Somehow, it has been 20 years since the release of Half-Life. Which means, I guess, that it has been almost 20 years since a friend came back one night to the student house we were all renting and told me about this amazing game he had played. A first-person shooter - did we call them that back then? - in which, for the opening section at least, you did no shooting.
The community remake that became a Valve-sanctioned full release.
19th November 2018
11th July 2017
9th January 2013
9th January 2013
12th November 2012
3rd September 2012
7th August 2012
11th December 2001
On this day, 20 years ago, Half-Life was released. Makes you feel old, doesn't it? It's because you are old, you wrinkler. November 19th, 1998 - what were you doing then?
Anyway forget that, there's a new Half-Life game in development. No not Half-Life 3, although if Half-Life were 30 years old I could have written "Half-Life 30 today", which for a moment reads as "Half-Life 3", which is really exciting, isn't it?
The new game - or part of a game, really - is Xen, the final piece and pièce de résistance of Half-Life remake Black Mesa. But Black Mesa's Xen is much more than a simple remake of Half-Life's Xen.
A new Half-Life mod replaces Gordon Freeman with Spyro the Dragon.
We may never get to play the long, long-awaited Half-Life 3, or Half-Life 2: Episode 3, or whatever Valve once had planned for the future of its legendary series. But we might now know how its story would have unfolded.
Valve's seminal first-person shooter Half-Life has received a new patch, nearly 19 years after its November 1998 launch.
It's nothing major, to be sure, but it fixes a few crashes the community had pointed out. That may not be much, but it just goes to show that Valve has not given up on its most well-known game despite it being old enough to legally drink in many countries.
As for the patch notes themselves, here's what we've got:
There exists an officially-licensed Half-Life comic - and this month Chapter 3 comes out.
The already-delayed Xen levels of Half-Life remake Black Mesa have unfortunately been delayed again. Rather than be released this summer they will now arrive in December.
Chet Faliszek has brought his 12 year career at Valve Software to a close, our sister site GamesIndustry.biz has revealed.
Valve was once working on a Half-Life-related game with Three in the title. No, not Half-Life 3. Threewave.
There's a cheeky Half-Life 3 poster here at Gamescom - but all is not as it seems.
A jury ruled in favour of defendant Valve on 2nd November 2017, finding the plaintiff was not discriminated against for transgender or disability reasons, nor dismissed for such.
Earlier this week Valve released its very own SteamVR Performance Test, and now people are fussing over Half-Life 3 and Left 4 Dead 3. Again.
Half-Life writer Marc Laidlaw has left Valve after 18 years at the company.
UPDATE 13th November 2015: Valve has updated the Steam beta client so Mac users can use the Steam Link and Steam Controller.
Richard Seabrook woke one morning and realised his life wasn't where he wanted it to be. He was 23 years old, he'd graduated from university and he'd taken a job he thought would lead to his dream career in games. But it hadn't quite worked out. He was stuck in the British seaside town of Bournemouth, in quality assurance testing, where months were sprawling ominously into years. "You know what?" he said to himself that day. "I'm sick of this. I'm just going to go for it." He set his sights high: Seabrook wanted to go for a job at Valve.
Hands up if you haven't played Half-Life before. Embarrassingly, that's me. One of the all time greats and I missed it. It's been available to play on Steam for ages, but I find it hard to muster the enthusiasm to play a game from 1998 when I'm already behind with games from 2015. This week, though, I'm thrown a bone by Black Mesa, a total remake of Half-Life 1.
The long-awaited and Valve sanctioned Half-Life 1 re-envisioning Black Mesa has been released on Steam Early Access for £14.99.
In her infinite wisdom, Cher once sang, "If I could turn back time, if I could find a way." Really makes you think. Mind you, the cruel and inexorable march of time is good for some things, like bringing us this bunch of video game remakes that, in one way or another, managed to surpass their progenitors. Who would have guessed back in 1998 that the one thing missing from Half Life was Paul and Barry Chuckle? Technically that's two things, but you get my meaning.
Valve has launched the Steam Music Player, which lets you listen to your music collection while you play games on the digital platform.
Speedrunning collective quadrazoid has set a new world record by blazing through the original Half-Life in a scant 20 minutes and 41 seconds.
Valve has revealed the specifications of its Steam Machine prototype.
Nearly 15 years later, Valve's thrown a Half-Life 1 modding team a bone - Sven Co-op is to become a free, standalone game.
Adam Foster tells me he's "faintly terrified" by the response to his old Half-Life 2 mod Minerva being released on Steam. Tens of thousands have downloaded it in a couple of weeks and he didn't expect that, he insists. But then he also didn't expect the chain of events that unfolded after he first released Minerva back in 2005. Back then he worked for the European Railway Industry doing web development and programming. Today he talks to me from within the hallowed walls of Valve.
