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Half-Life, the FPS that didn't have the chance to live on Dreamcast!

If there are still people who don't know Half-Life, here are a few lines about this fabulous Doom-like game. Throughout the game, you play as Gordon Freeman, a scientist from Black Mesa working for the American army in a top-secret research complex. During an experiment, a terrible incident occurs. A space-time rift is opened, allowing a number of aliens to enter the secret base.

The mission is simple: to escape the Aliens and the Marines that the American government sends to clean up the place, there must be no survivors left. No doubt that getting out of the base alive will prove to be perilous.

Unreleased Half-Life Dreamcast Main Title.jpg

Half-Life Dreamcast Trailer video (White Label)

Half Life Dreamcast prototype menu.jpg

The opponents are numerous and show a rare intelligence. If, armed with a plasma gun, the player jumps into the fray like in games from the competition, this combat technique is not recommended this time. In Half-Life, enemies don't wait patiently to be shot down one by one in a deluge of machine gun fire. They are able to locate Gordon by the sound of his footsteps and carry out combined attacks. The artificial intelligence, which manages their behavior, was one of the most elaborate in a game of this type.

The bestiary is incredible. The aliens are of different sizes, their way of attacking is different. They are called Mawmen, Headcrab, Vortigaunts or Barnacles.

The Dreamcast port features a new exclusive mission pack called Half-Life: Blue Shift. An add-on was to provide the online multiplayer experience.

Half-Life, when the Dreamcast was released, was the 3D shooter of the decade. Everyone was waiting for the arrival of one of the most popular PC softs on Sega's latest console!

Half-Life Blue Shift Sega Dc.jpg

The development history of Half-Life Dreamcast

The Dreamcast port was initially to be developed by PyroTechnix, a division of Sierra at the time. The studio will close in 1999/2000 and the Dreamcast port will be transferred to another structure.

After receiving a Dreamcast development kit, a PyroTechnix employee could explore the machine. As part of this exploration, a small demo using the VMU was created. It featured a radar on the memory card screen like the alien detector from the Aliens movies.

Half Life Dreamcast Screenshot

Brian Kraack: «I started working on a small demo using the graphics memory module of the DC controller to display a radar screen. I managed to get it to work with simulated data, but not with Half-Life, because I hadn't received the source code yet.»

Only one person was involved in the project. She worked on the game from the source code for only a few days.

«I received the source code for Half-Life and was able to build it and start learning the code base by making minor modifications and exploratory changes on PC

Half life dreamcast art.jpg

Subsequently, the console port will be developed by Gearbox Software and Captivation Digital Laboratories with the help of Sierra Entertainment and Valve Software. The game was announced on February 14, 2000 at the Milia show in Cannes, France.

«Sierra decided to shut down PyroTechnix and sent someone to our offices to physically recover the Half-Life source code CDs.»

Throughout the development, its release was delayed several times, first scheduled for summer 2000, then postponed to September and finally to November.  It was at this time that some magazines started to receive prototype versions. Journalists criticized the low frame rate, the long loading times between levels and the lack of online play.  The game was delayed again for the following year. A few weeks before its planned release date in June 2001, Sierra announced that Half-Life: Dreamcast was cancelled due to "changing market conditions".

Half Life Logo

The testimony of a journalist who was able to test Half-Life

A journalist wishing to remain anonymous: «The magazine worked on a "beat" system, so each reporter was responsible for maintaining a relationship with an editor. Sierra was one of mine. When we started working on the HL DC coverage, it fell to me. I was also the main reviewer for the PC, so a game moving from PC to console was usually something I would follow.

Half Life Dreamcast photo
Half-Life Dreamcast Unreleased
Half Life DC photo

We had put HL DC on the cover of one of our issues, based on an early version of the game. Part of the negotiation to give it attention in the first place was to get the first exclusive review. It was pretty common for a publisher and a press office to arrange an exclusive window around a big game. I remember the mag wanted to cover XXXX, only to find out that another magazine had already gotten the exclusive. You win some, you lose some. We had all had a mutual lockout round off the cover!

The version I was given for review was about 95% complete with some missing textures, minor bugs, very playable and representative of the final experience. I was in contact with Sierra about the problems I was finding. I had asked if they would be fixed, the editor said yes anyway. :)

But this time, my contact at Sierra had been very honest and let me know that there were things that were not going to be fixed. We accepted this list of caveats knowing that our contact was working with a release date that was not definitive, but seemed likely, as the publisher wanted to keep its promise.

