YouTube channel NoClip’s latest documentary focuses on the history of developer Arkane Studios and reveals fascinating footage of the developer’s unreleased Half-Life: Ravenholm game.
For those who don’t know, Arkane was once tasked with developing a Half-Life spin-off that would have focused on Half-Life 2‘s Ravenholm area. In case you didn’t read our retrospective on Half-Life 2‘s brilliant Ravenholm section, it was essentially a zombie-packed nightmare world loaded with classic horror imagery.
Arkane’s take on the Ravenholm concept would have starred Adrian Shephard: the protagonist of Half-Life: Opposing Force. The game also would have featured Half-Life 2‘s Father Grigori, who it seems has gone completely mad and has resorted to boiling and eating head crabs. Yes, we’re quite serious.
While the plot details of Ravenholm are somewhat scarce, this video does reveal quite a bit of the project’s gameplay. It appears that Arkane envisioned a slightly more action-oriented experience for Ravenholm as quite a bit of attention is afforded to the various creative (largely home-brewed) weapons that Shepard would have used. Said weapons included a magnet gun, which seems to be a kind of low-budget alternative to the gravity gun.
Interestingly, there are also segments that confirm that those famous Half-Life 2 physics puzzles would have made a return. For instance, we see clips of Shepard using a nail gun to conduct electricity and create a safe passage through a dangerous hallway.
The project’s enemies are quite fascinating. Along with some new (and terrifying) creations, we also see creatures that are much more traditionally “zombie-like” than the headcrab mutations from Half-Life 2. This is all clearly rough footage of the project in development, though, so it’s not entirely clear how close these designs were to a final vision for the game. Speaking of footage, you can check out the Ravenholm project for yourself by jumping to roughly the 33-minute mark of this video:
So why didn’t Arkane finish the game? The studio seems to be searching for the exact answer to that question, but they ultimately indicate that it really comes down to money and timing. By the time that Arkane began making headway on this project, they and Valve looked at how long it would take to finish it the game, and the number of resources that would be required to do so, and ultimately realized they hit a logistical roadblock. They simply were never able to overcome that roadblock.
The bad news is that it sounds like there is roughly no chance of this project ever being finished. The good news is that Arkane has utilized some of the design elements featured in Ravenholm in some of their more recent games such as Dishonored and Prey.