Half-Life 3 Is Impossible

Posted by on December 5, 2011 at 8:31 am

It seems hard to believe, but it’s been eight years since Half-Life 2 descended upon the Earth, like the Combine of goodwill, and easily destroyed every shooter genre convention and made a fan of me. Let me explain: I wasn’t a huge a fan of the original Half-Life. In fact, I hated it. Where Valve excelled in their initial iteration was in bringing a non-stop sequence of scripted cutscenes into a shooter, but in real-time as you played it, rather than pre-rendered narrative ‘vestibules’ that separated you from the action at hand. We see their influence very easily in games like Modern Warfare 3 where you’re merely the needle bobbing to a vinyl’s groove, watching as an epic story unfolds before you like a parade march just for your senses. Then Half-Life 2 came out.

Oh, and what a game that was!

While Half-Life was revolutionary for its time, I hated its ultra-linear structure. All of the things that happened around you didn’t really amount to much. The driving narrative was thin, you had very little supporting atmosphere, and you were dragged through miles and miles of gunmetal corridors and earthen corridors and even more corridors. On top of that, it was also a long, exasperating game. By the time I reached the alien homeworld of Xen, my ambition had drained out. This was the game that had won umpteen billion Game of the Year awards from every major publication on the planet? I played through the game in 2000, so it wasn’t as if I was removed from the zeitgeist of its release, but it was a harder sell to me when Deus Ex was a few months away from winning my heart.

Hated it. Call me contrarian, but I hated it. I wanted to love Half-Life 2. And love it, I sure did.

The big shooter battle of 2004 came between three titans: Doom 3 from id software, inventors of the genre, Halo 2 from console-favoring Bungie, and Half-Life 2 from Valve, the new king of the hill. But while Carmack and Willets were interested in sending you through a beautiful game you couldn’t see with Doom 3, Valve took a different tack and revolutionized the industry. They brought the world their new in-house game engine called Source, which became the platform by which all of their games – and several outside the studio – were based on. (Somewhat ironically, the original HL was based on a heavily modified version of the original Quake engine, made by id.) Valve also used Half-Life 2 to launch Steam, which was at first a mere verification tool and online store for their releases, but soon became the gold standard by which games are acquired digitally.

And then there was the fact that Half-Life 2 was a watershed moment, one of the most pure gems of gaming’s potential that has ever been played. Playing as the null character Gordon Freeman, you were dropped into a dystopian eastern European-themed burg – City 17, to be exact – and you soon realize that you’re at the very bottom of an incredible power structure. The game was baked to perfection and allowed you to experience every facet of the resistance that fought for every tunnel and courtyard they could. When the Combine unleashed their technology on you in an epic final act, it’s a surprise the game didn’t work harder to kill you as you gawked at what Valve had achieved here. L.A. Noire may have captured facial animations supreme well, but they didn’t achieve anything near what Valve did with genuinely emotive characters like Alyx and Eli, or even the elusive G-man. Even as you jerked Freeman around from dangerous situation to further debacle, you felt like you were a part of a greater movement. And when you scale the Citadel in the game’s closing act, it feels like you’ve earned it – a better prize than most any that have been granted in a video game.

And the gravity gun? Awww man! I can’t even begin to elaborate on the things that gun did, today standing as one of the most innovative weapons in a shooter ever made. Valve released extensions of HL2’s storyline with Episode One (2006) and Episode Two (2007), which were intended to replace the need for a whole new Half-Life game. Both of these expansions pushed boundaries in physics and downloadable content, again maintaining Valve’s sturdy foundation as a revolutionary developer.

But after that, Valve stopped. Cold.

Well, maybe not entirely.

Okay, so Valve didn’t stop, but their nebulous organization is easily distracted. The original Portal launched alongside Episode Two and the want to develop a sequel came quickly behind it. Valve did two Left 4 Dead titles and is currently working pretty hard on DOTA2. They’ve teased Episode Three over the years, including a demo that featured Alyx using American Sign Language to communicate with another character, but it appears that hard work on Half-Life: Episode 3 is simply not going anywhere fast and it’s not hard to tell why.

While Portal 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 were good games, they were merely logical extensions of their predecessors. Perhaps the scope of Episode Three’s ambition grew too large and they decided to go full bore with a new game? But unless Half-Life 3 were a ground-fracturing revolution of a title, why would Valve even bother putting their time into it? Half-Life 3 will be the new high watermark of the industry if and when they decide to finally make it and they need to do more than just throw you in another clever setting with a gravity gun. Everything needs to change.

That’s why Half-Life 3 is impossible, because Valve is going to have the hardest time in the world creating it. If they even can now. You saw what happened to Duke Nukem Forever, where 3D Realms (a former captain of industry, mind you) incorporated every brand new piece of technology which ended up destroying the game when 3DR failed to keep other elements up to date. While I have far more confidence in Valve’s talent than I did in 3DR, it wouldn’t be difficult for any successful developer like them to pick a wrong direction for several years and come up with something truly awful in the end. Valve’s advantage is in their discipline.

