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Half-Life 2 2004 Pack - Release Article. This pack aims to remove post-Orange Box cosmetic and gameplay changes in Half-Life 2.

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Half-Life 2 is and forever will be a brilliant and beloved game. For the dedicated fans it just became part of our lives, our makeup. We love it, we want it to be forever.

And for me it sometimes means wanting to roll things back in a way, to look at the game how it really was back in its prime years. Back in release years.


This is why I set out to make this pack. I aimed to revert the game’s visuals to pre-Orange Box, pre-HDR branch style.

Half-Life 2 2004 Pack Version 1.0

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just turn off HDR in the settings. One immediate obstacle is lack of pre-HDR (or, LDR; low dynamic range) lighting in several levels - 14 of them to be precise. Loading them with HDR off will make your game stuck in fullbright mode; these levels had to be compiled again.

These vanilla maps go fullbright with HDR off. This also happens by default to some players. This problem has existed since 2010.

fullbright composite

Then, over the course of working on those areas, I noticed more discrepancies like changed fog values, removed env_sun entities, subtle volumetric light models replaced with more pronounced Ep2 models, and so on. Plus, I had to rename the maps, which meant also editing maps connected to them, and so the chain grew.

Summary of changes:

  • every level is recompiled with LDR lighting only
  • coastal levels restored to original fog & light_environment values
  • water in the coastal levels is reverted to its old shader
  • fixed missing grass in Ravenholm and a few other maps
  • flame graphics use original sprites instead of Ep2 particles
  • blood FX reverted to 2004 look
  • old vortigaunt model and shotgunner skin
  • original specular values restored across the board
  • Ep2 phong and detail textures are removed
  • all achievement triggers are removed
  • a few low-res item textures are restored to their original, 2004 resolution
  • player movement from 2004
  • small fixes: floating props, aggressive object fade, missing underwater geometry in coastal levels
  • Ravenholm background map fix for widescreen resolutions
  • crossbow viewmodel is fixed (no cut-out on the right)

2010 update brought overblown bloom, lost all the grass, and made the LDR version fullbright.

bme compare

This pack restores original fog values and removes bloom, clearing up visibility to how it was intended.

coast compare

Yep. The updates lost all the grass on non-displacement ground. This required using a custom compiler to fix.

grass compare

It’s not the only map with this issue, but the most obvious.

grass compare 2

Many surfaces were meant to be reflective, but it often clashes with use of HDR. There were many instances of material settings not being configured properly either.

specular compare

This bizarre issue turned out to be a mapping hack that broke in the updates and had to be re-implemented.

underwater compare

Original fire blends with its intended lighting and shows better scaling mechanics.

fire compare

Not the only example of a changed appearance, but arguably the most known & controversial.

vort compare

All in all, this pack includes all the pro-2004 changes showcased above and many other, smaller edits.

I plan to continue working on it, as there are still a few notable code differences and I hope to get them to work too. Unfortunately, certain modern bugs, such as the never-fading decals, can’t be fixed at all. Because Valve is updating HL2 more frequently now, there’s always a solid chance this project will just stop being compatible. But, until then.

If you spot something you think is missing, or I forgot to add something back, - be free to suggest it.



Reply Good karma Bad karma+3 votes

Wow, I honestly never noticed this downgraded or missing stuff before.

Nice work! :3

Reply Good karma Bad karma+3 votes

You can just use HDR and set +r_bloomtintexponent 10 (or >10)
More the exponent, less is the contrast bleaching.

Of course *L*DR looks more soft and natural (back in those first days of HDR use)

Reply Good karma Bad karma+3 votes
Cvoxalury Author

Doesn't change the whole rest of things unfortunately.

Reply Good karma+4 votes

It's just an "hotfix" among the others and the "hammer approach" like recompiling all the maps.

Reply Good karma Bad karma+2 votes

That's a really cool idea.
There's definitely something missing with the new graphics.
You should make a list of what you've left to do,
so people can decide if the not-yet-done stuff is worth waiting for,
or if they'll just download and try it now.

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