Happy 15th birthday, Half-Life 2

(Image credit: Valve Corporation)

Update: As a belated birthday present, Valve has announced that Half-Life 2 will be getting a new sibling. A new VR prequel to the series called Half-Life: Alyx is coming in 2020.

It's Half-Life 2's 15th Birthday today! On November 16th, 2004 Valve released one of PC Gaming’s most celebrated games, the hotly-anticipated Half-Life 2 would go on to become the foundation of a generation of games and famous mods. The continued adventures of Gordon Freeman were a hallmark First-Person Shooter with a physics-based engine that encouraged you to play with the world around you. (It also launched the pale lighting and muddy tones aesthetic that defined that era of games.) Without Half-Life 2 and its Source Engine, we wouldn’t have a lot of landmark games: Team Fortress 2, Portal, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, and Insurgency, to name a few.

Half-Life 2 also heralded the launch of Steam’s new look and new role as a storefront for Valve’s games. No longer just a service for multiplayer and updates, Steam has since grown into the primary platform for PC Gamers around the world and an industry juggernaut. To many, the success of Steam has wholly eclipsed the Valve games that launched it.

Half-Life 2 has not dimmed in popularity, though. If you’re looking to get back into it, can I recommend the popular combat enhancement Half-Life 2: MMod? It’s quite good and just updated last month. There’s also long-thought-dead mod Logistique, which re-emerged this year after eight years in torpor and updated just yesterday.

Two quick notes: While it cannot consume alcohol at all, I would like to say that in theory Half-Life 2 can legally purchase and consume alcohol in the Central African Republic. That said, it should be ready to vote and smoke in time for the 2024 United States Federal Election.

On a personal note, I can still remember anxiously pre-ordering the collector’s edition of HL2 months before it released. The Source Engine tech demos and trailers were impressive, but at the time there really was no knowing whether the game would be everything it promised to be: Both cutting edge and easily modded, both innovative and traditional. It’s fascinating to look back now and see the game that inspired a generation of PC gamers and game developers turn 15.


Jon Bolding is a games writer and critic with an extensive background in strategy games. When he's not on his PC, he can be found playing every tabletop game under the sun.