Half-Life Dreamcast Gets A PC Port

By Craig Pearson on January 19th, 2012 at 2:16 pm.

Spaaaace hugs!

Way back in the year 2000 I had a very brief stint on Dreamcast magazine, DC-UK. I won’t bore you with the details of my quick departure: just imagine the most dramatic escape scene you can, then double it. But while I was there I happened across a preview disc with Half-Life on it. I say preview, the damn thing was nearly complete and I played a tonne of it on that bizarre controller. It was cancelled. As is the way of these things, the code found it’s way onto The Google and now someone’s ported it to the PC.

This Inception-like port of a port is Half-Life as you know it, but with a few minor (Gordon looks more like a Mythbuster’s presenter on the Dreamcast) and major tweaks: a cut map is the most obvious of the large changes. While it’s not widly different, it still holds value if you’re curious, or if you have plans to replay one of the finest games on the PC. It still holds up, which is pretty incredible for an action game designed in the ’90s. I worry that every bombastic shooter I play will erode my ability to return to the classics, but missing depth of field, HDR or physics doesn’t diminish Half-Life’s charms at all.

Here’s a launch video to polish your crowbar to:

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69 Comments »

  1. The Tupper says:

    “just imagine the most dramatic escape scene you can, then double it.”

    As long as you managed to retrieve your hat from the vertically-sliding door and the big rolly-bally thing. One can’t be expected to have adventures in PC gaming without one’s hat.

  2. Juan Carlo says:

    I just played Half Life 1 again recently. It holds up very well, better than any game from the 1990s. Other than graphics, there’s really no difference between it and modern shooters in terms of the way it plays.

    • Red_Avatar says:

      I’ve tried replaying HL many times over and always get bored after a while, and for the same reason: the game is very linear and because the game was so memorable back in the day, I still remember all the “cool” moments except they’re not as cool any more. The game has aged well in a way, but its linearity meant that I could never make myself to replay it for more than a few hours before getting bored.

    • Joshua IX says:

      Apart from the fact that it also happens to be superior to most of the FPS garbage released these days

    • Muzman says:

      I quite enjoy it up until Residue Processing, then I usually go “Faaaaak, not this again” and quit or load up a save where I’m past it.

    • Monchberter says:

      Yep, the combat is tough but fair and Half-Life still plays beautifully. Although somewhat unfairly as the human models are all out of proportion with reality with tiny heads.

      I think Half-Life 2 gets a lot of stick for trying to go with real world physics and movement simulations.

      The soldiers in Half-Life are unnaturally athletic compared to the ‘sack of spuds’ on legs movement of the HL2 Combine.

      This is also part of the difference and ongoing feud between CS and CS:Source.

    • DickSocrates says:

      I played HL 1 and both expansions to completion. Didn’t enjoy myself once, I hate the game. I hate the atmosphere, I hate the horrendous digital echo on the sound effects. I hate everything about it, and then there’s the alien planet which is possibly the worst level/area in video game history. But ooh, it has voice acting and little animations so it’s better than Doom, obviously!

      Half Life 2 is better. But I still hate HL2. Bizarrely, I liked Episode 1, and that’s the one everyone else thinks is bad.

    • Knufinke says:

      I’ve always felt that HL was highly overrated.
      It introduced two things to the genre everybody hates nowadays:
      -heavy scripting
      -1st person jumping puzzles

      I’ve given up after the first acid pool with crates because that’s terrible level design. Never got the praise. Never felt there was any redeemable thing about the games. Never played it again.

    • mickygor says:

      For what it’s worth, I very much like heavy scripting.

    • bear912 says:

      While I prefer Half-Life to Quake, I also think Quake has aged quite, quite well. It’s got some issues running on modern machines, though, which is unfortunate.

    • rayne117 says:

      “For what it’s worth, I very much like heavy scripting.”

      You should try this cool new thing called movies.

      And all the praise was because Half-Life 1 was good in it’s time. The level of modern expectations has risen considerably, and that’s only just and natural.

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      “You should try this cool new thing called movies.”

      Thanks for the recommendation. I find that I like those too! There are even different kinds of movies out there!

