Valve quietly released a sizable Half-Life 2 update this week, seemingly to prepare the old game for its newly revealed Steam Deck Verified program.
As Valve sleuth Tyler McVicker spotted, Half-Life 2 added a new beta branch on October 18. This isn't mentioned in its Steam community page, where new updates are typically flagged, but its Steam database history shows three rapid updates. The database change logs for Half-Life 2 Episode One and Episode Two show similar changes. There are mentions of PS5 controller integration as well, but the beta build is the headliner.
McVicker reports that while a few bugs were seemingly squashed and a few assets seem to have been updated, the UI was the focus of the new beta build. Simply put, the interface is now a lot bigger and easier to customize. Interestingly, this build also allows you to adjust the aspect ratio of the game and the UI separately.
The specificity of these changes suggests that Valve is getting Half-Life 2, arguably the best game the studio's ever released and handily one of its most iconic, ready for the Steam Deck. The newly announced Steam Deck Verified system will see Valve rate "the entire Steam catalog" for Steam Deck playability, and it probably wants its own library of games to pass with flying colors where possible. Valve specified that games must support the Steam Deck's resolution without sacrificing the legibility of text elements like UI, for example, so it's easy to connect that to the tweaks in Half-Life 2's new beta branch.
In its Verified program reveal, Valve highlighted Team Fortress 2 as a game that is playable on Steam Deck but currently "may require some manual tweaking" to play well on the handheld. It also noted that a game's Steam Deck compatibility rating may change over time with updates, so it's possible other Valve games like Team Fortress 2 will receive updates in the fashion of Half-Life 2.
A Half-Life 2 remaster recently surfaced on the Steam database as well, though there have been no signs of life since.