19 years later, Half-Life is uncensored in Germany

That’s a long time to wait to find out what really happens when you shoot a Barnacle creature. Germany has long been notorious for the strict limitations it placed on videogame content, and the noble Half-Life was a particularly infamous victim of the censor’s stamp. Until now. That means no more robots instead of soldiers, no more barnacles spewing nuts and bolts instead of blood and gore, and no more sad looks from invulnerable scientists if you shoot at them.

Sudden realisation: censored versions of HL are going to become collector’s items now, aren’t they?

Of course, it won’t exactly have been difficult for an enterprising German game-liker to lay hands upon the full-fat version of Valve’s iconic shooter, with all its blocky gore present and correct, but it’s good to see videogame justice served at last.

Half-Life’s entry in the German index of censored games has been “prematurely” removed, reports Schnittberichte, meaning that “it is now possible for the publisher to release the uncensored versions again in Germany officially.” Whether Valve ultimately choose to do so remains to be seen, although I suspect there’s a reasonable chunk of free money in it for them if they do.

The changes to the German version of Half-Life are near-legendary. Most notable is the replacement of human enemies with robot soldiers who look like the Decepticon Shockwave signed up for Dad’s Army (as seen above) but there’s also a slew of bloodless deaths for aliens who simply evaporate moments later, while Barnacles particularly release a shower of screws rather than gore when killed. Friendly NPCs such as scientists and security guards aren’t visibly harmed killed if you shoot them but instead take a seat and the floor and give you a disappointed look.

Basically, it’s videogames’ “flip you, melonfarmer.”

And here’s a videografik look at the cut version (apologies for some of the terminology used in this):


  1. Kong says:

    Good old days.
    I like to point out that there were no German language games at the time. Which meant that without censorship we enjoyed the original versions.
    That changed around the year 2000 when crappy voice localization arrived.
    Lucky for us we were veterans of black market. Have been ever since Matchbox Battlekings were prohibited and vanished from shelfs of German toy shops.

    So my country of origin’s return to the club of warmonger nations has one positive aspect. Following our massacre of Kunduz they could no longer keep hiding pixel blood from us.
    Maybe we will even be allowed to see swastikas and GRÖFAZ in Herzen aus Eisen one day.

    • TehK says:

      Lucky for us we were veterans of black market.

      Haha, yeah, pretty much this.
      That said, with stuff like steamworks and DRM and region locking it has somehow gotten more difficult to get hold of the original versions for games that somehow offended the good old BPJM.

      • Kong says:

        Digital distribution changed my gaming life.
        Before I got most entertainment from UK. But there was no shopping for sales except when visiting beloved Britain.
        Eventally I could order from Amazon UK. They let me down only once. True Romance Collector’s edition came with a nice T and an outrageous cut.

  2. tixylix says:

    We get it Germany, you’re sorry for the wars, get over it, we have.

    • TehK says:

      That’s got nothing to do with the wars. It’s about “protecting the children” and that just comes down to a society’s view about what’s “damaging”. For example, noone really cares about nudity, which will be censored quite heavily in the US.

      • Kong says:

        It has all to do with our wars. Germany has been founded 1871 following the victory over France. Until 1945 Germany was all about war and the military.
        The idea behind keeping war toys and images which degrade human life away not only from kids but also from grown-ups was an attempt to build a better society.
        Ironically the very same people who took away my toy tanks decided the first German assault on another nation after ’45. Against international law no less.
        Very sad end for an ambitious experiment.

      • Unclepauly says:

        I always thought it was this hyper-sensitivity that caused Germany to take war against other nations(to put it in so very few words). Seems weird to keep this going in other forms.

      • Chaoslord AJ says:

        I got no problem with protecting the children but I’m almost 40 for christsake.
        The German goverment has the reputation for being a nanny state and trying to “educate” their populace like school pupils.

