Half-Life 2 already in some gamers' hands

Photos of the long-awaited shooter surface--but the game can't be played without online authorization.

As was the case with Doom 3, Halo 2, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, it seems several copies of Half-Life 2 have made their way into a few gamers' hands. Photos began popping up on forums all over the Web today, with the anonymous owners eagerly showing off the game and its box (pictured). Neither developer Valve nor publisher VU would comment on the images.

However, most early nabbers of Half-Life 2 won't be blasting any headcrabs until the game's official release date. That's because, as was confirmed to GameSpot last month, purchasers of the game will have to go online and register it with Steam, Valve's online download service (from which Half-Life 2 can also be purchased).

"For security/antipiracy, each copy must be authenticated via Steam during installation," Valve's Doug Lombardi told GameSpot. "After this one-time (per install) authentication is complete, an Internet connection is not required for single-player and LAN games."

However, since Valve has already released the software development kit for the Source engine (which Half-Life 2 is based on), some crafty techie is likely cooking up a work-around to the authentication process.

But even before the Source SDK was released, fervent Counter-Strike source fans had hacked a version of Counter-Strike: Source that would allow you to play without being authenticated online for LAN parties. So it's likely that somewhere, someone is already strolling the streets of City 17, crowbar in hand.

To read more on Half-Life 2 now, check out our previous coverage. But for a behind-the-scenes look at the conclusion to the years-long Half-Life 2 saga, be sure to check out the exclusive feature The Final Hours of Half-Life 2, which will go live on Friday, November 12, at 3:30pm PT on GameSpot.

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