The Death of Half-Life 3

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Jan 16, 2018

Filed under: Column 278 comments

I didn’t get around to mentioning it in my end-of-2017 retrospective, but one of the big stories of the year was that Marc Laidlaw, the lead writer of the Half-Life series, published his own story outline for the game that Could Have Been But Never Was. Laidlaw had been with Valve for 18 years before departed the company back in 2016. The story he published is ostensibly what was planned for Half-Life 3.

Having read the story synopsis, I have to say it felt just right. This feels exactly like the sort of story I’d expect from the series. Outside of Valve everyone had guesses, fan theories, fan fiction, and suggestions for what could / should happen in Half-Life 3, but none of them quite hit the mark the way this did. Like I said during my Mass Effect series:

Sir Terry Pratchett was an amazing talent. But if J. K. Rowling had hired him in 2002 to help her pump out Harry Potter books twice as fast, it would have fundamentally changed the tone of the series. Different creative people come up with different ideas, and this will give the new work a different texture. And even if it's an improvement – even if you want to argue that Pratchett-Potter books are better than Rowling-Potter books, the new books will still feel ill-fitting and alien to people who fell in love with the originals.

Amazingly enough, it turns out Marc Laidlaw is really good at writing fiction in the style of Marc Laidlaw, so this unofficial ending to the story rings true for me. This takes the edge off of never getting a follow-up to the cliffhanger ending of Half-Life 2: Episode 2. We at least have an answer to the question of “Where was the author going with all of this?”

Of course, this doesn’t ease the annoyance of never getting another Half-Life game.

Was Half-Life Really all That Good?

The Combine Overwatch are my favorite dystopian alien oppressors to be subjugated by.
The Combine Overwatch are my favorite dystopian alien oppressors to be subjugated by.

A common refrain I hear these days is that Half-Life isn’t as good as you remember it. Supposedly everyone is looking at the game through rose-colored glasses, warped by childhood nostalgia. I think this is sort of true in the case of the original Half-Life, but I’m convinced that Half-Life 2 holds up just fine today. Sure, Half-Life 2 has its critics – all games do. But I think if you liked the game in 2004 you’ll probably still like it here in 2018.

Half-Life 1 is somewhat marred by the one-two punch of jumping puzzles and dodgy roller-skate movement physics. The difficulty is really uneven and the final chapter is legendarily unpopular. It was incredible for a shooter of its generation, but if a modern game had these flaws it would end up savaged by the audience. In contrast, there’s nothing particularly clunky or outdated in Half-Life 2. (Aside from the graphics. And even those look pretty dang good for a 14 year old game.) So understand that when I defend the legacy of the franchise, I’m mostly talking about Half-Life 2 and it’s episodes.

Having said that, I can understand why people of a certain age might say Half-Life 2 is overrated due to nostalgia. Part of becoming an adult is looking back through the stuff you loved as a child and sorting the things that were genuinely great from the things that only seemed great because you didn’t know any better. But I don’t think the love for Half-Life 2 is based (entirely) on starry-eyed childhood nostalgia. I played the original in 1999 when I was 28 years old, and I played Half-Life 2 when I was 33. I wasn’t some child who didn’t have a frame of reference for quality. I was fairly well-seasoned as a gamer, I paid for my own games, and I had a pretty good handle on figuring out if a game was working or not.

Rather than blaming nostalgia, I think this game was the product of hard work and good timing. I think that time period represented a unique period in the evolution of PC gaming, when the development cost / benefit curve was “just right”.

Episode 2 turned 10 last year. Yeah, the graphics look a little dated by now, but I'd GLADLY pay AAA prices for a game that LOOKED like this if it also PLAYED like this.
Episode 2 turned 10 last year. Yeah, the graphics look a little dated by now, but I'd GLADLY pay AAA prices for a game that LOOKED like this if it also PLAYED like this.

The gaming audience was big enough to support ambitious “big budget” games, but development houses were still small and independent enough that they could take chances and try lots of new things. Graphics were just good enough that we could portray environments that were recognizable as whatever they were supposed to be, but those environments weren’t too expensive to build. The internet was ubiquitous enough and robust enough that it could be used to support enthusiast communities, but it wasn’t widespread enough to support phone-home DRMOther than Steam itself. Which was bad for 2004 but seems downright gentle compared to what came just a few years later.. The technology was good enough to make cool stylized cutscenes, but game developers hadn’t yet embraced a world of stilted photorealism, expensive motion-capture, awkward lip-sync, and cringy dialog in an attempt to be more like Hollywood and less like game developers.

I’m not saying that the years from 1998 to 2004 was this perfect time of flawless games. There was a lot of crap then, just like now. But our fond memories of those times aren’t just nostalgia. There really were some unique gems back then. If you look at the best of the time period you’ll see games that couldn’t have existed sooner because the technology wasn’t ready, and they couldn’t exist today because they’d be too expensive to make using today’s standards in visual fidelity. Even here in 2017, there’s still a gap between the $100,000 indie budgets and the $60 million blockbusters.

So What Was So Good About Half-Life Anyway?

Technically, anyone is free to make “another Half-Life game” in the sense that anyone could make a game in the same style. If Crytek wanted, they could make “Decay Time”, a sci-fi shooter about Gary Wildman, an aerospace engineer wearing Hazmat power armor and fighting off alien invaders called the Harvesters. Or whatever. I mean, they sorta tried. The thing is, none of those things are really the core ingredients that made the series such a hit. And if we try to drill down and figure out what the supposed “core ingredients” of Half-Life are, I imagine everyone will have a different answer.

But let’s try to do it anyway, since that’s sort of the point of this site.

Polish

The introduction to Nova Prospekt is a masterful bit of environment design. It pulls you through the area, foreshadows where you're headed, and illustrates how turrets and antlions work.
The introduction to Nova Prospekt is a masterful bit of environment design. It pulls you through the area, foreshadows where you're headed, and illustrates how turrets and antlions work.

The team at Valve had a dedication to playtesting that borders on the obsessive. If you listen to the developer commentary you can get a sense of just how much feedback from testers shaped the game, and how much that impacted the final quality of the product.

Maybe testers would be confused about where they were supposed to be going. The brute-force solution most game developers would use would be to clutter up the HUD with giant glowing waypoint markers, holding the player’s hand and telling them where to go and what to do. In contrast, Valve would change the lighting to draw your eye in the desired direction, tweak some dialog to clarify your goals, and use pickup items like health and ammo to draw you towards your destination.

Maybe testers would be confused about what they were supposed to be doing to progress because they didn’t understand how to shut off a particular machine. The modern gamedev would throw the directions up on screen and leave it there until the task was done. Something like, “Shut down the force field at the security console.” Or maybe they would give you a buddy character to badger you with repeating dialog. Maybe they would design the security console to be a comically oversized red button (which would of course clash with the photorealistic art style) so you can’t miss it. In contrast, Valve would make it so you could “shut down” the security console using the existing language of the game. If they’ve already established that shooting a BLUE THING will cut power, then they can just make BLUE THING part of the security console and the player will immediately know what they’re supposed to do without the need for text prompts, dialog, or any other tools that make the player feel like they’re being micromanaged.

If testers seem to be wandering off and bumping into the edges of the play area, Valve doesn’t hit them with an immersion-breaking message telling them, “YOU ARE LEAVING THE MISSION AREA”. Instead they redesign the layout to draw players towards the action. Rather than yelling at the player for leaving the world, the designers put up visually plausible barriers so they can’t leave the world.

The thing about this dedication to polish is that it’s completely invisible to the player. They’re not sitting there saying to themselves, “Man, Valve sure did a good job of drawing my attention to this doorway!” This is the kind of thing you don’t even notice until it’s gone.

Gameplay

The first time you see a turret, it's aimed away from you. You can see how it works before you have to face one.
The first time you see a turret, it's aimed away from you. You can see how it works before you have to face one.

The game was really good at introducing new mechanics, building on them, using them for a payoff, and then blending them with new mechanics. It was an ever-changing system of fun ideas and fresh environments that guided you through the funhouse in such a way that it tricked you into thinking you were forging your own path.

In a lot of ways, it’s a slower version of the 4-step design philosophy used in games like Super Mario 3D World: The designer introduces a new tool or mechanic like grenades, the crowbar, or the gravity gun. At the same time, they place you in a situation where it’s pretty obvious what you’re supposed to do, and they allow you to experiment with the tool in a safe situation. Often the situation is designed so that you have to demonstrate understanding of the concept before you can proceed. (Such as having wooden planks barring the way that require you to use the crowbar you just picked up.) A little later you’ll encounter the obstacle again, but now you’ll need to use your new tool under pressure. Then the game designer will test your mastery of the tool by having you use it in more complicated situations or against more extreme dangers. Then finally, you’ll run into situations where the now-familiar mechanic can be used in new ways. (Like using the rocket launcher to fight striders, or using the gravity gun to throw grenades back at the enemy.)

They don’t perfectly adhere to this formula, of course. You have to learn to use the gravity gun to flip the car while under attack. And while the designer allowed the player to lean how to pilot the airboat in a safe arena before moving on, the player needs to learn to drive the car while being hounded by antlions. Still, the design philosophy is there and you can see it at work throughout the game.

Story

Don't get me wrong, I like you folks and all. But I've heard this bit before and I'd like to skip to the next bit of gameplay.
Don't get me wrong, I like you folks and all. But I've heard this bit before and I'd like to skip to the next bit of gameplay.

The Writer Will Do Something is a fantastic bit of illustrative fiction. It’s a story about a single development meeting for ShatterGate: Future Perfect, an over-budget blockbuster game where the team seems to be going in six different directions at once. It’s not a true story, but once you know it you can kind of see the truths buried in its fiction. A lot of big-budget games feel like the product of the ShatterGate team.

Maybe the designer intended the game to deliver powerful emotional moments like Last of Us, but either the writer wasn’t given the leeway to establish and develop the characters and world well enough to build an emotional connection with the player, or the writer simply lacked the skill and had to resort to brute-force tools (like the death of Some Kidd) in the pursuit of drama.

At the other extreme you have games that just see the story as an excuse to string together set-piece battles, but the writer never got the memo. So you wind up with a game where the story didn’t matter to the team, but it still has a bunch of blustering, cliche, overly-long cutscenes for some reason. It’s a gameplay-focused game where the gameplay stops for a non-interactive cutscene, which is the worst of both worlds.

Half-Life 2 was a game with a story that wasn’t really about the story. It never stole control from the player for a cutscene. At the same time, it didn’t treat the story as some half-assed afterthought used to string action sequences together with contrivances. The story was there to create and sustain a mood, and it did that beautifully.

On the other hand, the fact that the story is told through gameplay means you can’t skip the talky bits. This usually isn’t a problem, except for the three or four moments in the game where everything stops for an extended conversation. It’s nice to be free to walk around during these bits, but it would also be nice if there was a convenient way to skip to the next bit of action. The player can load up the next chapterThe really long conversations are usually isolated into chapters to facilitate this. but that’s an inelegant solutionLong scenes can’t always be skipped this way. Even when you can skip to the gameplay by starting the next chapter, you’re reset to the default ammo loadout chosen by the developer. This negates whatever ammo hoarding / squandering you’ve been doing.. It’s not perfect, but it’s preferable to the way a lot of shooters handle things.

Valve is Done Making Games

Left: During Half-Life 1, we find a book by Marc Laidlaw in Gordon Freeman's locker. Right: One of the other lockers is apparently owned by Laidlaw. Not sure what a black-site science lab needs a sci-fi writer for, but I hope they paid him well.
Left: During Half-Life 1, we find a book by Marc Laidlaw in Gordon Freeman's locker. Right: One of the other lockers is apparently owned by Laidlaw. Not sure what a black-site science lab needs a sci-fi writer for, but I hope they paid him well.

Lots of people are making shooters, but nobody made shooters quite like Valve. Oh, they try, but it’s harder than it looks. But now Valve is out of the shooter business, so not even Valve can make Valve-styled shooters.

