YouTuber LowSpecGamer makes a living out of making games playable on the weakest computers, reducing games to their most basic visual components so they can run on rigs made of balsa wood and held together with duct tape. He’s already tackled a range of modern games, including The Witcher 3, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Dishonored, but his latest video — for Valve’s bona fide classic Half-Life 2 — represents his biggest graphical reduction yet.
By removing shadows, weapon effects, textures, water reflections, and even character teeth, LowSpecGamer makes Half-Life 2 look peculiarly like Minecraft. Vehicles, buildings, and mountains morph until they look like they’re built of that game’s pixellated blocks, so much so that you’d expect Gordon Freeman to pull out a pickaxe and dig his way out of City 17.
It might not be a hugely sustainable way to play Half-Life 2 — especially when the sky looks like a Lovecraftian nightmare hellscape — but it does make the game run like greased lightning on a PC the size of a USB stick. So tweakable is the 13-year-old game that the Intel Atom CPU powering the Intel Compute Stick barely breaks a sweat, and with almost every visual effect removed, is capable of running it at more than 160 frames per second. If you want to copy his methods, LowSpecGamer provides a handy guide for Half-Life 2, and many other games, through his YouTube channel.