Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Half Life Strategy Guide

The following is something I wrote to introduce my brothers to the wonders of Half-Life.

Half-Life Multiplayer Strategy Guide
Eric Widdison
24 Nov 2004

General principles:

There are differences between single player and multiplayer play, not including the smarter opponents. Multiplayer games have lots more weapons and ammo than single player games, leading to higher use of the big weapons that could never be supported in the single player game. Falling too far will always do 10 damage, regardless of the distance fallen (compared to the proportional damage of single player). The flashlights also do not work in multiplayer unless specifically enabled.

Every map is different, but some things can help you out on any map.

Move around. No position is unassailable, and if you get found there once, chances are that someone’s going to come back for you there again. Also, a moving target is much harder to take out than a stationary one, especially for snipers.

Avoid vulnerable positions. Some spots on the maps are very open and it is a popular pastime to take out anyone who ventures into such a place. They are often extra tempting because of some great weapon or the likes that may be found there. What good is a gluon gun if you’ve become wall decorations?

Learn where health and shields are. If you’ve just barely survived a firefight, you don’t want to go wandering aimlessly looking for a few health packs. Know where to go to get recharged, and make a plan for how to get there before stumbling around into the way of some buckaroo with a pistol. I should add the long jump pack to this, as it can be very handy when things go south.

Learn where weapons are. Most weapons appear twice or more on many maps. Learning two locations can make it possible to get the weapon without venturing into a popular but overprotected area. On some maps, you can even develop loops where you can accumulate ammo as it recharges. Pay particular attention to where you can find your favorite weapons, and where your opponents’ favorite weapons can be found.

Figure out new ways to get around. Good maps offer a variety of ways to get from point A to point B. Start learning some of the paths that aren’t immediately obvious so that you can get into our out of a place when the normal routes are blocked.

Run away. If you have a pistol, and you run across someone who’s going nuts with the gluon gun, you’re probably not going to win out the day. If you’re getting beat somewhere, then get out to somewhere else. The worst that can happen is that you get hit there too, but you might get away.

Learn to use several weapons well. The gluon gun is a powerful weapon, but what do you do when it’s not on the map, or when it’s too risky to go after it? Learning to make good use of the tau cannon, crossbow, shotgun, RPG, and MP-5 can make you a more capable and versatile opponent.

Stay high. If you’re up on the second level of a building, it’s a quick thing to jump down to a lower level when trying to pursue or escape. It’s much harder to do the other way around. I should add that on at least one map, I’ve done far better staying near the bottom of the map because the top was controlled far too well by a devilish player.


Taking out an enemy with one quick hit is a fantastic thrill, but it must be done well.

Find a good location. It’s difficult to get a good sniping position on most maps. Look for some place that isn’t too exposed, although don’t dismiss open spots either. I’ve seen some fine sniping done from the dark corners of an open courtyard, and even from a rarely used stairwell. Just don’t pick a place where you’d be trapped.

Don’t linger. If you make a kill, that’s it. Get out. Same if someone starts shooting at you.

Patience. It sometimes takes a while for someone to come your way. It helps if you pick a spot within sight of a high traffic area. If not enough people come by, you could find your score dropping due to inactivity relative to the players who are in a heated melee.

Specific Maps:


This is the best map I’ve ever seen for a good bloodfest. It’s small enough that you are never lacking for good targets, and yet large enough that you can run around and get weapons without getting blasted away right away. It has a generous helping of weapons, and they didn’t try to make it difficult to access them. Games on this map are often fast and bloody, with the average life span falling below 60 seconds. In busy games, that’s a kill every 10 seconds somewhere on the map.

Key locations include the bunker, the long building that is to the left when coming from the bunker, and the two HEV rooms. The map contains 2 HEV wall chargers, 6 batteries (found in groups of 2 in three different places), 6 health wall chargers (4 in the bunker) and 2 med packs. All of the weapons except for trip mines are present, and all appear at least twice except for the biological gun. The only weapons found inside the bunker are det packs and shotguns (although lots of ammo is in there).

In the back of the bunker, there’s a button that you can push to call in an air strike. When you push it, an alarm starts that continues until the strike. After a short delay, the main door to the bunker closes, leaving only the two chutes from the cannon towers for people to get in through (and leaving no way out). After a minute or so, you hear some planes, and then there’s a boom and a flash of light, and everything outside of the bunker drops dead.

