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In Pictures: 20 Of Our Favorite PC Game Mods


Short for C.H.A.O.S. Deathmatch, this mod's unique combination of custom maps and weapons brought a hint of fantasy to Quake 2's already awesome Deathmatch mode. Players could use crossbows, a broadsword, and even a chainsaw. Other unique weapons included the buzzsaw launcher that sent buzzsaw blades through the air and the proximity grenade launcher, with bombs that followed targets all across the map. Then-current Quake 2 weapons even received a face-lift or additional modes of fire. Outside of the weapons, ChaosDM brought unique items like jet packs, invisibility, a scanner that tracks opponents, an anti-gravity belt, and more.

The Chaos series eventually migrated over to Epic's Unreal Tournament and was even offered in the retail Game of The Year Edition. Further development of ChaosUT halted with the release of Unreal Tournament 2003, and sparked the beginning of a full-fledged sequel--built for the new Unreal Engine--called Chaos UT2: Evolution.

Future Vs. Fantasy

This was one of the first mods to incorporate classes rather than use the standard Quake Soldier model. As the mod name implies, the classes were split into two genres: Future (Cyborg, Android, Sniper, etc.) and Fantasy (Mage, Cleric, Monk, etc.). Outside the typical deathmatch mode, Future Vs. Fantasy offered new modes of play, including Purge, a two-team battle with CTF elements, and Quest, a co-op mode where classes team up to fight "tougher than usual" monsters.

"FvF was this cool game idea that I always wanted to make, where the diametrically opposed forces of magic or the supernatural were perpetually in conflict with the forces of science or nature. It was a little of an analogy of how people saw the world," said the mod's creator. "I imagined it was what would happen if magic was real, but using magic excluded you from using scientific technology. It was all wrapped up in a class system so you could be a specific generic archetype from fantasy or sci-fi. The mod was generally asking 'what if aliens invaded a Fantasy planet?' although I think the setting was never actually defined."

The team went on to create the retail stand-alone game Purge in 2003, published by Tri Synergy, while staying true to the first-person shooter and role-playing game hybrid theme. The game eventually became free to download and play, changing its name to Purge Jihad and then finally to Purge Final.

Reaper Bot

In a way, this Quake mod laid the groundwork for future generations of game-related artificial intelligence, whether opponent-based or active non-player characters. Created by Steve Polge, the Reaper Bot allowed Quake gamers to play in a multiplayer environment without the need for other human players. This was especially handy when Internet gaming was relatively new and connections weren't exactly stable. Before facing elite gamers, players could practice each map with numerous bots, fine-tune those twitch-based skills, and learn the camp spots.

What made this mod so cool was that the AI opponents seemed rather smart...too smart for that matter. Other bot-based mods used pre-generated waypoints that felt more track-based than anything natural. However, the Reaper bot navigated the maps on its own (dynamic mapping), learned on the go, and could even function and perform like a human by opening doors, tracking and attacking players, avoiding ledges, etc. The damn things were challenging, to say the least, taking no prisoners as if long-time, champion players (Thresh) were pulling the strings.

After Reaper, Steve Polge was hired by Epic Games to work on the AI for Unreal--he even supplied the multiplayer bots. The Reaper was discontinued, but the mod saw various third-party improvements, such as skin packs and other small features.

Garry's Mod

This Source-based mod takes a different approach by creating a sandbox environment instead of offering custom content. This enables the player--or in this case the designer--to experiment with a special physics gun that can manipulate props created by the community and those already found in a Source-based game (Half-Life 2, Counter-Strike: Source, etc.). By using the physics gun, players pick up objects from any distance, adjust their position, and freeze them in place. The accompanying gun can then weld the manipulated props together, connect them by using ropes, or combine them using other functions to ultimately create a working contraption.

"The simplest example is a car," explains the mod's description. "The player spawns an object to be used for the car's body then adds wheels by firing the tool gun at the object. Wheels are then controllable using the number pad on your keyboard. You don't have to make moving contraptions, though--want to build a fort out of wooden crates then set it on fire? Go for it! Want to build a house using fridges for the walls and mattresses for the ceiling then drive a jeep into it all? Go for it!"

In addition to the tools, Garry's Mod lets users manipulate characters' facial expressions and move their eyes. With that said, inventive artists could theoretically create a comic book. Garry's Mod also provides the means to create unique game modes such as Melon Racing, Go Fish, and more.

GTA: San Andreas Gostown Paradise

This mod is probably a no-brainer for anyone's "favorite mod" list. After all, it was probably one of the most talked-about for 2004's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (that didn't involve sex). Unfortunately, it was also upstaged by Patrick Wildenborg's notorious "Hot Coffee" patch that unleashed the legal fury on Take Two and Rockstar. Nevertheless, Gostown Paradise saw a complete transformation of the underlying game, adding highly-detailed textures for a much more updated look. Set out to be the "biggest and best GTA mod of all time," creator ParoXum did just that with this Total Conversion, providing an entirely new gaming world for San Andreas players.

The mod centered on a large island located somewhere within a tropical archipelagos. Planted on this island was a 700 meter-high mountain crowned with a thriving metropolis. The city itself consisted of various themes, ranging from industrial to the gang-ridden. Players were free to wander the island's exotic landscape, whether by traversing through its jungles or exploring misty tunnels. In addition to the new playable island, ParoXum also added a new HUD, improved sound effects, and a handful of new vehicles. The mod also provided an additional city--a converted version of Vice City--and multiplayer capabilities including deathmatch.

