We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

Half-Life’s most ambitious rework is back from the dead

Half-Life Absolute Zero, the canceled fan mod that wants to bring back Valve's 1998 build of the FPS, is officially back from the dead.

Half-Life Absolute Zero: a man with short brown hair, a beard, and glasses in an orange suit holding a crowbar

A fan-made project centering around Half-Life‘s original 1998 build, with new enemies, levels, and weapons that didn’t make it into Valve’s original FPS, is back from the dead. With a release date set for the game’s 25th anniversary, Half-Life: Absolute Zero is coming back, and it’s showing a lot of promise.

To get you up to speed before diving into Half-Life: Absolute Zero’s revival, it was a total conversion mod project that aimed to “re-create the original ideas and plans from Half-Life’s early development with extra polish and care given to them,” essentially giving us a playable version of the FPS game’s initial developer concepts.

This means that the builds from mid-1998 are the focus of Half-Life: Absolute Zero, and the ModDB page still says that this will include “all the chapters, monsters, and weapons that never made it into the final game.”

Back in 2020, it was announced Absolute Zero ceased development, as the team of eager fan developers hadn’t made any meaningful progress in the decade that the Half-Life modification had been in the works.

Half-Life Absolute Zero: a Half-Life corridor with a bulky alien guy

As of 2021 though, this changed. According to a recent update on the Half-Life Absolute Zero Steam page from ‘The_uaredead’ at the Cobalt-57 team, the project is back (via LambdaGeneration). The_uaredead says that around this time they were toying with Absolute Zero ideas and “bite-sized experiences,” only to find out that fellow Absolute Zero developer ‘LeonelC’ was doing the exact same. The two decided to collaborate again.

This was followed by former Half-Life level designer Brett Johnson sharing his old work on TikTok, which gave the Absolute Zero team a new lease on the project as it “provided so many answers to questions we had and opened up even more questions.”

With that, Half-Life: Absolute Zero is releasing in an active development state on Sunday, November 19, 2023, the 25th anniversary of the original game. This means that come the anniversary we won’t get the full game, but part of it will be released as the modders work on the rest.

Half-Life Absolute Zero: the Half-Life reactor room but it's all blue instead of green

The_uaredead is aware that after going into active development last time and ceasing work on the project, it might be hard for hopeful players to believe this is happening fully. “You don’t have to trust us! You can wait until we truly hit 1.0 or just watch us crash and burn into a ditch again. I can at least promise you that the build that is on Steam will be less busted after this.”

There will be a more robust roadmap for Absolute Zero as we close in on release and, whatever happens, the team’s work will be released under the Creative Commons license – but you still need to respect Valve’s copyright. There is even a slew of new images of the project on the Steam page, so you can get a look at what the team has been up to.

Absolute Zero does have a delisted page on Steam, and I imagine this will be where the November 19 update will be added to the project.

If news of Absolute Zero has you incredibly excited to return to Half-Life and games like it, we’ve got a breakdown of the best old games still available on PC, alongside everything we know about what happened to Half-Life 3 back in the day.