        • KDR_11k says:

          Legally it doesn’t interfere with your ability to buy uncut games, in practice it makes them commercially not viable so no stores stock it…

      • KDR_11k says:

        Specific example about nudity: The game “Singles”, an inferior Sims clone whose USP was full frontal nudity was rated 16 in Germany (even while games like Command & Conquer got censored) and AO in the USA.

        I think the ending point of censorship for violence was roughly when Dawn of War was released uncut.

  3. Vandelay says:

    “flip you, melonfarmer.”

    And a hello to Jason Isaacs.

  4. elsparko says:

    As always I would like to point out that there is no governmental censorship agency or whatever you might think in Germany. All this censored “german version” crap was mostly done by the publishers/game developers themselves – sometimes even prematurely.

    The problem is that the situation around “protecting the youth from bad influence” is so complicated here that even Germans themselves often get it wrong. So who can blame international companies if they get overly cautious. After all they don’t want to miss out on the german market completely.

    It got insane when Steam introduced region locks. Those were never warranted. If a German citizen somehow got hold of a key for a supposedly “evil” game now sometime Steam would actively prevent that key from being activated. There is no need for that. All Valve needs to do is to prevent Germans from purchasing “evil” games in the first place. (Actually they just needed to implement some way of age verification system then they could sell all games to adults anyway…)

    • dr.denton says:

      Thank you. Sure, German law forced publishers to take steps in cutting down on the violence if they wanted to sell their games through regular channels, but sometimes they went waaaay over board with this.

      One particularly ri-DIC-ulous example is System Shock 2 – not generally a game you associate with gratuitous violence but they still went and turned all blood textures neon green (!), including the writings on walls. Also, no hangman on Med-Sci …

      As for HL1, I remember being absolutely shocked by some of the gore and splatter, like bloodied skulls lying around after attacking someone with a grenade.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      So what Tekh above says about BPJM, link to en.wikipedia.org is either inaccurate or outdated? From the wikipedia I quickly browsed, it sure seems like a censorship agency, just like the one that was in USA and enforced the “comic book code” to prevent minors from the harmful influence of comic books.

      • haldolium says:

        It’s a bit more complicated, but it sure can be seen as censorship.

        For lawful, yet “endangering” content such as violence there is List A, where if you’re on that, you cannot advertise your game or make it easily available. That means a shop can sell it, but has to make it so that “minors” cannot ever see it displayed. For online shops it would mean age gates based upon ID check. It’s not “forbidden” however and you can buy and play it.

        So far, so ridiculous.

        Then there is List B, where you get when you make Wolfenstein or Call of Duty (or making really really bad hiphop and nazi-rock). That is where media gets on with possibly unlawful content, such as hate speech (usually within music) or swastikas which are simply forbidden outside of a huge variety of vaguely defined media and art and education… (I’d recommend German readers to look up the paragraph, it really is borderline-insane) but we all know, games are toys. For kids.

        So in conclusion it definitively is in general a rather ridiculous institution that does help provide an amount of censorship. A conservative leftover that has too much lobbyist and on the other hand the games industry has no proper lobby themselves and/or chooses to look the most ridiculous and pathetic as often as they can (just look at the latest incident of the “DCP” (german computer game price with a lot of money to get for devs).

        • Chaoslord AJ says:

          Yeah any medium considered art may have swastikas but it’s forbidden in games.
          As games aren’t considered art the game award in this line of thinking is basically a political farce and Dobrindt is a douchebag. The same dude who brought us highway fares (for everyone) and oversize-trucks.

      • TehK says:

        Basically, the procedure is as follows:

        If someone wants to sell a game in Germany, it has to be rated by the USK – it’s a simple age rating similar to ESRB ratings. If the game has received a rating, the whole thing is over and the BPJM can’t do anything.

        However, the USK can give a “no rating” rating (e.g. if the USK thinkgs the game might come in conflict with the Youth Protection Act). At that point, you still are allowed to buy and own the game, but the game mustn’t be advertised anywhere. If the game received a “no rating” rating, anyone (often e.g. the ministry of family affairs – yes, we have that) can file an application to put the game on the index (the lists described by haldolium).