Use the windows. Most of the buildings have open windows with ledges that lead to windows in the next building over. It’s possible to go most of the way around the map without ever stepping foot on the ground level (or the level beneath that). On the back side of the buildings (the side facing the bunker), you can jump out of the windows on one side and quickly cut across to the buildings on the other side, without going to the ground. There’s det packs and snarks along the way.

Don’t use the bunker. It’s far too exposed going to and from the bunker, and while it has lots of ammo and health regen units, it’s not worth it. Also, the bunker contains two big guns in the towers, but you can’t aim them and using them gives your location away. There are chutes down to the bunker from inside the towers that remain open until the last second before an air strike.

Don’t use the air strike. Once you call in an air strike, you must be in the bunker to stay alive, but so must everyone else. Everyone will congregate there, possibly faster than you can kill them, and once they’re in, it will be crowded. If you die inside the bunker, you will spawn outside, and die again when the strike comes. Plus, you’ll make everyone else angry and they’ll punish you.

Use caution in the inner courtyard. There’s some good stuff inside of the compound on the bottom level. The rocket launcher has saved many a respawned player from immediate death. The two HEV rooms each have a long jump module, and one has a gluon gun. The problem is that you’re in the bottom of the map where everyone can see you. I’ve known players to hang out just waiting for someone to try to get into the gluon HEV room, and just snipe them when they try. Make your visits down there quick. Use the long jump modules to move faster on your way out. Aside from the long jump modules, everything that’s down there can be found somewhere else (not HEV chargers, but HEV batteries at least).

Move a lot. I always recommend moving around, but here it’s so cramped that staying in place is downright suicidal. I won’t use the wall chargers here because they give away my position and require me to stay in place for precious seconds. Sadly, there’s only one place where you can get med kits.

Boot Camp:

This is a much larger map, which begins to led itself well to team play. It’s possible to spend the entire game on just one half of the map, although it’s not quite as much fun that way. There’s plenty of ammo, health, shield batteries, and hiding places. It’s got a few areas that are far too open for my tastes, but that’s just the way it goes.

Key locations include the garage, the water towers, the courtyard, the gluon room (the one in its own building, that is), the blue room (a smaller hidden room with the second gluon gun in it), and the sniper tower (the building with bay windows looking out over the courtyard).

It’s much easier to hide and snipe on this map than it is on many others. It’s also much easier to sneak up on a sniper, so be careful. Since the map is larger, games tend to be a bit slower, with action concentrating around places where desirable weapons can be found (read: gluon room). All weapons are present here, often in abundance. Everything except for the biological gun appears at least twice (the second gluon gun and snarks are harder to find, and it may be difficult to find the second magnum as well). Shotgun ammo is sparse, but it’s not a good map for shotguns anyway. There’s a number of health packs, HEV batteries, and wall chargers scattered throughout the map. There are also two long jump modules that are in difficult to access spots, but they’re well worth the effort.

Find the blue room. The blue room is above a small passageway between the buildings. The passageway goes out of the courtyard and turns right down a ramp. On the wall over the ramp is a ladder that leads up to the room. It has health, batteries, and a gluon gun, so that any player up there will be happy, if not unmolested. It’s a difficult place to attack as well, making it very safe for a harried player.

Use the ledges. There are ledges and exposed first story rooftops all over that provide a second route of access around much of the map. They’re tricky to use at times, but they provide an alternative that can be exploited and should be guarded against.

Snipe wisely. Sniping is a good activity on this map, but it is often slow. The map is large enough that you could wait a long time, even with lots of players, for someone to come by. If someone suspects your presence, then they can always just bypass your position altogether and sometimes sneak up behind you.

Don’t get stuck. There’s a long stretch of map stretching clockwise for about a quarter of the perimeter from where the garage opens that has just two conventional ways out. It does contain several health packs, making it a handy place, but it’s low and exposed. In a pinch, use the tau cannon to launch yourself out of there.

