Do We Really Want Half-Life 3?

By Jonathan Barnes, 7 years ago
Last week, the internet exploded (again) with a supposed leak of a Valve employee rocking a Half-Life 3 t-shirt while out and about. We didn’t run the story here on TA, so here’s the shirt for your viewing pleasure.

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First and foremost, I’ll grant you that this is in no way a solid confirmation that we all need to pick up a crowbar and some Gordon Freeman specs, but it got me thinking:

Do we really need Half-Life 3?

Or, taking it a step further:

Do we really want Half-Life 3?

Before your inner fanboy blows a gasket at my heresy for DARING to question the sacred cow that is Half-Life, hear me out.

Consider this: by the time The Orange Box was released in 2007, Half-Life 2 was almost three years old and, in that time, shooters, especially console shooters, had changed… a lot. I know that, while I enjoyed my experience playing through The Orange Box, I didn’t feel that the Half-Life experience stood on par with “current” releases like Halo 3, BioShock (Xbox 360), and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The graphics and gameplay style were noticeably dated and the narrative didn’t sustain my interest, especially in comparison to some of that year’s amazing FPS releases.

Now I know what you’re thinking:

obj, you’re full of crap. You can’t compare Half-Life 2 to those games because it was developed for/with tech from the previous generation.
And do you know something, concerned, educated reader? You’re right. It is unfair to compare them just like it would be unfair to compare a Motorola Razr to an iPhone 4S. Consider this though: after all of the delays, speculation, deliverance, and eventual release, did you really enjoy Duke Nukem Forever? Did you feel it was worth paying the same price that you spent on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3?

Alright, let’s cast all of that aside for one moment. We (as gamers) know Valve. We know they do great (not good… great) work. There’s a reason why they (as developers) have a devout and unwavering fanbase that will probably be calling for my head and bits for the next millennia for even asserting that our days of enjoying swinging crowbars at crates and fighting off headcrabs might be over. They have faith, way deep down, that Valve will not screw over gamers by messing with the formula that made Half-Life the sensation that it was/is. What I really want to ask is, “Is that formula still what gamers need?”

Think about it; at its core, what made Half-Life great?

Most gamers will say that Half-Life was the quote-unquote “thinking man’s shooter”. In a PC community that was dominated by Quake and Doom; games that were very much “shoot first and shoot everything” offerings, Half-Life represented a reprieve. It was a shooter with a story… a REAL story, an intelligent (if quiet) protagonist, great vehicle sequences, and excellent graphics.

Now think about some of the FPS games that have launched since then.

Shooters with good stories? I’ll take BioShock and Metro 2033.

Shooters with intelligent, quiet protagonists? Gimme Halo and Portal 2.

Shooters with great driving? Let’s hit up Borderlands and Battlefield 3.

Excellent graphics? Throw a dart. You’ll probably hit something like Crysis 2, Battlefield 3, or Modern Warfare 3.

In short, there’s a lot of amazingly high quality games that scratch that itch and fill that niche. The FPS genre has evolved. The amazing and unique experience that Half-Life delivered can now be found in almost every FPS game. This leads me to wonder if Valve might have missed its window with Half-Life 3 and will end up releasing it into a marketplace full of other, high-quality, FPS games that haven’t taken the better part of a decade off; games that still have the momentum to drive sales beyond the hardcore, Valve fanboys.

Now, with all of that being said, let me be the first to say that if/when Valve really does announce Half-Life 3, I’ll be interested. I’ll probably follow its development and eventually purchase the game, if only because (as I mentioned earlier) Valve doesn’t make crap. Furthermore, although the qualities that made the Half-Life IP unique are now de rigueur in the genre, those aforementioned games are still not Half-Life. The essential question that this boils down to, the question that I pose to you, is: “Do we really need Half-Life 3?”
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.