|Release date(s)||May 17, 2004|
Codename: Gordon, also known as Half-Life 2D, is a two-dimensional Flash sidescroller shooter game made by Paul "X-Tender" Kamma and Sönke "Warbeast" Seidel. The game was produced on behalf of Nuclear Vision, and was distributed free of charge over Valve Software's Steam online delivery system as a promotional title for the then-upcoming Half-Life 2. The game has since been removed from Steam's storefront due to factors related to the developer's bankruptcy.
The game started off as a fan project of Paul Kamma and Sönke Seidel, the concept being inspired by various Half-Life 2 advertisements. Soon after, the two started working on Codename: Gordon on behalf of Nuclear Vision. The company also presented the game to Valve, the developer team of the original Half-Life series, who later distributed the game through Steam.
Codename: Gordon has been overall well received by both reviewers, and the public, the game attracting over 600,000 players in the first three weeks after its release. Reviewers appreciated the game for its gameplay and unique dialog style, but also criticized it for its improper optimization, and lack of opponent variety.
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 sidescroller shooter game offers the player the ability to control Gordon by using the keyboard for movement, and the mouse for aiming and firing weapons.
Armed with various weapons, including the trademark crowbar, and the gravity gun introduced by Half-Life 2, the player makes their way around six levels encountering enemies such as zombies, headcrabs, and the Combine. Similarly to the main titles in the Half-Life series, the action sequences of the gameplay 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", in which the player has to try and gather as many points as possible, within a given time limit, by chasing crows, in an attempt to keep them in the air for as long as possible.
Codename: Gordon presents an alternative to the storyline of Half-Life 2, with locations inspired by both Half-Life and Half-Life 2. Along the way, Gordon Freeman — the protagonist from the canon games — meets with some of the main characters of the Half-Life series and tries to find what caused the disappearance of the third dimension.
The game starts with Gordon Freeman in a dock area. After making his way through a few zombies and headcrabs, Gordon meets with Barney Calhoun, a prominent character in the later Half-Life titles. He tells Gordon of an "entire dimension" missing and also notes that the science team is working on solving the problem. Being injured, Barney cannot leave the place, so he gives Gordon his pistol, telling him to leave without him.
In the second chapter, the player meets with Eli Vance and his daughter Alyx who tell Gordon to take their car, which will help him reach City 17, as seemingly it is the center of the problem. They also tell him to talk to Dr. Kleiner, about his new invention, the gravity gun. Soon after, the player finds Dr. Kleiner, who tells Gordon about his worries regarding the missing dimension and also gives him the gravity gun mentioned by Eli and Alyx.
After being attacked by an alien gunship and getting past a prison heavily guarded by Combine soldiers, Gordon manages to reach City 17, where he finds the G-Man. He tells the player 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 confronts a strider — a large tripod assault unit — which turns out to be the source of the problem, as upon defeating it a portal is opened; stepping into this portal, Gordon is sent back to the third dimension.
Production and publication
Development on Codename: Gordon began in mid-2003. The game started as a fan project of Paul "X-Tender" Kamma, responsible for the software coding, and Sönke "Warbeast" Seidel, responsible for the game graphics. The game was created using Macromedia Flash, the reason for this choice being the developers' familiarity with the software. The initial intention was to create a platform game, the setting only being decided upon after noticing various pre-release advertisements of Valve's Half-Life 2 video game. Soon after the project's initiation the game was noticed by Tim Bruns, co-founder of Nuclear Vision, whose company then started working on Codename: Gordon together with Kamma and Seidel.
Originally the game was planned to be released for the Nintendo DS portable console; this decision has been changed only after Nuclear Vision had contact with Valve Corporation. Being positive about the game, the producers of the Half-Life series begun offering aid in the development of Codename: Gordon, 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 supposed 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 [sic] proudly present Half-Life 2D.' Fortunately saner minds prevailed.
Codename: Gordon was initially meant to receive several updates, including a second bonus game which could be unlocked after finishing the game, however Paul Kamma announced that the update was eventually canceled. The game was eventually removed from the Steam storefront in February 2008 following the liquidation of developer Nuclear Vision.