Snark pit:

This is a rarely used map that sometimes leads to a good fight. The upper levels wind around (I think in a spiral, but I’m not sure), leading down to a vat of radioactive goo and then to the snark pit. The pit has openings to the higher levels that allow you to fall down but not back up.

Within the pit, there’s some good ammo and good weapons, but there’s a button that can be used to close it off and drop down snarks. For that reason, it’s a good idea to not linger (although I’ve had good luck holding the pit for extended periods). There’s two ways out of the pit. One is to go out over the toxic chemicals (this route is sealed when the snarks are falling), and the other is to turn on a fan and get launched across a blue area and out in the upper levels of the map. When playing in the top part of the map, the shotgun is a good weapon. Down underneath, it’s more open and you need something heavier.


This is a favorite map of some, but not of me. It is interesting because it has an active train that sometimes does in unsuspecting players. I enjoy reversing it from time to time. There’s a gluon gun in an outdoor area that is a popular place for snipers to pick off witless targets. In this map, I tend to stay out of the upper levels where my friends often have control and pick off anyone who falls down into my domain. This map also has more water than most off the other multiplayer maps, which can be a benefit or a curse. Remember that many weapons cannot fire underwater, but all weapons can hit things that are underwater when fired from the surface.


All reloadable weapons only replenish the depleted ammo, leaving the rest for later.


In some other games, you can walk up behind someone, smack them in the head, and kill them. Not here. This weapon is very useful in the single player game, but is of little if any use in the multiplayer game. Each hit with a crowbar does approximately the same amount of damage that a 9 mm round will do, which isn’t much.

9 mm Pistol:

This is your starting weapon. It can rarely take down a healthy opponent, but it is better than nothing, or a crowbar. Its advantage is that it is more accurate than the MP-5. It takes about 8-10 shots to kill an opponent. The secondary fire shoots faster, but with far less accuracy. Reload times are quick. The clip holds 17 rounds, and you can have 250 more. Ammo can be found in 17 bullet clips, 17 bullet pistols, 25 bullet machine guns, 50 bullet clips, and (in some newer levels) much larger ammo cans.

Magnum Revolver:

This is a bigger pistol with a shiny finish. It packs quite a punch, but it still takes too many shots to bring down an opponent in multiplayer. The secondary fire is a zoom mode (not available in single player), but the crosshair (which was already too small) shrinks to a single red pixel. I’ve never had success from using this in a multiplayer game, but it might work for a patient but desperate player. Reload time is moderate. The chambers hold 6 bullets, and you can carry 36 extra bullets. The guns come with 6 bullets, and bullets come in yellow boxes of 6.

MP-5 Machine gun:

This is the only weapon in the game that uses two kinds of ammo. Primary fire shoots off 9 mm rounds, which can be reloaded from the same 250 that the pistol uses. It isn’t very accurate, so it’s pointless to use it except in close quarters, and even then it’s probably not worth it. The saving grace of this weapon is the secondary fire, which launches grenade canisters. The canisters explode on contact with a surface, and are more accurate to use than the hand-held grenades and will explode before they have time to run. I think they pack a bigger punch. The MP-5 can hold 50 9 mm rounds (it comes loaded with 25, so always hit reload after picking one up for the first time) and 10 grenades. The bullets reload quickly, and the grenades do not need to be reloaded.


This is the best weapon for close fighting. It does a lot of damage, sometimes dropping an opponent in a hit or two. The primary fire is a single shot, and the secondary fire lets it go with both barrels. I almost never use the primary fire on the shotgun anymore. The gun can hold 8 shots, with 125 more in reserve. Reloading is done one shot at a time. If the reload is interrupted, either by firing or by switching weapons, then the shots that were put in stay in and you only have to do the remaining shots. As it is, the reload goes moderately fast for a few shots, but takes a long time for all 8. The shotgun comes with 12 bullets, and bullets can be found in red boxes of 12.


