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Union -

UNION, a recently released singleplayer map from CrowbarSka that's something of a clash between Nova Prospekt and Episode 2... and it's pretty good (:O)! Union follows the escape of a prisoner and fellow captive vortigaunt, who strike an alliance post-Gordon Freeman's psychotic rampage through the facility in a bid to escape.

  • Nova Prospekt it ain't: Nova Prospekt, that cold, heartless gulag twisted into something worse by the Combine menace; one of Valve's finest achievements in HL2, their most atmospheric chapter to date... oh, I can't help but compare. Like Riot Act before it, Union doesn't quite match the intensity of Valve's Prospekt and can come off feeling slightly second hand in its somewhat less focused level design and bright, shield-your-eyes lighting...
  • But a friend! Taking a leaf from Episode 2's book, you find yourself accompanied by a vortigaunt for much of your adventure, who to our surprise was not as casually thrown-in as you might have imagined him to be. There's a strong team dynamic from start to finish and it boosts what would otherwise be a fairly standard adventure up a tier.
  • Self-contained gameplay: There are a few specific set pieces in Union that help pace the experience and move it away from the often plodding “shoot enemy, rinse repeat” of most maps. The only criticism is that they mirror Episode 2 sequences almost too sharply – from a confined antlion onslaught to the “duck-the-sniper-and-try-to-find-a-way-to-pwn-him” you have definitely played a variant of it before.
  • “This no fun”: A minor niggle, but a niggle nonetheless – antlion workers in tight, enclosed tunnels that have you banging your head with each step does not good gameplay make. With no room to maneuver you just need to man up and take those venom hocks head-on.

So, is it worth the download? Absolutely. It's essentially more of the same in a Nova Prospekt themed environment, and it certainly would have benefited from more playtesting and polish in certain areas, but don't let that stop you. Few maps are as well done as Union on the modding scene.

Download!

Originally released 26 February 2008

Article Comments (now closed)

Sortie's gravatar

1. Ranting in a friendly manner

Posted by Sortie at 4:33PM, Tuesday March 25 2008

This seems rather good albeit a little short. Got pretty much 98% play it right now on PlanetPhilip and the screenshots looks promising. So I'll really look forward to playing it and give some feedback both here and to the maker himself.

But is it really that hard to make a stand alone mod?! (Hint: copy the MINERVA folder for instance, delete the MINERVA content and put in your own and call it yours.)

New001's gravatar

2. My minor niggles/ranting

Posted by New001 at 6:51PM, Tuesday March 25 2008

I didn't really find the antlion workers in the tunnels to be too much of a problem, though I can see you might if you try and hang back and take potshots at them with the shotgun like you can in episode 2. My trouble was with the combine sniper area. I think it could have used an extra autosave right before those overturned dumpsters because if you died you would start back at the door where you entered the area. Maybe I just suck but after the dumpsters I died a few times because the sniper was at such a high angle that I'd get shot in the head even when crouched behind something and would have to scrunch up real close to any cover.

I'm also on the fence about the hunter combat (and hunter combat in general). On the one hand it was fun because I got low on health and was forced to think about how I was going to take the hunters down. Then the second pair of hunters came up behind me and scared the crap out of me. On the other hand it kind of sucked because the only effective weapons I had were the SMG and the shotgun. Sure there were grenades but I never really used them because the hunters would just run by them or my vortigaunt friend would be caught in the explosion (Yes, he's invincible but I think throwing grenades at your allies feet ruins the immersion). So the combat just became shoot, hide, shoot, hide, wait for flechettes, etc. until I had delivered the massive amount of shotgun blasts needed to take the thing down. I think it may have benefitted from strategically placed explosive barrels or/and more SMG grenades.

Don't get me wrong, though, I think Union was very good!

fuzz's gravatar

3. Name

Posted by fuzz at 6:55PM, Tuesday March 25 2008

CrowbarSka is a great name. Fact.

DJPOO's gravatar

4. Miscolored Solders

Posted by DJPOO at 9:42PM, Tuesday March 25 2008

Am I the only person who got puke green/yellow Nova Prospect Solders in these maps? I really didn't mind that because Episode 2 doesn't use them.

Samon's gravatar

5. Yellow-Soldiers

Posted by Samon at 3:35PM, Thursday March 27 2008

No, I got them too - I think it's the same problem I had in Episode 2 with the ever-so-red Elites.

Sortie's gravatar

6. Sounds like broken drivers

Posted by Sortie at 3:56PM, Thursday March 27 2008

Sound like broken drivers to me, or graphics settings set too highly. Try and decrease these settings, update your drivers and validate your game cache. That is if you get these too in Episode Two, and not just in Union.

Nesretep's gravatar

7. So...

Posted by Nesretep at 3:47PM, Friday May 23 2008

I guess there are no new single player mods for source as of late? I know we have never been promised regular updates or anything, but it *has* been a while...

Trurl's gravatar

8. It's ALIVE!

Posted by Trurl at 10:03PM, Saturday May 24 2008

Well, sort of... ;-)

Birdoman's gravatar

9. Hot Damn..

Posted by Birdoman at 8:55PM, Monday August 11 2008

..that was pretty gosh-darn good. Apart from The Great Minerva (which has now left for the great big valve in the sky), best SP mod I've played. Well done CrowbarSka!

- The sniper combat, while hardly original, spiced things up with the variety of cover/areas and mildly panic inducing (don't stand up!) zombies. And that it was actually reasonably difficult.

- The main problem I had was with the lack of "Valve polish", especially in Nova Prospekt, which very occasionally led me to wander around looking for exits. This was compounded when the door-rush scene failed to trigger first time round.

- The antlion fight was only signposted in that it said "locked door and ammo boxes? Oh boy!". There seemed very little rationale otherwise for how that scene worked.

- I also agree with New001 about the Hunter combat. I liked the challenge, but could have done with more visceral combat, such as in the Nova.P. antlion guard scene in HL2. More barrels and perhaps a couple of soldiers near the lift to provide a pincer and balance out the easy explosions?

- Fantastic ending

Freakoftheuniverse's gravatar

10. Musings of a latter fashion

Posted by Freakoftheuniverse at 4:21AM, Thursday September 25 2008

Finally got around to playing this little beastie, after downloading and forgetting about it for a criminal amount of time. Poor thing just sat in the maps folder, forgotten...
But anyway! I was quite impressed by it, because, despite not capturing that true Nova Prospekt feel, it was compelling, mostly well thought out, and had some new takes on some of those more 'tired' set pieces that you see floating around.
The Antlion scene was a little "are we there yet?", but I enjoyed the brutal Hunter combat (I'd forgotten how many times you can blast those things with the shotgun before they finally topple over), especially the ending of that scene with the elevator.
The sniper scene was a welcome change from the norm, and I liked the fact that he'd used a regular combine up there, as well as the EP2 sniper rifle. The chair and the bottles of beer were a chuckle worthy touch (How does he drink through that mask, anyway?)
As for the ending, brilliant and slightly unexpected. End of Ravenholm rehash? No way.
So, overall, the mod is far from perfect, but it's definitely worth the price of admission.

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