The Half-Life 2 (opens in new tab) modding scene is alive, well and doing some exceptionally silly things. Hosted by Map Labs on Mod DB (opens in new tab), Half-Life Abridged (opens in new tab) is the fifth and most recent in a series of themed HL2 mapping contests, challenging entrants to quickly produce a single level based around a specific theme. This time, it was based around the concept of boiling down an entire chapter of Half-Life (1 or 2) into a single bite-sized level, perfect for the Free Man on the go.
Breaking all prior records for Half-Life 2 jams, there were twenty-five entries in total, all bundled up and ready to play here. Many put tongue firmly in cheek, like Intrasslad by "Salamancer", which re-imagines the entire Nova Prospekt chapter of Half-Life 2 as a trip to Ikea, and replaces Alyx Vance with a lamp. It also won first place in the contest.
Also notable is HWY 17 by "ThatsRidonkulous", which takes the 'abridged' concept perhaps too literally by squashing down the entirety of Highway 17 into a single bridge, breaking all of space and time in the process. Does that make it an Einstein-Rosen bridge (opens in new tab), then?
Fun fact: It is never wrong to use theoretical physics jokes in a Half-Life article.
While some play it straight, a bunch of the levels are elaborate jokes. Anomalous Materials by "iiboharz" and "Jackathan" is an easter-egg and secret-laden romp that abridges Half-Life 1's first chapter. Gordon slept in today, and there's only six minutes until he's fired. Get suited up and to the test chamber ASAP, even if the world does seem to be conspiring to slow you down.
Lastly, a personal favourite is Father Grigori's Wild Ride by "RockyB", squishing Ravenholm down into a deeply unsafe haunted house fairground ride. Comfortably sitting in your mine-cart, you can kick back and relax as an animatronic Father Grigori gives you a tour of the headcrab-laden town. You'll occasionally need to use your gravity gun to switch what track you're on, and decapitate some zombies with saw-blades, though. Please keep all limbs inside the car at all times..
Many of these maps have rough edges, on account of being developed with a time limit for a competition, but they're still some of the funniest and most creative levels I've seen for the game. This collection is well worth a look.
Getting all this set up is, thankfully, pretty quick and easy. You don't even need to own Half-Life 2, but you probably should, or you won't get half the gags.
Step 1: Pop open Steam, check the Tools section of your games library and download Source SDK Base 2013 Single Player.
Step 2: Right click on it in your Steam library, click Properties, Betas, and select the 'upcoming' branch.
Step 3: Download Map Lab #5: Abridged from Mod DB (opens in new tab).
Step 4: Unpack it to your Steam\steamapps\sourcemods directory.
Step 5: Restart Steam and look for 'Abridged' in your game library. Have fun!