Video game documentarians Noclip have released more than an hour of footage from Arkane Studios’ cancelled Half-Life 2 horror spin-off, Ravenholm. The video was originally captured for Noclip’s 2020 documentary about the history of Arkane, the studio behind the much beloved Deathloop and Dishonored series. Ravenholm did feature, albeit briefly, in Noclip's original documentary, but now Noclip producer Danny O’Dwyer has decided it's time to show off a bit more of it, interspersing his gameplay footage with some critical context for what’s going on and the ideas behind it. Have a watch of it below:
Ravenholm was cancelled because the headcrabs and zombies that featured in it were “played out” and it was constraining to have to fit the game before Half-Life 2: Episode 2, according to former Valve writer Marc Laidlaw.
Ravenholm began life as a fourth episode of Half-Life 2 before Valve decided to spin it off into its own thing. Noclip’s video is taken from an unfinished build that was shown to Valve towards the end of development. The raw footage is split into five chapters, with each chapter showing different parts of what would go on to make up Ravenholm. It’s creepy at times, which you’d hope for from a horror game, mostly thanks to some close-quarters shotgun combat with plenty of zombies rushing about in extremely dark office hallways. Still seems very much like a Half-Life game, though.
One of the standouts from Noclip’s footage is the electricity system introduced by Arkane. It’s something you might expect from Arkane given their experience with immersive sims, but also totally in keeping with Half-Life 2’s habit of mucking about with physics. The good thing about electricity is it’s very good at frying zombies, which O’Dwyer makes use of a lot in the video. Ravenholm would let you conduct electricity through metal, and through water to electrify pools and trap enemies. Reminds me of happy times spent dealing with splicers in BioShock.
RPS did report on Ravenholm’s existence way back in the mists of 2013. As related by Valvetime, Ravenholm was originally in development at Warren Spector’s Junction Point Studios until the project was passed over to Arkane. The protagonist of Ravenholm was meant to be Half-Life: Opposing Force’s U.S. Marine Adrian Shephard, although Ravenholm’s shotgun-toting only known survivor Father Grigori makes an appearance too. I’d have been up for playing as Shephard again. I loved Opposing Force as a kid, having obtained it via a swap with my friend Hisham for something not as good but then never giving it back. Sorry Hisham!
Noclip’s full documentary about the history of Arkane holds more details on the canned Ravenholm project. Would you have liked to play a horror game set in Half-Life’s world?