Praised by most of the Half-Life modding community and fans, Paranoia is a candidate to one of the best Half-Life mods ever according to these people, but is it actually that brilliant or might it be kind of overrated? Lets find out. What is it that makes this mod look so great in the eyes of so many people? is it the engine improvements? is it the general gameplay or storyline, or are these people just full of shit? [Barney's face]
For a Half-Life mod the engine improvements stand out a lot and to be honest I think its actually the core of this mod, the effect that stands out the most is the bumpmapping system, few Half-Life mods use it and for an engine this old it is hard to correctly implement it, although the engine has more than that, the game is designed entirely by the team, textures, models, maps, code, sounds, few or any original game content is used, and that might be what mod fans count the most, on the custom content side the game takes it all but on the gameplay and storyline side it does not, it feels like a linear budget first person shooter, there isn't much more to check out than a basic plot, some generic firefights and some interesting yet bland looking environments.
You are a Russian soldier (spetsnaz captain) that has been badly wounded in battle and spent some months recovering from it, the game starts off in the captain's headquarters at a Russian army base, you just recovered from your wounds and are about to sign back at work. Like most games you get to familiarize with your abilities such as using medkits, firing weapons and using a gas mask, it all sounds really interesting, but not that much fun, its not something a player would have not seen often in commercial shooter titles. As soon as you finish your warm up as a soldier the base goes under alert, you are then briefed on the mission and sent to the field. Apparently some group of terrorists attacked somekind of research base and killed or made hostages out of most of the staff, you and your squad are sent to assault the base, rescue the civilians and eliminate the terrorist forces, but as the game progresses you start finding some evidence of darker stuff going on that base, it seems a group of scientists was working on some kind Far Cry, Dr.Krieger like project to make somekind of super soldier, but it seems stuff has gone wrong like it usually does and theres zombies and mutants all around the lower sections of the base, the terrorist interest on this subject is left unknown but basically all you have to do is to clean the place out of this threat and then proceed to extraction, as for game plot thats most of it said right here.
Gameplay feels like a generic military shooter, it does not have that much to show besides the graphics and firefights, those itself do not feel very satisfying as the developers used heavy metal like soundtracks during the course of the battle, but the combinations isn't really correct it does not cast emotion nor adrenaline on the player, like Call Of duty and Crysis do, it does not sound good to just use heavy metal musics from a commercial Russian band and use it has environmental music, the gunfights have a bit of variation though sometimes you go in alone, sometimes you co op with your teammates and theres this one time where you assist as a sniper but all this is cheap game stuff, there are a lot of weapons to choose from and the aiming\ironsights like thing make the game feel much more of a combat simulator, you also get to use your gas mask to avoid steam or toxic leaks and your helmet to protect you better from bullet damage. The enemies you face vary a lot, since your average terrorist to mutant soldiers and zombie like monsters, but seriously, besides those original but not very practical combat features, the varied enemies and the graphics, what else does the game has to show? It is interesting to check out all the custom content the team made but the game becomes boring and does not cast much interest anymore. One thing that I always keep thinking about is the concept so many games and mods try to use, the military combat simulator does not go much farther than the combat engine and the realism, if you want to go for a deep storyline and actually compelling game with this kind of concept you have to either be really good or focus on darker moods like Call of Duty Black Ops did, this does not apply to Paranoia because you cannot call abandoned, zombie filled dark rooms a dark concept, the game's general environment always feels rusty and dirty, its not beautiful to look at besides the bumpmapping effects. Its noticeable that the team based the game's level design a lot after S.A.T.L.K.E.R.'s everything feels rusty and brown, like if everything was abandoned, I think mapping has to be attractive and not repulsive like both these games are, everytime I look at it i feel like taking a shower, but generally I think both games miss color and contrast, Condemned Criminal Origins keeps the rusty and dirty environment although they manage to make the scenes look colorful and good to look at most of the times, but that also has to do with the engine, it isn't entirely the developer's fault. The game also feels short, and everything passes by really quick, you do not settle around for a second, this minute you are doing this, this minute you are doing that, its all based on orders and objectives, the game does not try to make you care about your teammates nor lets you bond with them, same thing for any character you meet through out the game, you never get to be with them for long. One of the things that bothers me the most is the ending, right after you destroy this big meat like tree on some abandoned area of the base that apparently was keeping the mutants alive or something, you are forced to leave the place, you never know what for, but out of nowhere some Black Ops guys come right in blasting through everything (like if the terrorists weren't already enough), you also do not get to know what they are doing there, in fact you don't get to know anything, why terrorists, why zombies, why super mutants, why Black Ops, the game does not tell you anything. As soon as you reach the surface you will face an helicopter and take it down with a rocket launcher, and then that is it, the game ends, it was really confusing, you do not get to know about anyone's fate, nor even the main character.
In conclusion Paranoia is not all bad news, but most of it is just a load of bland stuff, the models have a good deal of detail yet they all look like dummies rather than real characters, the level design can sometimes surprise you with weird designs but most of the time is only minimally interesting because of the bumpmapping effects, the gameplay and storyline are as basic as a first person shooter can ever get. As a game mod Paranoia is actually not that bad, but that is just because most game mods are generic and weak, it still fails as a actual game.
- Graphics: 7/10
- Ambiance: 6/10
- Story: 5/10
- Gameplay: 6/10