January 27, 2023

A censored image of the corpse as seen in Half-Life 2.

If you’ve played Half-life 2 or Source engine mods, you’ve probably seen the in-game model “Corpse01.mdl”. The burnt corpse appears several times half-life 2‘s sewers and other parts of the game, and modders often used it in fan projects. Everything is fine, yes? Well, it was until recently, when fans noticed that the game’s creepy-looking corpse has an actual dead man’s face on it.

Released in 2004, PC shooter half-life 2 was the highly anticipated sequel to Valve’s first game, Half-life. Upon release, it was critically acclaimed by critics and players alike. But while it was highly acclaimed, there was a time when half-life 2 wasn’t too sure, because the development process was messy and lengthy. Valve scrapped several versions, excised entire sections, and significantly lightened the game’s intended darker, grittier tone for its final retail release. However, some remnants of this dark version remain in the final game, including Corpse01.mdl. When I played the game as a kid, the body always looked hyper-realistic and scared me when I came across it. Now we know why.

Valve’s macabre texture cribbing was discovered completely by accident (h/t The gamer). About two weeks ago, someone on the subreddit r/eyeblech posted graphic images of dead bodies that he claimed came from a medical forensics textbook. (While I have personally verified that the images posted are real and beyond, I will not link to them. A little googling will lead you to them if you real want to see them.)

In the comments to that post, someone pointed out that one of the burnt corpse images looked identical to the Corpse01 model from half-life 2. Another post picked up the thread and people quickly started comparing the images to the art in the game. Sure, they look identical. The only change seems to be that Valve has copied the corpse’s right eye to the left. That’s it though. That model’s whole face looks like a dead guy’s face. Yuck.

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Then, three days ago, gaming YouTuber Richter Overtime uploaded a short and concise video detailing the corpse’s history and connection to the statue, and this seemed to make the story completely mainstream people tweet about it and share it more widely online. As you would expect, a lot Half-life fans were shocked to learn that they’ve been looking at a real corpse for the past two decades. One mud has already done that created a new model to replace the old one for people who feel uncomfortable leaving the original dead face in half-life 2.

Kotaku has reached out to Valve about the corpse to verify its origin and to ask if the company has any plans to change it with a future patch.

Personally, I’m not sure if this is something that should be in a video game. It seems to me that it is time to remove this model and replace it with an image of something other than an actual burned human corpse.

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