A review by Brumisator
Written March 15th, 2011.
Directed by MXTHE, creator of SMOD, with the help of We Create Stuff.
Before getting into the game proper, I'll have to point out that this is a mod...of a mod, SMOD to be precise, a long standing Half-Life 2 modification aiming to bring grit and hectic action to the gunplay. Created by the maker of SMOD, Underhell has the benefit of many many years of development which have honed the basic gameplay elements of running and gunning to a mirror sheen.
But Underhell promisses to go above and beyond a mere set of maps to shoot bad guys in, advertising itself as "a First Person Shooter Action/Adventure Psycological Survival Horror game with RPG elements".
The game Starts off with a nice quiet almost point-and-click-like adventure in your home, where you gather a few items mostly by searching through drawers, and learn the numerous basic commands. You can explore the house at your leisure and uncover its secrets, and when you're ready to leave, you just hop in your van and drive off.
Immediately thereafter, the meat of the game begins. As a SWAT team commander, you're tasked with storming a terrorist-ocupied Hospital and infiltrate various urban locations like a mall, a car park and a secret undergorund lab.
The most original settting for a game this is not, but the relentless gunplay and wonderfully complete controls (leaning, ironsights, kicking...), added to the enhanced enemy AI compared to Half-Life 2, make the shooting intensely visceral and fun.
It pains me to say, as a parralell to any other fist-person shooter in the past years, having occasional teammates who can take care of enemies while still following you and not just taking the lead though scripted sequences is an incredibly welcome breath of fresh air as well.
As you progress though the two hours of gameplay, the story starts unfolding through short cutscenes and dialogue at first, and after the finale gunfight, the game tops off with a cinematic in-engine trailer for the upcoming CHAPTER ONE of Underhell.
Add onto that pile of awesome some great voice acting, custom textures, custom models, custom sound effects custom everything, and you've got a great shooter mod on your hands.
I found that playing SMOD in the original Half-Life 2 maps never felt right, it replaced too many base elements of gameplay with its own, and just made it...wrong, somehow. However, when put into its own environment, add a sprinkle of atmopshere and you have one of the most enjoyable shooting mods on the source engine. I'd almost say people could ask money for this.
Sadly, the promissed RPG and survival horror elements are completely absent from the game, and the adventure portion is underplayed in addition to being separate from the shooting sections and story. After the little introduction in your home, you never get a chance to interact with your environments in with more than bullets, which is very dissapointing. This only being the Prologue chapter, maybe those elements will be added in subsequent chapters.
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