        Only then can the BPJM actually do something. They will inform the publisher of the game and then will decide if the application is warranted. It’s a lot of trouble for the publishers (and Germany is quite a big market for games), so they usually get rid of the “troublesome” things.

        That’s roughly, how the whole thing works and yes, it’s kind of ridiculous and a pain in the ass for every gamer. It may technically not be censorship (because the agency can’t actively do anything – the process has to be initiated from someone else), but the effect remains the same.

        I personally think it’s gotten better. Video games are more popular, people know more about them, the agency (and the people making those decicions) changed… it’s a lot rarer nowadays that a game is put on the index because of violence. Unfortunately, as haldolium already said, the line is still drawn for “forbidden symbols” like the Swastika, which is totally ok in movies, because they are art, but games aren’t.

        Ah well, the fight goes on ;)

        • KDR_11k says:

          That’s the current system, HL1 was released before the USK got official recognition. Back then the BPjS* didn’t care about the USK’s rating (as the USK was an industry body and the BPjS a federal agency) and any game could theoretically be placed on the index. USK ratings weren’t legally enforceable back then so a store could sell an 18 rated game to a kid without repercussions. Nowadays the cashier could be jailed for that.

          * The change from BPjS to BPjM happened then too.

  5. haldolium says:

    Looks like Valve hasn’t heard the good news yet
    link to abload.de

  6. Muzman says:

    Oh no. Now they’re going to rise up and conquer the world.

  7. Jane Doe says:

    They have church members in the board who decides on censorship, so you can’t really take them seriously.

    • KDR_11k says:

      The board has mellowed out a LOT since the days of Probotector and WW2-was-fought-with-cyborgs C&C. You gotta do something special to get indexed these days. I think it’s almost easier to get an outright ban for glorifying violence (e.g. Manhunt) or antidemocratic symbols (swastikas) than an indexing now.

  8. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Finally, I first played HL as a pirated copy then decided to buy it (complete edition). Imagine my surprise.
    The enemy soldiers became robots bleeding green blood and the soldier voiceover was replaced by a robotic-sounding voiceover. The game had been completely butchered by these barbarians.

    • KDR_11k says:

      Should’ve bought it earlier, the US version was sold openly for a few days before the game got indexed, after that it took them a few months to produce a localized version…

  9. yhancik says:

    I actually like the characters sulking on the floor after you’ve hit them! Why should everything always be realistic? :D

    • goodpoints says:

      I know right, it’s so utterly German.

      “Are you having fun? Menschliches, allzumenschliches.”

  10. DelrueOfDetroit says:

    I’m sure a bunch of angry teens who aren’t from Germany and weren’t alive when Half-Life came out are super stoked.

  11. KDR_11k says:

    I got HL1 for my 12th birthday or something like that, either way my parents went out and bought the game. Since “indexed” just means cannot be sold to minors or shown on shelves and the indexing was very recent at that point it seems they just asked a cashier for the game and got it. This happened before a German version was released so I ended up with the uncut English one.

    Man, I wonder how many other kids I shared that disc with back then… I knew the CD key by heart from all the installations at LAN parties.

    I think there was a little orange letter in the box that served as a translated manual for people who don’t speak English. Not sure they’d have much fun with the game…

  12. Otterley says:

    There was a site specifically for ‘blood patches’ at the time. So, at some point you’d be able to restore the cut content, but the whole thing really was a pain.

    Unfortunately these restrictions don’t seem to be reviewed often – I still have games like F.E.A.R. 3 as ‘low violence’ versions in my Steam library :/

  13. Blacki138 says:

    I had to buy the godawful PS2 Version in the netherlands back then because I was too unfinnicky with getting HL cracked on my machine.

    Was worth it.

    Love that version to death.

  14. PiiSmith says:

    Could you play Black Mesa before in Germany and was it already uncut?