It has come to my attention that some people have not played the Half-Life games, to which I can only say: mate, I think you might really like it. Valve will soon return to the series after thirteen years with Half-Life: Alyx in March, and ahead of that they're inviting everyone to catch up on the story so far. From now until the launch of Alyx, the Half-Life games are free for everyone to play in full on Steam. You know, some of these really are quite good.
"Half-Life: Alyx is set before the events of Half-Life 2 and the episodes, but the games share characters and story elements. The Half-Life: Alyx team believes that the best way to enjoy the new game is to play through the old ones, especially Half-Life 2 and the episodes, so we want to make that as easy as possible," Valve explained in last night's announcement.
So from now until Alyx's launch sometime in March, everyone can play Half-Life, Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, and Half-Life 2: Episode Two. Valve are also throwing in ye olde expansion packs made by other studios, Half-Life: Opposing Force and Half-Life: Blue Shift, which tell events of the first game from new perspectives - maybe less relevant, but still nice if you want to get stuck in. Valve's blog post has links for the lot.
Also free, because reasons, is Team Fortress Classic, a narratively-unrelated multiplayer game for if you really want to get trounced by people who've been playing the same game for 21 years. And yet Half-Life 2's multiplayer isn't included.
The Half-Life games might seem less remarkable to newcomers after decades of other studios following Valve's example, but even if you don't click with the first I would still recommend trying HL2. It's a right good'un, that, and a fair jumping-on point. I sympathise with pals who've come to Half-Life late and bounced off the first. Never let anyone tell you "YOU HAVE TO FINISH THIS, IT'S A CLASSIC."
Half-Life: Alyx is coming to VR goggles in March. Our resident G-Man, Graham, has everything you need to know about it. Valve have casually mentioned that Half-Life 3 seems less of a daunting prospect after Alyx, but I wouldn't get too excited about that just yet.