This is a strange one. Half-Life was – still is – one of my favourite games of all time: I remember completing it, in league with my long-time friend and colleague, over a glorious couple of weeks in the summer of 1999, with A-Levels completed and a new Pentium III-450 installed as the family PC.

(I’m not particularly proud to admit that I dodged a trendy boy’s 18th birthday party at a nightclub in favour of advancing the cause of Gordon Freeman – not that I was unable to pull myself away from the game: I would have happily done anything to get out of going, although it didn’t help my already low social standing when my then-girlfriend told all and sundry present that I was at home playing computer games.)

So why, then, have I not ever taken the time to get through the equally highly-regarded sequel? At the time of release, at least, I had an excuse: my PC fell short of the required spec and had an unreliable dial-up connection (although I think I was also morally outraged by the prospect of online activation – Steam? That’ll never catch on). When, eventually, I did upgrade my PC, The Orange Box was one of the first things to be purchased and installed. And I did play through most of Half-Life 2, and enjoyed it I think, but then I stopped for no particular reason and never picked it up again.

That moment itself is probably more than ten years ago now, so it seems wrong to speculate when the memories aren’t fresh and weren’t particularly strong in the first place. But I can’t help but think that if I was willing to put it down and leave it alone so easily, that, in itself, might mean something. So perhaps I don’t want to risk confirming to myself that it does; that I don’t think Half-Life 2 is all that good, actually; still less (despite the extremely low-stakes territory we occupy in our quiet corner of the internet) commit to those thoughts in a review.

The famous and still-ongoing delays to later entries in the series (the recently-announced, VR-only, Half-Life: Alyx will not, apparently, continue the story) were a contributory factor, too, with the proposed 2007 release of Half Life 2: Episode 3 coming and going, and being followed by an extended fallow period, with little more than rumour and speculation filling the silence. If the full tale hadn’t been told, and wasn’t likely to be, why even bother? It would be like starting a box set of a cancelled series that never even got the chance of a farewell episode.

Still, what this all means is that my knowledge, experience and, well, enjoyment of FPS games has been stunted somewhat, stuck in the mid-00s, around 3/4 of the way through Half-Life 2. Although there are no rules about such things, and we’ve been cavalier in our attitude to chronology elsewhere on the site, it nevertheless feels as if writing about later 00s FPS games shouldn’t happen without such an important game being given priority. (At the time of writing, we only have a handful of post-HL2 first person shooters, all of middling quality and significance, featured on the site).

The Vault of Regret is usually meant for games, memories and feelings that belong in the past and are unlikely to be revisited: I might play Command and Conquer, or X-Wing, again, but I probably won’t; I definitely won’t be going back to Zone Raiders. However, I do still retain a lingering hope that one day I will withdraw this one from the vault, dust it off, and produce a write-up for the site.

(And I should also point out that Stoo *has* played and completed Half-Life 2, lest I besmirch his good name by allowing you to think otherwise).

But, given that there has been no review so far, it must for the moment be consigned, if only temporarily, to the same dank dungeon as all of the mistaken purchases and barely-played titles of our gaming past.