'Half-Life 2' is getting an unofficial RTX remaster

The community is using an NVIDIA toolkit to modernize the classic shooter.


Valve may not have touched the Half-Life franchise in over a decade apart from releasing its VR-only game Alyx, but that isn't stopping enthusiasts from giving the game a visual overhaul. NVIDIA has unveiled a community-led Half-Life 2 RTX: An RTX Remix Project that, as the name implies, will remaster the classic shooter for PCs with GeForce RTX graphics. The team isn't just adding ray tracing, though — this is an attempt to modernize the overall look and feel of the game.

The ray-traced lights are the star attraction, of course, but the modders are also using an early version of RTX Remix to add extra model detail (through Valve's Hammer editor) and rework materials with physical-based rendering properties. The result is what you'd expect. Where the original Half-Life 2 graphics look flat and otherwise dated, the RTX port is moodier and far more detailed. You might want to spend extra time inspecting Dr. Kleiner's desk or the pet headcrab Lamarr. Not surprisingly, the refresh makes use of additional NVIDIA tech like DLSS 3 upscaling, Reflex anti-lag and RTX IO GPU-accelerated storage.

The project is only just getting started, and there's no tentative release date. Right now, this is more of a marketing showcase than a practical release. It comes alongside news of DLSS 3.5, which uses AI to improve ray-traced light quality by generating pixels between sampled rays. Titles like Alan Wake 2 and Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty will support the feature on launch.

The unofficial port is notable all the same. Existing RTX conversions like those for Portal and Quake II are pretty, but limited by either the age of a game or its relative scale. Half-Life 2 set a new standard for modern first-person shooters between its tightly integrated story, expansive (and seamless) world and physics-driven gameplay. Now, it's getting an upgrade that could keep it relevant on modern PCs.

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