News: Half-Life 2 horror mod Grey is released today, and – with shades of Amnesia, Silent Hill and FEAR – it’s well worth a play.
There was a time when you couldn’t move for Half-Life 2 mods, but the rise of indie development and all the lovely tools to go along with it – plus the ageing of the Source Engine – have left us with fewer these days, especially singleplayer titles.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons Grey is so appealing, but it might also be because of its ability to be genuinely frightening.
Released overnight, Grey requires Half-Life 2: Episode 2 to play, but if you’ve got that in your Steam account then it’s definitely worth a try. It wears its influences proudly on its sleeve, but the way it weaves its scare tactics between its moments of frantic action is quite impressive.
It’s a psychological horror total conversion, full of both action and puzzles. You spend your time trying not to die, as well as unravelling a story about… well, it’s often quite incomprehensible, but you’ll see. There are some obvious touchstones. Amnesia: The Dark Descent’s slow-burning atmosphere and monster-avoidance. Silent Hill’s fucked-up imagery. FEAR’s hallucinatory sequences. Grey is, for the record, about five times as good at building tension as any of the FEAR games were.
Co-project lead and coder ‘Alters’ explained to BeefJack why the team went down the route of a Source mod instead of a fully-fledged indie release. “The Source Engine was – and still is – a very open engine,” he said. “And that’s what we like about it. It has its workflow issues, but we are able to make practically any modification we want to it.”
Grey intersperses lengthy sections of suspenseful exploration with moments of more frantic action, and Alters thinks this blend is a successful one – especially compared with the tricks used by some of Grey’s more obvious inspirations. How many people must remember a game that lost all its fear factor once you realised you were invulnerable during horror-centric set-pieces?
“During scary moments in the game you will actually have a frequent risk of dying,” Alters told us, “unlike in games such as FEAR where horror and shooting/survival was often separated. On top of that, we have made sure our environments, ambient noises, and music are all engaging [in terms of] the horror of the game.”
The team behind Grey are hoping to go on – some together, some separately – to make full-on indie games, but if that doesn’t happen, modding will do for now. “It’s something we love to do,” said Alters.
You can grab Grey from its ModDB page.