Ex-Valve Employee's New Mod is Some of the Best Half-Life Ever

By Heather Alexandra on at

Yesterday, Highlight Reel professional and walking ASMR generator Chris Person and I played Half-Life: Caged, a new mod for the classic shooter made by an ex-Valve employee. It’s a remarkable mod with great gunfights.

Caged is made by Cayle George, a former Valve employee and level designer who worked on games such as Portal 2, Team Fortress 2, and Fear 2. He most recently worked on Horizon: Zero Dawn. His new mod is a high octane prison escape with difficult platforming, limited resources, and some really fantastic shooting.

Half-Life’s gunplay can often feel like a matter of trial and error. Although player movement is fast, harkening back to the speed of Quake, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Caged tosses challenges at players that they might fail on the first attempt in order to get them to repeat it again with fantastic results. In the fight above, I just go the shotgun and turned a corner to find two soldiers blocking my path. Although I was initially caught off guard and shot to pieces, on repeat I was able to leap around the corner and despatch them with two clean shotgun blasts in a moment that rivalled any John Woo action scene.

Caged succeeds largely by turning combat into a puzzle. With limited ammo, players need to determine the optimal course of action given the level design. In the example above, the cramped hallway opens up to a foyer with soldiers on both sides. While it is possible to rush them all down, it’s far more effective to shoot out the glass and use a few of your grenades to blast the soldiers to gibby bits. You’re not allotted many grenades, but the enclosed rooms seem hand-crafted to catch them. The end result is level design that doesn’t just help the player feel clever but also creates memorable moments of triumph against overwhelming odds.

I’m a voracious consumer of Half-Life mods and still boot up classics like Neil Manke’s USS Darkstar and Poke646 from time to time; I even just finished a Half-Life playthrough on Kotaku’s Twitch channel. Caged offers some of the best Half-Life I’ve ever played thanks to focussed level and encounter design. I highly recommend it to anyone eager to see first person shooting at its finest.

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