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Gamers have been getting conflicting reports about Half-Life 3 recently. First an anonymous source told us that neither Half-Life 3 nor Half-Life 2: Episode 3 were in development, had never been in development, and would never be in development. Then Gabe Newell himself told us the opposite, but only in the vaguest of ways.
Long story short: Half-Life 3 is probably not going to be coming out any time soon. Gamers have known this for a while, but not getting a definite answer from Newell is still disheartening.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. If Valve really wanted to deliver a conclusion to the story of a cross-dimensional alien takeover stretching 20 years, they could do so tomorrow. You wouldn’t have to play dystopic alternatives to Half-Life while you wait for the final installment.
What’s Going on With Half-Life 3?
First, let’s sort a few things out. In January 2017 it was reported that an unnamed Valve insider had stated that:
There is no such thing as Half-Life 3. Valve has never announced a Half-Life 3. The closest they’ve come is after Half-Life 2, they said there would be three episodes.
At this stage, we continue to wait for Half-Life 2: Episode 3, which would hopefully bring an end to the story after Freeman and Alyx escaped to the White Forest.
But the same insider — whose words were recorded in 2015 but have been unable to be verified, hence the delay in their release — says this probably isn’t going to happen either.
The idea of delivering a third episode of Half-Life 2, that’s dead. There’s no universe where that will happen.
Citing unrealistic expectations and the reception to the Star Wars prequel trilogy, the source basically indicates that Valve don’t want to talk about Half-Life 3 at all, lest it upset their apple cart. Ultimately, it’s up to Valve to make the decision, to plot and script and design and code the game. It’s a lot of work — and they’ve got other titles to worry about.
But Valve Says…
However, later the same month, Gabe Newell did an AMA on Reddit, where he responded directly to some of these allegations. One poster was bold enough to ask him all of the questions we had in one post (quote trimmed for space):
What is the status of Half-Life 3/Half-Life 2: Episode 3? Is Valve still working on any fully-fledged single player games? An unidentified anonymous source at Valve has said that Half-Life 3 has been cancelled. Is that source legitimate?
The number 3 must not be said. Yes. I personally believe all unidentified anonymous sources on the internet.
Most other questions in the AMA were met with similarly terse and/or evasive responses. When asked about the possibility of a “new IP” that takes place in the Half-Life universe, Newell responded simply, “Yep.”
That’s not a definite “No” but it’s not a “Yes, we’re making a Half-Life game,” either. So, if they don’t want to make the final part of Half-Life as a game, what options do Valve have? Quite a few, actually!
A Half-Life 3 Graphic Novel
The sensible choice for a low-budget approach with the potential for critical acclaim is a Half-Life 3 graphic novel, or limited run of monthlies. In this format, characters and relationships can be explored, and likenesses accurately portrayed without worrying about casting a Gordon Freeman or Alyx Vance lookalike.
Better still, there’s the potential that any visual effects can be realized without budgetary constraints. They might be on paper (although there are various ways to read digital comics) but this could work really well. And just to give it the dark ending Half Life 3 (or Episode 3) deserves, how about Gordon Freeman finally releasing humanity from the Combine’s grip, but trapped in a perpetual cycle of freeing Earth in every world line?
You can get an idea of how this might pan out by taking a look at A Place in the West, a fan-made digital comic set in the Half-Life universe, available free on Steam.
An Animated Half-Life 3 Series
Thanks to Pixar, animation has a far greater reputation than it once did. Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels have taken this a step further, providing intelligent action adventures for kids and adults to fill in the gaps between the prequel movies and original trilogies.
Other shows have followed suit. The most recent Transformers animated series, for example, offers an enhanced approach to storytelling more in keeping with the comics.
Like graphic novels, an animated approach to the Half-Life universe wouldn’t be hampered too much by budget. After all, the games are essentially CGI animations anyway. An animated series would be the natural successor, perhaps starting from the original Black Mesa incident and providing the viewer with a whole host of other characters that Freeman doesn’t meet in the game until much later in the action.
Give Half-Life 3 a Big Finish in Audio
Like animation, audio dramas have had a renaissance in recent years, thanks in no small part to Big Finish. Launched in 1999, the company managed to win the licence to Doctor Who while the show was off-air and unloved (these days you can watch Doctor Who online!) and managed to attract former stars and companions, top writers and an audience. Almost 20 years later they still have the licence, and have extended their range beyond the worlds of Doctor Who.
The Half-Life series needs finishing off, so what better approach than audio? Over the years, many great sci-fi franchises have had the audio treatment. Beyond Doctor Who, there’s classic BBC stablemate Blake’s 7, Stargate SG-1, Sherlock Holmes,Terry Nation’s Survivors (see trailer) and Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood. These shows have all been given new life beyond their TV and literary universes, with character exploration, strong narrative and developments of the various canons.
Why couldn’t the same happen to Half-Life 3? Best of all, there is literally no budget ceiling (beyond hiring the talent) with audio. Any professional audio drama producers could handle Half-Life and give it the conclusion it deserves.
The Man in the Half-Life 3 Castle
Stick it on TV! Half-Life 2 and its sequels have a sullen protagonist, an attractive and intelligent female lead, a father figure and a working class “wing man”. Steeped in dystopic tropes, urban decay, and distrust, it’s basically a combination of Gotham, The Man in the High Castle, and Stargate SG-1 set in Europe.
Amazon or Netflix (we’ll let you decide which one is best) would eat this concept up as a TV show, and potentially bring the story full circle (while potentially adding a few extra years to the storyline along the way) with a strong conclusion and significant heroic death/ascension for Gordon Freeman.
In fact, I’m struggling to understand why this hasn’t happened yet. Right now, television is crying out for watchable serials with engaging characters and new situations. They’re all here in Half-Life 2, and desperate to find closure to their story in Half-Life 3.
A Half-Life Movie to Finish the Story
A lot of movies end up as video games. While the traffic has gone in the other direction (Doom, Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, etc.) there’s yet to be a genuine smash-hit in this area. A Half-Life movie could change this, and there is one in development.
In 2016, Star Wars: The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams was questioned about a joint project with Valve to develop movie versions of Half-Life and Portal.
…They’re in development and we’ve got writers, and we’re working on both those stories. But nothing that would be an exciting update.
While we don’t know what a movie might look like, there’s a strong chance that it would look something like this:
The problem, of course, is “development hell”. According to Den of Geek, there are currently 57 video game-inspired movies in development. Movies can end up in this limbo state for years, even decades, and often the opportunity is lost, as interest wanes. Given Abrams and Valve first got together on the Half-Life/Portal movie projects in 2013 and there has been no announcements since, it would seem likely that things have moved on, perhaps for both parties.
Which Half-Life Do You Want to See?
So, a movie, a graphic novel, a live-action TV show, a cartoon or an audio series: Half-Life 3 can become a reality. It’s about time we learned about the fates of the characters we came to love, for one final appearance.
— Christian Cawley (@thegadgetmonkey) January 13, 2017
Perhaps Gordon and Alyx lived out their lives in the White Forest? Perhaps the insurgency was quashed by the Combine? Either way, we’ll never find out, unless there’s a new game, or Valve takes one of these options.
Which would you prefer? If you like Portal better — Gabe Newell shares your opinion — here are a few similar games you can play while you wait to see if they ever make a Portal 3.
Tell us what you want to see next from Valve in the comments!