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Half-Life is turning 25, and Valve threw it a huge party with a free update

Valve celebrates the game that started it all with a one-hour doc, and with a 100% off sale

An illustration featuring Gordon Freeman of Half-Life turning around and looking surprised to find a menacing alien creature facing him. Image: Valve
Cameron Faulkner (he/him) is Polygon’s commerce editor. He began writing about tech and gaming in 2013, and migrated from The Verge in 2023.

Half-Life will turn 25 years old on Nov. 19, and Valve is reflecting on this milestone with a surprising, yet fully deserved amount of pomp. The studio’s first game is not only free to download and keep, but it just got a big update full of additions, as well as bug fixes that have been hanging out in the code for the past quarter century.

This version of Half-Life is now verified on Steam Deck, complete with gamepad configurations and online play, and has updated graphics settings including HUD UI scaling for modern screens. Valve cheekily notes, “We built most of this stuff for 640x480 CRTs and apparently some of you have upgraded since then.”

In terms of content additions, the update brings Half-Life Uplink to a modern audience. This mini campaign originally debuted on disc, bundled with certain magazines, and with hardware like sound cards. There’s restored content, too, like the original Valve logo intro, plus some multiplayer maps and skins that were included in a CD sold at retail in the late 90s. Valve level designers even built four new multiplayer maps that are present in the new update.

Even better than a free, freshly updated game is a one-hour documentary on how the game was made to wash it all down. To tell the tale of just how Half-Life came together in the late 90’s, Valve teamed up with Danny O’Dwyer of Secret Tape. You can watch that above if you’d like.

Lastly, Valve is launching a bunch of glorious wallpapers, several of which feature our favorite crowbar-wielding scientist, Gordon Freeman. Check out all of this info, including a lengthy list of fixes, over at the revamped Half-Life website. During this celebration, all other Half-Life titles are discounted.