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Cedega 4.2.1 Review - Part 5
LinuxLinks Review
(3/10/05)
By Kevin E. Glosser

Half-Life 2

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 are examining.

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 under way."

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 acceptable levels."

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.


I experienced one lockup about half way through the game. Unfortunately, I do not have the definitive explanation for why it occurred. It is my belief, it was not related to Cedega. I switched to a virtual terminal, killed the WINE and Point2Play processes running. X came back to life, naturally. I then checked something on a hunch. I had a similar lockup occur once in another first person shooter, with a native Linux port. I examined the source of the issue with that problem. I checked the permissions and ownership of the Nvidia device on my system. It appears I guessed correctly, the same scenario existed. The permissions, including the ownership had changed. I believe there is some type of cron job that checks for this and changes things back to default, almost in a bug-like manner. I altered the settings to the way they should be, reran HL 2 and everything was normal. Was it Cedega that had the issue? I think not. I'll blame Fedora on that one. I could be wrong though.

Half-Life 2 now works exactly as it does in Windows. As for performance, I did not run any benchmarks. I was satisfied with what I was experiencing. It felt very close to the Windows version. I have no idea if it was slower, but if so, not by much. I found it very playable on my hardware. TransGaming did it again; another completely playable near identical experience. I was quickly becoming a believer.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Read ahead

1. Introduction
2. Test Environment
3. Installation
4. World of Warcraft
5. Half-Life 2
6. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
7. BlitzIn
8. Conclusion
9. Known Issues
10. Fixes
11. Glossary



Last Updated Wednesday, March 09 2005 @ 03:46 PM EST


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