Switch Modder Mostly Gets Half-Life 2 Running Through Portal
So, Portal: The Companion Collection, a bundle of Valve’s 3D puzzle-platformers Portal and Portal 2, just dropped on the Nintendo Switch. But not long after its surprise release during this week’s Direct Mini Partner Showcase, a modder named OatmealDome has already figured out a way to get the celebrated FPS Half-Life 2 running on the Switch, and it kinda works.
OatmealDome is relatively well known in the Nintendo datamining and modding community. They provided findings on the nature of Nintendo’s GBA emulator for Switch and uncovered fixes to NSO’s The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. That’s to say, they’ve been around the block.
Their latest accomplishment was loading Half-Life 2 into the Switch version of Portal. There were a few issues with the mod: It occasionally crashed, while OatmealDome also said that some maps were “impossible to progress in,” saves didn’t work, NPC animations were bugged, and world cameras spawned incorrectly. Still, the results were looking pretty satisfactory.
And I mean that really: OatmealDome loads up Portal, only for it to actually boot as Half-Life 2! What the what? Anyway, in their video they briefly scroll through some menus, looking at various settings and button commands before starting a New Game at Chapter 7, titled “Highway 17.” This part of the game sees protagonist Gordon Freeman whipping it through a highway in a buggy to rescue Eli Vance from the villains in Nova Prospekt, beating goon ass with a crowbar along the way.
There’s some occasional stuttering in OatmealDome’s clip, but for the most part, Half-Life 2 seems to run without a hitch. The gunfire audio syncs with the guns. The camera’s tracking moves pretty smoothly. And graphically, it looks serviceable enough for being a mere Switch mod of a different game.
“The main reason why this works so well is that Portal 1 is basically just a glorified mod for Half-Life 2,” OatmealDome tweeted. “For example, the player code for Portal is based directly on the player code for Half-Life 2. Nvidia Lightspeed Studios leaving behind a bunch of Half-Life 2 assets helps as well.”
When reached for comment over Twitter DMs, OatmealDome shared with Kotaku a bit more about how they managed to get Half-Life 2 running on the Switch. The Nintendo modder explained that the leftover assets were a definite plus, and while most of the work was “just copying what wasn’t there (maps, music) into the game,” they also had to “write a code patch to bypass a crash” they still haven’t been able to get to the root cause of. For them, it wasn’t too complicated of a task, it was just a matter of putting the time in.
“It was more time-consuming than anything, considering that I was working on a laptop with a really slow HDD,” OatmealDome said. “A lot of the work was already done for me by Valve and NVIDIA—the Source engine is easily moddable, Portal 1 is just a mod of Half-Life 2, a lot of Half-Life 2‘s files were already there, etcetera.”
OatmealDome described the mod’s performance as “borderline acceptable.” It runs at 60 frames per second, but with lots of stuttering they suspect is “mostly due to shader generation and compilation.” Load times are also obnoxiously long, according to OatmealDome’s testing.
Still, as a “big Half-Life fan” since they were a kid, OatmealDome said they’d buy a collection of Valve’s seminal FPS on the Switch “in a heartbeat” if Nintendo ever managed to do it. And they think it’s totally possible.
“Even potato PCs can easily run these games at this point, so I’m pretty sure the Switch should have no problems in a proper port,” OatmealDome said. “I’ve also gotten Half-Life 2: Episode 2 running, but the game is extremely unstable and loves to crash. Most maps don’t load, though.”
It’s unclear just what’s next for OatmealDome’s Half-Life 2 Switch mod. However, it’s cool seeing the game make it to the handheld-console hybrid in an unofficial capacity. Maybe it’ll inspire more unexpected projects.