Around this time last year, Valve confirmed that it and Dishonored developer Arkane Studios had previously collaborated on Half-Life content called Return to Ravenholm. That project unfortunately fell through but, hey, Dishonored. That was pretty cool.
Now, thanks to ValveTime and a generous former Arkane developer (via Eurogamer), we can get a first--and probably last--look at several animation tests and stills from the game. The project was allegedly in development between 2006 and 2007, which would put it right around the release of Half-Life 2: Episode 2.
Speaking of the episodic series, Return to Ravenholm has been perplexingly referred to as Half-Life 2: Episode 4--but series designer Marc Laidlaw told Lambda Generation it was likely just a mix-up. The collaboration with Arkane was promising, but just didn't work out, Laidlaw said.
"We are big fans of Arkane and wanted to come up with a project we could work on together," Laidlaw said. "We threw ideas around, they built some cool stuff, but we eventually decided that it didn’t make sense to pursue it at the time. As I recall, we felt like a lot of the staples of Ravenholm–headcrabs and zombies!–were pretty much played out, and the fact that it would have to take place sometime before the end of Episode 2 (so as not to advance beyond where Valve had pushed the story) was a creative constraint that would hamper the project…and Arkane."
Geez, if Valve thought zombies were played out in 2007... Anyway, though we may never return to Ravenholm, we can enjoy these atmospheric screenshots, and puzzle over what that "Absorption" HUD element could possibly have measured.