    • tremulant says:

      Can’t say i enjoyed half life much at the time, anyway, on the subject of quake on modern machines @bear192 http://icculus.org/twilight/darkplaces/

    • Network Crayon says:

      I’ll always love half-life 1, I dont really mind how it compares against modern games that seems irrelevant to me I enjoyed when i first played it (accidentally buying it instead of system shock 2) and i enjoy it today. I love how colourful it is and the feel of the movement. if someone made half life now its be grey filtered and ‘scary’. half life is pulp sci-fi action and its wonderful.

    • newprince says:

      Insert “I don’t like [insert critically acclaimed game] because it’s too linear”

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      I like modern art, but Mondriaan is just way too linear.

    • jjujubird says:

      “I just played Half Life 1 again recently. It holds up very well, better than any game from the 1990s.”

      I don’t know. As far as FPS’s go, I still play the original Deus Ex and it’s a much more entertaining re-play than HL1. Especially good if you get the somewhat recent visual update mod (http://www.moddb.com/mods/deus-ex-new-vision). And I haven’t gotten around to it yet but the Nameless Mod is supposed to be great.

      Another favorite of mine from the 90s that still runs like a dream is Heroes Of Might And Magic II, which you can get from Good Old Games, among other places.

    • Prime says:

      I agree with Juan Carlo. The rest of you…*shakes head, despairs*

    • grundus says:

      I too recently replayed Half Life, mainly because I was curious about HL: Source. It’s as good as I remember, however I do still feel it’s somewhat overrated. Metal Gear Solid was better and more impressive in terms of the AI and the fact that you could sneak past everyone. But then I never did play Half Life when it was first released, I only got it three years later on PS2.

      I’ve been forever banned from RPS, haven’t I?

  3. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    Very nice work. I’d also like see that Japan-exclusive arcade game of HL2 on PC, if only to see how more shooterism it was made to have.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      I believe the main differences were in the multiplayer parts of it. Kind of a souped-up Half Life 2 Deathmatch. AFAIK, everything originally unique about it has already been duplicated and absorbed into other Source multiplayer mods, except for some of the levels, art assets (a few new player models), and the special arcade cabinets.

    • Diogo Ribeiro says:

      Hey, thanks for that :)

    • bear912 says:

      I believe you folks are referring to Half-Life 2: Survivor. Just thought I’d give you that link in case you wanted to know more about it.

  4. LennyLeonardo says:

    Wow, I forgot how crazy the Dreamcast controller was. What the hell was going on with that memory card? Still, so many great memories. Well… maybe five or six.

    • bit_crusherrr says:

      I thought the memory card was awesome. Loved the little Chao minigame that was on Sonic Adventure. Shame the battery’s cost £8 and didn’t last long.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Actually, yeah, the Chao minigame was cool! I miss my Dreamcast now. Oh, Crazy Taxi, take me to the baseball stadium one last time…

      P.S – Is that Dean Learner in your pic? Props.

    • DeanLearner says:

      You’re blowing my mind bit crusher, I should give you a knuckle supper.

    • dahauns says:

      Ahh…the Dreamcast controller. Grandfather of the Xbox pad. Crazy? Maybe. Ergonomically terrific? (Spot the reference!) Hell yeah!

  5. The Sombrero Kid says:

    think of all those wasted man hours!

  6. coldvvvave says:

    Blast Pit is one of the best levels ever.

    • Ankheg says:

      This monster was scary and annoying as shit. Still getting this “oh fuck!” feeling when I’m seeing him.

  7. SirKicksalot says:

    It’s better than HL2.

    • coldvvvave says:

      I replayed HL and HL2 few days ago. It’s amazing how much better the first game is.

    • wisnoskij says:

      Absolutely and unequivocally better. Played side to side no one would ever pick HL2.

    • Diogo Ribeiro says:

      Shag me, I’ve literally been pushed into an alternate universe o_O

    • Khemm says:

      I agree HL1 is a much better game. The feeling of isolation, the feeling of solving puzzles on your own, trying to survive, the linearity which doesn’t feel like you’re being handholded through the levels.
      HL2 fails in all these aspects, not to mention it’s for the most part a boring game with dumb AI.
      Soldiers in HL1 >>> Combine in HL2.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Half Life has actually not dated as badly as the second. Obviously the visuals are worse. But it doesn’t have huge dialogue sequences that are frustrating on multiple playthroughs.

