By Kevin E. Glosser
Half-Life 2 is the sequel to the award winning Half-Life, a first person shooter credited with remaking the genre. It was the existence of an
actual story that propelled Half-Life to record sales. Players again
take the role of Dr. Gordon Freeman, a Black Mesa research facility
scientist who was just doing his job when suddenly he was propelled into
the lead role of an epic save the world from aliens scenario.
Cedega far surpassed my expectations with World of Warcraft. As a
result, I decided to really push it to its limits with Half-Life 2. This
was accomplished by choosing the most difficult way to install Half-Life
2. We'll call this the "Black Mesa" experiment, in honor of the game we
There are two methods available when installing Valve Software's mega
hit. You can copy the files from a Windows install or use Valve's
controversial Steam application to re-download them.
Steam has been the source of frustration for some of Valve's
customers. It allows customers to buy Half-Life 2 directly from Valve,
avoiding having to purchase the game via a retail store. After
purchasing it on-line, Steam downloads the entire game (several
gigabytes) to your computer. This is a new option, never before
available in big name titles. Surely, Valve saw this mechanism as a way
to maximize profits. However, their publisher saw it as a breach of
contract. Apparently, they weren't too keen on being cut out of the
on-line profits. A pending lawsuit exists against Valve.
Although in theory, Steam sounds great, some people have had issues
downloading the game. Some Steam users have been unable to play it once
they have it! Valve has released several upgrades to Steam, but still
the discontent and stability of the application remains a concern. This
is a program you can't rely on working perfectly in Windows. Clearly,
this is asking a lot of Cedega.
I downloaded the Steam installer via Firefox from the Valve website. The
installation was the same as if I was installing it from CD media.
Instead of selecting the mounted CD in Point2Play, I browsed to the
directory where I had saved the setup file.
Steam's setup program launched. It updated itself. It authenticated my
account. I chose HL 2 from the available list and kicked off the
download. HL 2 is a minimum three point five gigabyte install.
Amusingly, I had forgotten this fact, and the Steam installer recognized
that the Linux partition it was set to download to, did not have enough
space. Whoops. This was resolved and the process was repeated.
Not surprisingly, my experience with Steam was a mixed affair. Cedega
seemed to have no issue running it. However, HL 2 did not download and
install smoothly. The first attempt stalled with 12 seconds left in the
download. I kid you not. I waited a while, but it just sat there.
Somehow, it let me launch the game. I didn't know if this is possible,
running a partial install via Steam. It's hard to know for sure, since
the program gives you a status indicator of how much content it has
downloaded after it "finishes". It allows execution even though the
status may not be one hundred percent.
"Alright Dr. Freeman, if you'll just enter the test chamber, we'll get
When I launched HL 2 for the first time, I witnessed a black
screen. Then, an error message was displayed by Steam. I decided to
continue with the experiment and do what a Windows gamer would do,
reinstall or in this case, re-download. Steam allows you to easily
delete what you have downloaded at the press of a button. This was done
and the experiment continued by restarting the process again. I left the
computer unattended for a couple hours.
When I returned, Steam claimed it had finished downloading HL 2 and was
ready to play. Half-Life 2 was started and the screen went black again.
Uh oh, had I found Cedega's match? After a short delay, the screen went
fuzzy. A blurred image appeared. There was a loading message in the
bottom right hand corner. Then, it locked up and did nothing. Well, this
was different than last time at least.
Before admitting defeat, or looking for help, I decided to try running
it one more time. A similar experience occurred, except this time it
ran! Initially it was slow, reacted a little sluggish. This only
occurred once, however. I changed the default settings to my normal
preferences, including increasing the resolution to 1024x768. I went
with identical settings to what I use in Windows. Still, this was odd, I
wasn't sure it was operating correctly. I had the suspicion I might need
to make a setting change to get it right. I exited the game. I examined
the documentation, found a game specific mention that I might encounter
a similar experience to what I had.
I checked the Windows version, to refresh my memory on exactly what
should be appearing and how should it look. I then restarted it in Linux
with Cedega. This time, it was running fine. There was one thing that
was skipped on launch however, the displaying of the Valve logo. It
never appeared. The in game menu, displayed perfectly. It's an actual
in-game rendering of a scene. You can see things moving around as if you
are playing the game, with text on top of it showing the menu options.
"...I'm showing a small discrepancy. No, it's alright, well within
The new game cinematic that plays only when you start from the beginning
was not displaying. The audio was fine. I was left with a black screen
to view though. Uh oh, maybe TransGaming bit off more than it can chew?
I was concerned.
Then it happened. The introduction finished and I was in the game. It
looked exactly the way it does in Windows. I couldn't tell the
difference! Wait, this surely will not last, I thought. I ran HL 2
through its paces, waiting to discover more problems. It never happened.
I played a large amount of the way through the game, during this review
and only once did the game act oddly.