Author: Marcello Bortolino
Research and Development is a short mod that has a centric focus that leans towards puzzle solving, a break from the usual practise of gun fights against the Combine forces. You take role of a weaponless character, through a journey of different situations which must be overcome with thought or quick response, to conquer the many obstacles that get in your way.
The first level will start out with a short cutscene from your character’s perspective, while lying underneath a pile of rubble watching some Antlions butcher Combine soldiers. Soon after, you’ll be on your feet and ready to tackle the challenges ahead. Puzzled based gameplay take the spotlight throughout each level, either taking on a calm brainstorm, or some fierce quick thinking situations. There’s a really nice amount of variety between each of the puzzles spread across the experience, some of which are simple to tackle, while others require a bit more thought. Lots of fun can be had here, while the odd sections can be irritating. There was one section during a tram ride that required you to watch out for three different dangers at once, two of which can be a random situation each time. But for the most part the mod is extremely enjoyable, and something different will always await you as you progress with plenty to look forward to. There are also a few comical moments spread across certain levels that are worth looking out for.
The main theme takes place within various different industrial sectors, where you’ll find yourself exploring a blend of interior and exterior locations. Design is simply excellent throughout, and has a surprising amount of variety considering the chosen theme. From the dust ridden wharehouses, to the grime and sludge covered pipeworks. Each location has plenty of detail throughout with a suitable amount of props and solid construction, only adding in what’s necessary for the given scene. Many locations add a lot of machines and other inner workings of specific use, such as the Antlion cages at the start, computers and experiment equipment for labs or the converyer belts during a later puzzle, rather than an overabundance of crates and barrels to fill up an empty room. The mild haze of fog surrounding the distance structures and forest hills is also another nice sight to see upon stepping outside, under the sunny sky. On a final note, the lighting is another great aspect done well as each area is well lit from suitable light sources, be them bulbs or windows. The important parts of each section aren’t neglected within shadow, except the interiors of vents, and remains consistent throughout.
Excellent variety of puzzle based gameplay, all wrapped within the bounds of superb level design, an extremely well done industrial theme that consists with plenty of variety. Looking forward to other projects from the author.