Author: Adam Foster
Released: October 9th 2002
Pay attention – things are more complex than they might first appear. Intrigue, subterfuge, and mystery predominate. An ancient machine tainted with human technology, guarded by a vicious pack of Nihilanthi aliens. There are few answers, but many questions. Will they ever be resolved? This is a prequel of sorts with a plot linked to the Minerva series for Half-Life 2.
Someplace Else is a short map where you will find yourself in a foreign yet familiar place. Xen. While the setting may invoke a few sighs, this one doesn’t involve any low gravity jumping between islands, using the location mostly for theme. The goal here is simple, to escape and return home. While the inhabitants will not take any liking to your existence here, someone or something tries to make contact with the player. These are stylishly done via on-screen emails, with a short burst of the distinctive dial-up sound as an alert. Alone in this desolate realm, this will be your only form of contact reading through their banter and following advice in order to find a way back home. As such, the majority of enemies will be against the creatures of this world. Most fights will be faced off against a mix of alien grunts and vortigants. Pacing generally feels about right, although the combat can come across as a challenge on higher difficulties, it does still offer some nicely balanced and enjoyable fights with fitting music tracks for good measure. Health and ammo are plentiful, found among the bodies of fallen victims, only giving their placement more sense.
There isn’t too much in the way of gameplay except some minor button hunting and a bit of backtracking to and from, but it feels like a polished experience and that is enough to keep the player going. After each important task, enemies will likely come charging in attempting to put a stop to the player’s progression, so expect to see some combat in previously visited locations where enemies wait patiently. The visual design across Someplace Else is charming, which helps to spread this polished feeling across, the approach to the Xen theme has been tackled well, the organic terrain feels nature and smooth, while movement is barely obstructed in the process. An addition to this theme involves a large hightech base situated within the island you stand on, if only to add a little more variety. While mainly utilising a metallic texture scheme across the base, it occasionally allows Xen to blend through in places. The lighting also helps to provide mood to certain areas. The outdoors and metallic halls tend to feel cold, while the natural caves of Xen come across as warm with a nice orange glow. The combination of good architecture and detail along with excellent texture alignment offers very pleasing visuals all round.
The map still holds up well, the action is enjoyable and balanced well for a decent challenge, and the look of Xen in combination with the metallic base is well presented and detailed.