Half-Life Ray-Traced Mod Looks Fantastic In This Teaser Video
Monday, January 10, 2022, 01:57 PM EDT
Do you have a GeForce graphics card from the 10-series or later, or alternatively an RDNA-based Radeon? If the answer is "yes," have you tried Quake II RTX? If not, why not? You don't have to own the game, nor do you need a GeForce RTX graphics card to play it, although both admittedly make the experience a lot nicer. Quake II RTX discards the original raster-graphics-based Quake II renderer entirely in favor of a technologically-simpler but much more computationally-intensive path-racing renderer, and the results are fabulous.
Well now, a fellow by the name of Sultim Tsyrendashiev (who goes by simply "sultim-t" on YouTube and Github) seems intent on giving vaguely the same treatment to the legendary Valve classic Half-Life. In a brief trailer posted on YouTube, which you can see below, sultim-t demonstrates an early version of Half-Life that makes use of a fully path-traced renderer similar to that used in Quake II RTX.
Unlike Quake II RTX, though, this version of Half-Life is a fan mod, and as a result it uses all of the original content, rather than employing high-resolution textures and character skins. The juxtaposition of the lo-fi Half-Life assets from 1997 combined with the ultra-high-quality path-traced lighting gives the thing a similar vibe to Minecraft RTX.
Sultim has previously worked on a ray-tracing mod for Serious Sam: The First Encounter, as well as a library to help convert OpenGL 1 applications—originally reliant on fixed-function graphics hardware like the old 3dfx Voodoo chips—to a ray-traced presentation using modern hardware with Vulkan RT acceleration. Currently, that means GeForce RTX cards and Radeon RX 6000 series GPUs.
Some fans have expressed disappointment that the mod isn't meant for Half-Life remaster Black Mesa, but there are a few niggles with that. First of all, Black Mesa is a Source-engine game with a much more advanced renderer, and second of all, it uses drastically more detailed assets—both of which will make the game exponentially more difficult to path-trace. Simply speaking, the performance requirements of path-tracing Black Mesa would be an order of magnitude higher than those of the original Half-Life, itself already much more challenging than Quake II.
In the YouTube video description, Sultim notes that his mod isn't strictly a one-man project, but rather it builds on the work of prior modders doing the same thing. Still, it seems like those mods were never released in a functional state, so if he crosses the finish line, Sultim's mod will be the first of its kind. In the trailer, Sultim notes that he plans to have the mod out sometime this year, but he also admits that "these things take time," so it may be in the latter half of the year.