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Valve celebrates 25 years of Half-Life with feature-packed Steam update

Enlarge / It’s been a while since I’ve seen some of those once-ubiquitous logos…

This Sunday, November 19, makes a full 25 years since the original Half-Life first hit (pre-Steam) store shelves. To celebrate the anniversary, Valve has uploaded a feature-packed “25th anniversary update” to the game on Steam, and made the title free to keep if you pick it up this weekend.

Valve’s 25th Anniversary Update page details a bevy of new and modernized features added to the classic first-person shooter, including:

  • Four new multiplayer maps that “push the limits of what’s possible in the Half-Life engine”
  • New graphics settings, including support for a widescreen field-of-view on modern monitors and OpenGL Overbright lighting (still no official ray-tracing support, though—leave that to the modders)
  • “Proper gamepad config out of the box” (so dust off that Gravis Gamepad Pro)
  • Steam networking support for easier multiplayer setup
  • “Verified” support for Steam Deck play (“We failed super hard” on the first verification attempt, Valve writes)
  • Proper UI scaling for resolutions up to 3840×1600
  • Multiplayer balancing updates (because 25 years hasn’t been enough to perfect the meta)
  • New entity limits that allow mod makers to build more complex mods
  • A full software renderer for the Linux version of the game
  • Various bug fixes
  • “Removed the now very unnecessary ‘Low video quality. Helps with slower video cards’ setting”
One of four new multiplayer maps added to <em>Half-Life</em>'s 25th anniversary update.
Enlarge / One of four new multiplayer maps added to Half-Life‘s 25th anniversary update.

In addition, the new update includes a host of restored and rarely seen content, including:

  • Three multiplayer maps from the “Half-Life: Further Data” CD-ROM: Double Cross, Rust Mill, and Xen DM
  • Four restored multiplayer models: Ivan the Space Biker, Proto-Barney (from the alpha build), a skeleton, and Too Much Coffee Man (from “Further Data”)
  • Dozens of “Further Data” sprays to tag in your multiplayer matches
  • The original Half-Life: Uplink demo in playable form
Remember Too Much Coffee Man? Valve does...
Enlarge / Remember Too Much Coffee Man? Valve does…

“We now consider this anniversary version of Half-Life to be the definitive version, and the one we’ll continue to support going forward,” Valve writes in its update. While 2004’s remastered Half-Life: Source will remain available, Valve says it is now “encouraging new Half-Life players to play this version instead.”

The updated version of Half-Life is also free to keep for all Steam users who add it to their library through the end of the weekend. And if you somehow missed getting the entire Half-Life series for free back in 2020, the rest of the series has been discounted by up to 90% (good news if you didn’t want to pay more than $0.99 for Half-Life 2).

Apart from the in-game updates, Valve partnered with Secret Tape for a one-hour documentary talking to many of the game’s original developers about their memories of everything from weapon, character, and level design, to narrative and voice acting, to those iconic opening levels.

Despite the 25th Anniversary hoopla, Valve still has yet to officially acknowledge the 17th anniversary of the announcement of Half-Life 2: Episode 3, which occurred earlier this year. There has also been no public note of the 10 years since of a potential Half-Life movie project was announced on stage at DICE 2013 by Valve’s Gabe Newell and mega-director J.J. Abrams.
While we’re here wallowing in nostalgia, revisit our coverage of the tenth anniversary of Half-Life, which came during a much earlier era of Ars Technica. “Initially, Half-Life was supposed to be this quickie FPS that would give the company a resume and get us on our feet to do whatever the real thing was that we were going to do,” Valve’s Marc Laidlaw said at the time. “We could learn some stuff doing this, then we’d do some other thing.”

Listing image by Valve

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