Half-Life Mod Adds Ray-Tracing To Original ’90s Game

One modder is adding RTX to Half-Life, giving the game a lick of paint almost 20 years after its launch. They've just released a trailer, showing side-by-side comparisons and gameplay with ray-tracing turned on.

"Half-Life: Ray Traced integrates real-time path tracing into the original Half-Life (1998)," the description reads. "With hardware-accelerated ray-tracing, it's possible to calculate global illuminations, reflections, refractions, soft shadows, and other visual effects with interactive framerates."

The last time we saw something like this was two years ago with Quake 2 RTX, an official showcase of ray-tracing done by plastering it onto a '90s FPS. It worked despite the huge gap between '90s graphics and 2020's lighting technology. Somehow, the two spliced together isn't as Frankenstein as you'd expect and players seem to agree. It was a hit, sitting at 'Very Positive' on Steam. Half-Life with RTX similarly plasters modern lighting onto older, fuzzier polygons, and yet it has a distinct charm one commenter highlights as "weirdly satisfying." You can see it below.

The original ambience and atmosphere of Half-Life is kept intact, albeit with more realistic lighting that brings everything from window panes to explosions to life. Suddenly the grenade launcher lights up a room while buildings with skylights don't feel so glum. But it shines especially in the light show of a beginning where you push the dubious crystal into a giant laser because what can go wrong?

Well, the entire room starts to explode in a fuzzy display of interdimensional chaos, bringing in a horde of alien refugees running with their tails tucked between their legs from the Combine. It was already an impressive sequence, especially in the '90s, but with ray-tracing, it's brought to a whole new level. It isn't the first time that fans have tried to bring the original Half-Life up to speed, either.

There's the fan-made Black Mesa remake, a decade-long project from fans who built Half-Life from the ground-up in the Source engine, putting it on par with Half-Life 2. Maybe one day we'll see it with RTX enabled, but for now, we can look forward to another hallmark '90s FPS being given the ray-tracing treatment sometime in 2022. As modder sultim_t says, "[It'll] be released when the mod [is] ready. These things, they take time."

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