The Abandoned Half-Life Project From Arkane Was Going to Star a Fan-Favorite Character

The Abandoned Half-Life Project From Arkane Was Going to Star a Fan-Favorite Character

Ravenholm's Father Grigori would've been helped by a familiar fellow.

You don't need to tread too deeply into the Half-Life fandom to discover that some folks seem to care less about Gordon Freeman than one of the series' other silent protagonists. The love for Adrian Shephard, the soldier player character from Gearbox's Half-Life: Opposing Force, is quite real, and it seems we were closer to getting another crack at playing as Shephard than previously thought.

Noclip's new documentary on the history of Arkane Studios goes deep on the developer's canceled Half-Life project, revealing tons of gameplay details and confirming that Arkane was developing the project with Shephard intended as the protagonist. Sebastien Mitton, Art Director at Arkane's Lyon studio, notes that the project never got far enough to swap out the first-person HEV Suit models from Half-Life 2 for something more appropriate to Shephard, which you can see in the footage that's finally seeing the light of day now.

Shephard's fate after the conclusion of Opposing Force has been fixation amongst some Half-Life fans for literal decades now. Like Freeman, Shephard is visited by the G-Man and taken out of Black Mesa before its destruction, but he hasn't resurfaced in any official capacity since. A handful Half-Life 2 mods sought to bring Shephard forward to the aftermath of Half-Life and the Combine invasion—and, with Portal's release in 2007, fans scrutinized an Aperture Science keyboard that they thought hinted at a connection to Opposing Force with highlighted keys for all the letters of Shepard's name. That, Valve said, was a coincidence.

Even with the recent release of Half-Life: Alyx, neither Shepard nor the other star of Arkane's Half-Life project, Father Grigori of Ravenholm, are mentioned or make appearances. According to Mitton, Arkane was not developing its Ravenholm-set project explicitly as a Half-Life 2 Episode, as had been previously rumored, but more as a standalone game. A spin-off might've made more sense for fitting both characters back into the series.

Development continued with Valve's approval, having started by inheriting the project from Warren Spector's Junction Point studios, until Arkane was told to shelve it. "Frankly, I just think it was business," Arkane founder Rafael Colantonio tells Noclip's Danny O'Dwyer of the project's cancelation. Colantonio notes it was a hard thing for the Lyon team to give up, and the build that Noclip saw was the result of a last-ditch sprint to try and convince Valve not to cancel the project.

Still, Mitton says that working on the Ravenholm project led to lessons that Arkane benefitted from in Dishonored 2 and even in its upcoming project, Deathloop. It's great to both see Arkane's ideas for Half-Life preserved here and to hear that the experience wasn't a total loss for the studio, but the Opposing Force diehards out there are surely going to be kept up at night knowing just how close they got to seeing the next chapter in Shephard's story.

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Mathew Olson


Mathew Olson is a writer formerly of Digg, where he blogged and reported about all things under the umbrella of internet culture (including games, of course). He lives in New York, grew up under rain clouds and the influence of numerous games studios in the Pacific Northwest, and will talk your ear off about Half-Life mods, Talking Heads or Twin Peaks if you let him.

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