Half-Life’s Music Was Just As Brilliant As The Rest Of It

Image: Valve / Kotaku

Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s daily hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-ass sounds they make. Today we grab a crowbar and go hunting headcrabs in the PC shooter classic, Half-Life.

Half-Life (playlist / longplay / VGMdb) is a game that has already had so many things written and said about it that I’m not really sure what to say here. You probably already know this, but Half-Life came out in 1998 and almost overnight seemed to change video games forever. It’s one of the most influential games ever made and was the origin of countless mods, some of which, like Counter-Strike, became huge hits themselves. But Half-Life wasn’t just an incredible shooter with innovative gameplay and visuals, it also had a great soundtrack featuring very moody, atmospheric electronica.

Let’s take a listen:

Valve / GameMusic321 (YouTube)

Half-Life’s soundtrack was created by Kelly Bailey, who would later go on to do music and sound effects in other Valve games including Half-Life 2 and Portal. In 2011 he left Valve, but has helped out here and there, most recently giving advice to Half-Life: Alyx’s composer. Bailey’s original Half-Life soundtrack is phenomenal, mixing eerie noises and instruments with fast, hard-hitting electronic beats. It’s like a robot rave set in a desolate post-apocalyptic wasteland. Listen to “Nuclear Mission Jam” and tell me you can’t see robots rocking out to this surrounded by toxic waste and death.

Valve / GameMusic321 (YouTube)

This song was so good and popular that Valve brought it forward into other Half-Life games, and it’s almost become the franchise’s unofficial theme song. And the soundtrack’s packed with songs like this, stuff that not only works as background music for killing and exploring an underground research facility but could almost as easily be played in a club. Half-Life really did excel in almost every possible way.

That’s it for today’s Morning Music! Let me know if you see the G-Man hanging around here, he owes me some money and some answers. See you tomorrow!

Kotaku Weekend Editor | Zack Zwiezen is a writer living in Kansas. He has written for GameCritics, USgamer, Kill Screen & Entertainment Fuse.



I’d really argue the other way. I clicked both videos, and I both times I exclaimed “oh yeah!”. But before I played those videos, I already knew my answer: Half-Life music is forgettable. So, so, so forgettable. I couldn’t think of a single bit of music from the series (maaaaybe HL2 when you get the hovercraft). I’ve played through both HL games so many times, and the only memorable piece of music is the valve logo and when you put on the HEV suit...which is the same piece. Literally an iconic music piece. And the rest of their soundtracks I’ve never heard a single person talk about, much less praise, until this article went live. Which is pretty telling.