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Half-Life 2's downtrodden NPCs have been unable to blink for five years, until now

Oof, imagine not blinking for half a decade. My eyes shiver at the thought. But this is what the NPCs of Half-Life 2 have been suffering. The dry eye epidemic was first reported to Valve’s GitHub repo back in 2014 and since then it turns out only a select few have felt the joy of smashing their eyelids shut. But after almost five long years, City 17’s tortured citizens can finally blink again, thanks to a small official update.

Blinking in Half-Life 2 ceased shortly after the Steampipe update five years ago, when Valve moved all games on the Source engine to a new distribution system. Key characters would still blink if told to during cutscenes, but the normal NPCs walking about no longer had the ability to shut their eyes naturally. This issue affected all Source-based entries in the Half-Life series, including Episode One, Episode Two, tech demo Lost Coast and kinda-remake Half-Life: Source.

A disturbed city of thousand-yard stares might be absolutely in keeping with the urban dystopia of Half-Life 2, but it still needed a fix. It’s one of those daft wee things that you probably don’t notice until you’re told (we didn’t) but it’s proper weird once you do. People are supposed to blink, and it’s super unnerving when they don’t.

With a game as large as Half-Life 2, of course there were unofficial fixes floating around. But it’s nice to see Valve finally put this issue to bed. I’ve just had a wee pop back into Black Mesa East to check and, besides breaking my own copy with a decade of modding nonsense, it looks like everyone’s back to blinking as normal. Job well done, everyone.

Yesterday’s update also fixes some rather more important issues. Missing NPC sounds, a save-game hitching problem and a problem where Steam VR was running when it shouldn’t be – all these were patched up in this relatively tiny update.

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Natalie Clayton

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Owns a Steel Battalion controller, is not afraid to use it. Occasional news rascal.

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