With E3 coming up in a few weeks, I thought now would be a good time to talk about some game related stuff that’s been on my mind for a while, and nothing has been on my mind more that “When the hell are we going to get Half-Life 3”? But time makes victims of us all, and I’m beginning to wonder if it hasn’t already calmed Half-Life 3 for it’s own.
In 2004, the same year Half-Life 2 was released, singer Jari Mäenpää of the band Ensiferum released an album from his side project, Wintersun. This album is one of the best Melodic Death Metal albums of all time. Fans and critics alike loved it, and most metalheads were eagerly awaiting the bands next release. Eight years later, in 2012, Wintersun released their fallow up, “Time 1”. Most fans said it was that the new album was too little too late. Three years later and still no Half-Life 3.
It’s been 11 years since Half-Life 2 came out. Episode 2 came out 8 years ago. Duke Nukem Forever was in development for 12 years, and all the hype that surrounded that game was a major reason it failed. That and the fact that the game simply wasn’t very good. Frankly, it’s hard to see any future where Half-Life 3 escapes the same fate. But I do think it can be done. Call it naivete if you wish, but there are a few factors that give me a glimmer of hope.
1: Duke Nukem, as a character, is outdated, Gordon Freeman isn’t
The Duke was a product of his time, just like the overly muscular heroes of ’80’s action movies. As we move forward our sensibilities change, and in a modern era characters like Duke Nukem become retrograde reminders of what we’ve moved away from. Duke Nukem Forever failed for the same reason all three “The Expendables” failed. They were too rooted in the past, ignoring modern expectations (and also just being generally crap). The only 80’s action star who’s still bankable (outside of reprising a role they’re already famous for) is Bruce Willis, and he became an action star because he was meant to be a subvention of the overly macho heroes of the time. Instead of a bony-builder he was slimmer, closer to an average build. This idea of a what an action hero should be stuck. Now even our new retrograde “father knows best” type movies use this model (looking at you Taken 1-3). When you look at the action stars of today they almost all fit this mold. Look at the three main leads of the Marvel movies, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr. Sure, Evans and Hemsworth are fit, but no where even close to Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone were in there heyday.
Bringing this back to games, Duke Nukem is like the guy you see at your highschool reunion wearing a “meninist” t-shirt, talking about the good old days and how all the girls he couldn’t get with are sluts. And while Freeman doesn’t say much, it’s hard to imagine him as the kind of guy who would look at two women being raped and impregnated with alien babies and respond with “you’re f**ked”.
2: As far as we know, Half-life 3 isn’t in development.
In the last interview I read with Gabe Newell he said that valve would make Half-Life 3 when the team really felt like it. This may be old info, but it tells us one thing: they haven’t been working on the game for the last 11 years. This means if they started work tomorrow we could expect the game in the same 2-3 year span most games take. Duke Nukem Forever was in development for 12 years. That’s 3 or 4 times as long as most games take, and in that time the three developers who worked on the game made a product that was mediocre at best. Now, if valve has started working on the game and simply haven’t told the populous yet, the I’m still not worried for one reason:
3: Valve is a better developer than anyone who worked on Duke Nukem Forever.
While I haven’t loved everything Valve has put out (Left 4 Dead wasn’t my thing), the fact is, they have consistently provided a level of quality the three developers who worked on Duke Nukem haven’t been able to archive. Sure, I don’t mind Gearbox’s “Borderlands” games, but looking at the company as a whole, it seems to me that “Aliens: Colonial Marines” is more representative of their work overall. My biggest gripe with Valve is that they let crappy developers get away with too much on steam. Early access has turned into a cash grab for developers who just buy pre-made assets and throw them together haphazardly hoping to make a quick buck, and Steam Green light is filled with games that would only be worth looking at if they were made by your four year old nephew. But you know what neither of those have to deal with? Valves ability to create games. The guys at Valve are still some of my favorite creators because they make games that hold up over time. I played Portal a few dozen times in the short period I had it. Half-Life 1 and 2 are still two of my favorite shooters and Team Fortress Two….is an online shooter and those aren’t my thing; same reason I didn’t like Left 4 Dead.
The fact is, the longer Valve makes us wait for Half-Life 3 the more likely our expectation will grow to the point where nothing they create will live up. For some, this may have already have happened. I’m still hoping that isn’t the case. I’m still sitting here hoping that at some point each E3, in the middle of the overly polished and unrepresentative trailers for games that wont be as good as they look, that someone will walk on stage and utter the words “Half-Life 3 Confirmed” and just walk off stage. Maybe I’m foolish. Hell, maybe I’m just down right stupid, but for now I’m okay with that.