Take a look at Industry and you’ll find it hard not to think of Half-Life. It has all the signatures: an Eastern European city besieged by futuristic technology, liminal mind-trips to new dimensions, ambient sounds that linger to immerse you in the world, and rogue scientists cracking this new dystopia. And you are at the center of it all with your trusty ax and gun, smashing boxes and running through the streets avoiding robots. But his identity goes beyond superficial aesthetics.
It is a bleak vision of a future under totalitarian control with the ideas of unthinkable rebellion and insurmountable victory. That’s where he embraces but also breaks away from his Half-Life influences. You are not a scientist with a crowbar and a god complex, fueled by your superhero antics, a leader facing such insurmountable odds and triumphs. You are a person trying to survive and find her husband, wading through the dirt and debris with a faceless voice guiding you, only to be met with disappointment. He is hollow, empty and lonely. That’s where Industry shines.
The world of Half-Life is bleak. The idea of taking down the Combine, shutting down Dr. Breen, and getting back up feels like a pipe dream. But then Gordon arrives on a train, the wrong man in the right place, and sparks hope in the cause, leading his soldiers to tear down monuments to fascism while staging street battles. All building until the destruction of the Citadel, the greatest monument of all. And along the way, you meet countless rebels who lend you a hand. It is a community that spreads across Eastern Europe with one goal. But Industria is just you and an unknown man, trying to get out.
Industry Indie FPS Official Steam Screenshot
Half-Life is a technological marvel that propelled the FPS (and now VR) genre forward with every release, but its world is just as compelling as its immersive physics and finger-tracing gunfights. That’s what I longed for in a modern Half-Life, a game that tilts Earth under totalitarian control, brought to its knees, the overlords literally rising above the masses, and shattering their impact on people stranded in the bottom.
Industry gives us that. It takes us back to that atmosphere of dread we felt in 2004, but lets it fester. The haunting mystery of the G-Man is replaced by a flowing lucid dream with a person dancing on a stage through a corridor in a mundane office. The disputes between Alyx and Barney are exchanged for Nora and a strange individual on the radio. The triumph is gone, with a hollow victory in its place as we find our husband only to stumble back into limbo, now standing on stage ourselves.
It feels more relevant now than Half-Life, a game where fascism is overthrown and democracy and community win. We get what we want at the end of Industry, what we’ve been looking for, but it’s disappointing and cold, victory snatched out of our hands almost immediately. The world is still apocalyptic, we are still alone and nothing has changed. Not really. The cycle of control and beatings continues, and the city is still lost to these robotic constructions. It feels closer to what we are experiencing now in 2022 as the alt-right continues to grow and take rights away from those they deem undeserving.
Perhaps it’s a reflection of our loss of hope over the years, but Half-Life was always the perfect mirror of our own world. Breen was a distant stand-in for the fascists of our reality, Combine a metaphor for the sublime and unbeatable nature of fascism, Metrocops an allegory for neighbors pitted against each other. But in the end we won. Industry doesn’t give us that moment of victory and instead rips away escapism. It takes the core message of Half-Life and unravels it, but the genius of Half-Life was that it reflected our own world. Industry understands that, even if it is less optimistic.
Next: Does Anyone Else Remember The Codename Of The Half-Life Game: Gordon?