Summer Xbox release for Half-Life 2

The much-anticipated release of Valve's PC masterpiece FPS Half-Life 2 for Xbox has finally been pinned down to this summer and, according to reports, could even improve on the PC original in some areas.

Save for a multiplayer mode, the Xbox version of Half-Life 2 will feature all the content from the original and will also include a menu option for downloadable content of some description - such as expansion packs and perhaps even the absent multiplayer mode.

According to reports, the graphics of the Xbox version - specifically the lighting - could potentially look better than the PC incarnation, as Valve apparently has better access and control over Xbox's graphics processor than it did when developing for PC.

Back to PC and first details of Half-Life 2 expansion pack Aftermath have been released in the latest issue of PC Gamer magazine.

Details are still sketchy but initial indications suggest Gordon's Half-Life 2 sidekick Alyx will play a more prominent role in the gameplay, perhaps even taking full control as the main character for the entire adventure leaving Mr Freeman to sit at home drinking supermarket cider while contemplating the direction of his life.

Also, it's highly likely the expansion will not be placed on retailer shelves in the traditional box form, but will in fact be exclusive to Valve's own Steam download distribution service.

Talking to PC Gamer, Valve's Robin Walker explained the logic behind this decision, commenting, "The reason we're able to do this, and why it's so exciting, is because of Steam... If we were doing this without Steam we'd have to put it in a box and start figuring out shelf space over a year beforehand. You'd see it six years from now."

Six years? A slight exaggeration - many expansions to hit shops do so in less than six years - however it's easy to see why Valve would choose to do this.

The Steam service has thousands of members, and launching the expansion this way not only nullifies the need to calculate shelf space but also saves on the cost of pressing discs, and, of course, spares the lives of all those trees that would have to die for the packaging.