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Hangar 16

Azure Sheep Review

Review: Azure SheepPreview: Azure Sheep
Author: Toadman, DAV & the Azure Sheep Team
Reviewed by: Starfox - 30/08/01
File Size: 42 mb
Number of Maps:
Download: Not Yet Available
Score: N / A

Note: The version of Azure Sheep used for completing this preview is the Beta 2.0, the latest beta before the final release. It is already complete with all the goodies that will be in the final version and the differences between the two should only reside in some last minute adjustments.

The testing of an anticipated mod soon to be released (really soon) is always a great moment, especially for mods that are in development for quite a long time. Azure Sheep met both of these criterias. It is a really anticipated mod and it has been in development for ages (in fact not soooo long, but gamers are always impatient). One thing for sure, it worth the wait. Andrea "Toadman" B. and his team has been definitely busy during the last months and it appears that this time has not been wasted.

"Just" a cup of coffee and the main plot after that
Preview: Azure SheepIn Azure Sheep, you play the role of one of the famous Black Mesa security guards. His name: "Just Barney" (because the guy seems to have some memory troubles preventing him to remember what exactly his name is but who cares? All we expect from him is to know how to handle a pistol and a few other things). "Just" Barney appears to have a long time friend, Kate, who is also a BM security guard. Guess what: Kate's codename is "Azure Sheep". From that simple fact you can easily guess that a lot of the upcoming events affecting the life of Just Barney will take place around Kate's fate. Barney has some sort of instinctive pulsion that pushes him to rescue ladies, especially if they wear a blue uniform and especially if they are friends of him (I won't talk here about handcuffs and other similar subjects, I prefer to leave this in Silver Sorrow's Hands :o). At the moment when the Black Mesa catastrophic events begin and while the whole world collapses around him, the only thing Just Barney can think about is to rescue his "princess" who finds herself trapped in a bad situation (being surrounded by a dozen of alien slaves being always a bad situation, not as bad as being surrounded by a dozen of IRS agents but bad nevertheless). That's all I will say here regarding the storyline. The rest, you'll have to discover it by yourself.

Quality and Quantity
Preview: Azure SheepYes, sometimes you can have both and sometimes not. Azure Sheep falls in the category in which you actually have both. Those (probably numerous) who know the work previously provided by Davide "DAV" Cintrão (DAV train, DAV Sub) won't be surprised to see that the design and architecture of Azure Sheep maps are great and in a pure Half-Life tradition. The second point is particularly important since some elements of the story are tightly related to both Half-Life and Opposing Force though I won't say a word about the so said elements. Suffice to say that you can prepare yourself for some surprises (nasty or not) and that HL, OpFor and Azure Sheep though being different stories share the same timeline.

The feeling you get about the relation between the two "official" episodes and Azure Sheep is quite amazing. Always balancing between three worlds while remaining in an original storyline, sometimes you find yourself confronted to a deja vu feeling with the reworking of maps directly pertaining to HL and OpFor, sometimes you reach some places pretty familiar though you are quite sure to never have been there before and most of the time you see some parts of the Black Mesa facilities that are completely new yet remaining in the HL "spirit". The fact is that the whole work is so well designed that you don't have any feeling of rupture of any kind when passing abruptly from the main Azure Sheep storyline to another then returning to Azure Sheep. Even though you know that an event didn't originally happen exactly like related in Azure Sheep, you feel it completely natural this way.

Preview: Azure SheepAs for the additional work present in AS (yes I begin to get tired having to write the whole thing each paragraph), it is up to par with the overall quality of the mod. No HD pack though. I mean, you can run AS with the HD pack installed on your system with absolutely no problems but AS only make use of a few enhanced models. All AS models as been developped long before the release of the HD pack and I guess there was absolutely no time for the AS team to rework their models. Being myself a member of a mod team I know the mess that can represent the reworking of every model in a mod, animations, skins, etc... The voices are well done, and don't tell me that I'm biased because JennWolf (our own DarkWolf's beloved wife) is the one who made the voice of Barniel (the female counterpart of Barney) in the mod because my integrity as a reviewer has never been affected by such details - that said, sweet voice Jenn ;)

The gameplay is well balanced and depending on the difficulty setting, it should meet the expectation of any gamer, casual or experienced. There's no puzzles too difficult to prevent you to fully enjoy the game. You should not be completely stuck at one point or another and even the hardest situations just require from you a little of tactical thinking. When you find a new weapon or ammo at one point it's usually that you will need it shortly after. Finally, some new monsters and weapons are thrown in the battle to keep you busy when needed.

As for the quantity, just take Blue-Shift and add about 200% of the time needed to complete the game. You will obtain approximately the average necessary time to complete AS.

Since we are on this sensitive subject (I feel like if I handled two grenades armed in both hands without being able to remember where I have thrown out the pins)

Yeah, I know, considering recent events, some of you may be anxious to get from me a few comparisons between Azure Sheep and the recently released Blue-Shift from Gearbox Software where you also play the "Barney" role. Shall I fall into that trap? No and... yes. No, for two reasons:

1) Gearbox software is a professional company and as such it has some facilities that amateur developpers don't have.
2) Azure Sheep is based on an original concept developped by an amateur team.

...and a big YES for two reasons:

1) Gearbox software is a professional company and as such it has some facilities that amateur developpers don't have (just in case you can't figure, this repetition is not a mistake)..
2) The Azure Sheep team finally demonstrates that not being in the category above doesn't mean that you cannot come with a work that in several aspects could push Blue-Shift on the backstage.

Preview: Azure SheepBut well, since you want some comparisons, here's a few. In my opinion, AS succeed in several aspects that Blue-Shift failed to achieve. The major aspects are: a) It is way longer. b) It has some interesting ideas regarding the gameplay. c) It has more interactivity with HL and OpFor than the single scene shown in Blue-Shift near the end of the game (and which was not interactive anyway). d) All in all it has definitely a better original HL look and feel here and there. e) It has a "Training Course", renamed "Go for a Walk" for the occasion, more imaginative than Blue-Shift one.

There's some other points that could be discussed but I won't because one of my grenades felt right between my feet while I was writing and I didn't manage to find these damn pins yet ;-)

A bit of a Conclusion
Preview: Azure SheepAzure Sheep should hit the stage by the beginning of september. At that point, The Hangar will provide an extended scored review more exhaustive than this single preview. But let me say that from what I've seen and played Azure Sheep has all the potential to make one of the greatest hits in the HL mods world. For those who have played Blue-Shift and who kept like me a "lack something in this game" feeling, AS should fullfill your need for a better Barney's experience. Those who didn't play Blue-Shift will find in Azure Sheep a truely unique occasion to feel like if they were actually Barney, the guy in blue which has always been a major character of the HL saga.

Be prepared...

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