We usually worked six to eight weeks before the magazine cover date / public release date of the game. We often worked from GOLD versions or release candidates close to a final version. I had played at least 75% of the game. I had already done it on PC, so I knew the title pretty well. As mentioned, I only found a few small problems. I remember that the most obvious textures were missing or flawed. With the caveats, we were ready to print the article, ignore and forgive a few bugs that we were told would be fixed before publication.

After sending the pages for printing and not being able to stop the process, we had heard that the game was not going to be delivered. Situations like this have happened a few times. We had published a strategy guide for XXXX only to discover that we had wasted several valuable pages on a game that X had decided not to release after we went to press.

Unreleased Hafl Life Dreamcast

A rival publication had accused us of reviewing a preview version of the game, they had not received anything since the preview. I was offended by the suggestion that we were cheating our readers out of a desire to be first. I contacted the person from the other publication and informed them of our exclusive agreement. I told them:

"The date of my near final GD-R version is 3/13/01, what is the date of your most recent version?"

They never responded, realizing that they were wrong.

It was common to return or destroy builds, depending on the publisher's instructions/preferences.»

The cheat codes

The Dreamcast port uses a cheat system. In the main menu options, there is an "Enter Code" screen. There are three columns of words, consisting of a list of subjects, verbs and object complements. The goal is to select the right words, in the right order, to form sentences (often humorous) called access codes. If a valid access code is entered, it will appear in the "Select Codes" menu where it can then be activated or turned on.

General Cheat Code:

  • Slow motion: Enter "Actions Ignore Silence"

  • Invisibility: Enter "Soldiers Ignore Gordon"

  • Infinite Ammo: Enter "Dreamcast Gives Firepower"

  • Invulnerability: Enter "Otis Loves Dreamcast"

  • Low gravity: Enter "Gordon Abhors Gravity"

  • Lock and Load (all weapons): Enter "Gordon Ignore Explosives"

Half-Life normal, level choice:

Options Menu

Half-Life Valve Dreamcast Options.jpg
  • Anomalous Materials : Enter "Gordon Goes to Work"

  • Unforeseen Consequences : Enter "Gordon Teaches Physics"

  • Office Complex : Enter "Files and Fear"

  • "We've Got Hostiles" : Enter "Soldiers Visit Black Mesa"

  • Blast Pit : Enter "Safe And Sound"

  • Power Up : Enter "Big Is Beautiful"

  • On A Rail : Enter "Trains And Rockets"

  • Apprehension : Enter "Fear Finds Gordon"

  • Residue Processing : Enter "Recycle Or Die"

  • Questionable Ethics : Enter "Regression Brings Progress"

  • Surface Tension : Enter "Combat And Death"

  • "Forget About Freeman!" : Enter "Soldiers Eat Tacos

  • Lambda Core : Enter " Scientists At Work"

  • Xen : Enter "Fear And Gravity"

  • Gonarch's Lair : Tapez "Xenophobia And Firepower"

  • Interloper : Enter "Panic In Xen"

  • Nihilanth : Enter "Panic And Die"

  • Endgame : Enter "Answers Beget Questions"

Half-Life Blue Shift, level choice:

  • Insecurity : Enter "Gordon Goes to Work"

  • Duty Calls : Enter "Gordon Teaches Physics"

  • Captive Freight : Enter "Files and Fear"

  • Focal Point : Enter "Soldiers Visit Black Mesa"

  • Power Struggle : Enter "Safe And Sound"

  • A Leap Of Faith : Enter "Big Is Beautiful"

Half-Life Unreleased Dreamcast Version.jpg
Unreleased Dreamcast Half-Life Select Code.jpg

Menu to enter the codes

Menu to activate or deactivate the codes

The command lines (Debug Menu) :

Another particularity of Half-Life PC/Dreamcast and of the games published by Valve is the presence of a kind of Debug Menu. It is represented by command lines to write after opening a specific menu. The possibilities are numerous, here are some of them:

Command line

  • Open or close the command line: With a keyboard plugged into the console's B port, press the "ö" or "à" (on the Flycast emulator) key once a game is launched

  • Access to the build number and version: Enter "Status"

  • Invulnerability (godmode): Enter "god"

  • The free camera mode: Enter "noclip"

  • All weapons with maximum ammo: Enter "impulse 101"

  • Load the multiplayer map Bounce (only available in this way): Enter "map bounce"

  • Load the multiplayer map Datacore (only accessible in this way): Enter "map datacore"

  • Load the multiplayer map Subtransit (only accessible in this way): Enter "map subtransit"

  • Load the multiplayer map Undertow (only accessible in this way): Enter "map undertow"

The command "map [map code]" allows you to download all levels of the game ( Deathmatch, Half-Life Normal, Blue Shift et Hasard Course mode).

