Another gaming year is in the books, and I spent a good portion of it on my Steam Deck. In 2022 I played 11 games on Steam, and that jumped to 31 this year. More and more games are getting verified on the Steam Deck as well, including some all-time classics. In fact, Half-Life was probably my favorite Steam Deck experience this year.
November 19th was the 25th anniversary of Half-Life, one of the most beloved (and important) games of all time. Valve marked the occasion with a new update for the game, which included making it Steam Deck verified, which means it plays well on Valve’s gaming handheld. They also made it free on the 19th, which prompted me to download it for my Steam Deck and revisit the game for the first time in years. It also provided a great opportunity to correct the fact that I had never actually finished the game.
My Half-Life experience really began with Half-Life 2, when it came out for the Xbox 360 in 2007 as part of the amazing Orange Box collection. I was completely blown away by that game, as well as its two episodic expansions. As far as the original Half-Life, I had played through the opening chapter a couple times, but my lack of skill with mouse and keyboard controls kept me from truly getting hooked on the game.
Well, I fell down the rabbit hole with Half-Life over the post-Thanksgiving weekend, and played through it completely. I could not put it down. Just as with Half-Life 2, the combination of atmosphere and storytelling created a world I could not pull myself away from. Even the clunky platforming and the frustration of the final level and boss battle did nothing to tarnish my overall appreciation for how great Half-Life is. I already want to start a new playthrough, but I think I’m going to play through Half-Life 2 and Episodes 1 and 2 again first.
If you haven’t played Half-Life and you want to learn more about the game's development, Valve also released a great documentary to mark the anniversary, and it's well worth a watch.
My other favorite from my Steam Deck experiences this year was Strange Horticulture. This cozy, cultish puzzle game is perfect on Valve's handheld.