      But most importantly, no physics puzzles. Half Life 2 is incredibly dated because of these. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love both games but still feel the first is more atmospheric, and has a better sense of place. And as has been mentioned previously, apart from the visuals it feels like a contemporary shooter, unlike Half Life 2.

      Also, there is that whole nostalgia thing. The game still gives me tingles when I play the intro.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Yeah… gonna have to disagree here. Half Life 2 wasn’t the game I ragequit so hard I forgot about it for three years. Half Life 1 was.

      Half Life 1 is the most frustrating game Valve ever released, though I did eventually finish it when I got Half Life Source. It’s not the worst game I’ve ever played by far, but other related games outshine it. Opposing Force, for example. The strangely named but fantastic Counter-Strike Condition Zero: Deleted Scenes, as another example (they should have called it Call Of Duty Modern Warfare But Actually Good).

    • diebroken says:

      HL2: Rebels vs. Imperials! Well that’s what it seemed like more often than not at times (just look at the combine armor design). Seriously though, the most fun I had playing HL2 was during the Ravenholm They Hunger section…

    • TheTourist314 says:

      Opposing Force was A) Awesome and 2) Made by Gearbox Software, not Valve.

    • mjig says:

      I just happened to be replaying HL1 when I read this. It definitely does still hold up remarkably well. One of the best shooters ever made even by modern standards. Or maybe especially by modern standards?

      The main thing it has made me realize is how much I miss “secret” parts of levels. Just a few extra ammo or a couple of enemies to fight gives me an incentive to explore every nook and cranny. Makes playing so much more rewarding.

      I love HL2, but HL1 edges it out. I suspect that even in 2004, HL2 was somewhat dumbed down, imagine how fun and difficult the enemy AI could have been if they had expanded on the awesomeness of HL1 soldiers.

    • CMaster says:

      I think there are still arguments to be made in favour of HL2 being the better game – it’s a lot more polished, more developed and the bad patches aren’t as bad as the bad patches in HL1. The thing is though, HL1 is the more special, the more memorable game.
      The locations are better. The set pieces are more stand out. The enemy AI more convincing, if not necessarily better. The storytelling better handled. The plot concept more interesting. And on.

    • DocSeuss says:

      I never got a chance to love Half-Life 2. My introduction to the series was Half-Life, Opposing Force, Blue Shift, Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode 1, and Half-Life 2: Episode 2…

      Within the course of two weeks in 2007.

      It’s amazing how absolutely shit the Half-Life 2 games are. They have great atmosphere and facial expressions, but in terms of pacing, AI, level design, horrible vehicle use, weapons, how much more limited you are in the things you can do (because they insisted on using Alyx), the simplistic, physics-only-puzzles (it was neat how Blast Pit was one gigantic puzzles built around a series of smaller puzzles), and so on and so forth.

      Oh, and Half-Life made me feel great because I overcame amazing challenges. Half-Life 2 and its episodes were all about feeding me bite-sized bits of increasing complexity, like I was some kind of retard, while telling me how great I was.

    • Bobby Oxygen says:

      Let’s compare the low-points from both games:

      HL1
      - The Xen levels
      - 1st person platforming

      HL2
      - Weapon design & modelling
      - Vehicle sections
      - Story
      - Setting
      - AI
      - Physics puzzles
      - Embarrassing nerdbait NPC
      - 20 other things I can’t remember right now.

    • newprince says:

      I liked HL2 much more than 1, but it’s impossible to think about HL1 without getting all giddy about how amazing Counter-Strike was when I first heard about a mod for HL. Yeah, some of that stuff toward the end with the group of cannon fodder that we’re oddly supposed to feel united with… that fell a little flat, but I just don’t understand why some people don’t appreciate the Half-Life series as one of, if not the best FPS series ever made. Oh well.

    • Shih Tzu says:

      HL2 wasn’t the be-all and end-all, but at least the vehicle sections were fun.

      …What? What are you looking at?

