Vivendi Universal Games is expected to formally announce a November 26th release date for Half-Life 2 in Europe shortly, along with a US release three days earlier, after informing UK retail partners of the date this week.
Valve delivered a release candidate to VU on September 15th, and although an official 'Gold' announcement has still yet to emerge, retail sources in the UK indicate that they have now been given notice of the expected late November date.
It was previously feared that the game might slip into 2005, as recent news of legal wranglings between VU and developer Valve made talk of further delays look increasingly likely, although the company could ill afford to miss out on the lucrative Christmas opportunity for such an important game.
With marketing plans taking months of preparation and Christmas space at a premium, it was essential VU made retail aware of its plans - even though official confirmation may be still pending.
When contacted for confirmation, Valve's Doug Lombardi was still unable to shed further light on the matter, uttering the now-familar words: "Unfortunately, I do not have a release date from VUG right now," no doubt under orders to wait until it's 'officially' announced.
On a related matter, despite the appearance of print reviews of the game next week, online readers are being forced to wait until the day of release before they can read review coverage of the game. Last night, Lombardi confirmed: "The online reviews will be held until the day the game is made available," with review code being held back until then.