Arkane’s canceled Half-Life game really does look like Dishonored in Ravenholm

An hour of new footage from Arkane’s canceled Half-Life game, Ravenholm, has been released. It looks like the studio which would go on to make Dishonored was already bringing its immersive sim talents to Valve’s sci-fi universe.

As the title suggests, Ravenholm would’ve taken you back to the zombie-infested town, accompanied by the mysterious Father Grigori. Documentary house Noclip provided a look at the canceled game as part of a larger video on Arkane back in 2020, and now a full hour of footage has been made public “as part of Noclip’s mission to document and preserve the history of video games.”

Ravenholm was being developed in the same Source engine as Half-Life 2, but Arkane was building new mechanics to expand on the original game’s robust physics systems. You’d be able to more easily knock zombies back with quick melee strikes, for one, pushing them into spiked walls or other traps.

Likewise, a nail gun would let you pin enemy limbs to the floor, and you could use those nails to conduct electricity throughout the environment. Build a trail of nails leading from a broken electrical box to a puddle, for example, and you’d get electrically charged water you could use as a trap for incoming zombies. The same mechanics would be used for puzzles, too. Later in the game, you’d pick up a charge gun that could suck electricity from power sources and electrify water or metals.

Even though this build of Ravenholm is very incomplete, as Noclip host Danny O’Dwyer is quick to note, it’s clear that Arkane was looking to build a game even more open-ended and systems-driven than Valve had with Half-Life 2. Both puzzles and combat encounters appear to have numerous solutions, and it seems Arkane was already tinkering with the types of systems it would eventually make use of in Dishonored and Prey, even when Ravenholm was canceled in the late ‘00s.

Oh, and one more note for Half-Life fans – we might just have an idea of Father Grigori’s ultimate fate here. Valve hadn’t yet signed off on final story details by the time Ravenholm was canceled, but it seems Grigori would’ve slowly grown addicted to the Headcrab blood injections he was using to stave off the zombie infection. Ultimately, those injections would’ve turned him into a monster, and while even now Arkane seems reluctant to share details about the ending, it seems plausible that he might’ve been Ravenholm’s final boss.

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