There has been much speculation floating around various websites that Valve are holding back the release of their HDR showcase, Half Life 2: Lost Coast at the request of ATI, who might be looking for an eye-catching way to demonstrate their forth-coming GPU, the R520.

It would appear the sole basis for this speculation is the $6 million payment ATI made to Valve for the rights to bundle Half Life 2 with their graphics cards - which many will remember was in the form of the now infamous vouchers, following the game's original delay. Their theory is that this deal somehow gives ATI influence over future releases, an assumption that we can clearly quash today, following email confirmation from Valve's Doug Lombardi.

"Right now we're looking at some time in July," said Lombardi, as the free expansion is still under-going final testing. "The only reason for the change in date was internal development - no external factors."

Indeed, as we revealed yesterday with our Lost Coast HDR overview, Valve are still working hard on optimisations and to determine the necessary hardware requirements for the game: at this point, Lombardi could only suggest that gamers will need a CPU of 2.0Ghz to 3.0Ghz, and RAM may be 1GB or as high as 2GB.

What is very clear is that a next generation GPU, either NVIDIA's G70 or ATI's R520, will not be a requirement, which Lombardi confirmed to us this morning. "This will run on the X800 as well as the 6800 line of cards, as well as the coming highest-end products from both ATI & NVIDIA" - proven by the fact that the E3 demonstration was performed on a 6800 SLI system.

Half Life 2: Lost Coast will be a freely available download to all owners of Half Life 2, via Steam, in July.

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