Valve’s making hardware. Valve’s publishing crowd-supported games through Steam Greenlight. Valve’s hiring economists. Valve is designing a version of Steam that is installed directly into your brain and commands your most basic bodily functions. It seems that Gabe Newell’s company is doing everything a technology company can feasibly do except making Half-Life 3. Where, oh where, is Gordon Freeman’s next adventure in head crab crushing and crowbar wielding? New rumors say that it isn’t coming next year, but 2014 could introduce us to an altogether different adventure for Freeman.
Greek outlet Journaldugamer reported details about the next game in Valve’s signature series after speaking with a source within the developer. According to her, Half-Life 3’s development has been inconsistent, changing shape multiple times since work began following Half-Life 2: Episode 2 in 2007. What began as a linear first-person shooter was later scrapped for an exploration mixed with puzzles, already a signature part of the series and its descendant Portal.
While the final design is still in flux, the Half-Life 3 that’s currently in the works is actually an Elder Scrolls-inspired open world game. Rather than pure action and reflex-based gunplay, the game will take on numerous RPG elements, taking on quests doled out from residents of the world rather than proceeding to one pre-determined goal after the other. The source does say that the team making Half-Life 3 could scrap this version as well, but right now it looks like this is the game that will release after 2013.
A sandbox Half-Life 3 was certainly suggested by changes in Half-Life 2: Episode 2. That game’s sequences that had you racing around a field trying to take out giant tripod aliens was built specifically to give the series a break from its tight corridor layout.
It’s best to classify this story as pure rumor. Past leaks about the next Half-Life project—like this past summer’s Half-Life 2: Episode 3 concept art leak—have had the air of authenticity about them, but they all appear to be for cancelled projects, not a game that Valve will ultimately release.
An open world game set in the same universe as Half-Life and Portal would be a whole hell of a lot of fun, but would that game really still be Half-Life? The series is defined by its taut narrative structure. A shift towards a more personalized, open-ended game would break that identity. Why not just make it its own game?