I’ll still be there on Day One for Freeman’s Next Big Outing, but it simply doesn’t exist. It can’t.

It’s impossible.

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  • Real FPS fan

    Fuck this article. Fuck it so hard.

  • Jaybo2020

    To say Valve can’t make a great game is like saying the sun can’t kill you. You’re too lost in Half Life 2, a game from an entire generation ago, save for the expansions. Half Life 3 will just push the envelope even further, just to say it’s impossible just because you can’t envision it is going a bit far.

    • Anonymous

      The argument isn’t so much that they CAN’T top HL2, it’s that the bar is so high now that it’s near-impossible. Let’s be fair, as the article states, they haven’t produced a game worthy of HL2-worthy praise since HL2.

      • Dinopernors

        I don’t agree. I think all their games have been great AND they’ve been as good as Half-Life 2. Portal 2, for instance. A classic. I play it all the time. I’ve played it more than the Half-Life series. And I’ve played a lot of Half-Life. And that says something.

        Also, If you have any faith in Valve you’ll know they’ll top every one of their games when they release Half-Life 2 : Episode Three/ HL3.

        I have faith in them. I really do. They’ll create another classic. That I know.

      • MyApocalypse

        I’m sorry but Jaybo is right. You can’t say it is impossible, or even nearly impossible, because you can’t conceive how they will raise the bar. Odds are the reason it has taken so long to develop a next installment is because the episodic format stifled the creative and technical development of the games and have had to take an extra few years out for a full sequel (Half Life 3). It may have been 7 years since the release of HL2, but it has only been a little over 4 years since the release of HL2:EP2. There was a full 6 year gap between HL1 and HL2 so it’s not hard to believe that the team is taking a full 5-6 year dev cycle to develop a worthy successor AND update the Source engine to accomodate it (the team has probably been relatively small since Valve has been working on so many projects since the release of the Orange Box).

        It’s not impossible, people thought it was impossible to top the original Half Life and Half Life 2 did it. It may not be a massive jump forward seing as it has to follow the story of HL2:EP2 and will probably involve more gravity gun antics but there is still soooo much more that can be included in the mechanic. It’s a video game, virtually ANYTHING can happen  ;)

  • Imachavel

    this article is so gay. modern warfare 3 sucks. half life 2 was SOOOO long. half life 1 was neat and concise and had only one ending. let me quote this “fuck this article, fuck this article so hard”

    • Racer24crm

      Actually, the first Half-Life had two endings…and short attention span is what is killing off well made, story driven games.

  • Imachavel

    I will however agree with the statement about 3d realms fucking up a game taking 13 years to release it as the same garbage it started as. LOL


    Dear god. I hate this article with a passion. Going so far to say you “hated” Half-Life really is too far. If you can’t find anything you liked in Half-Life you’ve clearly not taken time to play the game in detail.

    You make me sick.

    • Real FPS fan

      hey there yeah, I’m the ‘fuck this article’ guy, and my comment stands, this douche doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about. If you’re reading this, dear article writer, stick to what you know/like; shitty soldier simulators like Modern Warfare and leave real journalism to people who actually have good taste in games. I won’t be coming back to this site, EVER. kthxbai! ^_^

      • Anonymous

        kthxbai! ^_____________________^ Buh-bye!

  • Eibuib

    This is irresponsible journalism. You post a flashy bullshit title that gets people interested, and you literally have nothing to add about this issue. —– People have high expectations for HL3, Valve’s gonna have a tough time meeting those expectations…..ooooh, big newsflash.  You should have titled your article “Is Gabe Newell on Life Support? Will George Lucas direct the next Half Life game? Is Valve making kids games? Shocker inside!”

    • Anonymous

      Did you read the article? Because the point is nothing like that.

  • Jdzero

    Its hard to say what they are doing, buy considering the duration between the episodes/releases I’m inclined to believe that they’re probably scrapping Source 1.0 for 2.0 at this point.

    I also hardly believe its impossible to oust HL2.. considering they have a large community of wannabe devs as well as pro’s ready to polish everything up.

  • You lack taste for gaming dude, if you really hated half-life 1,i don’t know what did you see in other games. Half-life is the turning point of the industry..i played the original half-life in 2003 and since then i haven’t played anything like it.

    • Anonymous

      HL1 was a slog and please tell me that the first-person platforming sections on Xen weren’t groan-worthy. Please tell me they weren’t.

      Deus Ex simply did far more for me as a shooter at that time than HL1 did, for all its flashy production value.

      • pradip patil

        flashy production value? are you nuts….

        • Anonymous

          Are you saying it wasn’t flashy?

  • Anonymous

    Haters gonna hate. I thought this article was fairly accurate. Aside from more physics-breaking guns, what can they possibly up the ante on?