Erik Wolpaw – writer of Portal – left Valve in early 2017. Chet Faliszek (Left 4 Dead writer) left a few months later. Marc Laidlaw is gone. As far as anyone can tell, Valve no longer employs any writers. That means no more Portal. No more Half-Life. Heck, it means no more Team Fortress 2 shorts and comics.

I’m sad we’ll never get Half-Life 3, but I’m grateful Laidlaw gave us some closure. I’m kind of curious why Valve never gave us the same courtesy. For years they promised, “Yes, we’re working on it. Yes, it’s coming. Be patient.” And I’m reasonably sure that was true when they said it. But based on what ex-Valve employees have been saying, it’s been ages since it was true. It’s been years since anyone was working on Half-Life 3. Even if Valve miraculously decided to resume development, it’s been so long that they would probably have to start over. And anyway, they no longer employ the required people to make it happen.

Most of us have concluded that the game is dead, so I have no idea why Valve has been reluctant to make it official. There’s nothing to be gained by pretending the game might still happen, and publicly canceling the game might allow people to move on and end the frustration of the poor fans who have been waiting and hoping for over a decade.

And please Valve, don’t hand the license off to a random third-party studio. The only thing worse than not getting Half-Life 3 is getting a Half-Life 3 that plays like Call of Duty.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Other than Steam itself. Which was bad for 2004 but seems downright gentle compared to what came just a few years later.

[2] The really long conversations are usually isolated into chapters to facilitate this.

[3] Long scenes can’t always be skipped this way. Even when you can skip to the gameplay by starting the next chapter, you’re reset to the default ammo loadout chosen by the developer. This negates whatever ammo hoarding / squandering you’ve been doing.



From The Archives:
 

278 thoughts on “The Death of Half-Life 3

  1. Shamus says:

    So my post linking two a two-hour YouTube video on Super Mario Odyssey has about 150 comments and yet a text post on Valve and Half-Life doesn’t get a single comment in the first hour.

    Who are you people? Did I post this to the wrong website?

    1. Viktor says:

      I’ll be honest, after so many years, pretty much everything that could be said about the Half-Life series has been said. I am sad that Valve no longer makes games (multiplayer cashgrabs nonwithstnding), they were my gateway into core gaming and multiplayer games. Perhaps it’s for the best that we’ll never get the official conclusion, perhaps it’s best for it to remain legendary vaporware than turn into DNF #2.

    2. Mephane says:

      Do not misunderstand our silence for disinterest. It’s just that many of us have little to say about any more, and in particular about what made the game good – to many of us it just felt right without really understand why it did so. We rely on people like you to explain it to us. :)

    3. Christopher says:

      As a console guy, I thought it was alrig on the 360 in 2011. Even though I’m not a big shooter fan, it was slow and event-driven enough, with few direct shootouts, that I could enjoy it. I remember it felt like Mario, gameplay waaaay forst, despite what I’d heard about the story.

      ‘S about all I got, boss. I liked the closure too.

    4. Matt Downie says:

      I could pretend to believe something for the sake of being controversial, thus drumming up some counter-arguments…

      HL2 sucked! It continued its overrated predecessor’s legacy of linear ‘corridor – set piece – corridor – set piece’ maps, and inspired those later Modern Warfare quasi-games where enemies infinitely respawn until you guess the exact thing the game wants you to do. It’s one of those games where you’re fed the exact amount of health and ammo you need, in order to create the illusion of challenge. It’s full of false crises, like your health saying 10% when you’ve still got plenty left, and Striders that always force you into a desperate last stand with your Magnusson bombs no matter how well you play for the first half of the mission.

      It’s a fake game! Duke Nukem Forever and Daikatana were way better!

      1. BlueHorus says:

        HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT THAT MAEKS YOU WORSE THAN HITLER GTFO N00B!!!!!

        …Am I doing this right?

        1. TheJungerLudendorff says:

          I WAS MODERATELY DISSAPOINTED WHEN I TRIED IT AND THE TALKY BITS AT THE START KINDA KILLED MY ENTHUSIASM! ALSO THE HOVERCRAFT BIT DRAGGED ON SO I STOPPED THERE SINCE I WASN’T THAT INTO IT ANYWAY! BUT THE GAMEPLAY SEEMED PRETTY GOOD!

    5. krellen says:

      Don’t blame me, I just got here.

    6. Dreadjaws says:

      Well, I thought that just like Half-Life 3 itself, the article was just a promise that would never happen and didn’t want to be disappointed.

      But seriously, I loaded the article as soon as I saw it, but I decided to do some work before reading it. I know, I know, don’t worry, it won’t happen again.

    7. Decius says:

      I don’t generally make a comment if I don’t have anything to add. Controversy breeds discussion, while agreement is mostly silent.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        And we need to stop that,so Ill start this one too.Anyone feel free to jump in and heatedly agree with me:
        The faces in half life 2 are amazing.Even today,its astonishing how much they did with so little,just by focusing on the few key details.

        1. MelTorefas says:

          Seriously. Compare to Skyrim, which came out much later, presumably had a MUCH larger budget, and required extensive player-made modding to get tolerable looking faces which STILL were inferior in expressiveness to the ones in Half Life 2.

          1. Duoae says:

            Yeah, but if you look at the progress made by Bethesda between oblivion and skyrim, it’s almost a miracle! :)

          2. TheJungerLudendorff says:

            Can confirm, would still use beardy-man’s face as a fireplace decoration.

        2. Decius says:

          For the era, the faces in Half-Life were top-notch. You could walk right up to them and they were recognizable as faces.

          Are faces a hard problem that Valve had a good insight on, or do they just take work? Quarter-lives had only a few unique faces, while most games with faces needed a lot. Would the combine soldiers have looked odd if they all had the same highly detailed face?

    8. BlueHorus says:

      For me it’s that the article is telling me what I already think. Which is comforting, but there’s not that much to say.
      Are Valve going to:

      a) Put time, effort and money into a new game; expensive, time consuming and risky. Yes, they have fans and HL3 would probably do well, but it might also disappoint people.

      Or b) Just keep doing what they’re doing with Steam, which has made them crazy rich for a lot less risk and seems set to keep doing so.

      And: The uncertainty about Valve producing another game has actually helped the company stay relevant/in people’s minds. HL3 Confirmed! is a meme in and of itself at this point.

      Well, I guess none of the above was actually news. Have a joke instead.

    9. Cybron says:

      You write a lot of articles about shooting games and few about platformers. It makes sense that whatever portion of your fanbase does like platformers would trip over themselves to opine on it given the chance.

      I haven’t commented on the Odyssey article myself, but that’s only because, as your intuition might suggest, a 2 hour video is not something I regularly consume and I’m not willing to comment without having watched it.

    10. Fade2Gray says:

      These wounds run too deep.

      1. Poseidon's Left Nipple says:

        Nail on the head. Before Laidlaw’s post, I already knew in an elemental way that HL3 was never going to come out. His post felt like it put the final nail in the coffin and buried it. Even now, Shamus’ post stirs up a melancholy that wouldn’t expect to feel for a video game.

    11. Steve C says:

      I personally hated Half-Life. I played for something like 15-30mins of it and hated every minute. I disliked it so much it made me avoid trying Portal. It wasn’t until a friend of mine with Portal got me to try it that I came around. Portal was great but I still can’t stand Half-Life. Why might you ask? First person melee. I can’t stand any game with it.

      So umm ya… how many weeks will this series be running for? :-/

      1. Droid says:

        Was the same for me with Borderlands. Unhappy times, but they’ll pass.

      2. Echo Tango says:

        Is there something in particular that you don’t like about first-person melee? I don’t think I’ve seen a game which does it well, but it’s always at least been serviceable. Plus, you’re never actually required to use it, after you pick up your first gun. I guess if that happens after the point at which you quit, then you wouldn’t have benefitted.

        1. Steve C says:

          Oh I was definitely done with the game before I picked up the first gun. Like I said, I hated every minute. It was just not for me. I’m not a fan of 1st person shooters. A gun wouldn’t have changed anything.

        2. Duoae says:

          Dark Messiah? Dead island (you had to change the control stype in the settings to make it better than default) and Dying Light?

        3. default_ex says:

          I think Mass Effect 3 is the only game I ever played where first person melee felt amazing. Right off the bat it was a confusing mess but once you played with it for a few minutes it felt like the game was designed for it but somehow guns were the focus.

          Oblivion was another that did it really well. Just did a piss poor job of explaining the melee capabilities. If you watch a player that really knows how to melee well in Oblivion beyond the basic hack`n`slack, it’s like a work of art. Unfortunately the game didn’t explain it at all and seemed to optimize around rudimentary click button to slash.

          Other than those two, I really can’t think of any games that do first person melee at anything more than nausea inducing or freakishly bland. It’s sad that fantasy games still haven’t gotten it right when there are so many of them now.

          1. PPX14 says:

            I don’t think I actually realised you could play Mass Effect in 1st person :D

            1. Default_Ex says:

              You can by either using a console command to switch views or binding a key for it. Dont remember if it was unbound by default or required manually placing it in the configs. Well worth trying it out. It will switch to 3rd person for some actions that kind of require it but not all. Got the impression it was a mostly finished feature that never got the polish it deserved.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Ehh,its better in third person anyway.It offers better awareness of your companions.I find first person to be better suited for games where you are alone.

        4. PPX14 says:

          Zeno Clash! Was quite fun. You could play Jedi Knight 2&3 in first person too but I don’t remember if I did or just went to 3rd person for lightsaber fights!

          1. Ciennas says:

            Yeah. Light sabers forced the games to swap to third person and stay there until you put it away.

            I thought it an elegant solution at the time, and Destiny is one of the games that still uses that system.

      3. Daemian Lucifer says:

        But….The first 30 minutes is nothing but you walking around talking to people.What is there to hate?

        1. Steve C says:

          Walking around and talking to people for 30!mins. NPCs that say nothing important or interesting. I gave it until the first combat to see if I liked that. Combat was the worst part and I hated literally every aspect up to that point. I only gave it that much of a chance because of how many people were raving about how great it was.

          It just wasn’t for me. Which is fine. Sports games aren’t my thing either.

      4. Ira says:

        Thank you for saying this. I’ve never understood the adulation for Half-Life, either the original or its sequel. I can remember trying both of them in their day and never getting past the first mission or so: I simply found them incredibly boring. I don’t think it was hatred of shooters. I can remember really enjoying Dark Forces back in the 90s, and I loved both the N64 Goldeneye and the original Halo, but for some reason I never had it in me to see Half-Life as anything but overhyped mediocrity.

        I suppose it’s possible that the common element is mouse controls, since the one thing those games I liked have in common are the avoidance of mouse controls. On the one hand, I do think that a mouse is about the least immersive control scheme possible for a shooter… but on the other, I can also remember really liking 1999’s Aliens versus Predator and 2001’s Aliens versus Predator 2. Clearly I have it in me to enjoy a mouse-based shooter, if it has an evocative and atmospheric setting, varied gameplay, and an interesting premise.

        But Half-Life failed at all those things for me. Its plot and setting were generic, it had no interesting characters worth speaking of, and I don’t remember anything particularly special about its gameplay. It was just this inexplicable popular mediocre shooter. I didn’t get it then and I don’t get it now.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          On the one hand, I do think that a mouse is about the least immersive control scheme possible for a shooter

          Really?Thats fascinating.

          but on the other, I can also remember really liking 1999's Aliens versus Predator and 2001's Aliens versus Predator 2.

          Im always glad when someone else says they liked those.Truly amazing games.

    12. Locke says:

      I’m pretty sure at this point Half-Life 3 is dead and buried in the minds of most of its fans, whereas Super Mario Odyssey represents to some the possibility of a shift in Nintendo’s priorities away from rewarding gameplay and towards much simpler games aimed solely at children rather than whole families – and for other people Super Mario Odyssey doesn’t represent that at all, so there’s not only concern for the future, but disagreement to be had.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Gotta get them kiddies hooked on the shiny games! Fastest way to parents’ wallets!

