More Details About Half Life 2 Running on Pinephone Pro

I came across this video earlier today, showing the Pinephone Pro running Half Life 2 at very decent framerates. Sure, Half Life 2 is an old game (2004), but it’s still a very impressive feat to see it run on a phone that does not even use the same architecture. The Pinephone Pro has an ARM processor, while Half Life 2 is made for x86 (Intel and AMD) CPUs in the first place.

The magic is once again possible thanks to Box86 from PtitSeb (check out the interview we had with him last year). Box86 made it possible to run Crysis on a powerful ARM box a few months back as well (the GOG version). Now, today’s feat on the PinePhone Pro is interesting as it’s showing Steam running and this deserved some more context.

Box 86 is the project that enables Half Life 2 to run on the Pinephone pro

Right now, Steam is not fully supported by Box86 or Box64. I checked directly with PtitSeb, and the main issue is that there are many parts of the Steam client that rely on the integrated browser, using libecf (embedded chrome framework). Some parts of the interface use the browser for rendering, and while the Steam client itself is 32 bits, the browser runs on a 64 bits process (which is why you need both Box86 and Box64 installed to support Steam anyway).

Now, the problem is that the browser does not work yet with Box64: there are still some issues or bugs that prevent it from working. Currently, you can run Steam using the mini/compact/small mode with Box86 and install games, but many other aspects of the Steam client are broken (even uninstalling games does not work).

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It’s only a matter of time, and once Steam works in its full glory, I’d suspect we will see a lot more portable gaming devices with ARM architecture running x86 Steam in the future. Most of them are still far from able to run the latest games, but some indie titles and older games? That’s definitely within reach.

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