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Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.4

Half-Life 2: Deathmatch
December 30, 2010 | Jon Carr

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Mac OS X: 10.5.9 or 10.6.3 | CPU: Intel Processor | RAM: 1 GB | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 8 or higher, ATIX1600 or higher | Internet: Broadband Internet connection

Have you ever been playing Half-Life 2 and wished you could shoot Rebels instead of Combine? (I know I did.) Well now you can thanks to the online-only Half-Life 2 Death Match. Released all the way back in 2004 for the PC, it only recently come to Mac courtesy of Valve's Steam service.

I actually don't like Half-Life 2. I recognize it as a great game, just one that doesn't appeal to me. I like the story, the characters and setting. But there is one thing I can't stand: The combat. Something about it just feels really stilted and awkward. I could never quite be sure why, I just knew I didn't like it. So I was a little hesitant to pick up HL2 Death Match, but what did I find? It's not only good - it's ridiculously fun. Placing the game in a fast paced frag-fest somehow transformed it from being unplayable, to immensely enjoyable.

The premise here is simple: Get on a team or a Free For All (FFA) Map and start shooting. There's no multiple game types, complicated maps or weapons. But the game's simplicity is also in its favor. It's easy to learn and jump right into and have a good time without having a learning curve. Unless of course you are completely new to shooters online, you will be having fun right away.

Maps are diverse without being confusing. There are a number of larger outdoor settings in which to get around or several indoor settings where hallways are narrow confines that define the combat arena. One map has a control room which launches a missile after a few minutes that kills everyone outside. Once you hit the button an alarm goes off and everyone scrambles to get inside as the blast doors close. It's thrilling to slip under them just as they shut, but then you are locked indoors for a minute with everyone else trying to survive until the doors open again.

Half-Life 2's excellent physics are on full display here as crates and objects break, glass shatters, and the ragdoll of your dead enemy crumbles oh-so satisfyingly to the ground after a shotgun blast to the head. Explosions of any kind also cause hilarious results, with bodies flying through the air, and bouncing off walls due to a well placed grenade or rocket blast.

If you haven't played HL2, then the weapon load-out is also simple, but unique enough to keep things interesting. Everyone starts with a melee weapon, a pistol, a submachine gun and two grenades. So when you spawn you aren't helpless. In standard death match fashion, better weapons, ammo, armor and health are strewn about the maps for you to pickup. Learning the spawn locations of the superior weaponry will certainly help you get a leg up over the competition. My personal favorites are the shotgun, and the crossbow which serves as the game's sniper weapon. You also get an energy machine gun, and laser-mines which can be set on walls or the ground for the unsuspecting passer-by.

I found the rocket-launcher to be a little unwieldy as it's laser-guided only, so you can't just shoot and forget. If you move your aimer, the rocket follows. This works for and against you, I found. Suffice to say if you see a red laser dot near you or on a teammate, get out or the next thing you see will be your limp body flying through the air.

Most guns also have an alternate fire. The shotgun can fire two shells at once, the submachine gun can pickup grenades for an underhand launcher, and the energy gun can also get an insta-kill ball of plasma that fries your opponents into little bits. But most unique of all is that everyone also starts with a Gravity Gun which allows you to push or pickup objects and then shoot them at other players. Almost anything you pickup serves as an instant death, whether it's a crate, table, shovel or toilet you launch. High-use gravity gun matches are humorous as all manner of objects fly around the map in an attempt to crush the opposing team or players.

The game is of course built on Valve's own Source engine, and despite being a little dated the game still looks great. It's not going to win any awards these days, but it's still visually pleasing and it certainly doesn't detract from the experience. Since it doesn't have the fanciest eye-candy around, the game should easily run on just about any computer, unless you have one that is more than several years old. I encountered the occasional odd spawning glitch, or visual bug but it was rare, and the game was smooth and never crashed.

Sound also remains minimal with no music. What you will be hearing is the patter of footsteps, the constant chatter of gunfire, muffled explosions or the sound of dying. I personally like to put on some iTunes to blast away to, but the minimalistic approach to sound doesn't take away from the gameplay at all. What is there stands out sharply and clearly with no interference and allows you to easily identify what is going on. Voice chat is also present, which is easy to use with the press of a button, and is crisp and clear.

At only $5 Half-Life 2 Death Match is a no-brainer. Whether you are a Half-Life fan to begin with, or just a fan of online shooters, the game is simple, outrageous fun. It's easy to jump into, but remains entertaining even after hours of play. The player-base is great, and there's always several matches available to hop into for Team play or FFA. Buy it and start launching toilets and barrels at your friends today.

• Excellently paced Team and Free For All Matches
• Hilariously Awesome Physics
• Great Weapon and Map Diversity
• Everyone gets a Gravity Gun

• Occasional Visual and Spawning Glitches

Half-Life 2: Deathmatch
Developer: Valve Software


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