Valve's Santa Claus I mean Gabe Newell will be the video game hero awarded a BAFTA Fellowship this year.
Update: It looks like this was more than just a gag as J.J. Abrams is actually in talks with Valve about developing movies based on Half-Life and Portal.
Half-Life 1998 - the Half-Life - was very different to the preview alpha build of Half-Life 1997. And now you can see it for yourself.
A demo build of 1997 alpha found on a disc intended for journalists at the time, apparently, has been shared on the internet by Reddit user Jackaljayzer (via ValveTime).
"To play the alpha," instructs the site, "delete or renamed the '...\Half-Life 0.52\Half-Life\Opengl32.dll' file and then run '...\Half-Life 0.52\Half-Life\enginegl.exe'."
Half-Life scribe Marc Laidlaw has said he would like to see a film version of Valve's game series helmed by Guillermo del Toro.
Such is his influence on the world of videogames and computing that it's a wonder Gabe Newell hasn't been inducted into the prestigious Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame already. This coming February at the 2013 D.I.C.E. summit will be his moment.
Gabe Newell has confirmed what we all suspected: that Valve is working on a new game engine, undoubtedly Source 2.
When members of 4chan popped over to Valve's office to deliver Newell's 50th birthday present they also asked him some questions. The most pertinent was this:
Is Valve potentially already working on a new engine? Source 2? Could or… could not be?
I jumped - this short Half-Life film made me jump. Heavy on the atmosphere, great costumes and make-up, well put together, dark. Enter the Freeman: Half-Life Film is worth a watch (embedded below).
Black Mesa - the Source-powered, modder-made re-imagining of Half-Life 1 - will be released 14th September.
Project Leader Carlos Montrero announced the news on the Black Mesa forum.
"On September 14th, you will see the first release of Black Mesa!" he wrote. "This will include our re-envisioning of Half-Life all the way up to Lambda Core. We believe this is a great way to provide a complete-feeling 8-10 hour experience with a solid ending, make our fans happy and help us make the best overall game possible."
Gameplay videos of Black Mesa, the long-awaited modder-made Half-Life remake, have hit the internet.
The first video, published by ValveTime.net, shows the On a Rail chapter from Half-Life, and is captured from a "fairly old build" of the modification, built using the latest version of the Source engine. Fans have been quick to criticise what looks like the use of iron sights for the .357 Magnum. Apparently, this is simply the weapon's zoom feature made available in the single-player portion of the game.
The second video, of terrible quality, was published on LambdaGeneration.com, and shows footage from the Surface Tension chapter. Again, the footage is taken from an old and, according to LG, outdated mod development build. Oh, and the music was added by LG - it is not from the game itself.
Valve Time - the term coined by fans to describe the seemingly endless development of the Half-Life maker's games.
As the wait for news on the next Half-Life game goes on, Valve boss Gabe Newell has explained the famed developer's current strategy on revealing new titles.
More than 10,000 gamers have joined the Steam Group campaigning for more Half-Life communication from Valve.
Beyond Black Mesa took 2 years to make.
Valve's classic first-person shooter Half-Life is ten years old. To celebrate its birthday yesterday, the developer has made it available to buy for 98 of your American cents.
Valve has bundled a whopping Complete Pack of games together on Steam for a quite ridiculous discount price.
Despite the massive acclaim and the shower of awards thrust upon Valve in the wake of Half-Life 2's release in November 2004, the developer listened more than ever to the feedback from the community, meticulously cataloguing thousands of hours of playtesting feedback from hundreds of playtesters and setting about to continue the Half-Life 2 story episodically, but while also fixing many of the niggling issues that fans had with the game.
After spectacularly 'raising the bar' (with a gravity gun) of the FPS genre in 2004, Valve last week turned its attention to extending the Half-Life 2 universe episodically with the release of the first in a trilogy of episodes that finally reveals what happened to Gordon and Alyx after the destruction of the Citadel.
