It seemed like it would never happen, and now it seems we'll have to wait a bit longer. For a few short hours it seemed that the Half-Life 2 saga was drawing to a close and would finally go gold on monday. A post on Half-Life 2 Fallout's forum, allegedly from Valve chief Gabe Newell revealed the news, but further investigation revealed it to be nothing more than a hoax, scuppering the mouth-watering prospect of a mid September release for the biggest PC game of the year - for the time being at least.
Following on just days after Valve began its pre-load campaign for Half-Life 2 over its Steam digital delivery system, a poster claiming to be Newell made the short announcement over at the Half-Life 2 Fallout forums at approximately ten past midnight (6AM GMT), simply saying: "We're going gold monday..." and left it at that, giving no clues as to its eventual release date, although September 24th appears to be most online retailers best guess currently.
However, the news did not appear via the official channels of Valve's own website, or via publisher Vivendi. Further investigation on the Steam forums appeared to initially confirm the authenticity of the post. One moderator on Steampowered admitted: "In a slightly, shall we say, unexpected turn of events, Gabe Newell, founder and managing director of Valve Software, has announced in a forum post that Half-Life 2 is going gold. On Monday," before linking to a screenshot of the forum post because HL2 Fallout's servers had buckled under the weight of the traffic.
But just a few hours later, the tone had changed with the HL2 Fallout website apologising for the confusion created by the bogus post. "After a close scrutiny of Gabe Newells account history on the forums, we've come to the conclusion that the gold post is a fake. While we can't be 100 per cent certain at this stage, all indicators point towards someone hacking the forum account. That said, all Gabe's previous posts on these forums are quite legitimate.
"We apologize for the confusion and will be investigating further. Theoretically, an IPB forum account should be very difficult to hack. Well, that was the theory at least. We'll keep you updated," a statement said.
Whatever the timing of the gold announcement or release date, it would appear that Steam users will only be able to unlock the game on their PCs on the official day it goes into stores, although Valve must be tempted to give the game an early debut via its digital download service - albeit at the risk of completely breaking the Internet. Demand for the game is expected to break all records for a PC title, with day one ship out likely to be several million.
We have contacted Valve for verification of this situation, and hope to bring you more on this story as soon as we can.