As I’m sure you’re all aware, Valve is finally making another game. They haven’t had an official release since Dota 2 in 2013. And even more shockingly it is a Half Life game, although it’s unfortunately not Half Life 3. It is set to be a prequel to Half Life 2. If you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple weeks and haven’t seen the reveal trailer for Half Life: Alyx yet, here it is for your viewing experience.
It looks awesome doesn’t it? My only experience with the series is when I played a little bit of Half Life 2 when I was younger, but even I got excited by that trailer. And yes, I’m aware not everyone is as excited as me, but there is definitely good reason to be pumped, especially since it’s coming out March of next year.
One big caveat to this game that has a lot of people upset is the fact that it’s a VR game. Not everyone has jumped on board the VR train even though more big companies are starting to make games for it. I think a game like this has the potential to be what pushes a lot of people over the edge on the decision if they want a VR set or not though.
I myself used to be quite skeptical of VR until I tried one out at a VR bar where I used to live. Getting to play Superhot on one really sold me on the idea of it. Granted I don’t own one yet, but getting a VR system is pretty high on my to-do list, and having access to a game like Half Life: Alyx definitely bumps it up even higher for me.
I’m still not sure if this game will be enough to win over all fans, however. The other big problem is the fact that it’s not Half Life 3. Fans have been waiting a long time for the third iteration of this series, and I mean a long time. The last episode for Half Life 2 was released in 2007. It ended on a brutal cliffhanger, but there was another episode promised to be in the works. Over time the mass calling for “make Half Life 2: Episode 3” turned into simply “make Half Life 3” since it seemed like the completion of the episodic trilogy for the second game wasn’t going to happen.
One of the most obvious reasons why this happened is Valve wanted to focus more on multiplayer experiences like the Left 4 Dead series, CSGO, and Dota 2. They first mentioned this back when people were still begging for the next episode in the Half Life 2 saga. Then after that, their big focus was Steam, and as we all know, Steam has done quite well for the company. Now with VR becoming a bigger thing and Steam having more and more competition, it seems that Valve is changing its focus yet again, but this time, they are actually trying to please fans in the process by using the Half Life franchise for the first time in over 10 years.
But this leads to the question: Why is the new game still not Half Life 3?
It’s become quite the meme already, but it’s a well-known fact that Valve can’t seem to make a third game for any of their franchises. The only series to truly have more than two games is Counter-Strike, but that one doesn’t really count since it’s just a multiplayer game with no focus on an overarching story. Some people would also consider the Half Life 2 episodes to be their own games which would put Half Life at four, but the fact of the matter remains, none of their series have ever been followed by the number 3.
Now I’m not about to jump down the crazy rabbit hole of trying to figure out why Valve can’t make a third game, but I do have a slight theory on why Half Life: Alyx isn’t Half Life 3.
So obviously the main (and most obvious) reason Valve didn’t make this game a sequel to Half Life 2 is because making one of the most anticipated games ever into a VR game would outrage many fans. This would not only be because of the fact that most people wouldn’t be able to get their hands on it without putting up hundreds of dollars, but also because VR games have never been known to be fledged out, fully realized games. Admittedly, Half Life: Alyx does look like it has a chance of showing that a full game experience can be made for VR, but it would still be hard to convince the most hardcore of fans that’s the case.
Let’s just pretend for a second that VR isn’t a part of this conversation though. Like I said earlier, Half Life 3 is probably the most anticipated game in the history of gaming. The eventual announcement and release of it have to be nothing less than perfect or else fans are not going to receive it well. The game has a lot to live up to, and understandably, Valve doesn’t want to mess that up.
So what if Half Life: Alyx is just a way to test the waters of their beloved series? They can try out new things and be a little more creative without ruining a game that fans have waited so long for. If the ideas that they use in Half Life: Alyx go over well, they could be implemented in the future for the series. Once again, I don’t think that means Half Life 3 will be in VR, but this game could create the foundation for the game everyone has waited so long for.
From a business standpoint, I feel like this makes a lot of sense. The longer they wait, the more people will be disappointed if Half Life 3 doesn’t live up to expectations, so introducing a smaller project like this will help them anticipate what to do for the series going forward.
Now there’s always a chance that Valve does none of this and just spends the next five to ten years making only VR games, but they have to come back to Half Life 3 someday. They know they left a lot of people hanging with that cliffhanger. They know fans will be willing to pay a lot of money to finally get that resolved. At the end of the day, Valve is still a business, and they know that good or bad, Half Life 3 will still make them a lot of money.
The key for fans is to remain patient. I know that sounds impossible considering how long you’ve been waiting, but Valve is finally acknowledging the fact that they haven’t forgotten about the Half Life franchise yet by making this game. Here’s to hoping that it doesn’t take them another 10+ years for them to continue to do more for such a highly praised series.