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Video Game / Underhell

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Underhell is a horror-action mod for Half-Life 2, with a large number of gameplay styles. Its first release was on March 5, 2011 containing the Prologue. The second release was on September 1, 2013, containing the first Chapter. Unfortunately, it has since been stuck in Development Hell.

In Underhell, you assume the role of Jake Hawkfield, a SWAT officer who has recently lost his wife in an apparent suicide. The Prologue takes place one week after this, with Jake responding to a call to a hostage situation at a local hospital. However, it quickly becomes apparent that there is something bigger than a random act of terror going on. Chapter One picks up shortly after the events of the Prologue, with Jake arriving at the mysterious and top-secret A.R.C. complex. Shortly after Jake's arrival, a mysterious virus begins to spread out of control, zombifying nearly the entire population of the complex, save a few security guards and civilians who he must team up with to survive. Of course, this turns out to be something bigger than a simple zombie outbreak, as soldiers move in to "disable" the group, and discerning the truth becomes more and more difficult.

Underhell's gameplay is split up into three sections: The House is a horror-themed adventure where Jake must uncover the secrets of his house and shed light on the mysterious circumstances surrounding his wife's death, all the while being stalked by her ghost. The Dreams are a series of puzzles where Jake explores his own mind and uncovers the memories of his mysterious past. And The Chapters are where the majority of the story takes place, and is a horror-fps with some tactical elements mixed in.

The mod's official site can be found here.

This game provides examples of:

