Valve is giving away Half-Life for a limited time.
As noted by YouTuber Tyler McVicker on Twitter, Valve has put the game up for free until November 20, 2023. He also pointed out that “This is in conjunction with some movement on other Half-Life titles spotted on SteamDB.” So it’s possible that Valve has made this move ahead of a new remaster or remake of Half-Life.
Releasing all the way back in 1998, and predating Steam, Half-Life is the game that made Valve as a company. Just a year before, the first-person shooter paradigm was being redefined by the likes of Turok, Goldeneye 007, and Doom 64 on the Nintendo 64. The PC saw releases for Blood, Outlaws, Redneck Rampage, Hexen II, and most notably, Quake II.
Half-Life also came out in the same year as Unreal, and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six, but Valve made its own mark on the genre, and later, the industry as a whole.
So what did Half-Life do that was particularly different from everyone else? It was certainly not the first shooter to try to explore a serious narrative, or in the science fiction genre, or endeavored to be more realistic.
What Valve had it mind was to make a narrative that would keep going even while it offered you the freedom to do what you wanted. So the game was written in such a way that scripted sequences could keep going regardless of what you were doing, but that was really the inconvenient parts that Valve had to write around. The way Half-Life worked is the story would happen while you were in the middle of it.
If other games, for example, had a bigger emphasis towards your agency, like a mission not moving forward in Goldeneye 007 until you accomplished your objectives, Half-Life was different. Certain events would be happening around you whether you were ready for them or not.
While Half-Life was a significant step forward for shooters, it would be overtaken by other games that came after it, such as Deus Ex. Half-Life certainly holds up today but it isn’t quite such the predominant game that could not be outdone by games after it.
Half-Life’s real relevance to this day is that it launched Valve’s initial momentum to make it the company that it is today, a real Super Mario Bros moment for them, as it were. It was also one of the games that prompted Valve to think about game distribution and servers. That would lead them to launching Steam, so that Valve could secure their own storefront regardless of what Microsoft did, and the rest is the history that we have to this very day.