Half-Life, Valve’s seminal sci-fi shooter, has a brand new speedrun world record courtesy of an incredible playthrough from YouTuber Muty, who has managed to beat the previous time by an intensely tight four seconds.
If you are not familiar with the world of Half-Life speedrunning, essentially it involves glitching, exploiting, and jump-running your way through the classic FPS, to the point that entire levels can be skipped, and Gordon Freeman becomes nothing more than a frantic, orange blur. Muty’s run, clocking in at a mere 26 minutes and 38 seconds (yes, the entire game), represents a significant time save on the previous record, given that Half-Life speedruns, after all these years, have become so optimised and perfected. The previous record, also set by Muty in May, totalled 26 minutes and 42 seconds. It takes a month of practice to trim off just four seconds – now that’s hard work.
So how is it done? There are a variety of strategies which exploit bugs or unfinished aspects of Valve’s original game code to speed things up. At the end of the second level, Unforeseen Consequences, for example, instead of getting into the elevator, if you simply press the button again to close the doors, the game assumes you’re inside and instantly loads the next mission, saving precious seconds. There are also various points where you can skip ladders, stairs, or even entire levels, by just jumping down holes and ventilation shafts – you don’t die, because you land precisely where there’s a seam between two panels of level geometry, and the seam isn’t coded to register fall damage.
The most impressive skip, however – and one that Muty nails, with aplomb – is at the start of the fifth mission We’ve Got Hostiles. Normally there is a brief scripted event, where a scientist runs across the hall in front of you, bangs on the doors of a security office, then promptly dies by triggering a tripmine. The button to open the door to exit the level is inside the locked security office, and you have to go all the way around, through about 30 minutes of running and gunning, to access it via a ventilation duct.
But if you’re quick enough, you can shoot the scientist in the leg, thereby interrupting his pathfinding. Bump into him a couple of times, and you can nudge him towards the locked security door – and since the scientist character models are coded to be able to open locked doors, voila, you can get inside, hit the button, and skip the whole mission. We’ve jumped to that part for you below:
It will likely be a while before anyone can beat Muty’s record, but in theory, it is possible to complete Half-Life in an astonishing 21 minutes. In 2014, a group of speedrunners led by Quadrazid posted a tool-assisted run, demonstrating how, if you remove all human error, and essentially have a robot programmed to hit every single speedrun strategy precisely right, you can beat the entirety of Half-Life in about the time it takes to watch an episode of The Big Bang Theory. It’s unlikely a single person will ever be able to pull this off, but Muty is officially the closest.