I’ve probably written this before on this very website, but whenever someone asks me what my favourite video game is, my default answer is Half-Life 2. So any game that tries to capture Half-Life 2’s excellent mix of exploration, action, puzzle-solving, and emptiness has my attention. And if that game succeeds and also includes its own gravity gun, well, I’m over the moon about it. Lucky for me and other Half-Life fans, the newly released indie shooter Adaca is one of those games.
Released last week, Adaca is a first-person shooter that is a self-described throwback to the late 1990s and early 2000s. This was the era of the “linear-but-not-stuck-in-hallways shooter.” Stuff like Half-Life 2, Halo, and Far Cry. The kind of shooters where you, yes, only have one path through each level and playspace, but the areas are larger than Doom’s hallways, are interesting to explore, and are often filled with environmental puzzles. And while Adaca is pulling from a lot of these shooters, it’s most similar of all to Half-Life 2, and not by accident.
Within the first 20 minutes of Adaca, you’re given a gravity gun-like arm and forced to fight space cops who emit a loud blast of static and electronic screeching when killed. And like Gordon Freeman, the main star of Valve’s Half-Life series, your main character never speaks on their long, unbroken journey from point A to point B. If you’ve played Half-Life 2 or its subsequent episodes, all of this should sound pretty familiar. But if ain’t broke…
The single developer who made Adaca clearly understands what made Half-Life 2 and its contemporaries work. For example, an early section involves a train, a desolate bridge, and not much else but the sound of a distant crow. While limited, the level works, mainly because having to time when to move forward and when to squeeze to the side to let the train fly by is made more intense by all the space cops shooting at you. Of course, just like in Half-Life 2, you can also grab a big box and use it to block some of the bullets. Or fling it at the bastard shooting at you, knocking him off the bridge entirely.
Another level features limited ammo and loads of small objects you can fling at zombie-like enemies. Or you can use bigger ones to create obstacles to slow them down while you figure out how to escape. You always have options in Adaca.
What makes this indie shooter stand out is how it routinely nails the flow and pacing of a Half-Life game, even if some parts feel less polished than Valve’s classic shooter. This is most noticeable in some small areas, like stairways, where you’ll clip through walls or stairs. Other times I ran into performance issues or empty rooms that felt unfinished. And characters aren’t voiced; instead, they do the Banjo-Kazooie “chirping” thing. None of this made it harder to enjoy Adaca, it just reminded me of the scale of the game and its limited resources. It was also a reminder of how much of a passion project this game appears to be.
When Adaca is working and nailing that Half-Life 2-feel, it’s one of my favourite games I’ve played this year. Anyone who loved Half-Life 2 or Alyx or any of the episodes should at the very least check out the game’s free demo.
I’ve not even mentioned that this game also contains a full, alternate open-world campaign. So once you get tired of reliving the past, you get a whole other mode that plays more like a modern, large-scale shooter, like recent Far Cry games. What a value!