I still believe in Half-Life. The retcon ending to Half-Life Alyx. The huge modding and fan-game community that brings us sequels and remakes like Black Mesa and Levitation. Half-Life is still alive, and I still expect to see the arrival of Half-Life 3 at some point between now and the day my HEV suit finally whispers “user death imminent.” In the meantime, though, following the public leak of Half-Life, Portal, and Team Fortress 2 assets from the entire Valve repository, it seems a shortened, alternate version of the original Gordon Freeman FPS game has been pieced together – an obscure, Valve-eyes only cut of Half-Life 1.
When creating new games, it’s common for developers to build what might generally be called ‘greyboxes’ – rough, unfinished outlines of environments and levels that can be used to rapidly test features, functions, and assets inside the game engine.
Imagine you’ve just finished coding a shotgun, a sliding door, and a new zombie enemy. You might build a quick greybox, maybe just a single room, that contains a shotgun pickup, a sliding door to exit, and a zombie on the other side. This way, you can see how your new assets look and work in the game world.
When creating Half-Life however, Valve, as you might expect, took this discipline much further. Rather than a single, plain room, packed with disconnected assets and features, it seems that Valve created an entire alternative version of the original Half-Life, fully playable in about half an hour, and containing almost every element of the entire finished game.
You start in the Black Mesa lobby, just like the beginning of Anomalous Materials. Once you round the corner, though, rockets start blowing up, doors explode, and it all feels a bit Surface Tension – the 12th level of Half-Life that you wouldn’t normally reach until maybe four or five hours later.
The result is a new and highly compressed way to experience the Half-Life campaign, a kind of Reader’s Digest or Sparknotes version. Valve YouTuber and content creator Tyler McVicker uncovered the mini version of Half-Life’s campaign and has gone to great effort placing all of the level files in order to create something that is completely playable from start to end.
So, even though we’re still waiting for Half-Life 3, or Half-Life 2 Episode 3, or Half-Life Alyx 2, or just anything Valve, please, it’s these kinds of finds that keep my hope alive.
Check out some of the other best old games if all this Half-Life has got you feeling nostalgic. You might also want to know whatever happened to Half-Life 3, or maybe check out some of the best upcoming games, which we promise, one day, will feature something new from Valve.