Codename: Gordon (originally Half-Life 2D) is a third-party, 2D game based on Half-Life, the popular first-person shooter. Originally developed by Nuclearvision and distributed through Valve's controversial Steam client, C:G gives you the opportunity to once again step into the shoes of scientist Gordon Freeman as he tries to figure out why one dimension has gone missing!

That was the idea, anyway, and as I booted it up I expected something along the lines of Halloween Harry or Abuse: kill aliens and look for weapons and power ups with a fun coating of super-deformed Half-Life goodness. I didn't expect this Macromedia Flash based game to lag horribly on my laptop (old, yes, but it can run normal 3D Half-Life fine). It apparently requires a 1600mhz processor to run well, which surprised me: graphically, I didn't see anything too complex.

The graphics are nice-- the zombies and headcrabs move the way they should, and there are birds that fly as you approach. Hell, SD Gordon is funny, and you've got a flashlight, just like in the main game. Its not a classic of sprite animation, but the personalities of the characters do come through.

The only area the graphics lack is in the weapons (the training mission gives you accesses to all the weapons). With the exception of the crowbar (which works just like its 3D Half-Life counterpart, right down to the crate smashing and the manipulator (more on that later), the guns fire small, yellow bullets in straight lines, reminding me of the original two Grand Theft Auto games. They don't seem to do much when they impact the enemies, though the zombies do have great death animations (they either spawn a headcrab or crawl forward on legless torsos).

Control involves a 2D variant of the classic FPS controls: WASD for movement, mouse for vertical aiming. This scheme was used very well in the classic Abuse and the free (and future classic) Madness Interactive, and if I'm glad its included here. Gordon can't aim straight above his head, though... the arc adds a bit of strategy to the game.

More strategy is presumably added by the Manipulator, based on a weapon previewed for Half-Life 2. This beauty allows Gordon to pick up a crate, barrel or other environmental object and then fire it forward at enemies. Wonderfully fun even in training mode, mostly due to the novelty value and, hell, pure coolness. I'm not sure why hurling a 2D crate at a 2D target is cool, but it is. The rest of the weapons are a pistol, assault rile, crowbar, and a large supply of grenades.

There's also a very small RPG element... alright, a scripted sequence with Barney the security guard where your dialog options are variations on '....' and '.....P' and such; a (kinda sorta) reference to the fact that Gordon never talked in the main game.

Codename: Gordon looks to be fun, and I wish my computer was beefy enough to play the rest of it (I'm hoping they release a patch). The bits I played were pretty slow, actually-- walking, hitting zombies, jumping on a platform. None of the fear or atmosphere you'd expect from Half-Life or the insane action of must classic plat formers. Its worth a look for HL fans, though (I'm assuming it gets much better). Plus, I think that anything that draws attention back to classic 2D games is good, though this doesn't come close to the classics of the genre (MegaMan, Viewtiful Joe). It can be downloaded at www.steampowered.com ; Steam is required, but the pros and cons of that program are probably debated elsewhere. Official site is at http://www.halflife2d.com/

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