Half-Life speedruns are a thing of beauty, but before speedruns, there was the Freeman. Valve software’s 1998 Half-Life PC game first introduced the world to Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist. This forever changed the world of first-person shooters (FPS). Gone were the days of endlessly exterminating unthinking “bad guys.”
Half-Life introduced bad-guy intelligence. Hiding behind a rock? The bad guy is going to hunt for you methodically. Half-Life changed how games are developed and set a new standard for excellence. Disclaimer: We’re HUGE Half-Life fans. We may have run through the original Half-Life fifty times throughout the years. Bring on the Headcrabs!
The original gameplay focused on Gordon casually wandering through a labyrinth of levels and defeating military grunts, a wide assortment of aliens, and what we like to call the “Big Baby” (Nihilanth.) Favorite levels were reloaded and replayed endless times. Honestly, if you’re reading this, you know what we’re talking about. Surface tension, anyone?!?
It didn’t take too long for players’ love of the game to morph into speedruns. We can all (eventually) finish the game by defeating Nihilanth, but how fast can we finish the game? Enter speedruns.
Half-Life speedruns are all about how fast the player can make their way through the entire game. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll play every room or level on the map. Speedrunning takes advantage of programming glitches that might allow a player to skip a scene, bypass a level, fly through walls, etc. It’s all about running through the game as fast as possible and exploiting the glitches to minimize the time it takes a player to go from the game’s opening scene to the final gameplay.
The History of Half-Life Speedruns
It was only a short time after the initial release of Half-Life in 1998 that a speedrun was completed in May 1999. In addition, the original Half-Life game and Half-Life speedruns remain wildly popular almost twenty-five years later.
In 2014, a group of players, known collectively as Quadrazoid, set the world record for the for fastest completion of Half-Life by a team. Seven different players — quadrazid, Crash Fort, cool kid, pineapple, YaLTeR, Spider-Waffle, and FELip — each played a (non-sequential) portion of the game in hard mode, coming in at a staggering total of just 20:41. The players shaved nearly a third off their previous time of 29:41. Nearly ten years later, countless graphics cards, motherboards, and memory card upgrades later, the record is holding firm.
Half-Life Speedrun Hall of Fame
It wouldn’t be a fun hall of fame if there weren’t some level of controversy. Gaming purists insist that a speedrun must be completed with no software augmentation, like scripts, to improve performance. There are rules (no, we’re not kidding) that differentiate the categories.
The Half-Life Speedrun Hall of Fame is separated into three categories: Scriptless Running, Script with Software, and Scripted Running. Let’s look at each category.
In scriptless running, the gameplay isn’t reliant on any scripted sequence. How the game is played, and the actions that Freeman takes have an impact on gameplay.
Scripted with S/W
Unique software that was developed allows for the use of custom events and behaviors for each chapter.
You’ll run the chapter or sequence in a very specific order of movements, with specific weapons and tactics. If you die, you’ll repeat the exact same sequence again, Hence the term “scripted running.”
The table below shows the current Hall of Fame record holders. Click on each player’s name to view their record-breaking run!
|Scriptless||Scripted with Software||Scripted|
|Time: 26min 30sec 761msec||24min 19sec 025msec||25min 29sec 825msec|
You may be wondering why the Quadrazoid collective’s record breaking run is not included. The world record run is called a segmented speedrun, where the best time for each segment (not necessarily even a chapter) is stitched together into a single run. Segmented speedruns represent the fastest time a course can be navigated with zero error. Some segments may be shorter than 30 seconds. The Quadrazoid collective’s run consisted of 317, 249 segments, some of which are less than 5 seconds. Unfortunately, segmented running records aren’t eligible for Hall of Fame Status on Speedrun.com.
Quadrazid’s Half-Life Speedrun
We’ll admit upfront that we’re in awe of this world-record Half-Life Speedrun. As huge Half-Life fans, it’s amazing to watch. The players note that the time was accomplished through a tool-assisted run. Scripts were used to augment the player for jump timing, crouching, etc. Here are some of the other tricks and highlights that make for an incredible run. If you’d like to see the time sheet showing the run in detail, it is still available as a Google doc.
A speedrun is about moving quickly but also about knowing the shortest routes through every room/scene, where the glitches are and how to exploit them, and how to use regular gameplay moves to increase your speed. The team’s run exploits programming glitches but also displays some seriously impressive use of the keyboard. Grenade jumping is one of them. Throw down your grenade and then jump over it right when it explodes. You’ll move along quite nicely…or you’ll die. Practice up!
Object boosting (Obbo) is another clever way to save some time. Who knew that if you grabbed an item and let it go, you could use the object’s momentum to fling yourself across the room? Wall clipping is a helpful trick as well. Time it correctly and use the correct angle, and you, too, can jump through walls. You can also skip scripted sequences. A little tweak or nudge to the non-player character (NPC) during scripted sequences will allow you to skip the sequence and other parts of the chapter.
Don’t forget the Bunny Hop. Say goodbye to your wrist as you speed hop through the maps. (We tend to use our spacebar for jumping, so we rock our right hand back and forth on the spacebar.) Finally, utilize quick loading and quick saving to skip certain portions of the game.
Everyone will have their own highlight reel from this amazing run, but here’s ours.
- Chapter 2: Anomalous Materials: How in the heck did Gordon go “up” so darn fast? 4:02
- Chapter 3: Unforeseen Consequences: Say what??? Dropping down the elevator shaft and smoothly transitioning to the hallway?!? How many times have we died when we just fell off the elevator? 4:52
- Chapter 6: Blast Pit: Buddy Hopping at its Finest 6:07
- Chapter 10: Residue Processing: How did Gorden end up on top of the silo so fast? Did he jump over a grenade?? 12:12
- Chapter 12: Surface tension: 15:54 Gordon has taken flight. He’s soaring above the map for a few seconds and lands in a new section.
- Chapter 15: Xen: We think Gordon launched himself with his own grenade launcher at 18:07. This dude is flying across the screen!
- Chapter 18: Nihilanth: On our very best days, we can’t beat the big baby with 100% health, but the team beats the baby with 1%.
Quadrazid’s Half-Life Speedrun Wrap-up
Speedruns are about maximizing coding glitches to the player’s advantage. The player wants to find the “best” glitches that allow them to transport through walls, fly (when they shouldn’t be flying), or skip map sections effortlessly. Subsequently, software programming glitches, lightning-fast reflexes, and an insane amount of gameplay and game map knowledge all combine into a speedrun.
Watching quadrazid and company’s Half-Life segmented speedrun may be the closest thing to perfection we’ll ever see for any Half-Life run. We can’t wait to watch it again!
The image featured at the top of this post is ©NAAN/Shutterstock.com.