Valve doesn’t need to make Half-Life 3. It has Steam and Dota and Counter- Strike. But it should. Since the shocking ending of Half-Life 2: Episode Two, I’ve been dying to find out what happens to Gordon and Alyx. But Valve doesn’t care. It’s busy with esports, Team Fortress 2 hats, and digital distribution. It can survive without making a Half-Life sequel and, except for some early concept art, we don’t know a thing about it. It might not even exist.Maybe it just forgot.
Valve wrote the rulebook for smart FPS design with Half-Life and contemporary shooters are still cowering in its shadow. It boldly renounced cutscenes, telling its story in a way that played to the strength of the medium. And it created a wonderfully evocative universe filled with characters we genuinely love. So the fact it’s left first-person shooters behind, never mind Half-Life, is a damn shame. It’s like Superman staying at home every night, not using his powers for good. Or David Lynch making terrible music instead of films. Oh, wait, that actually happened.
I’m wary of ever saying developers ‘owe’ gamers anything, but after that ending in Episode Two, how could Valve leave us hanging? It’s cruel. It dropped a few hints about the direction Half-Life 3 may be taking in Portal 2, but that’s it throwing us table scraps when we want the delicious meal sitting on its plate. You can’t get us invested in a story then decide not to tell it anymore. Well, you can, but it’s mean.
Half-Life 3 has become an internet joke, which is surely the mark of death for anything. In March this year, when asked about the future of the series, Valve boss Gabe Newell said, “The only reason we’d do [another Half-Life] is if a bunch of people at Valve said they wanted to make it and had a reasonable explanation for why.” Here’s a reasonable explanation for doing it: I want it. Is that good enough?
Gabe is probably being intentionally misleading. It’s known that Valve is working on the next version of the Source engine and the perfect way to show off the tech would be a Half-Life game. It’s already ‘soft launched’ Source 2 in Dota, but that’s hardly the best showcase for it. So if Half-Life 3 does happen, it’ll probably be when Valve is ready to show off the full power of Source 2. Or maybe, like the band who refuses to play their biggest hit at a gig, they just won’t.