    13. Redrock says:

      I kinda never cared that much about Half-Life on a personal level. I do fully realise the tremendous significance of the series in the history of the medium, but I never really felt an emotional connection to it for some reason, not like with, say, Deus Ex or, perhaps more relevantly, Portal. I think one thing that discouraged me was that I came to Half-Life 2 years after it came out and knew full well that there would be no closure to be found, which kept me from getting invested in the story. And the gameplay, well, at the time I wasn’t really into PC shooters, wasn’t good at them and, as such, couldn’t really enjoy myself, except when playing around with the gravity gun.

      With all that in mind, Half-Life 3 for me was always about the gameplay evolution it would bring, and I was excited to see what Valve would do. But as time went on I figured out that making a game as important and revolutionary as HL 2 in the boundaries of the shooter genre is just not possible anymore. Or, at least, I can’t imagine that. So I admited to myself that an HL 3 worthy of the name is never happening, even is some sort of official sequel to HL 2 does get made, it wouldn’t be what we understand by the idea of a Half-Life 3. That was the end of that for me, to be honest. Now for Valve to just admit the obvious as well.

    14. Neither Mario nor Half Life are games I have any particular interest in, but I liked how much effort Joseph Anderson put into comparing Odyssey to other Mario games.

    15. The Rocketeer says:

      Next week’s timely, hot-button issue: Final Fantasy VII: Final Fantasy, or Finalest Fantasy?

      You heard it here first!

      1. Canthros says:

        I mean, FF7 was the entry that broke into mainstream consciousness really. It’s a decent entry in the series that breaks a bunch of the series’ established conventions (art style being the big one, both moving to 3D and putting Nomura’s design work front and center, replacing Amano) and established a relatively large and persistent following.

        A following of which I’m not really a member. I liked FF6 better, even though it’s a game that is positively overstuffed with minor mechanical systems (practically one per party member).

    16. MichaelGC says:

      Both have 181 comments right now, which I thought was kinda fun, although I've just gone ahead and ruined it of course.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        The difference is that that one took 3 days to get to 181,while this surpassed it in its second day.Half life 3 confirmed!

    17. EBA says:

      I never really got into half life. I played it, dug it while playing it, and forgot about it until the episodes. Which I played and then forgot. And finally I played episode 2 and never beat it because the controls were ass on consoles and I couldn’t kill those striders fast enough and never cared to try more than twice.

      So… it’s not a topic that speaks to me, I’m sorry for the people who loved the games and will never get closure, but that was never me.

  2. Viktor says:

    There’s a typo in the third to last paragraph. “Require people” – I assume it’s supposed to be “required”. Also, is the whole article supposed to show up on the main page?

  3. TheAngryMongoose says:

    Just saying, there’s a company out there that’s proven both a 50/50 shot at making a decent Half-Life game and the ability to release vaporware. If we pretend Dune Nukem’s problems were it’s own, there may be a third party this could be trusted to.

    /s

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      What about colonial marines?

      Dont get me wrong,I like opposing force and think of it as a worthy addition to the franchise,but they are all over the place with the quality of their stuff.

      1. Some Guy says:

        Colonial Marines was a case of GB farming a game out to an unproven 3rd party studio and not keeping an eye on them. Certainly a black eye for GB, but not an indication of their in house development capacity.

    2. evilmrhenry says:

      Don’t forget about the team that released Black Mesa. I’m sure they’ll finish the Xen chapter any day now, and would then be looking for more work.

  4. Infinitron says:

    The only thing worse than not getting Half-Life 3 is getting a Half-Life 3 that plays like Call of Duty.

    That would not be the likely worst-case scenario. More likely you’d get a Half-Life 3 that plays like PUBG.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Maybe the best bet would be to license the game material to multiple different studios? It works for Warhammer stuff. The trick is to give out smaller bits to indies, and leave the bigger all-access licenses for game studios who’ve had past success with your property. i.e. Don’t let somebody make Half-Life 3 until they’ve made a successful half-life-themed tower defence game first.

      1. Decius says:

        That worked for GW because they had a lot of small things to farm out.

        “Left 4 Dead: The Board Game: The Computer Game” is the closest thing I can think of to Blood Bowl.

        And GW hasn’t, as far as I can tell, gotten anybody to make a port of their turn-based ruler-using games (40k and WHFB). I enjoy the tactical depth of those games, but they are hella expensive in money and especially time to actually play. The RTS ports just put a Warhammer skin on a bog-standard RTS, and the standard RTS peaked at Tiberium Sun and has been on a mild downslope since then.

        1. Sartharina says:

          Not a port, no, but Total War: Warhammer and Dawn of War respectively capture the feel of the main tabletop games.

          1. Decius says:

            They capture the look. They miss the grand tactical feel in my experience.

            1. Shas'ui says:

              As far as I can tell, they have not, nor will they ever release a game based directly on their physical rule-sets for the simple reason that it would compete with their main revenue source: after all, if you could get roughly the same experience in a video game as you could on the table, who wouldn’t swap away from the expensive, time-consuming, unpainted plastic?

              1. ayegill says:

                The straightfoward solution to this is to crib from Wizards of the Coast and just sell virtual figurines. Who wouldn’t wanna spend hundreds of dollars on a virtual army?

    2. Fade2Gray says:

      OK. So, you’re all either scientists in HEV suits or combine solders. The G-Man has decided he only wants the best for his employer’s next secret and nefarious mission, so you’ve all been dropped on an island in Xen that’s slowly shrinking. The last man standing will enjoy a nice Votigaunt fowl dinner before being whisked off to The G-Man only knows where.

      1. Amstrad says:

        Honestly.. a HL2 themed PUBG sounds kinda fun. It’d be worth a mod team throwing it together at least. I’m surprised no one has done it yet.

        1. ayegill says:

          Instead of scavenging weapons, just give everyone a gravity gun and place a bunch of physics objects for them to hurl at each other.

    3. Droid says:

      You do know that now that you said that, the upper management at EA is going to make a Battle Royale game set in Middle-Earth so tone-deaf that it makes Shadow of War/-dor look like Tolkien canon in comparison. Just to show off how good they are at still getting things worse than anyone else.

      1. ElementalAlchemist says:

        the upper management at EA is going to make a Battle Royale game set in Middle-Earth

        I suspect they will find that hard to do, since Warner Brothers holds the exclusive license.

  5. Ardis Meade says:

    Is it possible that Valve just hasn’t admitted HL3 is dead to themselves? They could still see themselves as a video game developer and everything else is just “temporary side projects” that they keep telling themselves they’ll finish soon and go back to making video games. Admitting Half-Life 3 is dead would mean admitting they don’t make video games anymore. Maybe they’re not willing to face that.

    1. Shen says:

      Good chance they’re worried that publicly declaring it over might cost them eyes on their press releases. A not insignificant portion of their fan base are people who’ve convinced themselves that their support will somehow cause HL3 to happen.

  6. Bloodsquirrel says:

    The reason valve hasn’t admitted that Half-Life 3 is dead is because it would require there to be some actual, official decision making at the company. The way that Valve supposedly”‹ works, people just work on whatever they want. Maybe there’s still this one guy working on it. Who knows. But nobody at Valve is in charge of saying “we’re doing this now”, so they’ve never actually cancelled HL3.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I think this is sort of true in the case of the original Half-Life

    Nah.SoldierHawke played it for the first time over a decade after it came out and she liked it.And she is a soldier,so you know her opinion on a shooter holds more weight than that of a mere civilian.

    1. Fizban says:

      I never played the first Half-Life -not past the first few areas anyway, I found it infuriating. Wandering around looking for stupid vents and getting mobbed by headcrabs like I’m supposed to be some sort of baseball player.

      Recently I picked up the Black Mesa endorsed fan remake, and while there were still those stupid early areas and a couple more later, on the whole it was pretty decent. Was nice to actually see around the Black Mesa complex and find out what those notorious platforming levels were about. Obviously I can’t be sure how much was fan edited, but there are a few spots that seem pretty obvious and so I figure the vast majority is faithful.

      Of course they still haven’t finished the final chapter, so no hating the final chapter to worry about.

      1. Kerin says:

        Shockingly, the obviously fan-edited parts are mostly not. The fan edits are pretty seamless. There’s just maybe three places (pre-Xen) in Half-Life 1 that seem really awkwardly goofy out of the context of a 1998 shooter.

        I’m talking mainly about (spoilers for a 20 year old game follow:)

        – The bit where the pipe you’re running along falls down and through an office ceiling for some reason
        – The rocket engine puzzle with the tapping beak things that are sensitive to noise
        – The segment where you’re in a cage trying to kill the underwater monster, and the terrible piston-based puzzle that happens shortly after

        I love Half-Life, but I wish the Black Mesa team had trimmed a little more.

        1. Fizban says:

          Really? I was giving the invincible ninja bs a pass for being someone’s “awesome” fan addition, but if that was there originally and the normal soldiers were already vikings then that sounds terrible.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            The ninjas were in the original,but you faced them only a few times.

            1. Fizban says:

              Oh they’re only there a couple times in Black Mesa, they were just extremely bs, either you luck out and they die easy or you don’t. Never actually found a way to deal with them properly, just reloaded and faffed about until I got a combination of spray+run away+explosive barrel? that worked. Might have just emptied all my explosives the second time or run past because there was no need to fight them.

              1. Lanthanide says:

                Best way to kill the assassins is the trip mines. They will always follow you, so just have to find a dead end or secluded area with 2 entrance, place the mines and then hide.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Or just shotgun them in the face.Always works for me.

              2. Olivier FAURE says:

                In both Half Life and Black Mesa, the best way to deal with the ninjas it to lock yourself in a dead-end, wait for them to come to you, and shoot them with all your hatred (aka your shotgun or your magnum).

  8. Galad says:

    I seem to recall there being an unofficial mod in the works, based on what Laidlaw has released. Anyone got more info?

  9. Hal says:

    I gotta admit, if Valve is done with making shooters, then the demise of Left 4 Dead is a bigger loss to me than Half-Life. L4D was a primary bonding tool between me and my friends for a long time, and helped us stay connected, even after I moved to another state.

    Oh well. Maybe things will change at Valve one of these days. Or, perhaps more likely, some other developer will figure out how to put lightning in a bottle and we’ll get some amazing games from someone else.

    1. Decius says:

      Is it important that it be written by Valve? Warhammer: The End Times: Vermintide is 1-4 player coop in the gameplay style of L4D, but themed with ratlings instead of zombies.

      Oh, and the characters actually play differently, so you can have specialized roles (have someone with a shield in front keeping the vermin off of someone with a ranged specialization who can take out the specials before they can do their thing.

      1. Fizban says:

        I haven’t played it myself, but a friend said that Vermintide’s classes were terrible. One of the great things about L4D is that while the characters and weapons are distinct, everyone is actually playing the same game, so if anyone feels useless its not because of a built in problem.

        1. Decius says:

          None of the classes are useless anywhere, but most people will have a preference for or against some of them.

          My preference is Bardin, with hammer and shield and a rifle. Goof melee crowd control, and I can snipe a special rat when I need to. Back before the seeking bow was nerfed to be fair I loved the cheese of easy mode aimbot.

          I have trouble playing fire wizard, because I’m bad at heat management and accidentally blow up way too often.

          Soldier and witch-hunter feel like inferior dwarves that are harder to keep out of friendly lines of fire to me, but I do enjoy working with someone who can quickly drop stormvermin in melee.

