'Half-Life 2: Update' Mod Breathes New Life into Aging Classic, RenderMan Runs Free

Whether you're a gamer or artist, you'll be thrilled by two recent momentous events. In the gaming world, “Half-Life 2: Update ” released on Steam, and meanwhile Pixar’s powerful animation software RenderMan  arrived as a completely free download.

Valve’s “Half-Life 2” dropped in 2004, solidifying itself as one of the greatest video games of all time. 11 years later, fans are still waiting on the oft-rumored “Half-Life 3.”  Gamers looking to revisit “Half-Life’s” epic City 17 have an even more compelling reason to return: “Half-Life 2: Update,” a community mod led by Filip Victor, aiming to deliver the classic “Half-Life 2” experience with a contemporary veneer.

“Half-Life 2: Update” appears much the same as the original iteration, subtly changing visuals, as opposed to FakeFactory’s drastic “Half-Life Cinematic Mod. ” In fact, according to the official brochure , "Half-Life 2: Update" doesn’t contain any custom models and textures, relying simply on original assets. Rather, Valve's Source engine has simply been tweaked. Source allows for easy access to the source code, aiding modders. This allowed for the implementation of full HDR (high dynamic range), which renders graphics with lighting over a dynamic range, rather than fixed aperture. Translation: brighter settings, more realistic shadows, and overall bolstered eye candy. While partial HDR was available in the original version, “Half-Life Episode 1” and “Episode 2” both utilized full HDR , as did the demo “Lost Coast.”

Additional changes include better water, particle, and fog effects, as well as changes transcending the physical landscape. Various bug fixes improved animation and cut-scene transitions. “Half-Life 2 Update” is unique in that the mod received the graces of heavy hitters including Nvida, Origin PC, EVGA, and Softpedia, who aided Victor with various resources. It’s remarkable how “Half-Life 2 Update” remains the core game, while appearing fresh from the upgraded visuals alone. There’s also a commentary mode with voiceovers by famous Youtubers such as Ross Scott and Caddicarus. While the visuals have been revamped, it’s essentially the same game just less outdated by current standards. Despite the obvious alterations, we still don’t go to Ravenholm, proving that some things just don’t change. You can pick up “Half-Life 2: Update” for free on Steam. Note, however, that while the mod is free, you must own a copy of “Half-Life 2.”

In further graphics news, Pixar now offers its beefy RenderMan software for free. Users can now download the animation software, which was prominently used to creadt “Toy Story,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” for no cost. While it’s intended for non-commercial purposes, the free version is identical to the paid software. Users looking to make a profit must pay $495 for a license. As a further act of generosity, Pixar kicked off a community website for users to collaborate and offer suggestions. You can snag a free download of RenderMan from Pixar’s official site. Notably, Epic Games released their Unreal Engine 4 for free several weeks ago, which seems to indicate a growing trend.

Looking forward to revisiting City 17, or getting your hands on RenderMan libre? Leave a comment, or hit us up on Twitter!