Seminal first-person shooter Half-Life turns 25 this weekend, and developer Valve is celebrating the occasion with a special anniversary update adding new and restored content, alongside a bunch of other things. Oh, and it’s made the game free to claim and keep starting today.
Half-Life, for those too young or too in denial to remember, introduced the world to crowbar-toting science nerd Gordon Freeman on 19th November 1998 (Freeman’s full-life consequences wouldn’t materialise until sometime later), and anyone looking to relive their memories of those halcyon days now get to do so with some fancy extra bits thrown in.
Starting with the game itself, Half-Life has received a spot of gentle massaging for the modern era. There’s UI upscaling for higher resolutions (“We built most of this stuff for 640×480 CRTs and apparently some of you have upgraded since then”, says Valve), and it now supports Steam Networking play and proper gamepad config “out of the box”.
Valve’s also implemented widescreen field-of-view settings, Linux software rendering, lighting fixes, plus a heap of other quality of life improvements, bug fixes, and balancing tweaks, as detailed in the Anniversary Update extensive patch notes. Additionally, the whole thing’s been tweaked to ensure it passes Valve’s own Steam Deck Verified checks – and, for nostalgia fans, the classic Valve logo video and music have been reinstated at the start of the game, and the main menu has been reskinned to match the 1998 build.
Elsewhere, Half-Life now includes Half-Life Uplink, a mini-campaign built by the original dev team and released as a CD exclusive for magazines and hardware manufacturers back in the day. “As this was many people’s first experience with Half-Life,” Valve explains, “we thought it was finally time to bundle it with the main game — no sound card purchase necessary.”
Additionally, multiplayer fans can now get stuck into four brand-new maps built by Valve’s level designers – Contamination, Pool Party, Disposal, and Rocket Freny – all intended to “push the limits of what’s possible in the Half-Life engine”. That’s on top of the three maps originally included in the Half-Life: Further Data retail CD – Double Cross, Rust Mill, and Xen DM – plus the disc’s skeleton and Too Much Coffee Man multiplayer skins. Other new multiplayer skins include Proto-Barney and Ivan the Space Biker, the original heroes from Half-Life’s alpha builds.
And finally, as the cherry on top of its 25th anniversary celebrations, Valve’s teamed up with Secret Tape to record an hour-long making-of documentary featuring the original Half-Life development team, which you can see above.
If you’re somehow still lacking a copy of Half-Life in your Steam library but would like to take advantage of all of this cool new (and old) stuff, Valve has you covered too. The game is currently free to keep on Steam for a limited time, and there’re substantial discounts across the entire series – including 66% off the masterful Half-Life: Alyx – until 21st November.