          There’s an absurd number of permutations of equipment available, just find a few that work out for you.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Warhammer: The End Times: Vermintide

        Ok,I did say before that horizon:zero dawn is the stupidest title ever,but if what you say is the real official title of that game,and its not just the shortened “warhammer:vermintide” that Ive seen before,than this one takes the title.Handily.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Yeah, the official full spelling of the title is Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide

          And just for discussion’s sake the title is compound. I’m pretty sure that in most cases the devs are contractually obligated to put the name of the setting first (the one notable exception that I can come up with off the top of my head are the Total War games). Now someone feel free to correct me but I believe “End Times” is the official GW name for a period of time in the WFRP setting, not sure if this directly corresponds to rulebooks and is used as an actual designation (like, if you play “End Times” the following rulebooks apply) but it’s pretty likely this might have again been a contractual obligation, and at the very least adding it gives the players who are in the know a lot of information about the game’s placement in the setting (especially explaining why the Skaven are suddenly swarming all over the place). this leaves only “Vermintide” as the term for the game proper (or at least cursory googling does not reveal the term being used in reference to anything else other than the game).

          So yeah, it’s a bit of a mess but there seem to be certain reasons for it (again, my bet is mostly on being legally forced to use the first two terms). For whatever it’s worth the official twitter for the game is just “Warhammer Vermintide” (@VermintideGame) so it doesn’t seem like the devs themselves are particularly fond of the full name. Oh, and the sequel seems to be marketed and pre-sold under just Warhammer:Vermintide II

          1. Decius says:

            Thanks for the correction. I refer to it in spoken conversation as “ratmurder”, and I know the Steam name starts with ‘warhammer’ so I know where on the list it is.

          2. Soylent Dave says:

            “Warhammer: End Times” was a big event that Games Workshop did, with tons of releases and in-store events, and so on, spread out over an entire real-world year.

            (it was the build up to rebooting – in fact destroying – the Warhammer world and ultimately relaunching as ‘Age of Sigmar’, so it was all a Very Big Deal to GW)

            It’s certain that the developers were contractually obligated to title the game “Warhammer: End Times – [something]” so as to tie in with all of these other releases (cross-marketing is something GW are usually terrible at, so frankly I’m astonished they even bothered…)

        2. Syal says:

          Any game that can be abbreviated to WET Vermin is okay by me.

    2. Thomas says:

      The core studio that made Left 4 Dead parted with Valve years ago and then went into to make Evolve which failed to capture the same lightning in the bottle (although, if you really squint you can see the shared roots)

  10. PPX14 says:

    Gosh, I have seen the “old games aren’t as good as people remember them” rose tinted glasses spiel, a fair amount – “Deus Ex was amazing at the time but playing it today the UI is unusable and the graphics are awful (so play the modded version)” sort of thing.

    I don’t think these classic games were compelling at the time solely by way of being better than the alternatives. Yes many of my personal favourite games are among the earlier ones I played (though several years after release) and I wonder all the time if they really are as good as I remember them being when I’d played fewer games and was younger.

    But I think that actually, they were. I played Deus Ex and Thief a good 10y after they came out, and if anything, they seem to outclass most of the games made since, and make me wonder how it is that games have supposedly advanced to the point of making these old ones “not as good as people remembered”.

    (I lament the loss of the ‘lean’ mechanic so crucial to first person gameplay! And yes some games like Anachronox have ridiculous UI issues, but still manage to be fun. )

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Rainbow Six Siege has lean buttons! Plus destructible walls!

      1. PPX14 says:

        It does look great, if only it had a single player story. I quite enjoyed Rainbow Six Vegas, often ridiculously difficult but fun and tactical gameplay.

    2. Decius says:

      I find System Shock to be unplayable in the modern era because I have learned UI practices that postdate it. I’m looking forward to the remake.

      Thief: The Dark Project isn’t fun for me anymore because I’ve played through it too many times, not because the controls became deprecated. Thief 2 and 3 havent gotten to that point, but the remake is blah because it adopted so many of the modern UI conventions that the gameplay assumptions behind those conventions bled through- in using a modern system for interesting melee, Garret had to become an accomplished melee combatant, and the level design had to take that into account; modern cutscene storytelling required that key scenes be approached from the cutscene trigger, creating artificial points of linearity in level design that cascaded into even more linearity than strictly required.

      In summary: give me a first-person game where the player character is smart, rather than badass. Prey (2017) can play like that, but not much else.

      1. Naota says:

        True story: on my first day on the job I was introduced to a guy in the level design department who was meant to get me acclimated to the stuff I’d be doing. The first thing on the docket was that we go out for lunch somewhere and talk about games. Along the way I brought up Thief, my favourite series, and how I felt like the latest remake had some sort of crazy design clash under the hood, that had it zigzag across the game design spectrum, ship in unfinished pieces, and still end up… kinda okay?

        This guy then casually nodded and confirmed what I was thinking. He was one of the designers on the project at Eidos Montreal who had seen the writing on the wall circa Mankind Divided, and come back to Toronto.

        …let’s just say that it sounded like a bureaucratic and directorial nightmare of truly epic proportions.

    3. Redrock says:

      Well, Deus Ex graphics are awful, they were pretty bad even at the time. But, like Shamus said, I’ll take these graphics any day if they came with the same freedom and level design.

      1. Poseidon's Left Nipple says:

        Pretty much. I’m personally super invested in graphical fidelity. I’d much prefer games that push the boundry of mechanics and player interaction, rather than just trying to push more pixels.

        Unfortunately, pixels sell games.

        1. Redrock says:

          I actually suspect it’s not so much about selling games, as it is about selling hardware. Nvidia, AMD and the TV and monitor makers will all keel over and die if someone wasn’t constantly pushing new levels of fidelity.

      2. PPX14 says:

        Exactly, the metrics by which people deem these classic games as outdated (and thus not as good as people remember), are for me insignificant next to the main reasons they were (and are still) good.

      3. Daemian Lucifer says:

        The real problem with deus ex isnt the graphics,its the field of view.I didnt even know that a game can give me headache until I tried replaying des ex years later on a big ass monitor.Not pleasant.

    4. Soylent Dave says:

      Often it’s not really that games have advanced in any particular way, it’s that these groundbreaking games were just that: groundbreaking.

      And once the ground has been broken once? Well it gets broken again. And again.

      And again.

      If the er.. ground… (let’s stop beating the metaphor into the ground, shall we) if the new mechanics or ideas were genuinely good, as is often the case in games we remember as ‘great’, then they’ll get used so much that they become the new normal – and they’ll also get polished a little bit more as time goes on.

      So going back to the first incarnation can often be… disappointing.

      Control methods get refined so that the precursors feel clunky and prehistoric.

      User interfaces get refined and we get used to shorthands which are annoyingly not present in ‘classic’ games.

      Mechanics that were once experimental and exciting in their freshness are now tired and old-hat (even to the point of cliché).

      I think this is how games that really were genuinely great fall victim to rose-tinted glasses. It’s not that modern games are all spectacular: it’s just that these older games are victims of their own innovation.

      It’s only really those games which were innovative and niche that didn’t get ‘copied’ into obsolescence (of which Deus Ex is a prime example)

      1. Echo Tango says:

        This is similar to what happened to Seinfeld. It was innovative and new at the time, but now other comedy TV shows have iterated on it, so it feels old. :)

      2. PPX14 says:

        I agree – I suppose my point was a bit non-specific, there must be many examples of what you describe, the most obvious of which would be graphical realism improvements or the first games to introduce simple mechanics like jumping, or decent quests list (curse you Anachronox, making me keep track of things on paper).

        I guess I was defending the classic games I’ve played like Thief and Deus Ex, that haven’t felt particularly deficient mechanically, or at least not enough to be an issue, and then also seem to bring to the table so much more that I haven’t experienced elsewhere or in as compelling a way. The reason I like Thief so much isn’t its innovative sound and light systems, it’s everything else in conjunction (atmosphere, theme, and the level design and mechanics that contribute to these things).

        But I think that’s why these games are considered classics. They are far more than just groundbreaking (or as you say haven’t been iteratively improved upon ad infinitum). Whereas something like Crysis is well regarded as groundbreaking, but never considered a classic. I suppose it’s the games in-between where it is worth testing the assumptions about whether it really is as good as ‘remembered’.

      3. PPX14 says:

        I would actually contend that some outdated mechanics contribute to the game being good. The game took a set of mechanics and made something good with them. Just because they have been ‘updated’ since doesn’t mean they were worse, they were just different, and if the game made with them suited them properly, that older game can be just as good as a newer game that fully utilises its own updates to that ‘outdated’ system of mechanics.

        Some silly examples might be: Pacman would not be improved by having more than 4-way directional control, or being a 3d game. Some films e.g. Film Noir might be better in black and white. Chess.

        My example would be Dark Forces. The controls might seem obtuse to many, but the challenge of the game is based around the limitations of that control system, and rather than it being a “bad” control system it is just a mechanic of the game that is to be learned, used and mastered. It IS the game. And it was fun! If that same control system were used to try to play a modern fps then yes they would be awful, but it isn’t made like a modern fps, it’s a game about movement, not about aiming. It’s just a completely different thing, and to say it’s unplayable by comparison because of that is like judging an apple on its ability to be peeled like an orange ;)

        1. PPX14 says:

          Whereas of course some games just have clunky mechanics :-P Including Dark Forces… :D

          at one point I had to simultaneously hold down Alt (strafe), Shift (speed), C (crouch), while pressing left and right to pop in and out of cover, and press Ctrl to fire.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Shovel knight is the game I always bring up when people talk about nostalgia an ui.Like many games,it took the old retro feel of early platformers,but it updated it exactly in places where it needed updating.Hence why its the best 2d platformer to date,while a plethora of other wannabe retro games are just thrash.

        2. Soylent Dave says:

          Yeah, I’d agree with lots of that (Pac-man is a great example, as the controls and gameplay have been ‘improved’ with various updates – including terrible forays into 3D graphics – always to the detriment of the game. Updating the graphics and the music works, updating the mazes can work… but the game works because it’s simple, and farting around with it too much ruins the fun)

  11. Joshua says:

    This is probably one of the most bizarre developments in Game Design history, sort of like Dave Chapelle walking away from his own very popular television show, although that at least had closure.

    As was stated, it’s especially frustrating when they have been chiding fans for years to “just be patient”, and yet won’t even admit it’s dead. I’m curious, has anyone heard any response from Valve about the Marc Laidlaw reveal?

    If they had ended the series after Half-Life 2 and said they didn’t want to make any more of these games, I’d be fine with it. Even ending after Episode 1 might not be too bad. But why the hell end the series with the pyrrhic cliff-hanger ending of Episode 2?

    There still hasn’t been a satisfactory answer of why we never got a sequel. “They were afraid of fan backlash for not making a perfect product” has always struck me as very lame, especially compared to never making any more games at all. One clue that we might not get another game is the increasing risk of one of the voice actors passing away, like Robert Culp. Granted, Merle Dandridge is only in her early 40s, but anything can happen. Just look at Doloros O’Riordan.

    Well, I’ve been waiting for three things for at least five years: Episode 3, another Tool album, and The Winds of Winter. Maybe I’ll get one of the last two this year, since the first one is not to be.

    1. Joshua says:

      Sorry, rambling random thoughts about the subject matter.

    2. Alrenous says:

      The downside to Valve’s anarchic management model is there’s no real way to even incentivize stuff top-down, let alone command it.

    3. Poseidon's Left Nipple says:

      Might as well add The Doors of Stone to that list. Just another piece of media (along with Tool, The Winds of Winter) that I don’t ever expect to see released. HL3 was thoroughly in that camp, too, but it’s clearly dead and buried at this point.

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    In contrast, there's nothing particularly clunky or outdated in Half-Life 2.

    No one dares to challenge this?Man,this site is full of half life fanboys.Well then Ill do it:
    The aux power is ridiculous.Not only is it silly that you cant sprint if you use your flashlight,but the power reserve itself is just too small to be actually useful.You have to constantly switch your light off and on,sprint in burst,and dont get me started on swimming.

    The grenades being a separate weapon is an old design,and plenty of people never have used them.This leads to much frustration in the few places where you must use them to progress.

    Striders are a bitch,and the assault on the town hall is a big difficulty spike one is unprepared for.Its not the only difficulty spike,but its the worst one.Until the end of episode one,where the strider boss is even worse.Until the end of episode two,where they combine striders with the grenade problem,making it a nightmare for so many.