Dreamcast Half-Life Commands List.jpg

Datacore multiplayer map

Deatchmatch map Half-Life Dreamcast.jpg

The release of the first physical prototype and the first GDI of Half-Life Dreamcast

In 2018 an American found a prototype copy of Half-Life Dreamcast at a yard sale. He posted his discovery on Facebook. The community was abuzz, finally seeing a confidential red disc of this long-awaited FPS. Maybe this build number 1638, prior to the version 1672 that had already been leaked in 2003, would allow them to progress in the creation of Mods.

Its owner being concerned about the preservation of the videogame heritage sent it to me so that I could extract its content and share the ISO publicly. Against all expectations, he offered me the GD-R.

Even if the game has existed for many years, it was the first time that a prototype of Halfe-Life was seen. A dump in GDI format (proprietary file format of the Dreamcast) could finally be made while there was only an image of the game in CDI.

Half-Life (Apr 20, 2001 Dreamcast Prototype).jpg

You can download this build of Half-Life Dreamcast below:

Half-Life (Apr 20, 2001 prototype) Redump whit BBA

Other Half-Life prototypes

Internal build number

Half Life Sega Dreamcast Unreleased.jpg

According to the last modification of the files with the GD-ROM Explorer tool, the date of this prototype is May 15, 2001 at 14:31:25 (V 0.900). This Half-Life American beta would have been burned about 1 month after the build quoted above which was dated April 20, 2001 at 09:13:38 (V0.800).

This new HL precedes by a few days the last known version of the game in CDI format (May 23, 2001). It is thus the most recent GDI (proprietary file format of the Dreamcast) listed !

When opening the Debug Menu and typing the command line "status", the internal numbering of the prototype version, used by the development studio, indicates a Dreamcast build 1659.

Half-Life (May 15, 2001 Dreamcast Prototype).jpg

You can download this build of Half-Life Dreamcast below:

Half-Life (May 15, 2001 prototype)

Two other prototypes of this famous Shooter could be located. We have to be satisfied with the photos, their owners do not wish to share them online.

  • The first prototype: According to the date written on the disc, this build is about 6 months before the ones available on Internet. The GD-R comes with a cover sent by the editor.

  • The second prototype: According to the date written on the disc, this build dates from 2 months before the one available for download.

First prototype

Half Life dreamcast prototype , early build
Half life original corver pré
Half Life back of corver dreamcast proto

Second prototype

Half-Life Dreamcast prototype disc.jpg

Merchandising and promotion of Half-Life (download)

 Half Life   White Label dreamcast

The promotion of the title had begun, the game was at more than 90% of its development. The announcement of the end of the production of the Dreamcast saw the cancellation of the game’s release. The WL contains only a video (a trailer) of the game. You can download this White Label below:

Half-Life (Nov 7, 2000 video)

To discover the list of existing White Labels, go to "The Dreamcast White Labels". You will find scans, research on them and an extremely complete listing.

Guide Book Half-Life Dreamcast1024_1.jpg

An official guide, published on December 22, 2000 by Prima Publishing, U.S., has been written. It contains:

  • Coverage of the all-new Half-Life: Blue Shift mission

  • In-depth strategies that will ensure the survival of the game's hero

  • Maps of all zones

  • Statistics for all weapons and monsters

  • Detailed instructions for each mission

  • A complete list of cheat codes and tips for unlocking them

You can download the official Half-Life Dreamcast guide below:

Half-Life Dreamcast Official Guide


Homemade cover, made by Martino Brunet, of Half-Life to download:

Half-Life Dreamcast  Homemade cover

  • Go to the website of the creator of the covers by clicking on the link above

  • Click on the photo corresponding to the desired cover

  • Print it from the new window that will open

Feel free to look at " other canceled games " that I found. For the most curious of you, I have created a " list of all unreleased from theDdreamcast ".

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