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- "Takes some getting used to, this 2-D world, but you're a scientist, you'll figure it out."
- ―Barney Calhoun
Codename: Gordon, also known as Half-Life 2D, is a side-scroller puzzle/action game created by Nuclearvision Entertainment.
The game takes place through dozens of levels inspired by Half-Life and Half-Life 2, challenges players to a slew of puzzles, and showcases many of the familiar creatures in an all-new, two-dimensional playing field. Developed parallel to their work on PsychoToxic, Codename: Gordon features 6 chapters, 8 different enemies, 5 weapons as well as a fully functional buggy. The game engine was created in Adobe Flash, and the graphics were created in Photoshop
Valve had released Codename: Gordon via Steam, but the game was removed due to its developer's default, because of this, their official site had been replaced with an ad site. Because access to the site is hard coded into the game, Valve was forced to remove it from their site catalog. The game can be installed by going to
steam://install/92. The game includes a high-score system with network support and numerous secrets.
Due to the game's development and release before Half-Life 2, several pieces of content from the E3 2003 Demos and 2003 Half-Life 2 Beta era are present, such as the design of the buggy, and the docks having an extremely similar look to the traptown demo, specifically because of the presence of combine soldiers.
Just as in Half-Life 2 the player takes control of Gordon Freeman. However, unlike the other games in the Half-Life series, Codename: Gordon is set in a two-dimensional world. The side-scroller shooter game offers the player the ability to control Gordon by using the keyboard for movement, and the mouse for aiming and firing weapons.
Gordon is armed with various weapons, including the trademark crowbar and the Gravity Gun introduced in Half-Life 2. The player makes their way across six levels, throughout which they encounter enemies such as Zombies, Headcrabs, and the Combine. Similar to the main titles in the Half-Life series, the action sequences of game-play are broken up by various puzzles.
Along the way, the player meets with some of the key characters of the main series, who communicate with Gordon through text dialog, as the game does not feature voice acting. Unlike the core games of the Half-Life series, in Codename: Gordon the player is able to participate interactively in the dialog, by using emoticons, such as :], :-), each associated with a different type of answer.
Upon finishing Codename: Gordon, a new bonus game is unlocked, called "Crow Chase". The goal is to keep crows in the air by chasing them and score as many points within a given time limit
Codename: Gordon presents an alternative to the storyline of Half-Life, with locations that were inspired by both Half-Life and Half-Life 2. Throughout the game, Gordon Freeman meets with some of the main characters of the Half-Life series, who are aware that the world/game is 2D. Gordon sets out in an attempt to discover the cause behind the disappearance of the third dimension.
The game starts with Gordon Freeman in a dock area. After fighting his way through several zombies and Headcrabs, Gordon meets up with Barney Calhoun, who is a prominent character in the later Half-Life titles. Barney tells Gordon of an "entire dimension" missing, and also notes that the science team is working on solving the problem. Barney is injured, and cannot leave with Gordon, he then gives Gordon his pistol and tells him to leave without him.
In the second chapter, Gordon meets with Dr. Eli Vance and his daughter Alyx who tell him to take their car, which will help him reach City 17, which seems to be the source of the problem. They also tell him to talk to Dr. Isaac Kleiner about his new invention, the gravity gun. Soon after, Gordon finds Dr. Kleiner, who tells him about his worries regarding the missing dimension, and also gives him the gravity gun, mentioned by Eli and Alyx.
After having been attacked by a Combine gunship, and passing through a prison heavily guarded by Combine soldiers, Gordon manages to reach City 17, where he finds the G-Man. The G-Man tells Gordon that he has been expecting him, and claims to not be behind the situation regarding the missing dimension, instead he says he is but a "lowly pawn in a shady game being played by sinister powers". Soon after, Gordon finds a strider, a large tripodal war machine, which turns out to somehow be the source of the problem, as upon defeating it, a portal opens, sending Gordon back to the third dimension.
Development on Codename: Gordon began in mid-2003. The game was started as a fan project by Paul "X-Tender" Kamma, who was responsible for the software coding. Soenke "Warbeast" Seidel, was responsible for the game's graphics. Kamma and Seidel both have extensive experience with Flash, so they used it to create the game. The initial intention was to create a platformer game, the setting was decided upon after seeing several pre-release advertisements for Valve's Half-Life 2 video game. Soon after the project's initiation, the game was noticed by Tim Bruns, co-founder of Nuclearvision Entertainment, the company began working on Codename: Gordon with Kamma and Seidel.
Originally, the game was planned for the Nintendo DS portable console. This decision was changed after Nuclearvision Entertainment had contacted Valve Corporation. Being positive about the game, the producers of the Half-Life series also started participating in the development of Codename: Gordon, with Doug Wood overseeing the project on behalf of Valve. The game was released on May 17, 2004, and was distributed freely on Valve's Steam online delivery system, as a form of publicity for the, at that time, upcoming Half-Life 2. As stated by Gabe Newell, the game was originally going to be released on April 1, as an April Fools' Day joke, with Codename: Gordon supposedly being Valve's Half-Life 2.
- "Originally we were going to release it on April 1st. I even wrote a fake press release that went something like, 'Due to tremendous pressure from the gaming community to ship Half-Life 2, we looked long and hard at the game to see if there was anything we could cut that would let us ship sooner. It looked like if we cut the third dimension, we'd be all set, so after five years in development, Valve and Nuclearvision proudly present Half-Life 2D.' Fortunately saner minds prevailed."
- ―Gabe Newell
Initially, Codename: Gordon was supposed to receive several updates, including a second bonus game which would be unlocked after finishing the game. However, Paul Kamma announced that the update was canceled. The game is no longer available on Steam store, due to Nuclearvision Entertainment's collapse, which lead to the official company's site' removal. As access to the site is hard coded into the game, Valve was forced to remove it from the Steam catalog. However, its depot hasn't been removed from content servers so the game is downloadable using protocol commands or command line parameters.
The game received much attention from the community, even before its release to the public. As noted by Tim Bruns, art director of Nuclearvision, the game attracted over 600,000 players in the first three weeks of its release. Bruns revealed that he was surprised by this number, and said that "the ability to reach this many gamers almost overnight is amazing".
Codename: Gordon has received overall good reviews from game critics. Home of the Underdogs described it as being "one of the best fangames". The game has also been widely appreciated for its inclusion of the gravity gun, with Gameplanet saying that it "works as advertised, and is indeed, pretty [cool]". Pixel Rage also described the weapon as one of the game's best features, and gotoAndPlay said it "adds a nice touch to the game". Codename: Gordon has also been praised for its detailed background landscapes, as well as its unique dialog style, in which the player uses emoticons to communicate with other characters.
However, the game has received some negative feedback as well. One of the main issues that has been raised is performance, with gotoAndPlay stating that the game has a tendency towards lower frame frequencies when multiple enemies are present on the screen, as well as lack of proper optimization. Home of the Underdogs also complained about the game's high system requirements, considering its complexity, a 1.6 GHz processor or higher being necessary in order to play. The game has also been criticized for its lack of opponent variety and its simple yet awkward control scheme, and its lack of a save function.