    There is a whole slot devoted to a gimmick weapon that you get to use for one section,and then it just sits there being useless for the rest of the game.

    Speaking of useless weapons,due to the levels being mostly small,and your ammo being scarce,you rarely get the opportunity to use the sniper crossbow,thus making it one other useless weapon that just sits there.Its made worse by the fact that the magnum and the ar3 are very accurate over long range,so you dont really need a dedicated sniper weapon cluttering your inventory.

    Speaking of ar2,the alternate fire is also mostly useless due to its low capacity and how finicky it is to aim.

    The rockets are also a gimmick weapon that you usually get to use only in specialized arenas,again due to the low ammo capacity.

    In fact,the low weapon capacity is overall a hindrance.While it is a great idea that had few players adapt and use all of the weapons,thus unlocking the full potential of the gunplay,it locks most players into a two weapon combination,of the machine gun with the most ammo and the shotgun with the best damage.

    And last but not least:FUCK POISON HEADCRABS.

    1. krellen says:

      The Magnusson Device Strider fight at the end of Episode 2 is why I have not replayed Half-Life 2 in years. That fight is one of the worst things I’ve ever played.

      1. Fizban says:

        Same here. I’ve wanted to replay episode 2 plenty of times, but even many years later with a computer than can actually handle it (I powered through with like 5 frames a second whenever that stupid vortex was visible), I just do not want to do that fight again. It sounds cool on paper, it sounds cool when they tell you the mission, and then you have to do it and its just miserable. The gravity gun is just too fiddly to do precision bomb tossing and then they throw enemies that actively screw over your attempts to do the thing.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Which is really a shame.Because if you get used to grenades and how lobbing them works in this game,that fight is rather easy.The problem is that the game never gives you an opportunity to learn half the weapons.I only did because on one of my countless playthroughs I decided to force myself to use the rare weapons.

          I really love the game,both of them.And thats precisely why I know the host of problems each one is plagued with.

          1. Kerin says:

            Weirdly, I agreed with you 100% when I played Episode 2 in 2008. I remember feeling actual relief that I’d never have to play that section again. And then I did replay it in 2015, and it was OK. No idea how I got better at it… I sort of suspect they tweaked the “attach” range of the Magnuson devices in a patch between then and now.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Could be.There were plenty of behind the scene patches to the game over the years.Usually ones that reduced difficulty of frustrating parts.

      2. Leocruta says:

        Indeed. I only managed to beat it by spawning in hordes of barneys and father grigoris armed with rocket launchers. They can’t actually kill any of the striders, but they do slow them down enough to make things a little easier.

        1. Coming_Second says:

          Just imagining this has really cracked me up, thanks.

      3. Supah Ewok says:

        It’s probably been over 6 years since I played through the series and I still haven’t seen Eli die just because I could not get past that section.

    2. Fizban says:

      Aux power garbage, yup. Prey actually has a limited flashlight, but it recharges (and thus stays steady) while walking and there’s only like two areas in the whole game where you might want it, and you have nightvision anyway- and it’s not tied to the sprinting (being a make your own inventory, Prey avoids/justifies most of these actually). That’s about all the limited flashlight I ever want to deal with.

      I’m pretty fine with grenades being a separate weapon, if they’re worthwhile. Grenades in HL2 are often a physics crapshoot, which while amusing is not what I usually expect from a grenade (reliable emergency kaboom).

      Is the gimmick weapon the gravity gun? ‘Cause yeah, the gravity gun isn’t great. I was just thinking about the implementation of telekinesis powers in shooters, which is pretty much always the same, even in HL2- and it never really worked worth a damn. Conserving ammo in Ravenholm is okay and it works as the “do puzzle” tool, but otherwise it just doesn’t matter. I think the whole umbrella of grab+throw stuff is something people went a little gaga over and it’s never quite worn off despite never really getting it right.

      Ammo capacity? Oh yeah, big time terrible there. I like that alien pulse rifle but it’s just never use-able. The low ammo caps do allow the designer to push the player into using the same weapon as their enemy and thus craft areas that show off that weapon’s strengths/weaknesses, but I’m not sure that’s intentional. And one of the more annoying things in a game is when you decide to finally burn that limited resource to deal with something, and find out that there’s more than you can deal with even after conserving.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Is the gimmick weapon the gravity gun?

        Nope,the antlion lure.

    3. Olivier FAURE says:

      Alright, anti-fanboy corner!

      I played Half Life 2 immediately after I finished Half-Life, and my biggest disappointment were the Combine Soldiers themselves. They felt incredibly weak and dumb compared to the HL1 marines (even though I’m told they had a significant AI upgrade), and the combat encounters felt less like challenges and more like slogs.

      I thought the “gimmick” sections (Now you have a boat! Now you have a car! Now you mind-control antlions and for some reasons they’re unstoppable!) were way too long.

      The story felt ridiculous, especially since I’d just finished HL1. I thought I’d beat the aliens, but now there are more aliens? And I’m world-famous somehow? And I’m in Eastern Europe but everyone from Black Mesa is here too? Apparently, I stayed in stasis for ~10 years, but none of my old friends seem surprised I’m still young or ask me where the hell I’ve been.

      Of course, the storytelling is extremely limited by the silent protagonist, and the lack of document items. Valve’s environmental storytelling is legendary, but it only goes so far. In HL1, the way you’re bounced around like a pinball between different parts of the complex made some sense (it was still a little weird); but in HL2, the lack of agency and the way other people talk around you (“If anyone can do it, it’s Freeman!”, “Gordon and I will do X!”) is grating at moments.

      On the other hand, Black Mesa: Source rocks.

      1. MelTorefas says:

        You aren’t wrong about the combine soldiers feeling less threatening than the marines in HL1, but I consider that a *good* thing. After the umpteenth time I died to what were evidently Norse berserkers cosplaying as US marines, I turned on invincibility and powered through that section.

        I didn’t have issues with the story of HL2 myself, it worked for me. All the things I was doing (including the gimmick sections) made enough sense that I was fine with it. But I do agree about the way the dialogue talks around Gordon. That got pretty awkward, especially the way Alyx fawns over Gordon, which felt incredibly fanservicey and made me massively uncomfortable.

    4. Dreadjaws says:

      Oh, man, this grenade thing is a problem in several games. Mass Effect comes to mind, and that game at least makes it a point of forcing you to use them in a main mission; others aren’t so lucky.

      Grenades not getting the proper amount of attention means that you’ll soon forget they exist, and you’ll be frustrated when you reach an area where they’re helfpuf or even necessary. More than once I’ve barely passed a part in a game because I didn’t remember grenades were an option.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Maaaan. Can we get a game that’s just all about indirect damage? Programmable time grenades, dial-a-yeild, remote mines. And then all the enemies have insta-kill hit-scan weapons, and the game is all about stealth, scouting, positioning, and timing. Could even get into incredible machine territory by folding some Quadrilateral Cowboy into the mix.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          Make the game yourself! :P

          1. Leah says:

            It is easy with overwatch you just set the smart robots to the gun girl in video game mode and then play as junkpile!

        2. Geebs says:

          Wait, I think I have a name for this game……let's see…. there are mans, and there are bombs…..

          I shall call it…. MANBOMBER!

    5. Xeorm says:

      Never saw the appeal of the game myself. I grabbed it some years after it was released. Played it some and…it was some shooter without a ton special to it I thought. Talky bits are boring. The lack of some sort of skip is a big deal, I think. People talk too slow. It’s not bad if talking is presented well, but meh.

      Beyond that, I think I got to some dark town and got lost. Stuck somewhere. Which had been kind of standard at that point for me too. Which felt funny after Shamus spends forever praising how good they are at guiding the character where to go. That works only if the player catches the cues, but that’s not always reliable. Some people think differently or can miss something. Then they’re lost and bored.

      I do think that what helps Half-Life a lot in popular culture is that it’s relatively unhateable. If you don’t enjoy it then chances are you’ll not play it and possibly ask for a refund. At worst it’s a bland entry. If you like it you love it with little negative attention. I’m not going to rage about a bland game, and then ignore most talk about it because I don’t care.

      1. Fizban says:

        I also got lost in a couple areas, but Ravenholm and Nova Prospekt are supposed to be a little confusing. The game does a good job of leading you when it wants to, but sometimes it decides the gameplay is now to figure it out yourself, and if you’re not on board that’s pretty strong drop point.

      2. Lanthanide says:

        The dark town where you got stuck was probably Ravenholm. There’s a part in it, about 3/4 of the way through, where you have to pull a switch to bring a metal platform down that you stand on, then flip the switch to ride it to where you need to go. It’s one of the few areas of the game that actually has respawning enemies, so it can take a while before you realise “hey, I’m going around in circles and these new enemies aren’t representing progress”.

        So that section is actually a very good counter-example for Shamus’ “they always lead you in the right place” level design.

      3. Syal says:

        And I didn’t make it nearly that far; I got to the hoverboat, got stuck on a jump for an hour, then got to a point where you have to climb a ladder while a presumably invincible helicopter shoots you, and died there until I quit.

        As for lighting and powerup cues… I went twenty years without noticing moles on my face. I am immune to subtle hints.

    6. Joshua says:

      I won’t disagree too strongly that the game relies too much on the Too Awesome to Use trope, which afflicts everything not in the Pistol/SMG/Shotgun mod.

      Half-Life 1 had an odd relationship with this as well. After years of playing HL2, I played HL 1 Source last year and the ammo limits seem very generous in comparison. However, you also get a ton of items that you’ll seldom end up using because they’re situational and rare, including the various landmines/satchel charges, those bug critters, and the Gluon Gun.

      1. Lanthanide says:

        Yeah, HL1 had very capacious ammo.

        I think they went too far in HL2’s ammo capacity, it’s just stingy.

        The gluon gun is ridiculously powerful, so you don’t actually need a lot of ammo with it (and of course it chews through it so fast).

    7. Coming_Second says:

      I contest the point about the antlion lure, simply because that was incredibly fun to use and was wholly justified as a result. Also, you get more use out of it in E1.

      I’ve never encountered a game where rocket launchers sat anywhere other than the Awesome But Impractical category. That’s the problem with incredibly powerful weapons: the designers have to come up with plausible reasons for you to not use it to solve every problem, and that solution is invariably very scarce ammo.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        The lure was fun to use,and I love it.But they keep it in your inventory for the rest of the game,despite never allowing you to use it again.I mean you can squeeze it and toss it around,but it does nothing.And no,it doesnt get a callback in any of the episodes.You can cheat it in,but you dont get it in the game proper.

        I've never encountered a game where rocket launchers sat anywhere other than the Awesome But Impractical category.

        Really?Youve never played any of the dooms,quakes,serious sams or unreal tournaments?Man,youve missed out a TON of fun.

      2. Philadelphus says:

        Team Fortress 2 has an entire class based around rockets and rocket jumping. :)

  13. Ebass says:

    Actually Shamus if anything I have the exact opposite opinion, I think Half Life was an absolutely amazing game whilst Half-Life 2 was a very well designed and engineered game, but somewhat over-rated.

    When Half-Life came out, the FPS debate was “Quake 2, or Unreal?” Play Quake 2 and Unreal today and they are clearly “90s shooters”, basically in the Doom mould. Endless abstract levels filled with shooty shooty monsters, shoot shoot shoot, find the red key, shoot shoot shoot. The monsters AI pretty much went as far as fly/run around and shoot (some of the Unreal monsters had a bit more than this)

    Half Life was the first of the Modern shooters (Though we had a little bit of it before with Duke Nukem 3d and Jedi Knight, it really was a quantum leap with HL). The set-pieces, we’d never seen anything like them before, just the start of the game, that ride on the train into Black Mesa, we’d never seen anything like that. The whole time through the game there was an incredible sense of “place”, of feeling Black Mesa to be a real place, rather than a shooting gallery. Reinforced by employees and security guards who actually interacted with the player and talked about the situation, rather than just being targets.

