Valve Software "is currently targeting this summer for the completion of Half-Life 2," director of marketing Doug Lombardi told CNN/Money this week, and doesn't plan to reveal any new information before E3, where the highly anticipated first-person shooter will once again make an appearance. The planned Xbox version (and any other console ports) will be set back until roughly spring 2005 as a result.
Meanwhile, publisher Vivendi-Universal Games is remaining tight-lipped, refusing to add anything. "He said that," a spokesperson confirmed yesterday, referring to Lombardi's comments on CNN/Money, "but VU is officially not commenting on the release date." Which obviously represents a policy shift, because VU was actually the last of the pair to tout a new date, identifying April as a potential target after Valve shut up shop in wake of the Half-Life 2 hacking debacle. With the question of who stole and released the source code still unresolved (despite apparent FBI raids in San Francisco and perhaps elsewhere), Valve is still declining interviews, and one feels this could be the last significant peep we hear out of them ahead of E3.
You can understand why - after the initial excitement surrounding the first screenshots and September 30th release date died down, and the E3/ECTS presentation faded to a memory, Valve has endured a turbulent few months that occasionally threatened to sabotage years of hard work. The initial release date hoohah was obviously a problem of their own design - and presumably a little embarrassing for partners ATI, who hosted a lavish launch party on September 30th and flew a bunch of hacks out to Alcatraz to celebrate - but the subsequent theft and release of the source code was unprecedented for a game of this magnitude, and just helped fuel speculation. Why were there references to Team Fortress 2 all over the place? Is that the multiplayer mode? What are these new weapon and vehicle names going to be? Etc.
But while hardcore fans will consider this latest news another setback for their headcrab-enveloped dreams of building barricades out of soiled mattresses and shattered furniture, it's encouraging to note that this is the first solid release target Valve has actually publicised since the original September 30th 2003 estimate. When the game was originally delayed, there wasn't much said to demystify the situation - even ATI were confused, particularly after their "Free copy of Half-Life 2" idea backfired - and beyond that the whole thing descended into electronic bedlam. Summer 2004 is a pretty firm goal by comparison, and it does at least mean we'll get a chance to see a near-complete Half-Life 2 come E3. Perhaps even play it, God forbid. Good news, then.
Now - what odds that it comes out on September 30th 2004?