If you’ve played Half-Life 2 or Source engine mods, you’ve likely seen the in-game model “Corpse01.mdl.” The burnt corpse appears multiple times in Half-Life 2’s sewers and other parts of the game, and modders often used it in fan projects. All is well, yes? Well, it was until recently, when fans noticed that the game’s creepy-looking corpse has the face of an actual dead man on it.
Released in 2004, PC shooter Half-Life 2 was the highly anticipated follow-up to Valve’s first game, Half-Life. Upon release, it was widely praised by critics and players. But while it came out to huge acclaim, there was a time when Half-Life 2 wasn’t such a sure bet, as its development process was messy and protracted. Valve scrapped different versions, cut entire sections, and lightened up the game’s intended darker, grittier tone considerably for the final retail release. However, some leftovers of this darker version remain in the final game, including Corpse01.mdl. Playing the game as a kid, the body always looked hyper-realistic and creeped me out whenever I stumbled upon it. Now, we know why.
Valve’s macabre texture-cribbing was discovered completely by accident (h/t The Gamer). About two weeks ago on the r/eyeblech subreddit, someone posted graphic images of dead bodies they claimed were from a medical forensic textbook. (While I’ve personally verified the images posted are real and out there, I won’t be linking to them. A little Googlin’ will lead you to them if you really want to see them.)
In the comments on that post, someone pointed out that one of the images showing a burned corpse looked identical to the Corpse01 model from Half-Life 2. Another post picked up the thread and people quickly began comparing the images to the art in the game. Sure enough, they look identical. The only change appears to be that Valve copied the right eye of the corpse onto the left. That’s it though. The entire face of that model is seemingly a dead dude’s face. Yikes.
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Then, three days ago, gaming YouTuber Richter Overtime uploaded a short and concise video detailing the history of the corpse and its connection to the image, and this seemed to take the story fully mainstream, with folks tweeting about it and sharing it more widely online. As you might expect, a lot of Half-Life fans were freaked out to learn that they have been looking at a real corpse for the past two decades. One modder has already created a new model to replace the old one for folks who feel uncomfortable leaving the original dead face in Half-Life 2.
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Kotaku has reached out to Valve about the corpse to verify its origins and to ask if the company has any plans to change it with a future patch.
Personally, I’m not sure this is a thing that should be in a video game. It seems to me like it might be time to remove this model and replace it with an image of anything but an actual burned human corpse.