    The set pieces still stick in my mind today, the tentacle monster, coming out of the pipes onto the cliff face as the jets fly past, the many many scientist deaths that were darkly funny but also told you about how to survive in the world, the resonance cascade scenario (mishap at the beginning) the appearance of the marines killing the scientists, fighting the assasins.

    Thats another thing, the marines and the assasins, we’d never before had fights with AI that actually approximated human behaviour. If you took cover they used grenades to flush you out, they put down covering fire and worked in groups. Yea a lot of that was smoke and mirrors, but we’d never seen anything like it. The weapons were great as well, each having a real heft to it, with some fun stuff like snarks.

    I think of HL2, and I can’t think of that much that it did that was really “new”. When it came out I felt it was inferior to Far Cry, which I thought was doing much more interesting things with the FPS genre (massive open environments, vehicles, better AI, half decent stealth mechanics, it was also just more…… silly and fun) than Half Life. Which was extremely polished, but didn’t really do anything particularly new.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Actually Shamus if anything I have the exact opposite opinion, I think Half Life was an absolutely amazing game whilst Half-Life 2 was a very well designed and engineered game, but somewhat over-rated.

      Yay,Im not alone!Soon therell be dozens of us.Dozens!

      1. Nathan says:

        No, I’m with you guys. I thought Half-Life had a superior setting, better weapons, and better gameplay. It’s actually pretty hard on hard, unlike Half-Life 2, which really has the illusion of challenge, with its brain-dead AI and overly play-tested set pieces. I also never liked how the sequel didn’t really explain the drastic change in setting and enemies (the Combine sucked too; Stormtrooper rip-offs lead by the Sand worms from Dune). I think Half-Life 2’s reputation is really built on its graphics tech, which was revolutionary at the time, especially character’s facial expressions, which are good for today.

        1. Charlie B. says:

          I must say very kindly that YOU PEOPLE ARE CRAZY. Okay joking aside, Half-life 1 did not click with me at all. In fact, I was surprised how much I liked HL2 considering how little I enjoyed the first one. I think a lot of it had to do with the actual shooting. First every enemy felt like a bullet sponge to me. If you shoot at a marine he will just stand and shoot right back at you. It always felt like no matter how well I played I could never take a guy out without getting hurt, which is big deal because the game uses health packs. I think there is reason shooters have moved away from using health packs and hit scan weapons. I think HL 2 gets around this by just giving the player more health packs and making enemies weaker.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            The marines are a mid game enemy though.There are plenty of fodder aliens that come before.Half life 1 has far more different enemies than 2.There are the standard crabs and zombies,but then there are the hounds,the acid spitting squids,and the vorts.Marines come on top of them,so its natural that they are tougher,seeing how they too survived against them as you have.And only on top of them do you get the uber aliens and the floating ones.

      2. Leocruta says:

        The elite are always small in number. Now if I could only find some other people that like xen…

        1. PeteTimesSix says:

          Hi.

          Besides all of the above, any game that actually gives you the Tau Cannon instead of gluing it to the hood of a stupid buggy is clearly a superior product. I mean, that’s just a fact.

          1. Lanthanide says:

            I bet there were a lot of people expecting that once you got to the end of the buggy section, you’d rip the tau cannon off the buggy and that would be your new weapon.

            But no.

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          I like the look and feel of xen,but Im never that fond of going through it.

    2. Fizban says:

      Does Halo fit anywhere in there? The first shooter I ever played was Halo: Combat Evolved, and I was under the impression it was a pretty big deal at the time, but I never see it mentioned as influential on anything anymore. It’s really eerie. Halo was doing vehicles before HL2, as well as the regenerating shields that eventually turned into regenerating health on everyone for all time.

      For that matter, are linear shooters still even doing vehicles? Sandboxes have them as a matter of course, as do your multiplayer fests, but from what I’ve seen of the “modern” linear shooters I don’t remember good vehicle sections being a thing. Probably just ’cause I stopped following shooters when Halo went x-byox only and half-life X died.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        as well as the regenerating shields that eventually turned into regenerating health on everyone for all time.

        But lets not hold that against it.Yes,halo did a great thing for console shooters.But this place is full of us snobbish pc master racers,and we dont often mention consoles.

        Kidding aside,I do hear the “halo started it all” from time to time.But usually its tied to arguments of “and the new halo sucks big time”.

        What Im sad for is unreal tournament.The game that showed how multiplayer shooters can have more than just one mode.Also its a game that had variable gravity arenas,something rarely seen even today.

      2. Bloodsquirrel says:

        Halo’s design innovations have become so ubiquitous that people don’t even think about them as having once been new anymore. A lot of PC gamers don’t give it enough credit, partially because they don’t realize how early it actually came out. Halo 2 came out one week before Half-Life 2, for reference. They experienced most of Halo’s innovations first when they found their way into PC games, so that’s where they think of them as having been originated.

        It really is amazing how well Halo: CE holds up. 15+ years later and the only reasons it couldn’t pass for a modern game are the graphics and cutscenes. Half-Life 2, by contrast, felt antiquated by the time I played it, which I think was around the time the Orange Box came out. Wait, I can’t pick up the weapon of that guy I just killed? I don’t have dedicated melee and grenade buttons? WTF?

        1. Thomas says:

          Oh wow okay, you win. I read the start thinking ‘But Halo was just building on what Half-Life 2 had invented, years after HL2 did it’

          Its stunning to me that Halo came first and it wasn’t even close. That genuinely diminishes Half Life’s achievements a bit in my eyes.

          1. Fizban says:

            I was actually thinking they (Halo and HL2) came out the same time myself, until Ebass’s surety of launch dates made me check the launch dates and I found out Halo was sooner. Three years after HL1, but three years before HL2, right in the middle.

            Of course since I hadn’t played any of the older shooters where you carried everything, I actually had to learn the golf bag of weapons style second, and indeed it felt a little backwards, like Bloodsquirrel said.

            1. Ebass says:

              I’ll actually give a lot of credit to Halo, it was after Half Life but had a lot of stuff half life didn’t and was pretty revolutionary in many ways. The fights felt very “kinetic” I’m not sure how to describe it. Also had a lot that we now expect (regenerating health, one button for grenade rather than seperate weapon, pick up a few weapons rather than haul an entire arsenal on your back etc)

        2. Nope says:

          I think it’s a bit funny that the phrase used to describe HL-2 is “not clunky”.

          I love the game, but clunky is basically the design aesthetic. Hitting set pieces of clusters of enemies designed to pause you in between puzzles or exploration feels like a poor gear shift.

          The action of the crowbar, and the pistol you’re forced to put up with for a time, are incredibly clunky and unsatisfying, particularly when you’re trying to hit flying targets with the crowbar, who’s reach is just annoying. Well animated-still annoying. Similarly, the SMG’s recoil is pure frustration.

          As already mentioned, the “aux power” system really doesn’t work, in setting it’s bad enough, but it makes the play clunkier. Ok for tension, poor for being fluid. Outside of setpieces, there is rarely enough pressure to use a variety of weapons-there are obvious good choices and little pressure from ammo to really make it a problem, if anything, the game has sort of a problem with giving too many weapons with not enough use, which ties in with a lot of the combat being not difficult enough. The combat controls feel quite dated in general.

          Despite that, it’s still an incredible game, and it was still an incredible game when it came out. Some of that clunkiness helps with the pacing-in the end, the spectacle shooter that modern games have become suffers from being too streamlined. Switching things up with different gimmicks keeps things distinct, and most of them are enjoyable. The level design in particular, not enough can be said about it, outside of one or two areas, it’s hard to get lost, but the corridor is disguised really well.

          But it’s still got a lot of flaws and anachronisms, especially just things that were par for the course at the time. I had to wonder how a HL3 would actually work, because it would feel pretty archaic to a lot of modern audiences, but making too many changes for current gameplay trends would feel like a betrayal, on top of the fact that the game would have to include some changes and additions to make it new and novel.

      3. *waves hand* I’d played shooters before (including HL and its spin-offs), but I have a fond corner in my heart for Halo:CE. It might be one of the first shooters that put me in charge of a vehicle, and I delighted in doing stuff like timing everything right on that bridge just outside of a Covenant hive so that I could swipe the banshee parked there and swoop off into the sky with two fingers raised to the suckers down below. The action usually felt like it had a good flow to it and the Flood were properly scary. Fun times.

      4. Coming_Second says:

        I’ve always considered Halo an extremely competent game, rather than truly inspiring. The underlying mechanics are rock solid: the shooting, movement and vehicles all fit together brilliantly. I believe it was one of the first games that introduced me to the idea that all weapons could be equal in a way, the lowly pistol every bit as effective as a rapid-firing plasma rifle, something which made the multiplayer an instant success. Like all well-oiled machines, it makes something complicated look so easy.

        But it completely fails to move me in the same way Half-Life does. Part of that I think goes back to Shamus’s first point about polish. Valve poured so much effort into each environment and capturing a certain atmosphere that it’s impossible not to get caught up in it. Although punters now tend to deride it as gimmicks, they also put a lot into making each level distinct both in terms of environment and mechanics. In this one you’re in the canal system with a hoverboat, in this one you’re in a zombie-infested town with limited ammo, in this one you have to make bridges across the sand to avoid the antlions… Bungie’s idea of iteration was to make you plod through three identical-looking floors of fungus monsters whilst gently mocking itself for being so fucking tedious.

        1. Dan says:

          I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who was totally unmoved and underwhelmed by Halo.

          I found it incredibly repetitive and uninspiring. There was a whole section in the middle of the game where several consecutive parts were virtually identical – go through corridor into open room, shoot loads of baddies, enter next corridor followed by identical room with same baddies, and repeat several more times.

          For a while, I genuinely thought I was going round in circles, which I’ve never had with an FPS before or since. That seems like poor level design to me.

          How anyone could see it as revolutionising the FPS genre is beyond me, even now. Give me the HL series any day.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Because there was nothing like it on consoles before.Sure,you could play other fps on consoles before halo,but they were all terrible.Halo was designed from ground up for the controller.It does not matter that pc shooters were better,if you had an xbox,halo was the one for you.

      5. JBC31187 says:

        Halo: CE was the flagship game for the XBox and I believe it was the first console game with that level of graphics and gameplay. I think timing is everything- if it wasn’t for the XBox it might never have been so big.

    3. Tom says:

      Funny, I played Unreal 1 (years after I played Half Life 1) and didn’t think its levels were particularly abstract at all (though some were a bit cryptic). Impressionistic, maybe? Some of them did a rather great job of portraying multiple different cultures, clashing together on one ill-fated planet, for all that there wasn’t such a formal “plot” as Half Life. (one or two others were, admittedly, blatantly pointless boss arenas with no other conceivable function for those days when alien messiahs from the sky don’t drop in to fight titans…) And I greatly appreciated being able to read things in it.

  14. Ebass says:

    Except the gravity gun, I’ll give it that, and the gg was great, particularly in Ravenholm.

  15. Daemian Lucifer says:

    That means no more Portal

    Not quite

  16. Grudgeal says:

    *Shrug*

    It’s been somewhat obvious to me that Valve switched to becoming ‘the Steam guys’ instead of a game development studio since, oh, 2014? When did Portal 2 come out again? It’s been a bit like watching EA morph from a game-developer studio into this corporate *entity* that spent its time assimilating other developers and closing them during the mid-nineties.

    Valve is practically just the name now. The idea that Half-Life 3 is dead is a bit like someone telling me that Dungeon Keeper 3 is dead.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Have you tried the dungeons series?Its third part was released recently.

      1. Grudgeal says:

        Not the point I was trying to make. While both Dungeon Keeper and Half-Life both have their modern-day spiritual successors and the IP is technically available for making a new game, their development studios are essentially dead and they’re not forthcoming any time soon.

        (Also, no. The first Dungeons turned me off the series for good. I like War for the Overworld though.)

