When Half-Life 2 was released, many were disappointed that its only official multiplayer mode was Counter-Strike: Source, a re-creation of the original terrorists-versus-commando Counter-Strike, which employed Valve's Source engine.
Well, it now appears that may soon change. When it released a patch for the stuttering problem that plagued many Half-Life 2 players, Valve announced that the game's Software Developers' Kit (SDK) would be released with a "surprise for the community."
Today, gamers were given a pretty strong hint at what that "surprise" would be. An image (pictured) appeared on the news page for Steam, Valve's download service, that appears to show a multiplayer deathmatch set in a map from Half-Life 2, not Counter-Strike: Source. A quick right-click on the image lent further credence to this conclusion, because its name is "HL2DM.jpg," with the "DM" presumably standing for "deathmatch." Above the image was a single word: "SOON."
[UPDATE] Well, "soon" turned out to be sooner than everyone thought. This evening at 8:05pm PST, Valve posted the SDK, which was bundled with "Half-Life 2: Deathmatch." Steam describes the game as "Fast multiplayer action set in the Half-Life 2 universe! HL2's physics add a new dimension to deathmatch play. Play straight deathmatch or try Combine vs. Resistance teamplay. Toss a toilet at your friend today!"
Since it is only available via Steam, the service was quickly overwhelmed by eager downloaders. Forum posts by those lucky enough to get Deathmatch complained of a variety of problems with the 32MB download, which is a separate executable from Half-Life 2 and includes two maps based on levels from Half-Life 2's campaign: dm_lockdown, which takes place in a rundown prison, and dm_overwatch, which takes place in the desolate streets of City 17. Players start out sporting Half-Life 2's gravity gun but will also have a pistol, an SMG, and grenades immediately at their disposal. Some of the game's other weapons, such as the shotgun, crossbow, and magnum, are strewn about each map, along with health and armor power-ups. Half-Life 2: Deathmatch offers a variety of selectable player models, including men and women of the Resistance and some Combine troopers. Additionally, it contains a built-in server browser for finding open play sessions.
Valve also announced a Half-Life 2: Deathmatch Map Making Contest. The top entry will receive $5,000 cash, while two runners-up will receive $3,000 apiece.
GameSpot editors managed to download Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, so check out their first impressions for more on the game.