It has been too long since the rabid fans of Valve’s flagship FPS franchise have had their, rather patient, appetites satiated. With the last expansion for Half Life 2 getting released back in 2007, Valve have left us out in the cold for a little too long. Fingers crossed the long wait for episode 3 or Half Life 3 will be worth it, and that Valve are hard at work making the next instalment the best yet. But what do we know of the next game in the classic series, and what kind of improvements would we want made anyway?
So what do we know of the expected improvements for the next Half Life? In short, we know nearly nothing. We have seen a few concept images that you can see strewn throughout the article. These, in conjunction with various interviews with Valve co-founder Gabe Newell, imply that the tone for the next Half Life game will be darker and possibly more horror orientated. This could be a potentially refreshing new direction for the series. After all, aside from the fantastic level in Ravenholm, Half Life 2 largely lost the isolation and horror aspects that were a staple of the original Half Life. More Headcrabs would definitely be a good start toward this brave new direction. The shots also show the sunken Aperture science research ship, The Borealis, possibly alluding to a potential Portal reference?
The plot for the next instalment is also a great uncertainty. If we do indeed get the final episode for Half Life 2 we can expect to see the narrative continue following Gordon Freeman from where he left off in the last game, yet if a third core Half Life game is on the cards the story could theoretically go anywhere. It is unlikely we will see a new protagonist considering the popularity of Gordon Freeman among fans, though Half Life 3 could take find its narrative taking a serious chronological step out from the rest of the series as Half Life 2 did back in 2004. What has been an interesting development is the news that Gabe Newell has been conducting research into sign language as an “excuse to build the technology for signing.” Though he describes it as a mere technological exercise for an unspecified game, there could well be a chance that a deaf character will be incorporated into future Half Life titles in order for Valve to put this research to good use. Newell has also hinted at a deaf character in the Half Life universe who Alex was smitten with before her encounters with Gordon Freeman. Is there going to be a romantic clash between our protagonist and this new character in a subsequent Half Life game? Regardless, it is nice to see Valve investigating avenues that will open their games up to demographics that are often unfairly considered subsidiary in our industry.
Though we might not necessarily know much of what Valve have in store for the Half Life series, that won’t stop us from making unreasonable demands and speculations on what should be included. The one major flaw that seemed to dog the episodic instalments for Half Life 2 was the issue of content. We weren’t exactly expecting a vast campaign length for the episodic DLC but, when you consider how long Valve took developing the Half Life 2 add ons, there wasn’t much excuse for their brevity. Whether we get an episode 3 or a full blown Half Life 3, Valve need to show us that the time spent developing it will be worth it with a longer campaign.
In terms of innovations there isn’t a lot the next Half Life needs to add, aside from the obvious story expositions. It would be interesting to see though if Valve decides to utilize a new version of the source engine to coincide with the release of a new Half Life. Considering Half Life 2 introduced us to the source engine and the Steam digital distribution platform, it isn’t off the cards that a new Half Life would also introduce some new Valve goodies. Whether it be a major Steam update or a totally new source engine, it would be a real game maker for the next Half Life sequel.
In truth there isn’t much to request in terms of new features for Half Life episode 3. We could make the natural speculations about new weapons and levels but, with what little we know about the game’s direction, it is unlikely that this would be a particularly fruitful exercise. Instead fans are looking for just a little bit more of the same Half Life action we know and love. Half Life is a franchise that is well enough established to the point where we all just want to know what happens next, and to see what Valve are going to come up with. But when can we expect to see more of the series? Fingers crossed Valve will be charitable enough to come up with something later this year, at E3 perhaps, but until then we’ll just have to look forward to Portal 2.