Natural Selection

Originally created by Charlie "Flayra" Cleveland, Natural Selection for Half-Life was a blend of first-person shooter and real-time strategy genres within a sci-fi setting. The mod featured two teams: an alien species called Kharaa and a group of human space marines called Frontiersmen. The overall feel of the mod was the stereotypical scenario of defending territory against an alien invasion--typical battlefields included space stations and spaceships. Players could choose either side, but the human team offered an additional element.

Supposedly, Natural Selection was the first game to incorporate a team leader--in this case, the Commander. The player taking on this role controlled the situation using a real-time strategy graphical user interface, viewing the screen in the usual 2D, top-down perspective. The Commander was allowed to place buildings within the map, issue movement orders, purchase upgrades, and drop supplies. The alien team had no specific leader, but rather depended on the cooperation of team members. Interestingly enough, the whole mod played like a real-time strategy game seen from a first-person perspective, with each side building structures and upgrade chambers for defense and offense purposes. The gameplay was certainly unique and landed positive scores from the likes of GameSpy, FiringSquad, and PC Zone.

Red Orchestra

This started out as a mod for Unreal Tournament 2K3 and 2K4 that won Nvidia and Epic's Make Something Unreal contest. The grand prize was a free license for the Unreal Engine 2.5 and 3.0 game engines, and thus led to the formation of Tripwire Interactive and the retail release of Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45 in 2006. However, the original UT2K3 mod, called Red Orchestra: Combined Arms, was set on the eastern front during World War II. It took a new approach to tactical first-person shooter gaming by removing most of the graphical user interface and requiring players to rely on simulated 3D iron sights with added sway and character breathing, making it much more difficult to aim than it is in most standard first-person shooter games. The mod also added elements, such as the German MG42, the Soviet IS-2 heavy tank, grenade damage, and shell-shock.

"Take up arms as Germans or Soviets, fighting over the historical battlefields," the mod's creator said. "Enter the fray as anything from a simple rifleman to a tank commander. Play online alongside your comrades or play offline against intelligent AI infantry. In Red Orchestra, it's war."

Tripwire plans to release Red Orchestra: Heroes of Stalingrad in the second quarter of 2011 and will focus heavily on the Battle of Stalingrad.

UT 2K4: Giant Maps

Out of all the mods we've shown here in this article, this one doesn't really qualify, officially. One of the great aspects about both Unreal Tournament 2K3 and 2K4 was the ability to tweak the multiplayer portion to the point where it felt like a mod. Instead of releasing one giant patch for both servers and clients, the community instead set certain parameters and then created custom maps and weapons to fit the theme.

As for the parameters, they were few in number, but very effective. Almost every Big Map server reduced the amount of gravity, allowing players to fall off counters, beds, dressers, toilets, sinks, and other real-world objects without substantial damage. Players relied heavily on sniper rifles and mutated assault rifles, but were also given the ability to perform quad-jumps and use the portable teleports. Thanks to a combination of low gravity and the player's abilities, this felt a little like flying--it was especially helpful in getting around the large areas.

Beyond that, the Big Map servers carried out the usual deathmatch options, injected with an interesting new aspect that's still played today.

Minerva: Metastasis

This was the first chapter in a three-part episodic series created by Adam Foster for Half-Life 2. Rather than take the approach of making something entirely new, Foster said that his intention was to tell an adjacent story to Freeman's journey in Half-Life 2. Minerva was said to be based on Foster's original Half-Life map, Something Else, and earned various awards after its release in 2005. Moddb said that the Minerva series offered a great sense in presentation "that never falters below the professional level." Indeed, Foster's attention to detail didn't go unnoticed, as he was eventually hired by Valve to work on Half-Life 2: Episode 3.

While Freeman endured his own adventure, the protagonist in this story was abducted by a rogue, unexplained AI and taken to a distant island used for unnatural experiments by the Combine. The plot itself was progressed through a series of text messages from an unseen female character named Minerva. This woman literally drove the episode, offering bits and pieces of the storyline, enticing gamers to pursue her demands. She was both sarcastic and dismissive. She spoke in riddles. She clearly had an agenda that she refused to reveal. Players didn't really understand her motives until the third episode (which was basically two chapters in one release) appeared online. This one got a little help from Valve Software and was considered by far the best in the whole series.

When asked to give a summation of why Half-Life 2 gamers should download and install the Minerva episodes, Foster said that it's a modern game modification that actually represents something playable "for a change."

  • rkelly1
    to bad the firearms mod for HL (now FA source for hl2) isnt listed.
  • sparkle_ftw
    The Specialists is not only the best mod ever, but may even be the best game ever. What a huge disappointment.
  • smithereen
    Whoa, too many shooters. Where's Planetfall and TSL RCM?
  • jools33
    Apparently only First person shooters are modded - what a tedious list... You guys ever play anything other than shooters?
  • rkelly1
    there are also TONS of mods for oblivion and fallout 3 (halo mods for fo3 were sweet)
  • magicandy
    Hell yeah Natural Selection. Shame that game is a ghost town lately =/
  • jonsy2k
    As long as NS gets a mention, I can live with it.
  • coconut
    Man, I sure played a lot of Action Quake 2. If it wasn't the inventor of the fps headshot, it came close (it did exist before Counterstrike).
  • What about the first real hard core mod Infiltration with iron sights, and in later versions breathing sway and running motion. Lots of fun. And speaking of the original UT mod's the western themed Badlands was cool as well.
  • jimishtar
    vampire vs slayer for hl2 was pretty fun to play :) there were also some very fun mods for Red Alert 2.