Half Life’s Big 25th Anniversary Update Is FREE With New Maps And Enhanced Graphics

hero half life combat
Most of your writers up here at HotHardware are old farts, so we can scarcely imagine a Steam account without the original Half-Life. Back in the day, most of us owned boxed copies of the game, and you could put your CD-key into Steam to register it to your profile. If your existence on Steam is newer than that, don't fret—you can add the original Half-Life to your account for zero dollars this weekend.

The promotion is part of a big celebration that Valve is holding to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the launch of its first game. For those who don't know, the original Half-Life was actually Valve's very first project back in 1998. As company founder and CEO Gabe Newell says, "when were building Half-Life, we were also designing Valve at the same time."

That quote comes from an hour-long documentary about the development of Half-Life produced by Secret Tape and starring most of the key personnel from Valve's early days. The film is free to watch on YouTube (embedded above), and even if you're not the biggest fan of the original game, it's still a fascinating look into the history of one of the most important game companies in the world—possibly the most important, when it comes to PC games.

It's almost impossible to overstate the impact that Half-Life and its offshoots (including Team Fortress Classic, Day of Defeat, and Counter-Strike, most famously) had on the game industry. Almost overnight, first-person shooter games transformed from fast-paced blast-fests like Doom and Unreal into more methodical experiences with a lot of environmental storytelling and more realistic settings. If it wasn't for Half-Life, we probably wouldn't have Call of Duty, Battlefield, PUBG, or Apex Legends.

halflife alyx
The newest game, Half-Life: Alyx, requires a VR headset, but it's worth the price of admission.

As we noted above, the original game is free to keep if you claim it this weekend, but if you don't own the expansions, Half-Life 2, its expansions, or Half-Life Alyx, all of those are heavily discounted this weekend, too. You can pick up the Half-Life Complete bundle that includes everything except Alyx for $6.52 right now; that's 89% off the regular bundle price, and a 40% discount off the current sale price of each game.

valve guy
Remember the Valve Guy?

Besides the sale and documentary, the original Half-Life game on Steam has gotten a major facelift. It now runs perfectly on modern systems and Valve has even restored the game to its original 1998 state in some ways, like the OG Valve intro video and the classic-style menu. It boasts full widescreen support, the OpenGL renderer has fullbright support now, you can disable texture filtering if you like the crispy pixel look from software mode, and it also has full gamepad support, making the classic title finally Steam Deck Verified.

resonance cascade
I never thought I'd see a resonance cascade... let alone create one.

What are your experiences with the original Half-Life? Do you have any nostalgic tales to tell? Let us know in the comments if your eyes get a bit misty when we say "they're waiting for you Gordonnnn... in the tesst chamberrr."