Half-Life 2 speedruns are pretty surreal. In the almost 20 years since Valve’s iconic FPS game first arrived on PC (by the way, guys, if you’re reading this, feel free to do Half-Life 3 any time now, yeah?) almost every aspect of Gordon Freeman’s trek through City 17 has been pulled apart, glitched, broken, and exploited. Now, a new and highly frenetic run of Half-Life 2 Episode 2 has arrived, proving that, with the right moves and a lot of good luck, you can beat the entire Steam shooter in less than ten minutes. It’s enough to make a game developer weep.
Completed by two runners, ‘Jovik’ and ‘Qv2b,’ this is a ‘segmented’ run of Half-Life 2 Episode 2, finishing the entire game (excluding cutscenes) in a mind-bending nine minutes and 46 seconds.
For the uninitiated, a segmented run is essentially a composite of lots of much smaller, miniature speedruns. In some cases, runners will do each level individually, then splice them together to create a full speedrun of how fast the game could theoretically be completed if everything went right on every mission.
For Jovik and Qv2b, this means breaking Half-Life Episode 2 into 196 segments, each one containing a tricky exploit or difficult manoeuvre which might normally require several restarts and attempts to complete.
The result is a hypothetical ‘perfect’ run of Episode 2, with every one of the 196 segments executed on the first try, and composited together to make a full video. You can see the whole thing below:
Now, you might notice that for a lot of the time, Gordon Freeman is running backwards – or, even when he does run forwards, he’s going at a massively increased pace. This is due to an exploit in Valve’s Source engine called accelerated back hopping.
Essentially, although the player’s speed is capped when you run in certain directions, Valve did not apply the speed cap if you jump, turn to the right, and then jump again – it’s a simple trick, but it allows you to break the game’s speed limiter and allow Gordon to whizz through Half-Life at about warp nine.
That trick, combined with how Source calculates the physics and weights of other in-game objects, allow for some truly spectacular skips. In terms of fall damage, the Source engine applies this over multiple frames or ‘ticks.’
But if you hit the ground and then move very quickly away from the precise spot where you landed – which Jovik and Qv2b can do, thanks to accelerated back hopping – Half-Life 2 literally doesn’t have enough time to calculate where you impacted and apply the relevant fall damage, so you don’t lose any health.
It’s another testament to the ingenuity and dedication of speedrunners, who just last week managed to beat Frictional’s latest horror game Amnesia The Bunker in less than 90 seconds.
If you’re a big Half-Life fan and love the classics, check out some of the other best old games that will still run on your PC. Alternatively, you might be wondering – like we all are – whatever happened to Half-Life 3. We’re never giving up hope.