This is one of the most important weapons in multiplayer play. The primary fire is fairly ineffective, although it differs from single player in that the bolts explode on contact (only in normal mode). This means that they can do a bit more damage than usual, but more often means that you can injure yourself by shooting it in close quarters. The secondary fire is a zoom mode. While zoomed, you can fire with the primary fire button, and the bolts fly straight and hit their targets with much more deadly force than in normal mode, although they do not explode. The crossbow has some big problems. It has a slow cool down rate (meaning that it can’t fire quickly), and the reload is arduously slow. The bolts also do not travel instantaneously to the target, so that hitting a moving target can be far more difficult. Still, the ability to snipe is enough for me to recommend this weapon handily. Crossbow bolts also cannot travel through a gluon gun beam. The clip holds 5 arrows, and you can have 50 more at the ready. The gun comes with 5 bolts, and bolts can be found in clips of 5.

Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG):

This is the big green rocket launcher. You can’t miss it. This is a dangerous weapon to use, but it can be very, very effective. In close quarters, you’re likely to do as much damage to yourself as to your enemies (I’ve seen lots of fights were a desperate player finished both himself and his opponent with one of these). The rocket leaves a smoke trail which leads back to where you are, making you easier to find. The rocket also can show a read laser, which will quickly give it away that you are aiming at someone. The red dot can be turned on and off with the secondary fire trigger, but only when a rocket is not firing or loading. With the laser off, the rocket travels straight until it hits something and explodes. With the laser on, the rocket will try to go towards the laser. The tube can hold one rocket, and you can have 5 others as well. The reload rate is probably the slowest in the game, which is frustrating because you have to reload between every shot. The RPG comes with one in the chamber and one on the side, and big green rocket canisters contain 2 rounds each.

Gluon Gun:

This is the most popular weapon in multiplayer. It emits a deadly stream of energy that will finish someone quickly. It can go through its power very quickly, which makes it a poor choice for single player, but on a multiplayer map, it is ideal for almost any kind of fighting. Its biggest drawbacks are that it uses its ammo quickly, and it can damage you if you hit a nearby surface. It is noisy in a distinct way, but that actually tends to scare people away from you than draw them in. Also, because of its popularity, people tend to swarm around places where the gluon can be found, leading to confrontations, and often people set traps or wait to snipe people after the gluon. I avoid it for these reasons, but there’s no arguing with the results that this gun gives. It uses the same energy packs as the tau cannon, drawing from some common pool. Energy is available in batteries of 20. You can have 100 energy at a time (having full health, shields, and energy is referred to as having “triple hundreds”). It does not require reloading and has no secondary fire.

Tau Cannon:

This weapon uses the same energy that the gluon gun uses, and ammo for ammo, it gives you far more bang for your buck. Its disadvantage against the gluon gun is that it spends more slowly, so that a gluon gun can finish you long before you can get them. Still, whether or not you use it in combat, it is a singularly useful weapon. Its primary fire gives pulses of energy (at about 2-4 per pulse) that can be very deadly. Its secondary fire charges the gun while you hold the trigger, releasing a far more powerful pulse when you let go. This pulse can vaporize enemies, but it makes quite a bit of noise which can alert them to your presence. It also can throw you back. This is a problem if you’re near an edge or precipice, but it can be a helpful thing too. Firing a charged gun at the ground will throw you the other direction a surprising distance. I’ve never seen a place high enough that you couldn’t get up to it in this way. The downside is that if you don’t land at the right place, it can hurt. Fortunately, you can release a weaker charge just before hitting the ground and use it to cushion yourself down light as a feather. One more caveat is that if you launch yourself against something (like a wall or ceiling), it can damage you. The weapon uses the same 100 energy as the gluon gun, and does not need reloading, although the secondary fire does require a little bit of time to build, but is usually close to full within a second.

Biological Gun:

This is the weapon built into the arms of the big ugly grunts. It can be a real nuisance to fight against in single player, and an invaluable tool, but alas it’s almost worthless in multiplayer. The bees only do as much damage as a 9 mm bullet, but they also give away your position. They aren’t as accurate as a 9 mm pistol, but they make up for it by homing in on targets, allowing you to shoot around corners, although they can’t steer themselves more than about 15 degrees. The primary fire shoots the bees slowly, allowing them to do a lot of turning to hit a target. Secondary fire shoots them much faster and harder, which will do more damage when they hit, but they can’t turn much on the way. The gun holds 8 bees at a time, which it automatically regenerates without reloading. This gun is not found in all maps, and usually only occurs once per map.


