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Split Screen: Have you seen this physicist?

Date
It has been eight years since Half-Life 2, and five years since the final expansion, Episode 2. Is Gordon lost?

It has been eight years since Half-Life 2, and five years since the final expansion, Episode 2. Is Gordon lost?

My heart broke a little last week when Valve officially announced that there would be no surprise announcements from them at E3 this year. Everything that they will be showing has already been announced, and Half-Life is not among them.

The series that had twice transformed first-person shooters has been left out in the cold for five years, and that's only if you count the second piece of episodic content. That, incidentally, was the episodic content that Valve claimed would be shorter but cheaper and more frequently released. Going from the main game rather than the expansions, the time gap expands to eight years, an eternity in game time.

It pains me to say it, but Half-Life 3 (let's be honest, Valve would be crazy to try to give us the long-promised Half-Life 2: Episode 3 at this late hour) is becoming the new Duke Nukem Forever, a pedestal conveniently vacated last year when the Duke finally saw release after fifteen years.

The entire Apple touch-screen revolution had happened since 2007.

The entire Apple touch-screen revolution had happened since 2007.

Much like the lists compiled during DNF's embarrassingly long development, it is startling to look at what has happened in gaming since the release of Half-Life 2 in 2004. Here are just a few examples:

- Nintendo launched the DS handheld, and has since iterated the hardware with the DS Lite, the DSi, and the DSi XL, and then released its successor the 3DS. They also launched the Wii, sold record numbers of units, and announced its successor the WiiU, which will almost certainly be available before Half-Life 3.

 - Sony also launched the original PSP soon after Half-Life 2's release, and followed it up with four hardware updates, then released its follow-up, the PS Vita. On the TV console front, the PlayStation 3 was released, as well as the updated slim model.

Half-Life episodes were meant to bring us content more quickly.

Half-Life episodes were meant to bring us content more quickly.

- Microsoft released the Xbox 360, the Kinect, and the Xbox 360 Slim.

 - The entire Apple touch device revolution occurred after the release of Half-Life 2: Episode 2. The last time we played a new game with Gordon Freeman, there was no such thing as the iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad, and iPods were still operated using the click-wheel interface.

 - Last time we took the crow bar and the orange hazard suit out for a spin, the Call of Duty series was still exclusively set during historical wars. Since then, Modern Warfare 1, 2, and 3 have all been released.

Modern Warfare 1, 2, and 3 were all released after Half-Life 2.

Modern Warfare 1, 2, and 3 were all released after Half-Life 2.

 - The entire Guitar Hero phenomenon was born, peaked, and crashed since the year Half-Life 2 came out, including 12 sequels and expansions and a shift to a new developer. The original developer split with the publisher and created competing title Rock Band, plus two sequels and two spin-offs, during the same period.

 - The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind preceded Half-Life 2 by a couple of years, but since then we have seen both Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

 - Major game franchises that simply didn't exist when we last saw a Half-Life release include Assassin's Creed, Mario Galaxy, Gears of War, BioShock, and Uncharted.

Are we ever going to get a new Half-Life game? Yes, probably. Despite the success of Team Fortress, Portal, and Left 4 Dead, I still feel that Half-Life is Valve's flagship product. Of course, if you expand your scope outside game franchises, Valve's primary product these days is the Steam platform. They are making so much money from Steam that they probably need never release another first-party game.

Even so, I think the most likely explanation is that they want the next game to be just as ground-breaking as the first two. Each of them sparked a revolution in first-person shooters, the first in terms of scripted events and in-game storytelling, and the second in regard to emotion and character. My theory is that Valve will hold back the third game in the series until they have something they are sure will be similarly revolutionary.

The trouble is, with so much great work already being done, it is getting harder and harder to come up with truly new ideas. The longer a release is delayed, the more I look at the unplayable mess that Duke Nukem Forever turned out to be, and I worry.

- James "DexX" Dominguez

 twitter If you want more DexX, you can listen to the GameTaco podcast or follow him on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez

9 comments so far

  • I'll play devil's advocate, I reckon the Half Life saga has either been scrapped completely or will be in development limbo for too long, so that when it comes out (e.g. with next gen hardware), something else will have executed whatever new game mechanics Half Life delivers more effectively than Half Life itself, and it will be a massive disappointment.

    Confession: I loved playing through the Orange Box, but I got to what I presume was near the end of Episode 2, and just stopped dead, and have never gone back to it.

    Commenter
    Swordfactor
    Date and time
    May 09, 2012, 9:20AM
    • I'd recommend just finishing it off. I was in the same situation for a year or so, and once you finish you can join the legion of players that ask constantly - "where's episode 3?".

      On the bright side, you get to take the orange box out of your pile of shame.

      Also the ending is pretty good...or awful depending on how you look it

      Commenter
      AarghZombies
      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 10:13AM
  • wow...A lot happens in 8 years.
    At this rate Black Mesa will be out before HL3.

    Commenter
    AarghZombies
    Date and time
    May 09, 2012, 9:23AM
    • The last game I finished on the PC was Ep.1 - and my iPod is still operated using the click-wheel interface....
      I need to get out more.

      Commenter
      Martus
      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 10:09AM
      • Somehow it seems Valve's flatland approach to development is not working for them anymore as far as Half Life's concerned. It's really getting beyond the joke now - the new DNF? Absolutely.

        Commenter
        jc
        Date and time
        May 09, 2012, 10:47AM
        • Probably the only other game that could come close to contending for the crown of vaporware champion would be Shenmue III. Shenmue II came out in 2003, but considering its disappointing sales, and the lack of any actual announcment of developing Shenmue III, Half Life 3 is indeed the current world champ.

          Commenter
          luverly_5pam
          Location
          Here I am.
          Date and time
          May 09, 2012, 11:36AM
          • One funny thing I found was a Cracked.com article from 2008 lamenting the top ten games that we'll "never get to play". Two of them have since been released (DNF and Star Trek Online), and two more are hitting shelves in a week or two (Max Payne 3 and Diablo III). So there you go, vapourware can arrive eventually.

            Commenter
            DexX
            Location
            MCDexX on XBL, PSN, Steam, and iOS GameCentre
            Date and time
            May 09, 2012, 11:49AM
            • There are other game series which are languishing in stasis: Carmageddon and Dungeon Keeper come to mind.

              I would like to see HL3 but I'm happy to let Valve take their time.

              Commenter
              BlindSquirrel
              Location
              Perff
              Date and time
              May 09, 2012, 12:02PM
              • One of the main problems that DNF had to contend with is that the world had long since moved on from everything that made DNF what it was.
                I don't think the world has moved on from the features that make Half Life unique; they can make something bigger and better that still stays true to Half Life without looking like some bizarre anachronism.

                The longer time goes on, the harder it will get. But franchises have gone on longer between releases.

                Commenter
                Lucid Fugue
                Location
                Melbourne
                Date and time
                May 09, 2012, 12:22PM

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