    • MD says:

      Man. I prefer HL1 too, but how has nobody mentioned the Gravity Gun? Maybe it seems old hat, now that every game and its mum has some sort of physics-based weaponry, but still, the gravgun was the best thing HL2 introduced. Makes me sad that HL2DM didn’t really take off :(

    • Tyrone Slothrop. says:

      I can’t understand this sentiment. I loved Half-Life as the best shooter released at that point but Half-Life 2 was just a masterpiece upon release. There’s almost too many reasons, everything at the time was astounding; the atmosphere, art design, subtlety in environmental storytelling, the combat at the time was unsurpassed, the set-pieces unparalleled, the best-implemented and meaningful physics, the facial animations were only bested in the last few years and few games have a comparable level of physical interactivity even today.

      And the sheer level of variety is astounding. At one point you’re using car engine scythes to bifurcate zombies under the watch of an insane survivalist monk or pushing explosive barrels down slick sewers, enticing barnacles to eat them… then you’re fucking assaulting an entire converted Eastern European prison complex with an army of Antlions using pheromones to direct them. Or what about going from carefully jumping across the delicate beams of a massive suspension bridges to intense WW2-esque apartment-to-apartment urban combat.

      I can’t believe I have to defend the merits of HL2 against the former, which while exceptional was just resoundingly surpassed in every conceivable manner (except the duration of the opening train ride which I wish was a longer affair as outlined in the excellent Raising the Bar book).

      Also to the person listing setting as a weakness, I have no words with an appropriate level of reproach.

    • Buttless Boy says:

      Swinging in with my indespensible opinions! No need to thank me.

      Okay, last time I replayed the Half-Life series a couple years back, I was really surprised by how much more I enjoyed the first game. It seems like everything I liked about the first game was ruined in the second – the sense of loneliness and confusion, having to piece together the plot myself, the lack of cutscenes, interesting and unusual weapons.

      It even added new things I hated, like the incredibly gimmicky gravity gun (in my first playthrough I didn’t use it after Ravensholm because it ruined the atmosphere for me) and Alyx, who as far as I can tell has no personality except running in front of me when I try to shoot Combine soldiers. Actually she reminds me of Lydia from Skyrim, except I was allowed to kill Lydia and I wasn’t allowed to even point my weapon at Alyx.

      All that said, HL2 was still an amazing game, and one of the best FPSs there is. It just felt like a step backward. Half-Life did amazing things for video game storytelling and immersion, but until Portal, no other game lived up to that legacy. And of course Portal 2 made almost exactly the same mistakes as Half-Life 2, but that’s another rant.

      EDIT: To address some of Tyrone’s points; I think a good deal of HL2 was superior to its prequel. The physics and visual design were both truly amazing, and still blow me away. What HL2 failed at was atmosphere and immersion, two admittedly vague and personal concepts, but very important ones nonetheless. With HL2, I knew I was playing a wonderfully crafted game. With HL1, I forgot I was playing a game at all.

    • Tyrone Slothrop. says:

      In response to Buttless Boy.

      See this is where subjective opinion enters, the atmosphere of Half-Life 2 was vastly different but I see that as an incredible strength. There was isolation, but it was the isolation of the fog-laced shores, the haunting mis-en-scenes you encounter, the implied narrative of seeing charred corpses sitting in armchairs in desolate buildings, the desperate existence of the rebellion. The omniscience of the Combine, their surveillance, design, structures, presence and even propaganda was masterfully conveyed and the truly dystopian atmosphere was one of the best of any work of speculative fiction. I loved the design of Black Mesa but the radical departure that was City 17 was just jaw-dropping when I first learned of it, let alone when I first experienced it on the 9800 I had purchased to render it.

      Similarly the very feeling of the immense battles you instigate and encounter are unmatched in the original, the entire section of the game dealing with the Combine staging area; the no-classical building (implied to be a former museum or bureaucracy) is one of the most perfectly paced sequences I’ve experienced in game and the assault on Nova Prospekt has seldom been matched for making me feel empowered as a player, a flesh and blood human nonetheless basically directing a force of nature against a seemingly impenetrable installation. And that’s not to say anything of the unmitigated, Akira-esque power that came from wielding a gloriously malfunctional gravity gun in the final areas of the game.

      My only complaint about the game really (I was evidently one of the few people to enjoy the vehicle sections) is that the gunplay has aged terribly (a silly mandatory cone-of-fire recoil, multi-headshot-surviving enemies, no ironsights), but it’s not really a legitimate criticism of the game, especially when it was the most satisfying ever upon release.

