Map Review of c-a-g-e-d

Map review of C.A.G.E.D.

by dunkelschwamm | January 15, 2022 | 4906 characters

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C-A-G-E-D, or "Caged" for short, is a Half-Life mod experience that's quite fantastic. The single-player mod is available on Steam and, to be frank and up-front, this is a mod designed to be experienced as a singeplayer mod.

My review of C-A-G-E-D is:
It's a very beautiful mod with some fast-paced action, satisfying combat, tense platforming, and a general feeling that you are attempting to escape from a high-level prison complex. The thematic music, end-game setting, and final visuals of the map seem to intonate an 80's callback ala Hotline Miami or Blood Dragon. Perhaps this is, paired with the escape theme of the maps, could speculate on Diehard and other such 80's action movies as inspiration. What the maps mostly remind me of throughout, however, is the adventures of Hank in Madness Combat: a flash animation series in which a man violently infiltrates massive and intricate brutalist concrete fortresses guarded by plenty of squishy armed personnel. The way the player moves from room to room, taking this thicc fortress apart, disabling turrets and exploding grunts with simple and intuitive tactics- it feels good. It makes the player feel smart, even though it's very simple and straight forward. The mod is action-packed from beginning to end and I think it works great.

My review of the port, which this review is really a review of, is as such:
C-A-G-E-D doesn't work great as a cooperative campaign and this port doesn't care.

Early platforming puzzles which would have been as easy as a quicksave in singleplayer are as punishing as a long trek in Sven Co-op. A trek which is inherently perilous, as the player must fall down a hole which contains painful steam, down distances which could severely damage the player on the way down. The first time the player falls into this beginning pit, they are quickly equipped but just as quickly assailed by ceiling autoturrets as they escape the room. This is tense and great in a singleplayer escape scenario, but creates a grinding situation where respawning players must hammer away at the turrets with their crowbars- which they must acquire while under fire from those same turrets. It's not impossible, but it requires a few deaths and a lot of wild swinging. The port does not add any updated spawn checkpoints as players progress, so respawning players must approach the level from behind with the feeling as though they have not been accounted for at all.

While the later levels pick up the action's pace and tend not to stray far from spawn, Co-op also feels unaccounted for in the disabling of item respawns throughout. There was a cute moment where my comrade and I rationed grenades between the two of us, but I don't know if that was worth all of the time that I spent feeling reluctant and guilty for grabbing pickups. With more than two players I can only imagine this problem is further exacerbated.

When I put aside my bitching for how things weren't compensated, however, the port works. I can't give it enough credit for that. There are plenty of ports which creak on their hinges, and some which I won't name right now which utterly break the mod. This port working, and in high quality, with these incredible working achievements, is some really fine work. The mod is beautiful throughout, we never broke the mod, and we weren't allowed to do anything that would allow Co-op to give us an advantage which, while maybe a missed opportunity in the eyes of some, is perfectly functional and carries the virtue of being faithful to the mod.

Overall, the issues that stem from this port's lack of compensation for a lack of quicksaves are not enough to detract heavily from a fantastic mod experience. If you are looking to play C-A-G-E-D with a friend, definitely give this a go. If you're curious to learn more about C-A-G-E-D than what I said in this review, I recommend playing the mod itself before deciding on getting this port to play with friends. It's definitely balanced for singeplayer first.

If you run a server with lots of high-quality, longer mod ports this set would be perfect for you.

Pros:

  • Beautiful mod with great action-packed gameplay throughout
  • The port works smoothly and faithfully
  • Overall it works out with a friend, especially clearing rooms full of grunts together
  • Good length and well paced

Cons:

  • Some areas, especially early on, where respawning creates frustrating situations
  • Item hoarding. I guess I get why it's there, but I didn't feel like it made the experience better
  • I'm a guy who likes platforming in Sven Co-op and I found some of the early platforming annoying
Score: 9 / 10
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