Half-Life, the little-known game about a monorail enthusiast who undergoes the most brutal job interview in history, reached its 25th birthday on Sunday. And Valve was in a surprisingly celebratory mood for a company that is normally as reticent as it is forward-looking. On its YouTube channel, Valve released a brand-new documentary that brought the original Half-Life team together for a captivating chew over its development.
Even more remarkably, the studio issued a major update for the Steam version of Half-Life, reverting the menu screen to its original form, fixing a few particularly stubborn bugs, and adding some brand new multiplayer maps.
It seems the occasion and the update has given everyone Half-Life fever (and no I don't mean radiation poisoning), as the 1998 shooter tore through reality to reach a new all-time peak concurrent player count on Steam. One necessary caveat is that such numbers have only been tracked since 2012, so it's possible Half-Life had higher numbers than this at some point in the past. But you use what you've got.
As reported by gamedeveloper.com, Half-Life originally broke its existing peak concurrent of 12,280 players on Friday, increasing by 16.4% to 14,300 according to stats tracked by SteamDB. Since then, however, it's beat that number too, rising to a whopping 33,471 players around 6pm GMT on Sunday. At the time of writing, 13,372 people were playing Half-Life, a higher number than the game's all-time peak concurrent before the anniversary celebrations started.
It's tough to tell how much of this is down to (well earned) nostalgia, and how much is due to that new update. The fact that Valve also made the game free until today has probably helped too, although it seems wild to mean that you could have a Steam account but not own Half-Life.
In any case, it certainly seems like the combination has given Half-Life's multiplayer a shot in the arm. This video posted on X by user Shweep shows what Half-Life deathmatch looks like in full, glorious swing. And it isn't just the case that there's one full server crammed with die-hard Half-Life fans, There's a lot of part or near full servers among the game's current server lists, and that's at 12PM GMT on a Monday, when Europe's working and America's sleeping.
Who knows how long this Half-Life mania is going to last, but at least I know what I'm doing tonight.