  • Awesome, but Impractical: A grenade launcher can be found as a Sidetrack Bonus. It deals massive damage and can wipe out an entire horde of zombies, but the ammo can only be reliably found in the same place as the launcher, and the large splash area combined with the tight corridors makes it very easy to kill yourself. Plus, if you switch to another weapon, (or use your flashlight) you drop it.
  • And I Must Scream: Angelo's body is dead, but his mind did not leave his corpse, forcing him to exist in an abandoned sewer as a sentient zombie. Jake's wife may have put him out of his misery, however...
  • Anyone Can Die: Damn. Jake's guardian, Frank, is killed in the prologue. Every member of the surviving security team in Chapter 1 except for Bryan dies as well.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Angelo's audio logs show the steady decline of both his mind and his body. There are also a number of PDAs in Chapter 1 that fit this trope.
  • Big Brother Bully: Bryan appears to be this to Junior at first, however it is just his way of trying to keep Junior out of danger.
  • Body Horror: Angelo's body is slowly falling apart and by the time of the game is mostly held together with whatever he could find in the sewer he got dumped into. All of this is described in excruciating detail in his audio logs.
  • Crapsack World: According to Michael, the country is scared because of the events of the Prologue. Zombies are seen terrorizing a city at the start of Chapter 2.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Many years ago the Hermit lost his entire loving family of twelve in a house fire, so don't you dare think he's a bumbling simpleton, he has been through a lot and bears an enormous amount of guilt of being the only survivor of the tragedy.
  • Decade Dissonance
    Bryan: I always wonder. This place is in like the twenty third century technology-wise, but we still make people sign these damn fuckpoints with a pen and paper. You tell me, hey, you tell me, doesn't that seem a little contradictory to you?
    Guard: Uh, I don't know.
    Bryan: And what the hell is that big box supposed to be, huh? Shit man, even my grand-mama, rest her soul, had a God damn plasma screen TV.
    Guard: Hm, I guess our applications do not require more advanced hardware?
    Bryan: No shit? Well congratu-fuckin'-lations, the first smart thing to come out of your mouth to-day. Now put your lazy-ass back to sleep.
  • Elite Mooks: Ito's men has several of these. They can briefly turn invisible and have much more health than the average mook.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Junior/Alex prefers being called by his real name. Almost nobody does this.
  • Escort Mission: At one point, Jake needs to escort a cypher. It does a poor job at following you, and this is lampshaded by Ben.
  • Fetch Quest: Most of the side quests given to you by your fellow survivors boil down to this. Less aggrivating than most examples, as they're short, usually in the same area you're going to anyways, and the rewards are incredibly useful.
  • Final Solution: When Code Red happens, Ito's PMC kills everyone in the contaminated area without high enough clearance.
  • Fission Mailed: Twice. The first is at the end of the Prologue. Jake is captured and gassed. Instead of dying, Jake breaks out and kills everyone in the UDRC through unknown means. The second one is near the end of Chapter One. Jake is again captured and gassed. Jake still escapes, but does not escape like he did in the Prologue.
  • From Bad to Worse: After the Hermit saves Jake from being gassed, things go downhill really quickly. Ito's men storm the safehouse and kill most of the survivors. Various attempts to escape the facility lead to Matthew's, Eric's, and Junior's deaths, with Ben and Terry implied to be dead, leaving Bryan and Jake the only survivors of the group.
  • Genre Shift: At the push of a button, no less! So far, there are five distinct gameplay styles:
    • The Prologue is a somewhat over-the-top tactical shooter, featuring meaty gunplay, lots of swearing and gore, and some tactical shooting with open-ended level design.
    • Chapter One is less linear than the prologue, and is a survival horror taking place in an abandoned prison system, filled with ravenous zombies and a heavy emphasis on dialogue.
    • The House is a horror adventure game, filled with jumpscares, an evolving story and a very heavy mood. At night, the house transforms into a more direct horror game, featuring a lot more jumpscares and usually death.
    • The Dreams are small minigames that allow Jake to discover his past, and can be attempted once per night. They range from stealth, platforming, horror, and more.
  • Grid Inventory: The inventory uses a simple version of this. Each item, except for guns, takes one square out of forty-five.
  • Guns Akimbo: Jake uses two pistols to fight Danko.
  • Heroic Mime: Jake. This is lampshaded by almost every character at least once and played with in the video chat scene: while the person on the other end opts to use his mic, Jake chooses to respond by typing.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: A seemingly unimportant PDA written by Ryan Miles has the words MATTHEW DAWN if one looks at the first letters of each line. Presumably, Matthew received a copy and found the secret; this is how Matthew knew what book he wanted Jake to look for in his side quest.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: A Mook tries to kill Jake with gas at the end of the Prologue. The gas transforms Jake, and he escapes contaiment. Everyone in the UDRC is then killed by Jake.
  • Hope Spot: The group of survivors are a room away from escape. Matthew goes to check the entrance, and the team is ambushed by Ito, killing Matthew in the process.
  • Hyper Space Arsenal: Averted. Jake can only carry five weapons. That being said, you can fit a lot of first aid kits, spray bottles, and rolls of bandages into a prison jumpsuit.
  • If We Get Through This…: Bryan tells Junior that he will get him a Power Punch if they escape. Junior is killed by Igor shortly afterwards.
  • Implacable Man: Igor the Butcher and his brother Victor are completely invulnerable to the player's weapons. The player must use the environment to kill them.
