A new documentary shows what could have been for Ravenholm, AKA Half-Life: Episode 4.
The Noclip documentary follows Arkane, the developer of Prey and Dishonored, through two decades of history and several canceled projects. Looming largest is Ravenholm, a Half-Life 2 episode that was never officially announced (opens in new tab) and was just as quietly canceled, despite a sizable portion of the game already being made. You can see the project for yourself starting at 33:00 into the video.
Thank you @noclipvideo, for this amazing documentary. You guys made me feel emotional as I watched it today. https://t.co/ZfvgPqX9YcMay 26, 2020
It's a lot to take in; Father Grigori injecting headcrab blood, experimental monkeys that hate the light (and you), a nail gun that can be used to carry an electric current and to pin zombies' feet to the floor. Why would Valve leave Half-Life off at Episode 2 for so long when all this was sitting on a hard drive in Arkane's offices? "Frankly, I just think it was business," studio founder Raf Colantonio explains in the documentary.
Valve was working on ways to make its new episodic approach to Half-Life financially viable, and one approach was to work with external studios. Arkane was promising (and relatively cheap), so Valve gave the studio a shot. Both Valve and Arkane tried to make it work, but as Colantonio said, "we were late."
"The thing you've seen was really cool. But to finish it, to bring it to completion, we'd still probably have to spend another year, and maybe at least the same amount of money, or a little bit less. But then you look at how much it is now that it costs, and when it ships it doesn't make so much sense any more."
It's pretty weird learning that we almost had another Half-Life game, seeing it in action, then realizing we'll almost definitely never get to play it ourselves all in the space of a week. Still, it's not all gone without a trace. As art director Sébastien Mitton points out, Arkane took many lessons from Ravenholm forward into games like Dishonored and Prey - and even into the future, with Arkane's next project Deathloop.
Learn how the Half-Life series finally returned with our look at the making of Half-Life: Alyx.