At this point it looks like Half-Life 2 Episode 3 is no more
Year after year Valve has been treating us to some quality entertainment that no doubt has greatly improved the FPS genre and generally impressed us all that Valve can actually handle yearly releases. It doesn’t seem too long ago that we were all waiting with nearly monk-like patience for Half-Life 2 to release only to be crushed by more and more delays or hacking controversies. But the greater question that keeps resurfacing at each and every Valve announcement has been unanimous – where the heck is that Episode 3 you guys promised us?
See it also wasn’t too long ago that The Orange Box, a collection of projects that Valve had been working on up to that point, was released. With it we were treated to two new entries in the Valve-cannon: Portal and Team Fortress 2, which have spawned quite the following of their own as well as packaging the follow-up game Half-Life 2: Episode 2. The whole package was sort of an odd venture and I imagine a nightmare to market without sounding completely cheesy (“Not one, not two, but three games!”).
It also felt a little odd to market these new games within the same package as Half-Life, but then it was a strategy that got us all to play Portal and gave us early adopters insight into where Valve was going with the Team Fortress 2 project that would slowly morph from a traditional competitive FPS to the micro-transaction, free-to-play game it is today.
But for anybody who, like myself, was just an absolute Half-Life fanatic, Episode 2 was almost like a godsend. For an “episodic game”, it boasted a very respectable 5 to 7 hour playtime and some story twists that greatly satisfied us after the relatively dull Episode 1. It seemed like Valve was gearing up for an excellent-sounding Episode 3 follow-up to the game which would close out the arc and lead into a future Half-Life 3. Yet, 4 years later it not only never released, there has been scant information over what it may even be.
I guess the real bizarre thing is that not too long after the release of the original Half-Life 2, Valve announced they were going to be doing episodic releases instead of their old method of large package delivery. Well there was one proper episode release in the form of Episode 1, but this came in 2006, almost a full 2 years after the original game. Episode 2 being released only with the Orange Box felt much more like an admission of defeat than a continuation of the episodic format.
Well, 2007’s Orange Box release was quite some time ago and to think that Valve will produce the follow-up Episode 3 at this point seems ridiculous. Its not surprising then to hear that Valve gave up the episodic model around the release of the Orange Box and began focusing on some new models of delivery, such as Team Fortress 2’s ongoing patching and content delivery system.
Those of us patiently waiting for any sort of Half-Life announcement have been met with yearly release announcements (which have been great by the way):
- Left 4 Dead
- Left 4 Dead 2
- Portal 2
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
- DotA 2
But to be honest I think most of us would have holstered our Half-Life sequel expectations if not for Valve’s seeming insistence that there would be quick succession of the releases and that people would be treated to at least a 3 episode arc. Let’s face it – if Valve packed everything up and began work on Half-Life 3 right after Half-Life 2, there’s a good chance it would’ve been released by now (There was a 6 year space between Half-Life and Half-Life 2, its been 7 years since Half-Life 2’s release).
The little detail behind that third game hasn’t helped speculation either. So at this point it seems logical and fair to reset our expectations and set our sights for Half-Life 3 in the near-future. I have no delusions that Valve has abandoned the franchise altogether because let’s face it, its a pretty well-received series and sooner or later Valve needs a brand-new Source engine, which is beginning to look a bit dated, and Half-Life 3 sounds like the sort of title that would usher in that sort of technology. I hesitate to say that any other game bringing it in would be blasphemy.
So my plea to the gaming community (and really the whole point behind this article) is to gather our Half-Life 3 protest signs and our expectations and just let Valve do their thing. Sooner or later our minds are going to be blown-away by another Half-Life related announcement and we should appreciate that for what it is. Just don’t be super upset if and when 2012 brings no further announcements.