Greetings, gamers. We are quickly running out the clock on 2017 and looking back at the notable games and events from the year. Among some incredible and mediocre games, one significant video game event occurred a few months ago and we completely failed to cover it here – that is the reveal of the next chapter of Half-Life.
Now before you get your hopes up, know it isn’t a game, rather just a blog post covering what would have been cleverly written by the franchise’s lead author, Marc Laidlaw. In August on Marc’s own site, he posted an article called “Epistle 3.” Get it? Either from legal concerns or just to be coy, Marc alters many of the names and events to tell the story of what would have been either Episode 3 or Half-Life 3. Alyx Vance is now Alex Vaunt. Dr. Breen is Dr. Bree. Gordon Freeman becomes Gertrude Fremont. It’s weird, but for fans of the series, you can easily follow along.
Marc begins this post addressed to “Dearest Playa” and quickly addresses the elephant in the room, mainly why we haven’t heard anything since Episode 2 a decade ago. “Well, if you care to hear excuses, I have plenty, the greatest of them being I’ve been in other dimensions and whatnot… This was the case until eighteen months ago, when I experiences a critical change in my circumenstances. This coincides to the time he left Valve.
He then dives into everything Half-Life 3 could have been starting with a traipse through Antarctica which he admits was “poorly defined.” However the game takes shape as you were to encounter an alien base as you hunt for the elusive Aurora Borealis ship briefly referenced near the end of Episode 2.
Besides conventional combat with the Combine, you quickly get captured by Dr. Breen as you may recall died in the core explosion at the end of Half-Life 2. Eagle eyed gamers likely recall Breen skyping with a giant slug slightly before that seeming slightly disgusted about a suggestion of traveling “in that thing.” Turns out, Breen’s deal was to transfer his consciousness into one of those giant slugs and, considering his circumstances, asks you to put him out of his misery which must have been uplifting way to start the game.
Throughout your time in this fortified alien base you continue to experience hallucinations until you and Alyx realize the coordinates of the ship speak to a place when the ship will materialize. It’s not physically present in your world yet, but rather bouncing through time and universes. But, among your, Alyx, and Dr. Moss, you possess enough PhDs to force the ship to manifest long enough for you and a sizeable Combine army to jump on before it ricochets through time once again.
See, on the ship is a device that was in testing with the aliens originally invaded shortly after Half-Life. The scientists on board decided to activate the technology instead of allowing the Combine to capture it resulting in the ship being torn across time. “..[At] the moment of its activation, [the ship was] stretched across space and time, between the nearly forgotten Lake Huron of the Nine Hour Armageddon and the present day Antarctic; it was pulled taut as an elastic band.”
We are sorely disappointed we won’t see this next part. See, as you and Alyx race to find the ship’s power center, fighting Combine soldiers along the path, you’re also existing between time, essentially in the 4th dimension. “Time grew confused. Looking from the bridge, we could see the drydocks of Tocsin Island at the moment of teleportation, just as the [Combine] forces closed in from land, sea and air. At the same time, we could see the Antarctic wastelands… and in addition, glimpses of other worlds, somewhere in the future perhaps, or even in the past… I felt I was going mad, that we all were, confronting myriad versions of ourselves, in that ship that haf ghost-ship, half nightmare funhouse.”
Now, we’ll be the among the first to admit Valve could not pull the bizarre in Half Life 1 when we found Xen with ridiculous platforming, testicular aliens, and floating alien babies with exposed brain matter. But Valve improved dramatically by Half-Life 2. From the war torn Russian-inspired City 17, to the oppressive and ubiquitous Citadel that seemed to exhale and grow as a living organism, to Ravenholm, Valve knew how to deliver memorable and surreal worlds. The fact we’re not going to see their take on this 4th dimension navigating ship is beyond frustrating.
Coming to a close, Alxy, trying to preserve the final requests of her father Eli to destroy the ship, kills Dr. Moss who is fighting to study it. The two of you then decide to steer the ship into the Combine home world as a means to stop future invasions. Before you can pull off your plan, Mr. X of course appears but this time lures Alyx away who apparently knows him. You get rescued by your alien buddies once again only after realizing the kamikaze run will barely make a mark on the Combine’s massive armies.
And that’s it.
The rest of Marc’s essay explains his current state. “Enough time has passed that few remember me… what precisely we hoped to accomplish… I no longer know or recognize most members of the research team, though I believe the spirit of rebellion still persists.” It appears as though Marc is issuing a call to action to the gaming community to fill the gap Valve left behind with Half Life. “I expect you know better than I the appropriate course of action, and I leave you to it. Expect no further correspondence from me regarding these matters.” To be clear, that the gaming community will never collectively make this game.
No, there doesn’t seem to be a path forward for this game ever to really exist. Like the Aurora Borealis Mr. Laidlaw describes in his essay, we’ve had glimpses of a new Half-Life for a decade but this is perhaps the best view we’ll ever get of the game that could have been. And while it’s clearly not the optimal outcome, we do appreciate the closure Marc’s essay provides. There was a plan for the next game and it sounded incredible – though we do wish we could have at long last battled the infamous G Man.