  • Jump Scare: Several in the House. Most notably the attic scare. Usually comes complete with a Scare Chord.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: Jake's wife plays a haunting one in a flashback at the end of the Prologue. In addition the piano in The House may start playing one of its own accord.
  • MacGyvering: Jake can pick up helmets of dead Mooks and turn them into armor.
  • Mind Screw: The rest of Chapter 1 after Jake escapes the A.R.C. Facility.
  • Mook Horror Show: Downplayed. Tthe PMC's never really appear afraid of the survivors, but the soldier that gasses Jake is clearly pissed at Jake's body count, and a couple other PMC's near the surface are far more wary of Jake than the rest of the survivors.
  • Never Found the Body: Michael's body is missing when the interrogation room is attacked.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: The tutorial is in 2011, but the Prologue and Chapter One occur in September 2013.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Several of the lab room late in Chapter 1, though this trope is used to solve a puzzle. This log found nearby summarizes nicely:
    PDA: I understand the principle of sucking the oxygen out of a room in order to extinguish a fire without the use of water, but whoever designed the system forgot that human beings need oxygen to live.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: The music box in the bedroom, although it can be repaired to become less ominous-sounding. However, either way it will occasionally start up on its own.
  • Only Sane Man: Terrance Mason is one of the major key figures this applies to big time. He especially chews out Junior and Eric for wasting precious ammo.
    Terrance: "It's how they get all the supplies for the week down to the bottom floors."
    (a gunshot is heard in the radio's reciever background)
    Matthew: "Hey, was that a gunshot?"
    Terrance: "Yeah, it was. We're at the Shooting Range. We found some weapon stashes and Junior and Eric are wasting our ammo! (turns away from the radio, though his voice is still heard from a distance away) Guys, stop it! Conserve the ammunition!"
  • Optional Stealth: Several sections of the game are built around sneaking around and avoiding detection, but there's nothing stopping you from pulling out an SMG and fighting your way through.
  • Permanently Missable Content: Many of the Hermit's playing cards become inaccessible once you progress far enough in the plot, meaning that if you miss that one card hidden in a dumpster, you're screwed out of his achievement.
  • Player Headquarters: In Chapter 1, the security team survivors start out in a small room with a radio. Later, they move to a cluster of rooms nearby where a shooting range is located.
  • Playing with Syringes: Ito deliberately exposed hostages and ARC personnel to the virus to find a cure. It didn't work though...
  • Police Brutality: A prison guard will hit you in the beginning of Chapter One if you lag behind the one you're following.
  • Private Military Contractors: Ito's PMC are one of the two enemies of the game.
  • Randomly Generated Loot: All the collectible items in the game (including some plot-important items) are placed at random when the map first loads. It's also affected by the difficulty; on harder settings, the amount of healing supplies, food, batteries, and ammo decrease.
  • Redshirt Army: Jake can build a small one consisting of Eric's team and the Level 1 survivors. They die when Ito attacks them near the end of Chapter One.
  • Run or Die: Happens several times when you have enemies and nothing to fight back with.
  • "Psycho" Strings: The bathroom scare where "She" chases you around the house, Grudge-style.
  • Sanity Slippage:
    • Angelo. By the time Jake meets him, he repeats "I'm sorry!" continuously.
    • Heavily implied with Jake at the end of chapter 1.
  • Shared Universe: Underhell happens in the same 'verse as Nightmare House.
  • Shout-Out: In one of the phone calls in the House, when a dyslexic man is talking about the arrival of the military after the Prologue's conclusion in the City.
    Man: Oh ho ho! Holy shit! It's Apocalypse Now out there! Hey, hey man seriously you are not gonna believe—
  • Sidetrack Bonus: The above mentioned grenade launcher is found while restarting the power, in the maintenance labs. Specifically, underneath them.
  • Tactical Suicide Boss: Igor the Butcher and his brother Victor cannot be killed conventionally. The player can lure them into attacking supports and walls which open up the way to kill them.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: One of the PDAs say that the scientists who worked for Project Posterus had to work with Project Terminus's personnel because Posterus was shut down. The two groups have trouble trusting each other because of this.
  • Terrible Trio: Royce is the lead of Ito's lieutenants, with Marcus and Danko serving as the rest of the trio.
  • 'Tis Only a Bullet in the Brain: Jake somehow survives a bullet to the head at the end of Chapter 1.
  • Too Awesome to Use: Radiocrackers. They work as mines that attract enemies, but the Hermit gives you your only supply, although they fortunately have a chance to restock at a certain degree after various milestones in the story have been met, so be sure to return to his current living space after said milestone(s) (such as obtaining a key item like a keycard or activating an important switch or so forth) are accomplished to have a possible chance to gather more of these very precious commodities.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Junior and his Power Punch energy drinks. Bryan can frequently be heard arguing with him over how unhealthy they are.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: After rescuing a group of survivors and bringing them to the safe room, Jake can rescue additional survivors. Terrance rewards you with his revolver if you save enough.
  • What the Hell, Player?: Killing someone before you're allowed to raid the hospital will cause Frank to order SWAT to shoot Jake. Although the player is doomed to be killed by infinitely respawning SWAT, this is the only way for the door that leads to lots of ammo and an RPG to open near where the player arrives in the level.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Zombies take over a significant portion of the A.R.C. Facility and are seen terrorizing a city in the first few minutes of Chapter 2.