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          The 2nd game got rid of the whole “grooming heroes for resources” mechanics if that’s of any relevance to you.

          WftO has been rotting in my backlog forever, I’m almost certain I’ll love it but I’m waiting for the final DLC to come out.

    2. evileeyore says:

      ‘…someone telling me that Dungeon Keeper 3 is dead.”

      HERESY!

      No one… no c-can take away my hope… /bursts into helpless tears

      1. Grudgeal says:

        There there. We still have War for the Overworld. It’s Dungeon Keeper in all but name.

  17. Olivier FAURE says:

    Heck, it means no more Team Fortress 2 shorts and comics.

    Jay Pinkerton is still at Valve (I think) and they’re still pumping out videos. Comic #6 of their 7-issue series came out last year (and it was glorious). I’m pretty sure they ain’t done. On the other hand, good luck guessing when comic #7 is going to come out. Hopefully not in 2027 or something.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      Phew! Shamus had me scared for a minute there that we’d never get closure on that last comic.

    2. Thomas says:

      Nope, Jay Pinkerton left last June.

      1. Fizban says:

        The mic drop (or the exquisite troll?) Guess I’m glad I never got too invested in the side stuff.

      2. Olivier FAURE says:

        … SHIT.

        I hope that means he was done writing TF2 #7, and now all that’s left if the drawing process.

  18. Brandon says:

    Half-Life is and was incredible, and HL3 isn’t any more dead in 2018 than it was in 2016.

    What I’m trying to say is the Laidlaw stuff didn’t move the needle either way. Half-Life is as dead as it’s been for a few years now.

    1. Lanthanide says:

      Eh, not really.

      Publishing the intended storyline is a bit more of a nail in the coffin – obviously Mark saw the writing on the wall and figured he was in a place to give people some closure, and so took it. If he thought there was any chance the game would still be made (or that it was under development), it’s highly unlikely he would have done that.

  19. Dreadjaws says:

    Clearly at some point Valve realized that selling virtual hats was far more profitable than making games, so they stopped trying. Letting their writing staff go after several years of them being there doing no writing is the obvious telltale sign, but people were probably still hopeful due to “Valve time”.

    Of course, thanks to Steam, Valve has to make no effort and will still make ridiculous bank, but it’s a shame to see a company lose the passion it used to have just because of profit. They seem to have reached the point where profit is all they care about. Fortunately, unlike EA, they’re not incompetent, so their consumer base isn’t affected very negatively, but who knows what time will bring.

  20. IanTheM1 says:

    I’m in the “HL2 is still just dandy” camp, but it’s undeniable that the big, obvious things that made it unique and groundbreaking back in the day are so commonplace now that most people can’t see it as anything but yet another PC shooter. But for design dorks like me, stuff like the meticulous attention to game flow still stands out.

    If I was going to ping it for anything, it would be:

    1) The weapon design is off. They mimicked HL1’s arsenal but it was an imperfect translation.
    – The pistol manages to be one of the worst pistols in a big budget shooter, which is crazy. It sounds and feels like a pellet gun and its only redeeming quality is that you’re not forced to use it for very long.
    – The SMG got a huge downgrade, going from a well-rounded workhorse to a Generic SMG that can somehow fire grenades, something that’s far less believable with the tiny MP7-esque model they went with in the final game.
    – The Combine rifle breaks a design rule big time by being a complete and total upgrade from the SMG. More accurate, more powerful, the Orb of Doom is more or less point and click compared to angling grenades and is way cooler to boot. If not for that, it would be fine, because it’s a cool, effective weapon that’s not just a Generic Assault Rifle.

    The magnum and shotgun came out fine, and the crossbow is the one really good weapon re-design (especially since the original game’s crossbow was already weirdly justified). As impractical as it is, firing hot rebar from a makeshift crossbow and hearing that telltale TWANG as it pins a Combine to the wall with ~physics~ is satisfying as hell and stands in contrast to a lot of the other weapons.

    2) The pacing. Boy, Half-life 2 is a long game, innit? There’s way too much dead air and fat that could be trimmed without really hurting the game, I think. Way too much faffing around on the airboat to be sure, but the resistance uprising also gets a bit long in the tooth. The Citadel itself is also a bit of a mess. On the one hand it captures the feeling of sneaking into a giant’s lair, everything alien and unforgiving to a single little human, but it goes a bit too far at times. (And who could ever defend the bizarre railroading of getting into one of those people pods? Twice??)

    It’s been a while since I’ve played it, but I think Episode 1 had the best overall pace. Episode 2 went in the opposite direction, where instead of too much open space instead everything is hyper-condensed into a predictable rhythm – bespoke puzzle solving, setpiece fight, bespoke puzzle solving, setpiece fight. Some of the individual parts are memorable (the hotel ambush comes to mind, Hunters are cool), but way too much of Episode 2 is overtly video game-y, like the cache hunt, the tower defense section, or the finale, which I too dislike. Half-life 2 was a shooter propped up by gimmicks, Episode 2 is a bag of gimmicks propped up by shooting.

    And honestly, that’s why even when the idea of an Episode 3 was current, I was already a bit unsure if Valve could pull it off. There’s also a weird vibe from some Ep2 and Portal 1+2 development quotes that make me think they started to increasingly lean on their playtesters to basically shape the entire game for them, refactoring things to death if a single tester got even slightly confused.

    And for the record I do like Half-life 1 as well, but its objective flaws are much more apparent. Lots of “crap we put up with in old school shooters” design that makes it harder to recommend from a modern perspective.

    1. Lanthanide says:

      It's been a while since I've played it, but I think Episode 1 had the best overall pace. Episode 2 went in the opposite direction, where instead of too much open space instead everything is hyper-condensed into a predictable rhythm ““ bespoke puzzle solving, setpiece fight, bespoke puzzle solving, setpiece fight. Some of the individual parts are memorable (the hotel ambush comes to mind, Hunters are cool), but way too much of Episode 2 is overtly video game-y, like the cache hunt, the tower defense section, or the finale, which I too dislike. Half-life 2 was a shooter propped up by gimmicks, Episode 2 is a bag of gimmicks propped up by shooting.

      And honestly, that's why even when the idea of an Episode 3 was current, I was already a bit unsure if Valve could pull it off. There's also a weird vibe from some Ep2 and Portal 1+2 development quotes that make me think they started to increasingly lean on their playtesters to basically shape the entire game for them, refactoring things to death if a single tester got even slightly confused.

      Yeah, strongly agree with this.

      I think HL2:E2 is where they really started relying on play-testing too much, same with Portal 2. It really annoyed me in Portal 2 that you can jump, but early in the game there are lots of railings that you simply can’t jump onto / over and kill yourself. It seems to me like they saw some play testers doing it, decided it wasn’t correct, and stopped it. But there are still a few spots where you can do it, weirdly.

      HL1 was mostly run-and-gun with interesting level design and the occasional puzzle / obstacle you had to work around, but none of it really felt like deliberate set pieces (well, the Gargantua sections did, but I think we can forgive boss fights). Compared to HL2:E2 with the antlion-guard essence, the turrets, the bit with Alyx doing the sniping etc.

    2. Fizban says:

      More weapon talk? Yay!

      I actually like HL2’s basic pistol: it actually feels like a pistol. Unlike the one-shot revolvers or the “basically a sniper rifle” pistol that Halo seemed to help spawn, HL2’s pistol basically takes a whole mag to kill anything, so it actually feels like what its supposed to be: a backup/conserving main ammo weapon. And when you do use it, it still fires fast and has a fairly tight grouping so it works at multiple ranges.

      Mounted grenade launchers are actually really tiny: it’s just a little tube on the bottom of the gun that has a grenade in it. Dunno of the model is accurate, but that one doesn’t bother me either.

      I like the combine rifle just being straight better: it’s alien (or “magic”) and so its supposed to be better. The problem is that it doesn’t replace the SMG and so they try to balance it with a ridiculously tiny ammo pool. Commit: either its better or its not, ammo restrictions on an assault rifle are about the worst ammo restrictions you can have, ’cause rapid fire rifles are suppose to have lots of bullets.

      I already mentioned I don’t like the one-shot revolvers, but the crossbow I’m divided on. As cool as shooting flaming hot rebar and pinning people to the wall is, it doesn’t make a lick of sense. By contrast, having played Black Mesa and knowing the original crossbow was a crossbow that you picked up to use underwater (even though you’d actually need a harpoon gun), the HL1 weapon makes way more sense and the later version kinda bugs me now. Needed a bit more explanation why it can/you should need to shoot red-hot rebar.

      Being a long game-eh, Black Mesa was pretty dang long too. Or maybe modern shooters are just too short (or maybe I haven’t actually played any in years).’Shock style shooters seem to be longer, but they’ve got more “gameplay” to stretch with the level up mechanics, while games that don’t have any level up stuff seem to fear outstaying their welcome. Maybe that’s good, but I’m not convinced. HL2 is long enough that you can’t play it all in one sitting, but that also means it has whole sections you can choose from on the replay and they’ll fill up a sitting without having to play the entire game.

      I absolutely agree on the episodes being even more “video-gamey” though, not just ep2 either. How often do people even remember ep1? It’s basically a tiny bridge to reach ep2, a series of gimmicky fights and puzzles leading to a half-baked boss fight and a cliffhanger. Ep2, while being shorter and thus more obviously video-gamey at least has somewhere its going, but ep1 is just filler. This would be a general problem for episodic games, since each episode has to stand on its own and if you can’t break the entire game down into multiple games you’re gonna have episodes that are just forced filler. I’m actually quite glad episodic games mostly died with HL2.x. It seems to work well for “story” games, but I never thought it was a great idea for gameplay games.

      1. Nope says:

        You’re given so many weapons however, that you almost never need to use the pistol like that, and the idea of a realistic sidearm of last resort makes little sense when you carry an arsenal.

        It just feels so bad to use in general. It sounds bad, it doesn’t do much to enemies, it’s horrendously innacurate.

        Also, mounter grenade launchers are longer than the entire barrel of an MP7, which seems to be the inspiration for the SMG. It wouldn’t even fit.

        1. ehlijen says:

          I’ve found plenty of situations where the pistol was the ideal weapon. It’s not as accurate as the crossbow, but accurate enough to hit head crabs out to significant distances. And when shooting headcrabs I need a reasonable rate of fire (ruling out crossbow, revolver and shotgun), accuracy (ruling out the smg) and no splash damage (so I can keep shooting when they get close), but also some range to pick them off before they jump me (meaning the GG and the crowbar are suboptimal). I don’t need high damage (meaning the AR is overkill), and the various explosives are overkill and/or too dangerous. So in comes the pistol which works perfectly for the job.

          It’s also fine for small zombie groups because you have the time to aim for the heads due to their slow walk.

          Of course, the gravity gun makes several of the weapons redundant, but that’s a GG issue, not a pistol issue.

          But yes, an MP7 with a grenade launcher is ridiculous, especially with Freeman grabbing the foregrip to fire it, which couldn’t be there if there was indeed a launcher. Even the MP5 from the original HL1 should not have been big enough for a launcher (which is why Blue Shift replaced it with a M4 carbine (which couldn’t possible share ammo with a Glock pistol lol but somehow did)

  21. Don Alsafi says:

    If you haven’t read The Reverse Design Forum’s massively in-depth analyzation of Half-Life, I highly recommend doing so. I was a big fan of HL before, but reading this book-length analysis was eye-opening!

    (Over 50,000 words, btw, so you might want to pick up the ebook for $0.99, if that’s more convenient.)

    I love this astonishing level of analysis, btw. One of the reasons I continue to come to come to your site for years now. :)

  22. Dev Null says:

    The story I like to tell myself – which I have no evidence to support whatsoever – is that Valve really genuinely was working on HL3, but that it wasn’t coming together, and they decided to quash it rather than produce an inferior game under the HL name (which would still have sold craptons.) I like to believe that they’d have that integrity.