The game received much attention from the community, even before its release to the public; as noted by Tim Bruns, art director of Nuclear Vision, the game attracted over 600,000 players in the first three weeks of its release. Bruns declared himself 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, Gameplanet saying that it "works as advertised, and is indeed, pretty [cool]", Pixel Rage also described the weapon as one of the its best features, and gotoAndPlay said it "adds a nice touch to the game". Codename: Gordon has also been praised for its detailed background landscapes and its unique dialog style in which the player uses emoticons to communicate with other characters.
However the game has received negative feedback as well. One of the main issues that have been raised is performance, gotoAndPlay arguing that the game has a tendency towards lower frame frequencies when multiple enemies are present on the map, 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 simple but awkward control scheme, as well as its lack of a save function.
Removal from Steam
The game was taken off of the Steam Store because of issues with the website banner built into the game. The original developers (due to their bankruptcy) allowed the domain to expire, and it was purchased for advertising use. This led to the site containing links to pornographic content and viruses. The game is still obtainable through Steam through the obscure method of entering steam://install/92 in a web browser's address field after installing the Steam client.
- "Codename Gordon Released". Steam. 2004-05-17. Retrieved 2008-08-22.
- Bruns, Tim (2004-06-14). Half-Life 2D: Developer Interview. (Interview). PC Games. Retrieved 2008-08-24.
- "Codename: Gordon game information". Universal Videogame List. 2008-02-23. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
- The Nuclear Vision web site could previously have been found at http://www.nuclearvision.de, now a defunct website.
- Newell, Gabe; Bruns, Tim (2004-06-18). Codename: Gordon Interview. Interview with John Callaham. HomeLAN Fed. Retrieved 2008-08-22.
- "Codename Gordon: Over 600,000 Gamers Strong, and Growing" (Press release). GameSpot. 2004-06-14. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
- snak^ (2004-05-25). "Codename: Gordon". Gameplanet. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
- Warden (2004-05-18). "Codename Gordon lansat si cateva detalii" (in Romanian). Pixel Rage. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
- Tom Samson (2004-06-09). "Game reviews: codename gordon". gotoAndPlay. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
- "Codename: Gordon". Home of the Underdogs. Archived from the original on 2007-11-11. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
- "Codename: Gordon - No Continue?". Paul Kamma. 2005-01-02. Retrieved 2008-08-25.
- Nuclear Vision (2004-05-17). Codename: Gordon. Level/area: Chapter 1: The Docks. "Barney: The science team is working on solving this dimensional riddle. [...] I'm a victim of a zombie attack. [...] You'll have to go on without me. [...] The pistol is not doing me any good. Why don't you take it?"
- Nuclear Vision (2004-05-17). Codename: Gordon. Level/area: Chapter 2: The Harbor. "Eli: Push on to City 17. That seems to be the center of disturbance. / Alyx: You can borrow our car. I left the keys in the ignition. / Eli: Keep your eyes open for your old mentor, Dr. Kleiner. He's developed a gravity gun."
- Nuclear Vision (2004-05-17). Codename: Gordon. Level/area: Chapter 2: The Harbor. "Dr. Kleiner: Needless to say, the recent absence of our beloved third dimension has made the Manipulator quite finicky. You may propel objects to either side with abandon, but you will find yourself severely restricted along the z axis. I do lament to the recent imposition of these new dimensional constraints!"
- Nuclear Vision (2004-05-17). Codename: Gordon. Level/area: Chapter 6: City 17. "G-Man: Dr. Freeman. I suppose you expect me to say this is a surprise. Unfortunately for both of us, nothing can be further from the truth. The science team would like to lay the blame for this whole business at my feet, but while it's true that I have a penchant for dimensional manipulation, in this case I am but a lowly pawn in a shady game played by sinister powers. [...] If you wish to see your precious third dimension again, Dr. Freeman, then there is only one course open for you. [...] The boss of you lies waiting just ahead. Defeat that boss, and you will learn the identity of those responsible for our current circumstances."
- "Game FAQ". Retrieved 2008-08-24.
- Former official site – defunct site available through Wayback Machine
- Interview by PC Games with Tim Bruns, co-founder of Nuclear Vision, on June 14, 2004
- Interview by HomeLAN Fed with Gabe Newell, managing director of Valve, and Tim Bruns, on June 18, 2004