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Azure Sheep

Textures: Yes
Enemies: Yes
Decorations: Yes
Weapons: Yes
Music: No
EXE Patch: N/A
Recommended Port: N/A
Links: Home Page
Reviewer: Joel Murdoch

Interesting and very well made Half-Life episode. Azure Sheep puts you in the shoes of a Black Mesa security guard like in Blue Shift, and your mission is to find a female co-worker named Kate and bring her to safety. Like the official Half-Life releases, it is centered around the invasion of Black Mesa by Xen.

The levels are mostly huge and there seems to be dozens of them. The quality of the architecture ranges from excellent to good, all the more impressive since they were made by one guy. The layouts are logical and give the illusion of non-linearity, but there are far too many unopenable doors. Most importantly, they capture that distinct Half-Life atmosphere. All in all pretty cool.

The combat, ah, now we're talking. Lots of tricky set pieces and well-thought out fights mean you'll have to use your brains as well as your brawn to survive. This has made me jump many times and I like that. Barney's hindered by initially lacking an HEV suit, so the hits you take hurt all the more, but there's enough health to see you through safetly. There's a nice selection of new bad guys, alien and human, to take on. And new allies too including Gordon, Adrian and his crew, female guards and the aforementioned Kate. She's an OK fighter and helps you at one point when you're unarmed, plus she can open doors you can't. It's a shame they weren't able to work in better AI; the safest option to keep her alive is to simply clear areas out and keep bringing her forward and then leave her. Even giving her the ability to pick up other weapons would've made her a more viable combat partner. Ah well, can't have it all.

Azure Sheep truely shines in the way it ties in with the official episodes. You'll be walking over a lot of familiar territory and accessing parts of it for the first time. One of my fave parts was when a pipe I was crawling through gave way, I got out and found myself at the lab entrance Gordon comes to in Half-Life after the cable car ride, the security guard who let him in now dead. And of course, meeting up with Adrian and Gordon as mentioned earlier is fun.

So, in summation, Azure Sheep is pretty good technically and a little frustrating at times, but the otherwise solid gameplay makes up for this. The baby-sitting job you have to do later means some of you who have a "fast and furious" style of play will probably get frustrated and would do well to avoid this. But for slow, careful and thoughtful players like me, Azure Sheep is a must.