Game Lens #8: Half-Life 2 & Portal 2

February 2, 2013

Game Lens is a game photography feature. I hack, mod, tweak, and stress games (and myself) to not only make them as beautiful as possible; but to explore their environments free of HUD, overlays, and physical confinements; and take interesting, high-resolution screenshots.

Half-Life 2 / Garry’s Mod

As it’s perhaps the reason I got into gaming as a real hobby, and also the reason I began appreciating the art of gaming visuals; I might be a little biased on Half-Life 2. I have owned the game since it’s release, and I remember being totally stunned by the visuals, although I’d never cared about how a game looked before. Apart from the obvious shaders, facial expressions, physics, and flashy effects, the art style was just gorgeous. Anyone who has played it knows that the oppressive, totalitarian atmosphere of City 17 is perfectly realized in it’s visual design in any area you explore.  The way the game was set out, it’s perfect approach to linear, immersive storytelling, with excellent characters including a strong female character; all wrapped up in tight, intuitive and satisfying gameplay, completely sucked me in and became a benchmark for what I really want from a gaming experience. But I’m going back in time a little here, so why did I bother screenshotting an 8 year old game?

Well, yes. Visually, it’s showing its age, a lot. That’s a sad truth, but at the same time a wonderful thing about the graphics of games. The art style, however, is still intact. So let’s bring Garry’s Mod into the equation. Garry’s Mod began, as you’d expect, as a free mod, first released very shortly after Half-Life 2. It allowed the player to pose ragdolls, combine props together, build contraptions, see how long Barney can survive against 350 zombies at once, and generally just play about in the Source Engine with all it’s many assets. In 2006, it had a standalone release on Steam, and after many updates it now supports almost every Source Engine game, as well as being significantly improved over the years to include a myriad of different features.

For a start, Garry’s Mod gives me full control over visual effects. This makes my job very easy! Not only can I set the scene exactly how I want, spawn props and ragdolls and place them where I want them, but I can use it’s incredible Super Depth of Field effect, and add my own color corrections to each shot. I didn’t take too many liberties though, and I essentially played through the game and used my normal tricks coupled with a few Gmod tricks, to keep with the tone and canon of the game. Am I exploring a game that is still beautiful and adding my own spin on it, or am I secretly obscuring how dated it has become with strategic DoF and desaturation? You decide!

“Shaman” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“Something Sinister” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“The Father” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“So Close, Yet So Far” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“Shortcut” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“Rise and Shine” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“A Series of Tubes” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“Not Right in the Head” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“Red Letter Day” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

Settings & Tweaks: 3552×1998 rendering, 8xAA, noclip, timescale adjustment, various GMOD tools, “Gordon Freeman fixed” model.

Portal 2

Continuing with the Valve theme… Although I’ve already done Portal 2, I felt I could get more shots out of the game, so I returned to it. Armed with my newer, higher resolution, considerable tweaks to the ENB profile, and a little more experience in my belt, I photo-toured my way through the whole game again. I’m quite pleased with all the new shots I could get on my second attempt, so check some of them out below!

“Sleeping Beauty” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“Renovation Work” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“Life on the Inside” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“I See You” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“Givin’ Me Evils” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“Drop Zone” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“Bermuda” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“The Loading Pod” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

“Tunnel of Friendship” — Download: 1920×1080, 2560×1440

Settings & Tweaks: 3552×1998 rendering, 16xQ CSAA, ‘V3’ ENB Profile (Tweaked), forced Ambient Occlusion, hidden HUD & viewmodel, noclip, custom FOVs.

Want more pretty pictures? Check out my Flickr here.