    • Prime says:

      So much Half-Life 1 love, yay! HL2, by contrast, was a let-down in almost every sense.

    • DoucheMullet says:

      Tyrone, I was loving your whole post…up until you mentioned the lack of iron sights as con.

      Like we really need more of that shit plaguing games.

  8. wisnoskij says:

    What is the Point? How is Half Life or Half Life: Source not better?

    • newprince says:

      I think the article makes it clear this is nothing more than a curiosity. Probably only Half-Life fanatics, Dreamcast fanatics, or video game historians would be excited about this… I’d just go with the Steam versions out there.

    • Tyrone Slothrop. says:

      I do wish that HL: Source used the high-definition pack for models or provided a graphics option to change the assets. I realise there’s something lost from the ‘original’ by strict virtue of not being included within the original but back when I replayed the original Half-Life in those days it was an amazing upgrade from the assets which were initially included.

      Also: Black Mesa: Source Y U NO OUT YET?

  9. Monchberter says:

    “They’re waiting for you Gordon. In the TEST SEGAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.”

  10. Monchberter says:

    “Whadd’ya mean overload?!”

    *gibs*

    • Durkonkell says:

      *Presses button to call elevator*

      AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!

      *Crunch!* *Boom!*

      *Gibs*

    • YourMessageHere says:

      Last time I did that, I clearly saw that there were two scientists, or maybe three, in the lift as it plummeted past. But the gibs that emerged included no fewer than seven skulls…

  11. johnpeat says:

    All I remember of HL of DC (it was leaked and fairly easily available) was a loading screen even 20m or so – and a LONG loading screen at that.

    I find Source games tend to be fond of loading screens, even on decent PCs – on the DC it was most of the entertainment!!

    • DrGonzo says:

      Yes. I played it through on Dreamcast after getting it on ebay. It did come with Blue Shift, which was actually designed for the Dreamcast first.

      As you say, the load screens were horrendous. It crashed like crazy too. But to be fair it was unfinished and unreleased.

      What I would really like though is a port of the coop bits from the Playstation 2 version. Seeing as we already got all the content from the Dreamcast one anyway.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      Good news, there IS a port of Half-Life: Decay(the PS2 co-op game).

      http://decay.half-lifecreations.com/

  12. Optimaximal says:

    Isn’t this just the same as installing the High Definition Pack from Blue Shift?

    • Scandalon says:

      No.

      http://www.moddb.com/mods/half-life-dreamcast
      Mod Features:
      • Different Maps – The map alterations range from minor geometry fixes and lighting adjustments to entirely revamped areas. Several locations have been redesigned with performance and gameplay in mind while entirely new rooms have been added in some places to introduce another obstacle or puzzle to overcome. One entire level was even cut! Can you determine the missing map?
      • Different Models – The Dreamcast version is host to a number of exclusive models not seen in any other version of Half-Life, including the High Definition pack and the PlayStation 2 port. Can you find the hidden VMU and Half-Life Dreamcast disc?
      • Revamped Menu – Included is a new splash screen, menu background, menu color scheme, and menu sounds to closely emulate the Dreamcast’s fancy interface.
      • High quality soundtrack – Emulates the CD quality music used in the console version, overriding the default 48kbps mp3s on Steam.
      • Tweaked Difficulty – To accommodate the difficulty of playing with a controller, Gearbox suitably rebalanced the monster spawns as well as enemy health and damage values.
      • Password Notifications – Although the password system itself cannot be ported, all password messages that appear in normal gameplay have been brought over.
      • The Little Differences – Too small to be noted in a bullet point, but true Half-life fans should be able to spot these in a heartbeat when they see (or hear!) them.

  13. MattM says:

    Well yeah, depth of field is a horrible effect that I turn off in every game.

  14. fitzroy_doll says:

    On a tangentially related note, does anyone remember seeing a preview of the single-player sequel to Return to Castle Wolfenstein on the cover of a PC gaming magazine sometime in the early 2000′s? I think I remember seeing it in Sainsbury’s in Camden Town but not buying it, and then the game was cancelled. Is this just a made up memory, or did someone else see this too?

  15. Gira says:

    Just play DOOM. It actually has non-linear levels, which is something FPS developers can’t seem to do any more. It’s also better than Half-Life in every measurable way.