyanko’s Soul. Both Marjoly and Priere become playable members of Laharl’s party when defeated. Another secret character is Baal, the Lord of Terror; he does not join the player’s party when defeated, but is instead reincarnated as a Prinny and can be challenged again. Baal also appears as an optional boss in most other games developed by Nippon Ichi.

Plot

Note: Significant plot details follow.

The story of Disgaea opens with Laharl rising out of an open coffin in his room. Etna, one of the castle vassals, is standing next to him, surrounded by various weapons. She explains that he has been sleeping for two years, far longer than he intended, and his father, King Krichevskoy, has died. Laharl vows to reclaim the throne, and, after consulting with Etna and his other vassals, goes to Vyers’ castle.

After defeating the demon Vyers, who refers to himself as the “Dark Adonis” and is renamed “Mid-Boss” by Laharl, he meets Angel Trainee Flonne. Flonne had been sent to the Netherworld by Seraph Lamington, the ruler of Celestia, to assassinate King Krichevskoy (who was already dead). Shocked by Laharl’s lack of grief at his father’s death, the eternally optimistic Flonne joins Laharl’s party to determine if demons are capable of feeling love. Observing them in secret is the paranoid Archangel Vulcanus, who interprets Flonne’s actions as treason and is convinced that she is plotting against him.

After Etna demands that Laharl pay the salary of the Prinnies that she has hired, he decides to attack the demon with the most money in the vicinity. This is Hoggmeiser at Dinero Palace. After defeating Hoggmeiser, Laharl is about to kill him, until Hoggmeiser’s son rushes out and gets in the way. Flonne convinces Laharl to spare them, and Laharl lets them keep some of the money. In response to this act, Hoggmeiser joins the party.

At one point, Flonne and Etna discover a photograph of Laharl in an embarrassing situation. Laharl refers to this as a “paparazzi shot”, however, the actual contents of the photo are never actually revealed. (Two popular theories are that Laharl was doing something sexual or that he was doing something nice. He could also have been caught crossdressing.) A threat on the back of the photograph states that copies of it would be distributed if Laharl did not accept a challenge to fight for the overlordship; thus Laharl was blackmailed. One of the demons in Laharl’s castle, after learning about the photo, says “I didn’t know you were into that sort of thing ♥”.

Responding to this challenge, Laharl meets Maderas, a vampire. He was banished by King Krichevskoy, for stealing the King’s favorite snack, black pretzels. Maderas takes advantage of Laharl’s two biggest weaknesses – optimism and women with sexy bodies. Maderas was also controlling Etna by holding her memory. He had instructed her to kill the prince, but she had put him to sleep for two years by poisoning him instead. Etna eventually betrays Maderas, and along with Laharl, Flonne, and Mid-Boss, defeats him.

Waking up later at night, Flonne discovers that several Prinnies are chanting and leaving the castle. Laharl, worried that his reputation will be tarnished if it’s discovered that he let his vassals escape, chases after them the next morning. Eventually, he runs into Death, and the player learns that Big Sis Prinny is actually Laharl’s mother; she became a Prinny because she gave her life to save him.

After Laharl becomes the undisputed Overlord of the Netherworld, he meets a group of humans from Earth: Gordon, self-proclaimed Defender of Earth; Jennifer, his assistant; and the robot Thursday. Gordon has been led to believe that his mission is to assassinate Laharl due to an impending attack on Earth by the Netherworld. Laharl promises not to invade Earth if Gordon defeats him, on the condition that Gordon becomes one of his vassals if he wins; Gordon is embarrassed by his ensuing loss and servitude. After the Earth Defense Force appears in the Netherworld, it is revealed that Gordon was actually sent to secure a path for an invasion of the Netherworld by the humans, who had been tricked by Vulcanus.

General Carter sends Kurtis to the Netherworld, and eventually goes there himself on the Space Battleship Gargantua. Kurtis abducts Jennifer, and Laharl engages the EDF fleet of spaceships in a rescue attempt, destroying all but the Gargantua by himself. When Laharl and his party arrive at the Gargantua’s bridge, several angels from Celestia appear and attack them. After being defeated, General Carter escapes, only to have Mid-Boss appear to give him a message.

