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I’ve been hard on shooter modding recently, for one big reason: lack of a show-stopper game that everybody who’s anybody is modding. Like the summer hit single that you can’t get out of your head (even if you hate the damned thing—I’m looking at you, “Soak Up The Sun”), there’s something alluring about being in a moment when everyone is on the same wavelength.
But lately, I’m also starting to see the appeal of doing without a hyped-up platform like Unreal Tournament 2004 or Battlefield 1942. Fracturing the mod community has sparked creativity, particularly when it comes to open-source games based on free engines. A lot of out-there projects are getting major traction with gamers—big attention that wouldn’t happen if everyone was still fixated on grinding out Onslaught maps or tweaking Desert Combat.
If you’re tired of the same old, same old, then check out these five oddball open-source games:
RABID VIPER PRODUCTIONS
Simplicity and modest system requirements make AssaultCube addictive. The shooter specializes in old-time team-focused multiplayer mayhem like John Carmack used to make. It is decidedly retro in every way, from the 19MB download size to 56K modem support, so it’s especially good if you’re ga-ga about first-person shooters past.
Strange and surreal only begins to describe Celestial Impact, a team-based multiplayer shooter set in an asteroid field. The gameplay gimmick here is deformable terrain. Every weapon does damage to your surroundings, which you can add to instead of blowing up thanks to the perfectly monikered Dirtgun.
SONIC: THE FATED HOUR
I’m including this one because there’s just something deeply cool about making a 2D Sonic platformer for the PC in 2008. BlazeHedgehog has been working on Sonic: The Fated Hour since 1999, though, so your guess is as good as mine whether it will ever see the light of day. Check out the Xmas 2007 demo for a glimpse of the final product.
Warsow may be old-school, but its cel-shaded robots and level
architecture at least make it look futuristic
Another retro shooter along the same lines as AssaultCube, Warsow has taken the Quake II–based Qfusion engine and turned back the clock a decade. It’s all about fast, smooth-moving action, albeit with cel-shaded robots and high-tech backdrops that make the game look like a post-modern Tron.
WORLD OF PADMAN
Colorful cartoons and the Quake III engine may go together like popsicles
and pickles, but World of Padman makes this unlikely marriage work. This comic-styled multiplayer shooter is based on the offbeat superhero created by German cartoonist Andreas “Ente” Endres, and is just as zany as you might expect from a game with killer ducks and Toys “R” Us guns. WoP is huge with Linux geeks, although the game has a Windows fan base as well.
I may not entirely prefer this shotgun era to the days when all you needed was a copy of UT 2004 and Google…but I’m warming up to the idea, and getting a little more inclined to experiment in my old age, so Padman, here I come.
MOD OF THE MONTH
CRYSIS NATURAL MOD (CRYSIS)
You’ve gotta see this one to believe it. Pydon has actually modded Crysis to make it look even more realistic, and succeeded in a rather spectacular fashion. The original game was a looker, but this mod lessens some of the more cartoonish lighting effects and removes some color banding. Best of all, there doesn’t seem to be any performance hit.
July 9, 2008