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Record-breaking Half-Life speedrun briefly trades crowbars for lightsabers

Half Life‘s introduction is famously slow. Long tram rides and lengthy speeches from co-workers preparing Gordon Freeman for an experiment that would destroy the world. An atmospheric start, for sure, but it’s a pain for folks trying to beat the game as quickly as possible. For one speedrunner, though, those dead minutes aren’t an obstacle – they’re the perfect opportunity to start practising for a record-breaking Star Wars run.

Speedrunner Maxam1337 isn’t one for timewasting. In his latest, world-record-setting Half-Life speedrun, The Swedish runner puts a four-minute period of exposition (starting below at the 1:30 mark) to good use – tabbing out of Half-Life to practice strategies for 1997’s Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II.

Once the scientists back in Black Mesa have had their fun, Maxam tabs back in to start his speedrun in earnest. Freeman, preferring theoretical physics to Jedi mind tricks, won’t pick up a lightsaber again for the rest of the run. but it’s well worth a watch regardless.

I haven’t followed the Half-Life speedrunning scene for a minute – while many of the old staples are there (skipping entire levels with well-placed grenades), I’ve never seen quicksaving used so pointedly to avoid tripwires or control the pace of explosions. More than any supersonic bunny-hopping is that control of the game’s flow, balancing health and ammo so that he’s only ever firing shots or taking damage when absolutely necessary. Once Maxam picks up the Tau Cannon (with its secondary “go fast” action), the run really hits full throttle.

By the time he reaches Xen, he’s flying through Half-Life’s infamous alien platforming dimension in seconds. Half-Life is still a blisteringly fast 90s shooter, and I’d be curious to see how ponderous VR thriller Half-Life Alyx speedruns play out in comparison.

With Jedi Knight 2 clearly on the table, Maxam hasn’t quite abandoned Half-Life. Despite snagging the world record once again, he’s still keen on breaking the 27-minute barrier. He does briefly entertains the idea of speedrunning Half-Life and its fan-made successor recently completed remake Black Mesa, which finally released in full last month, alternating between each one level at a time.

Said in jest, sure, but I’d be well up for catching that.

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Natalie Clayton

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