These are almost a useful weapon in the multiplayer game. Unfortunately, they’re difficult to aim, they bounce around a lot, they take too long to blow up, and they don’t do that much damage when they do. They’re easily the weakest of the exploding weapons except for the snarks, which can do their own damage in other ways). There are moments when they’re useful, but not many. The only cool thing about these is that you can hold them for a while after pulling the pin. Don’t hold too long though. They come 5 at a time, and sometimes 3 sets of them are in the same place, which doesn’t make sense since you can only hold 10.

Det Packs:

This little backpacks full of C4 are cool, although I’m not sure how useful they are. They pack a mean punch though, doing at least as much damage as any of the exploding weapons. They can be far better than grenades for places where you don’t have to throw them any great distance (they are placed by dropping them). Primary fire drops one, and pressing primary fire again presses the detonator trigger. Secondary fire can be used to drop det packs whether or not you’ve got the detonator in your hand. You can hold up to 5 det packs, and they are found one at a time, although often two are placed together on the map.

Trip Mines:

These laser trip mines are very useful in multiplayer play. They stick to a wall (or any surface), and a second or two after being placed, they emit a blue laser beam. If something changes the distance between the mine and where its beam stops, then it blows up. They are triggered by someone walking through the beam, the target the beam is aiming at moving, or the mine itself moving. They can also be blown up by being shot at, or by having something explode nearby. They are very effective being hidden behind a corner in a tight place. One use of grenades is to take these out (at least when you’re not in a hurry to get by, but then if you’re in a rush, then you might as well chance running through them). You can hold five of these, which are picked up one at a time.


These little buggers are the only critters that you usually encounter in a multiplayer game. They are released one by one, and they run forward bouncing off walls until they see a person or animal. When they do, they go at it. They first attack by jumping on it, like a head crab, but after a short while, they explode. Snarks can be shot at, but they move quickly, making them difficult targets. The biological gun, with its homing capability, is a good way of fighting against snarks. They can be particularly effective in attacking enemies who are trapped in a low confined space, although they tend to not do enough damage to kill someone. You can carry 15 snarks, which come in purple pulsating blobs of five.

Other elements:

Health Chargers:

These wall-mounted units can be used to charge your health up. Each one can charge up 50%, after which it must wait for a while to recharge (this recharge does not occur in the single player game). Unfortunately, they don’t start recharging until they are empty, so you can come up to one that only has 1% charge left. They are lit up when ready, and dark when used up. These are usually identified by their white color with a prominent red cross (they can look different in custom maps).

HEV Chargers:

These wall-mounted units are just like health chargers, but they are yellow with green writing, and they only charge up 30% of your HEV suit.

Med Kits:

These white boxes with red crosses give you an instantaneous boost of 15% health.

HEV Batteries:

These blue and yellow things look a little bit like lanterns. They give you an instantaneous boost of 15% HEV.

Healing pools:

Some bodies of water and other areas can slowly (or quickly) heal you, just like in Zen. None of these are found in the default maps, but some custom maps contain them. You don’t know until you try.

Long Jump Modules:

These are very useful, although I didn’t understand how to use them for a long time. They look like black and orange rocket packs (like a personal jet pack to wear on one’s back), and they enable you to do a long jump. These are done by (while moving forward) crouching and then pushing jump while crouched. While long jumping, you move much faster and can clear some impressive distances. Also, you are often crouched for the jump, giving you better clearance. The speed is the best motive for using these, in my opinion.


Some levels (read: Subtransit) have trains. These might be useful for moving around, but they’re difficult to shoot from and they make a lot of noise, making you an easy target. Far better is to start the train moving and use it to create some commotion. Trains can run you down and kill you, which is never pleasant. They can be difficult to jump on to, but I have seen it done. Also, trains can set off tripmines, and a mine set on a moving train will always go off immediately.

Mounted guns:

Some few places have guns that you can use. This is done by getting behind them and hitting the use button. You can then usually aim by looking around and fire by hitting your primary fire. Some fire bullets, while some fire some sort of explosive. They are usually not worth using because they have limited range of motion, and they are in a fixed location, which you automatically give away by using it.

Moving things:

If you are caught in a space that is too small to hold your body, you die. In a gory way. This applies to getting stuck under elevators, pinned by trains, and cut in half by stuff. This is the same as single player.