Gearbox / Valve Publisher Sierra Studios Good morning Mr. Freeman... Half-Life is a seminal first person shooter, and a game that everybody should play, if by some miracle they haven't already done so. The various PC versions can be had for peanuts and run on anything upwards of an original 3dfx Voodoo graphics card, which means that, while the PlayStation 2 version is also excellent, it's probably not worth £40 to Half-Life die-hards. In fact, I can only really recommend it to people who have no PC or want to play Half-Life on a big-screen TV. Let's be frank. When this first landed on my doorstep, I had to motivate myself to play it again. I've been through Half-Life and it was a hell of a ride, but that was more than two years ago. I want something new! In retrospect, I'm glad I dragged myself out of bed one morning and settled down with it though. It's a wonderful game which invented FPS clichés all over the place and featured some really exceptional level design and presentation, however old it is now. Visually the game has always looked good, although the lower resolution and absence of anti-aliasing on the PlayStation 2 does it no favours, and there's no sign of a 60Hz option either. The PC version looks better and lacks the intermittent jerking that accompanies excessive on-screen detail, multiple nasties or big set pieces. By the time you get to the marine insertion forces later on, you find yourself playing at about 25 frames per second more or less constantly. There are some nice new touches that help ease the pain though, such as the health and energy stations, which now have movable handles, and each and every weapon has been spruced up to match those seen in recent PC patches. A lot of the spangly effects, such as the shiny guards' helmets, have been borrowed from the PC version, and the texturing is nicer than I had expected. As a PS2 conversion it's pretty solid, and load times are no more substantial than they were on the PC - about 20 seconds at the start of each enormous chapter, and 3-5 seconds for the small breaks during them. Looks like you're in the barrel today Although there is some cheesy menu music at the start, the game has otherwise retained the unnerving soundtrack of the original PC version, which is as modest as ever. The sound effects are also identical, and the voices of the Barneys and scientists have been reproduced without blemish. The interface has been adapted nicely to the PS2 as well. The main menu offers you a choice of Half-Life, Decay, Head-to-Head and Options. Through the latter you can adjust the brightness, volume and control system, although the default settings are fine. You can choose to play the original Half-Life single player campaign in Easy, Normal and Hard modes, each of which does exactly what it says. As far as console first person shooters go, the game features several clever additions. The first of these is a bona fide Quick Save / Load system. Like some of the recent PlayStation role-playing games, Half-Life lets you save your progress to the system memory temporarily, allowing you to pick up and drop off important save points during the game without losing half a minute navigating load screens. If you want to turn off your PS2, you just have to make sure you save the game properly to the memory card. Anomalous Materials Another change to the formula is the targeting system. Originally Half-Life demanded that you find whatever you wanted to activate and then press your Use key. Now the Use key (which also doubles up as a walk key in general gameplay) operates whatever the game targets for you. As you approach a door, for instance, two little square brackets appear around the button. In the presence of several buttons you may have to move your view around to seek the right one, but in practice it's a good system, borrowed successfully from games like System Shock 2 on the PC. The control system is actually very good, which surprised me. I found it quite easy to use, with the sensitivity at just the right level. By comparison, Red Faction had me diving in and out of menus adjusting the sensitivity, and I never really got it just right. With Half-Life, the left analogue controls movement (that's forward, backwards and side to side), while the right analogue controls direction, sensibly inverted by default. L1 and L2 handle jumping and crouching, while R1 and R2 handle normal and alternative fire. The D-pad switches weapons, and the four buttons on the right control walking, using objects, your flashlight and targeting. Targeting can be toggled; spot a bad guy, toggle it and your view will centre on him until you disengage the toggle. As far as the actual adventure goes, it's a feature-complete conversion of the original as best I can remember. There may even be a few additions here and there. As I have said, Half-Life is based on an excellent plot with some lovely set-pieces, and even though I had already finished it on the PC, I really enjoyed it on the PS2. Was it worth £40 to play through it again though? Sadly not. The choice is yours The real problem for Half-Life on the PS2 is that nothing in the rest of the package really justifies the £40 either. Decay, the PS2 version's coup de grace, is something of a dead duck. It's a split-screen co-operative mode for two players with about ten levels. It's the same sort of quality expansion as Blue Shift, which we enjoyed thoroughly (albeit briefly) a few months ago, but beyond the initial excitement of being able to play co-operative Half-Life, the graphics have been compromised for split-screen play and it's altogether rather samey. Beyond Decay there is a Head-to-Head deathmatch mode, which does the business, but it's not as much fun as playing it on a PC. Actually, that's not much fun either, as vanilla Half-Life deathmatch was always rather boring compared to its own mods such as Counter-Strike, and was surpassed almost instantly. With no online options and no i.Link option that I could find, there won't be much life in it, especially when Red Faction multiplayer is more entertaining and has an original single player game into the bargain. I don't really know how to feel about Half-Life on PS2. I'm grateful to Gearbox for giving me the opportunity (and excuse) to play through it again, but I'm doubtful as to the package's overall worth. It's one of those games that offers a tremendous amount, but makes a poor substitute for £40 in your pocket. Half-Life is a spectacular, rollercoaster ride of an adventure, and it's a piece of gaming history everybody should sink their teeth into at least once. If you haven't taken a bite though, there are cheaper, better-looking PC packages than this. A good game it most certainly is, but do you really want to spend £40 on it? - Half-Life : Opposing Force PC review Half-Life : Blue Shift PC review Half-Life PS2 screenshots 8