In response to this turn of events, Flonne and the rest of the party decide to go to Celestia to confront the Seraph. Vulcanus goes to Seraph Lamington, declares that Flonne is a traitor who is leading an army of demons in an invasion of Celestia, and goes to lead a group of angels to repel this “invasion”. Vulcanus reveals to Laharl and his party that he intends to conquer all three worlds and rule over them as a god. After defeating Vulcanus, Laharl finally meets the Seraph and Flonne explains Vulcanus’s plan and what she has learnt while travelling with Laharl. The Seraph accepts her version of events and agrees that demons are, in fact, capable of feeling love. However, he declares that Flonne must be punished because she fought against other angels, and turns her into a flower. Outraged at this injustice, Laharl attacks the Seraph, initiating the game’s final battle.

The game has multiple endings. Depending on the way the game was played up to this point, the Seraph may or may not survive, Flonne either remains a flower, is restored to her original form, or is transformed into a Fallen Angel, and Laharl either becomes a great Overlord, disappears and leaves Etna in charge of the Netherworld, or dies and becomes a Prinny. It may also be noted that, on the Good Ending, when the spirit of Laharl’s mother appears to him, Vyers appears to already know her, and the way he talks to Laharl suggests that he is King Krichevskoy.

Episode titles

Note: Significant plot details follow.

Disgaea is separated into 14 episodes, or levels. After the first time the game is played, in subsequent cycles, new endings are sometimes available before the canon ending point of the plot; the availability of these endings also sometimes depends on conditions, such as having members of the player’s party kill other members of the party a certain number of times.

  1. Prince of the Netherworld – Laharl awakens and battles “Mid-Boss”. The Mid-Boss Ending is accessible for the first time, and will be again every time the party fights Mid-Boss.
  2. Enter Flonne – Flonne joins the party.
  3. A Hint of Kindness – The party battles Hoggmeiser. “Flonne’s Ending” can be accessed.
  4. A Gift from an Angel – Vulcanus steals Flonne’s pendant, which she needs to continue to survive in the netherworld.
  5. Etna’s Secret – The party battles Maderas. “Etna’s Ending” can be accessed.
  6. Laharl’s Challenge – Laharl fights a series of increasingly ludicrous battles, and eventually triumphs, becoming the Overlord.
  7. Of Being an Overlord – Etna finds Laharl a job worthy of his first act as Overlord: helping a child track down his pet zombies.
  8. Reincarnation – The Prinnies escape. Prinny Land becomes unlockable.
  9. Captain Gordon, Defender of Earth – Captain Gordon, Jennifer, and Thursday join the party.
  10. Angels, Demons, and Humans – The group tries to go on a picnic, but Mid-Boss steals the picnic basket.
  11. Hero’s Will, Overlord’s Way – Laharl receives a challenge from the “Defender of Earth”. Gordon is shocked, as he did not write the challenge.
  12. War of the Netherworld, Part 1 – The EDF invades. (NOTE: at the end of this chapter, the player will temporarily lose Jennifer.)
  13. War of the Netherworld, Part 2 – The party counters the invasion, and learns of angelic involvement. The “Human World” stage becomes unlockable and the “Human World Ending” becomes accessible.
  14. What Lies Beyond the Battle – The Final Chapter. The party invades Celestia. Prinny Kurtis joins the party. The player’s decisions determine the outcome.

There are also extra levels that can be unlocked in the Dark Senate. These include “Prinny Land”, “Cave of Ordeals”, “Human World”, “Alternate Netherworld”, and “Beauty’s Castle”. After clearing “Alternate Netherworld” and “Beauty’s Castle”, “Baal’s Castle” will be available.

Audio and visuals

The style of Disgaea‘s visuals is very similar to the Super Robot Wars series, as the makers of Disgaea have responded that characters represented by 3-D models in other games are often limited by a “set pattern of motions”, and they were able to make the characters of Disgaea more expressive with sprites.

There were two different styles of boxart for the American release. These differences were noted by a single image located on the bottom left hand corner of the cover, which could either have been Laharl or a Succubus. Though with limited information, nobody knows for sure which one is the original print, and which was is the second edition print.

Awards

  • In IGN’s GotY awards, it won Best Game no one Played, it won Reader’s Choice for Best Strategy Game, and was runner-up for Best Strategy Game.
  • In GameSpy’s GotY awards, it ranked #9 on the top ten PlayStation 2 games, and was called the “Strategy Game of the Year”.
  • The Disgaea official website also lists the high review scores for the game and has a near complete list of its various awards.

Disgaea animated series 

Disgaea - The Netherworld Prince (Vol. 1)

Disgaea – The Netherworld Prince (Vol. 1)

Disgaea, Vol. 2: A Netherworld Story

Disgaea, Vol. 2: A Netherworld Story

Disgaea 3 - The Netherworld War (Vol. 3)

Disgaea 3 – The Netherworld War (Vol. 3)

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