Since it launched there nearly 20 years ago, the German version of Half-Life has only been available with heavy content edits. Now, local fans can check out the original, uncensored release for the first time ever as a free download on Steam.
Valve released Half-Life Uncensored as downloadable content this week, following a report that the unedited game had been removed from Germany’s list of objectionable media. It’s available to owners of the censored, original German release of Half-Life, and it replaces the edited version upon installation.
Known colloquially as “the Index,” the list is managed by the Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Young Persons. The Review Board (or BPjM, as it’s short for in German) maintains an extensive list of standards to protect younger consumers from what it deems excessive violence, gore or other controversial elements. Once something ends up indexed, it cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 18 — or even publicly advertised.
Half-Life, as a mature-rated game with plenty of death and violence, was targeted by the BPjM quickly, just as similar prestige shooters like Doom and Red Faction were. Both have since been removed from the Index as well, and the 2016 version of Doom launched uncut in Germany, the first in the franchise to do so.
In an interview from early 1998, Valve president Gabe Newell talked about the work begrudgingly undergone by the studio to avoid running into Germany’s media standards.
“For the version of Half-Life to be released in Germany, we have hard-coded the language setting to be German, which means that all of the humans in the game are replaced with robots, that blood is replaced with oil, that body parts are replaced with mechanical components like springs and cogs, and so on,” he told German outlet Link. “This design was done in conjunction with the Sierra product group responsible for the German market in order to comply with Germany's laws concerning violence.”
Videos of Half-Life’s heavily edited German release have understandably racked up a ton of views on YouTube over the years, due to its striking changes:
We’ve reached out to Valve about what led to the uncensored Half-Life’s removal from the Index and will update accordingly. Rest assured that, despite Half-Life Uncensored replacing this bonkers edited version on Steam, its memory will live on.