Half-Life and Portal. It’s hard to think of another two games that so instantly and consistently spark peoples’ enthusiasm – mention either of Valve’s iconic series to basically anyone with a gaming PC, and chances are they’ll loose a string of superlatives about how Gordon Freeman, GLaDOS, and the Companion Cube et al completely changed their idea of what games can be. Almost 20 years since the last full instalment, we’re still waiting on Half-Life 3. Likewise, Portal 3 remains one of gaming’s mythical beasts. We hear stories, but we’ve never seen anything solid. However, with Steam Next Fest now upon us, we’ve unearthed the next (no pun intended) best thing, a physics-driven puzzler with flashes of Aperture Science, Black Mesa, and some of the best parts of Half-Life and Portal combined. And you can try it now for free.
Welcome to Artificial, a new physics-based puzzle game which solo developer Ondrej Angelovic says is directly “inspired by the Portal and Half-Life series.” As an unnamed survivor, you’re trapped inside Asteroid 2031 XT, an enormous underground colony which was scheduled to be decommissioned. It’s been taken over by something called the Corruption. Like Aperture, all the lasers, turrets, and various computer and security systems are now trying to kill you.
You can pick up and interact with just about anything, and survival in Artificial means using your noodle to create imaginative and original puzzle solutions. Big industrial fan in the way? Jam some broom handles and breezeblocks into the mechanism until it burns out. Can’t reach a ladder or get over a ledge? Drag something to stand on and boost yourself up.
Angelovic has created a convincing and detailed physics simulation, which complements perfectly the dark, cluttered, and claustrophobic world of Artificial. This is like Aperture Labs with the lights turned down, and full of all the junk from City 17. The full version of Artificial is out February 2024, but you can already try it for free thanks to the new demo released for Steam Next Fest.