First it came to Portal, now it’s coming to the Source engine’s other big classic: Half-Life 2 is getting a ray-tracing remaster thanks to the efforts of a community modding superteam with support from Nvidia.
Awkwardly titled Half-Life 2 RTX: An RTX Remix Project, the remaster is currently in development with no set release date. Nvidia announced it today as part of its pre-Gamescom presentations. The remaster will use RTX Remix, which is Nvidia’s toolkit for bringing ray-tracing to classic PC games. RTX Remix was previously announced using The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind as an example; it seeks to give community modders and hobbyists the ability to do ray-tracing conversions for old games, but it’s still only available to a few people.
The people, in this case, are a group of modders from multiple community projects who have banded together under the name Orbifold Studios. The team includes modders who worked on VR Half-Life 2 project Project 17, asset remastering project Half-Life 2 Remade Assets, total conversation mod Raising the Bar: Redux, and another VR mod simply called Half-Life 2 VR, among others.
They’re adding modern Nvidia features like full ray-tracing and DLSS, rebuilding the game’s assets with more geometric detail and physically based rendering (PBR) properties, and so on—similar to what was already done with Portal Prelude RTX.
The brief teaser video debuting the mod only shows one area of the game, but it’s an iconic one: It’s the lab of Dr. Kleiner, one of the first areas the player visits in the game and arguably the point from which the game kicks off into high gear. It’s a room that will be instantly recognizable to anyone who remembers diving into Half-Life 2 in 2004—or any time after, I suppose.
I often have a concern about these kinds of community remasters because when I’ve seen other examples—like popular asset upscaling mods for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, for example—I often feel they compromise the original artist’s vision too much. This conversion looks pretty faithful from the examples we’ve seen, though. The materials and so on are generally correct, though you do lose some subtle details. For example, I think it reveals a little bit about Dr. Kleiner’s character that his desk is so cluttered and carelessly arranged that his keyboard sits partially on top of his notepad in the original game, but this remaster shows the notepad a little more off to the side. It’s small, but I think it matters. None of that ought to be a deal-breaker for what we’re promised in terms of improved fidelity, though.
As noted, there’s no timeline for the launch of this mod, and if you know modding projects like this, you know they can take a while. But if you want to help nudge it along, there’s an open call for contributors on the project’s website.
Listing image by Nvidia