Map Review of half-life:echoes

Map review of Echoes

by dunkelschwamm | April 21, 2023 | 5315 characters

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Half Life Echoes is a mod for Half-Life which is ported here to Sven. Having just played through it, I think this whole 14-map extravaganza can be broken down into the following: set-pieces, environmental art, gameplay, and story.

The set-pieces of Half Life Echoes are mostly pretty good. There's long-form puzzles, like a giant grinder that needs multiple explosives shoved into it, or leading enemies into one another for a battle. These moments are really nice when they come together- giant battles in this map are great fun to watch. Early on, they're most of what happens. Players don't get weapons until the fourth map or something, so until then everything plays like a theme park haunt attraction, walking through hallways until you see the neat shit happening behind a wall, or the screen goes dark and you hear scientists banter/scream/die. Those latter set-pieces were annoying, made little sense (the cutting to black effect is always annoying when the player is meant to have a flashlight). Frankly, I think this conversion has way too many points where players are meant to just sit still and watch something big happen. Most of the time it was neat to look at, but when looking at the mod size it felt like a huge time sink. There were some puzzles that involved getting scientists to open gates as well. Of particular note, there was a setpiece where I was dropped into a tunnel full of meat where a Mr Friendly chased me to the end and it was one of the most effective and memorable horror setpieces I've experienced in Goldsrc.

The environmental art is the biggest thing this series has going for it. There's lots of use of the hi-def character models, but some other models are updated to near-HL2 quality. The environments are great, and filled with tons of details. Sprites and brush lights litter each map, as well as colored lights and tricks like glowsticks for showing where to progress. Even windier maps were generally fairly easy to navigate due to clever design, lots of landmarks, and memorable locations. Labs are full of interesting equipment, hallways make sense but also each have distinct function. This is made all the better by the maps' constant backtracking to previous areas, with battle damage and occupation by various factions represented in the presentation. Everything is touched up, presented great, and holy hell does this mod have some great fires to look at. Everything in this map looks great, and it's functional beauty as well.

The gameplay of the mod is where I start picking some of the things apart. Yes, maps are navigable and beautiful. Yes, the set-pieces are interesting and plentiful. However, as mentioned above, the players also don't have weapons until many maps in. I want to make it clear: by the end of this mod you're running through some crazy battles shooting guns in all directions and blowing aliens and military alike to hell. However, it takes about 11 maps to get there. In-between, you get a lot of crowbar fights with zombies, chunky battles against grunts wherein they seem WAY too beefed up with additional health, and the aforementioned set-pieces frequently breaking up pace. There are HEV chargers on many walls, but they are nonfunctional due to the player's lack of HEV charger, which ends up mostly annoying as players seek armor. I think there were some really fun fire fights in this map, but until the chaos at the end most of it is pretty weak for Sven. There's occasional platforming, there's enemies that spawn in, many have too much health, it takes a long time before players have weapons which make fighting them any kind of satisfying, and often enemies can be ran past or feel more like meaningless obstacles. Thankfully, by the end things feel great. It's just too bad we have to wait so long to get there.

The story is the last thing I want to mention. This mod goes pretty full-fanfic with G-Man and Eli and Alyx and Gordon and the whole invasion narrative. These interruptions are, in my opinion, the worst parts of the experience. It was really fun to see G-man around, but when the maps yanked our attention strictly to it I was mostly rolling my eyes or looking at the timer for how much time was being wasted. The last map can be more or less skipped entirely. Frankly, so can the first four if you're in a hurry.

Anyway, I recommend Half-Life Echoes if you plan on tackling it in parts. I don't recommend doing this in one sitting. You don't want to get bored of it by the time it gets good.


  • Gorgeous, stunning maps
  • Really good models too
  • Really good action in the later maps
  • Some really neat set-pieces, like the mister friendly bit
  • Really good signposting progress
  • Fun to see environments revisited with increased danger


  • Boring cutscenes that impede progress
  • Paced poorly- too long spent on boring bits
  • Bullet sponge enemies
  • Bad vent mazes and similar situations, even if they didn't get us lost for long, still felt like lengthy wastes of time
  • Bad ladder platforming puzzle in a lift shaft
Score: 7.3 / 10
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