It seems that you might be able to leave Valve whenever you please, but the appeal of their engines and design ethos is a harder thing to shake, at least according to Cayle George, ex-Valve level designer. While recently notable for his work at Guerilla on Horizon: Zero Dawn, he’s decided to go back to his roots for one last victory lap with Half-Life: Caged, a short but sweet free mod for the venerable old FPS, released under his personal Future Games Select label.
We've well learnt the lessons of the past. Marvel at this bounty of modern PC FPS titles.
Brilliant trailer aside, Caged does pretty much what it says on the tin. A high-action romp through a grey concrete prison environment, exclusively fighting human enemies. The architecture and lighting are certainly a cut above Valve’s tentative first foray into the FPS genre, but with a run-time of maybe half an hour, Caged is more of a curiosity than something to really dive into, unless you’re interested in level design yourself.
Kindly, the full source for the levels has been included. A fine learning resource, if you’re hoping to squeeze some life out of the GoldSource engine. Amusingly, the mod also offers a little paid DLC in the form of a toilet-plunger weapon. Entirely optional and a glorified way to tip the creator, it’s something that other mod-makers on Steam might want to consider, if they can land their project a spot on the Steam storefront.
Caged is far from the first mod for their properties that Valve have deigned to host on their storefront. There have been community upgrade packs, fan-comics and a full commercial remake of the original game. Among Half-Life 1 releases, Sven Co-op (a co-op adaptation of the original game, including all the original Valve levels and a pile more) is probably the most famous, and is available as a completely free standalone release, unlike Caged which requires you to own the original game.
Half-Life: Caged is available on Steam now, free, and requires you to own the original Half-Life.