Free Games I Like: The Wastes

Written by Joe Martin

May 6, 2010 | 15:28

Tags: #free-games-i-like #half-life #my-dad

Companies: #mod

The Wastes is a mod for the original Half-Life that struggled for a long time to stand out amongst the hundreds of other HL mods, but which never really managed to gather the sizable audience that multiplayer mods really need. Half-Life’s mod scene was just so big that The Wastes got lost in the shuffle.

That's not surprising because when it comes to the concept there isn’t really much that makes The Wastes stand out. It was a straight up deathmatch game with a post-apocalypse setting that mixed scavenged firearms with home-made weapons. Spears and sniper rifles, basically. What I really liked about it though was simply that the level design and balance made it great for playing in small groups, which is exactly how I chose to play it - 1v1.

The Wastes became a tradition for me in the weeks when I was home from university and every night I’d start it up and play a few quick LAN games with members of my family. We had two ailing, ancient PCs back then, plus my own slightly better machine, so when I made the out-of-the-blue suggestion of playing deathmatch with my non-gaming family then Half-Life was an obvious choice. It didn’t require much in terms of hardware, but the basics of the game were easy to pick up – and the mod community meant I had a way to customise it. I chose The Wastes at random, accidentally falling upon a game that would keep me entertained on and off for about three years.
Free Games I Like: The Wastes
It's impossible to find decent screenshots of this game

Not all of my family liked The Wastes. My little sisters would occasionally give it a go, but they’d usually prefer to play a game where I couldn’t defeat them as mercilessly – SnowWar was their game of choice. Only my Dad and I really liked it and, because the levels were so small, we were happy to keep it to 1v1 DM LAN games. We played usually every night from 10PM to 11PM.

Thinking back, I’m honestly not sure why we played The Wastes so much. It was buggy, there were only two or three levels we really liked and the game was obviously unbalanced. There was one assault rifle which simply outclassed everything else in terms of damage and range, so we constantly debated over whether it was fair to use it or not. It didn’t help that I was so much better than my Dad was either. My Dad had played and enjoyed games before, but never anything of such an aggressive pace. He couldn’t circle-strafe at all and always chose the wrong gun for the job. I’d delight in hitting him with one spear and then hiding until he bled to death while still searching for me.

Free Games I Like: The Wastes
Thanks, Dad

Really though, it didn't matter who was better. It wasn’t about competition, just about spending time together, even if it was in different rooms so that quips and comments had to be yelled through the wall. If it was at all to do with the scoreboard or the violence then we’d likely have given up early on or moved on to something else. My Dad never, ever beat me in any of the hundreds of games we played.

The Wastes isn’t particularly good. I don’t especially suggest you track it down and try it out. I just like it personally, not for the grim setting or even really for the level design, but for the emotional connection I’ve got with it. When I think back to The Wastes I don’t think about the post-apocalypse setting or the violent delight of sledgehammer kills – I think of summer evenings spent with my father. I think of his warm, gentle chuckle on the other side of my bedroom door turning into an under-the-breath swear as I threw another spear at him. I remember being startled the first time he asked me if I wanted to play more of ‘that game we played last night’ – and that I was startled again every night that week.

You can read more about The Wastes at ModDB.
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