Staff Editorials

The Best in free PC games and mods: September 2012
Posted: 21.09.2012 13:59 by Simonkey75 Comments: 9
Synchronicity - the concept of meaningful coincidence - is not something Iíve put much stock in before, but how then to explain that, as I kick off the first of Strategy Informerís new monthly round-ups of the very best in free PC games and mods, this week should see the release of the mod to end all mods, an event that many of us thought we would not live to see? Ladies and gentleman, I give you:

Black Mesa:

A quick bit of history is in order: when Valve released Half Life 2 with its then cutting edge Source engine, they also knocked out a quick port of the original Half Life. As it consisted of little more than the original gameís assets wrapped up in the new engine, the mod communityís thoughts quickly fastened on to the idea of giving Half Life a complete makeover.

Several mod teams eventually combined under the Black Mesa banner, and what followed was one of the most tortuous mod developments of all time. Years ticked by with no news, and after the last announced release date slipped by in 2009, even Wired magazine labelled the project vapourware. In many eyes, Black Mesa had become the modding equivalent of the infamous Duke Nukem Forever.

Then, out of the blue, a bunch of assets were shown off a couple of months back, and before we knew it Black Mesa was finally released on September 14th. And thankfully, unlike Duke Nukem Forever, itís really rather good.

The original idea of a new, shinier Half Life might have lost its lustre somewhat eight years on now that HD remakes are ten a penny and Source itself is a bit long in the tooth, but none of that should take away from the fact that an amateur team has managed to recreate one of the greatest games of all time with entirely new visuals, gameplay improvements and the joys of the Havok physics engine. Not only is it an incredible accomplishment on the teamís part, but it also allows just what Valve themselves achieved with Half Life to shine through without the barrier of the originalís aging graphics.

Throw in its own set of Achievements and a fantastic soundtrack by Joel Nielsen as well and what you have is not just a mod phenomenon but one of the must-play PC titles of 2012. You can grab the full 3.2GB download here on Strategy Informer.


Synchronicity rears its head again. Having been working my way steadily through the complete box-set, only to find the series completely jump the shark in the last five minutes of Season 3, I was casting about for something that would remind me of just how brilliant the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica was, and lo and behold Diaspora appears.

Built on the freeware Freespace 2 engine, Diaspora is a fully-featured Viper piloting dream. Itís definitely at the simulation end of the space game spectrum, so youíll have to be fairly dextrous on the keyboard to master all the controls, but thereís an indepth tutorial to guide you from nugget to ace.

Indeed, indepth describes everything in Diaspora. It features a fully voiced single-player campaign revolving around the Battlestar Theseus and the initial surprise Cylon attack on the Twelve Colonies, along with online multiplayer and even a mission editor. Itís an incredible amount of content for a free game.

Best of all, Diaspora perfectly captures the intensity and scale of the space battles from the TV series. Thereís nothing that quite compares to finding yourself caught within your own Battlestarís defensive bombardment as waves of Raiders swoop by and Baseships pound the Theseusí hull with nukes.

Itís a must-have for fans of Battlestar Galactica and space sims alike. The full game installer can be downloaded here.

Red Eclipse:

More freeware engine goodness, this time in the form of Cube 2-powered Red Eclipse. A single- and multiplayer FPS, Red Eclipse mixes up classic fast-paced sci-fi shooter elements from the likes of Unreal Tournament with damage components such as burning and bleeding from Team Fortress 2.

Add in innovative additions such as parkour and the impulse system, which allows you to traverse the map using a lunge mechanic, and you have a frantic yet surprisingly tactical addition to the PC (and pretty much every other operating system known to man) multiplayer roster. The latest 1.3.1 update adds a whole slew of improvements and new battlegrounds, and you can get the full game download here.

In other news:

Red Alert 3: Revolution 1.2 improves on the original in pretty much every aspect, making one of craziest of all PC real-time strategy games even more bonkers than before. Perfect if youíve just picked up EAís cheap compilation of all 17 Command & Conquer games.

Download it here.

If youíre playing Empire: Total War at all, then you really should be playing it with DarthMod installed. As well as hundreds of additional units, graphics tweaks and general improvements, the latest V8.0 Platinum version promises to have achieved the modís ultimate goal: computer A.I. that is better than the average human player.

Download it here.

A sequel - the disturbingly subtitled A Machine For Pigs - may be in the works, but the original Amnesia: The Dark Descent is still getting plenty of love from the mod community. Silent Hallways, The Agony of Insanity and A Rose In The Dark are just a sampling of the haunting new tales being added to one of the downright creepiest games of all time:

You can download them all here.

And finally, as an example of the never-ending creativity of the PC mod community, a cartoon monkey hunting mod for, of all things, Doom 3. HerrWís MONKEYS of DOOM can be grabbed from here.

That's it for this month's round-up. Iíll be back next month with more of the very best in free PC gaming and the cream of the mod crop. In the meantime, head on over to the Strategy Informer Downloads section for all the latest mods, maps, official patches, demos and more.


By nocutius (SI Elite) on Sep 21, 2012
Nice round-up, I doubt every month will be as fruitful as this one but please keep this up :).
By Sarayakat (SI Newbie) on Sep 21, 2012
Regarding the long wait for the Black Mesa project, I have two words for you :Europa Barbarorum 2. 6 years and counting...and counting...
By YouriRevenn (SI Veteran Member) on Sep 21, 2012
Omg, my new pc just arrived and i get Black Mesa! Is it x-mas? :D
This "mod" is epic! Better than any game in this year.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Sep 22, 2012
"Dispora" is excellent and I've been playing it quite a bit of late. Just love the old and the 2004 versions of "BSG". Black Mesa I am greatly loking forward to trying out and am following it closely on ModDB.
As Geisha Girl says, very good roundup Simonkey75.
Two more I would add to the list bwould definitely be the "BSG" TC for "Homeworld 2" (justt phenomenoal what they have done following the entire storlyine of "BSG" including prequel missions in nthe Campaign). The other would have to be the "Ultimate Universe" TC for "Star Trek Legacy". It makes the game what it could have been/should have been all along.
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Sep 22, 2012
Hmm, both that BSG and ST mod sound quite intriguing, too bad I don't have any of those base games anymore.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Sep 22, 2012
Yes I fogot we were talking free games that required no base game. Both "Homeworld 2" and "Star Trek: Legacy" can be picked up on EBay very cheaply, and also through cheap budget retail releases.
By Simonkey75 (I just got here) on Sep 24, 2012
Hi folks and thanks for the kind comments - I'm certainly looking forward to exploring more of the great stuff coming out of the free games and mod scenes in the coming months.

And thanks for the heads up about the BSG mod for Homeworld 2, Herodotus - I'll be definitely checking that out!
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Sep 24, 2012
Wait until you set up a skirmish between the "Bucket" (Galactica) and the Beast" (Pegasus) and you'll be riding high. Thee Campaign as I said is brilliant and I've followed each iteration of the Mod as it's been released. Following the episodes from the 4 Seasons, with original extras linking them will have you setting "Condition One throughout the ship" skittishly as you FTL from one system to the next. The entire fleet plus extras have been well produced, and boy taking on a a Cylon Starbase is a hell of a site with flak surrounding Galactica as itt fires toedoes and receives them with fighters buzzing everywhere.
If only I could upload my screenshots.