    1. Lanthanide says:

      There’s been various leaks of Valve’s internal work data over the years, often amongst the data files in a new game release (like Left 4 Dead, or Left 4 Dead 2, and other newer games) are files that are actually labelled HL3, or Source engine 2 assets.

      I’m far from an expert on this, but it seems like HL3 has probably gone through 3 separate spates of development.

  23. BlueHorus says:

    You have games that just see the story as an excuse to string together set-piece battles, but the writer never got the memo. So you wind up with a game where the story didn't matter to the team, but it still has a bunch of blustering, cliche, overly-long cutscenes for some reason.

    Oh, yes. Name your favorite game that did THIS.

    For me, it’s Grey Goo: they put so much effort into those cutscenes. I think they hired actors, did mo-cap, planned out alliances and betrayals and and an epic story and…Every. Single. One. Was a waste of time.
    A classic example of trying to cram in a story where it just wasn’t needed.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Man,Id love to like the grey goo,but its so boring for 2/3rds of it.Unlike other strategies that try to emulate the starcraft rock/paper/scissors races,it really does not offer much new to two of those races.

  24. afaulconbridge says:

    I’d like to see the Episode 3 script from a parallel universe where Portal doesn’t exist or isn’t part of Half-life. Or better, an Episode 3 that *is* Portal. I’ve never really liked Aperture and Black Mesa co-existing; one greedy mega-corp I can believe, both of them in the same world just feels small and causes a tonal clash to me.

    1. Viktor says:

      This may be a case of Reality is Unrealistic, then. Look up the recent Google vs Amazon fight for a real-world example.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Lets not forget the BENEVOLENT AND LOVING mouse

        1. Redrock says:

          Heretic! Don’t you dare speak out against our lord and saviour, the Holy Rodent! Now repent your sins and sing “Let it go” a hundred times to cleanse your miserable excuse for a soul.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Shamus is going to kill me for this,but its my miserable soul thats at stake!SO AWAAAAY WE GO!
            1:The snow glows white on the mountain tonight;Not a footprint to be seen;A kingdom of isolation;And it looks like Im the Queen;The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside;Couldnt keep it in;Heaven knows I’ve tried;Dont let them in;Dont let them see;Be the good girl you always have to be;Conceal;Dont feel;Dont let them know;Well now they know;Let it go,let it go;Cant hold it back anymore;Let it go,let it go;Turn away and slam the door;I dont care what theyre going to say;Let the storm rage on;The cold never bothered me anyway;Its funny how some distance;Makes everything seem small;And the fears that once controlled me;Cant get to me at all;Its time to see what I can do;To test the limits and break through;No right,no wrong,no rules for me;Im free;Let it go,let it go;I am one with the wind and sky;Let it go,let it go;Youll never see me cry;Here I stand;And here Ill stay;Let the storm rage on;My power flurries through the air into the ground;My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around;And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast;Im never going back;The past is in the past;Let it go,let it go;And Ill rise like the break of dawn;Let it go,let it go;That perfect girl is gone;Here I stand;In the light of day;Let the storm rage on;The cold never bothered me anyway

          2. Daemian Lucifer says:

            99:The snow glows white on the mountain tonight;Not a footprint to be seen;A kingdom of isolation;And it looks like Im the Queen;The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside;Couldnt keep it in;Heaven knows I’ve tried;Dont let them in;Dont let them see;Be the good girl you always have to be;Conceal;Dont feel;Dont let them know;Well now they know;Let it go,let it go;Cant hold it back anymore;Let it go,let it go;Turn away and slam the door;I dont care what theyre going to say;Let the storm rage on;The cold never bothered me anyway;Its funny how some distance;Makes everything seem small;And the fears that once controlled me;Cant get to me at all;Its time to see what I can do;To test the limits and break through;No right,no wrong,no rules for me;Im free;Let it go,let it go;I am one with the wind and sky;Let it go,let it go;Youll never see me cry;Here I stand;And here Ill stay;Let the storm rage on;My power flurries through the air into the ground;My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around;And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast;Im never going back;The past is in the past;Let it go,let it go;And Ill rise like the break of dawn;Let it go,let it go;That perfect girl is gone;Here I stand;In the light of day;Let the storm rage on;The cold never bothered me anyway

            1. Shamus says:

              For context: Daemian Lucifer actually posted these lyrics 100 times, as demanded. I have deleted #2 through #98. I realize this ruins his punchline, but that was super-annoying to scroll past with a PC and I think trying to scroll past it on a touchscreen would kill me.

              Sorry.

              1. ehlijen says:

                Yes!

                I don’t know if it’s the browser on my tablet (Windows RT, so IE is the only option grrr), or the site theme, but the scroll bar doesn’t show up unless I’m scrolling, so it’s impossible to ‘grab’ the button and scroll fast, I have to keep flicking the screen. Any one know how to fix that (or better yet, can point me at a Surface RT compatible browser that isn’t IE or Edge)?

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  The only solution I can think of is jailbreaking it*.But I dont know how that would impact licensed stuff you already have on it,so its a “at your own risk” kind of thing.

                  *According to that thread,this works for win 8,but not for 8.1.If you have that,youll have to dig around a bit.

              2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Its a good thing that I condensed it to just three comments then.Initially,I wanted to do it with actual breaks between lines,but decided to go with semicolons instead.See,Im a considerate spammer.

          3. Daemian Lucifer says:

            100:The snow glows white on the mountain tonight;Not a footprint to be seen;A kingdom of isolation;And it looks like Im the Queen;The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside;Couldnt keep it in;Heaven knows I’ve tried;Dont let them in;Dont let them see;Be the good girl you always have to be;Conceal;Dont feel;Dont let them know;Well now they know;Let it go,let it go;Cant hold it back anymore;Let it go,let it go;Turn away and slam the door;I dont care what theyre going to say;Let the storm rage on;The cold never bothered me anyway;Its funny how some distance;Makes everything seem small;And the fears that once controlled me;Cant get to me at all;Its time to see what I can do;To test the limits and break through;No right,no wrong,no rules for me;Im free;Let it go,let it go;I am one with the wind and sky;Let it go,let it go;Youll never see me cry;Here I stand;And here Ill stay;Let the storm rage on;My power flurries through the air into the ground;My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around;And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast;Im never going back;The past is in the past;Let it go,let it go;And Ill rise like the break of dawn;Let it go,let it go;That perfect girl is gone;Here I stand;In the light of day;Let the storm rage on;The cold never bothered me anyway

            I wonder if these three will get trimmed soon.

            1. Paul Spooner says:

              I’m feeling like the removal of the “I am not a spammer” checkbox is having some deleterious effects on the quality of commentary.

      2. Olivier FAURE says:

        It’s more the scale and the advanced technology that’s weird.

        Like, Black Mesa is a top-secret research facility with a complex so big, it’s powered by both a dam and a nuclear reactor, it has housing facilities for its employees and their families, several private railway systems, massive stockpile of guns, mines, missiles and other weapons, a satellite launch facility, etc.

        It would already be pretty impressive if you were told this was the biggest, most expensive research facility in the world, but then you learn it’s tied with another research facility that’s even bigger and independently invented teleportation (well, portals) forty years earlier. (and that’s without going into timelines, or the Borealis, or the private turret factories)

        So yeah, the military-industrial complex is a bit punchier in the Half Life universe.

    2. Lanthanide says:

      Black Mesa was never really a greedy mega-corp though?

      1. Philadelphus says:

        And I don’t feel like that really describes Aperture either, unless you consider all mega-corps to be inherently greedy; Aperture was led by an eccentric genius that seemed like he was genuinely trying to make products to enhance people’s lives (and of course generate some profit along the way, same as any company), he was just incredibly callous and misguided in his attempts.

  25. Charlie B. says:

    So I’m twenty and recently just played every Half-life game over Christmas except for the gearbox ones. Half-life 1 was so frustrating to me and I can’t say I really enjoyed most of it. Half-life 2 on the other hand is a master piece and I kept saying to myself “How was this made in 2004 it looks too good.” I just thought I’d share my opinion since I have no rose colored glasses for the games what so ever. Also, I actually was going through the game thinking “wow, Valve did a good job leading my eye with level design,” but maybe I’ve been watching too much Mark Brown.

  26. Thomas says:

    I’m super curious about how the management structure at Valve looks nowadays.

    Their communal hodgepodge sounded interesting for developing games on fairly unlimited budgets.

    But now Valve mostly don’t make games, how does it work? Suppose communally some people build a different front page for Steam. How do they decide if it gets used?

    If Half-Life 3 isn’t happening, who decides to announce that?

  27. Rich says:

    Half-Life 1 is somewhat marred by the one-two punch of jumping puzzles

    Did you miss the jumping puzzle with the gravity gun in HL2?

  28. Ninety-Three says:

    like the death of Some Kidd

    Is he the son of Mr. Kidd or is this a typo?

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      More typos:
      And anyway, they no longer employ the require people to make it happen

  29. Ninety-Three says:

    Most of us have concluded that the game is dead, so I have no idea why Valve has been reluctant to make it official. There's nothing to be gained by pretending the game might still happen, and publicly canceling the game might allow people to move on and end the frustration of the poor fans who have been waiting and hoping for over a decade.

    On the other hand, it costs them very little to not admit the game is canceled. They don’t have much reason to maintain a lie, but they haven’t really been maintaining it, just choosing not to tear it down as it falls into disrepair. If we assume Valve are lazy (and based on how they handle Steam, that might be the easiest assumption we make all year), the way they’re handling it makes perfect sense.

    1. Retsam says:

      I don’t think it’s particularly laziness: I think an official “HL3 is never going to happen” announcement would just be bad publicity for Valve, to no gain. Sure a few fans would appreciate the transparency, but I think a lot more would just get angry.

      1. Lanthanide says:

        And what are the angry fans going to do about it? Not buy HL3?

        1. Nope says:

          Create a poor buzz which damages the company’s image, future projects, and also their share price.

          You also haven’t given them a reason to do it, which is what they’d actually need to do that.

          1. Lanthanide says:

            Valve is a private company, they don’t have a share price to worry about.

            I don’t think confirming HL3 is not coming at this point in time would damage them. Most people have given up and moved on already. Those left are a small minority, and like I said, what are they gonna do?

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Valve is a private company, they don't have a share price to worry about.

              Besides,look how long it took them to invest bare minimum effort in order to address a handful out of the plethora of complaints about steam.

          2. Andrew2023 says:

            But it still feels inconsiderate of Valve. I guess they don’t owe me anything though. They gave me some of the best video game playing experiences I have had!

    2. Coming_Second says:

      I don’t think that’s laziness so much as a deliberate policy of attempting to pass as much of the busy-work of maintaining a game community to, well, the community.

      I think you could write a whole separate essay about how this attitude of Valve’s evolved from the run-away success of the fan-made hats, maps and weapons in TF2 into the idea that they could run their massive distribution monopoly with as little developer-side interaction as possible – as well as making massive bank via their digital markets and by “enabling creators”.

  30. ThaneofFife says:

    Half-Life 2 was the first modern shooter I played when I started playing non-MMO PC games again around 2007-2008. It absolutely blew me away in terms of story and depth. In fact, the only pure shooters that did a better job were the new Wolfenstein games. (If someone wants to recommend more story-driven shooters (other than the Bioshock series), then I’m all ears.)

    That said, I’m far more upset at the idea of no more Portal games than I am about the cancellation of Half-Life 3. Portal did something absolutely unique that I haven’t seen replicated *anywhere*. In particular, the old laboratory sections of Portal 2 were probably the best-characterized and most immersive environments I’ve seen in any game. It’s a very sad thing that we won’t be seeing any more of it.

    1. CloverMan says:

      Spec-ops: The Line is a fantastic story-driven shooter, although it’s played from a third person perspective.

      1. ThaneofFife says:

        Thanks!

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      If someone wants to recommend more story-driven shooters

      The first modern warfare was decent.Or,if you can tolerate older games,the original call of duty was even better,and like mentioned above alien vs predator 1 and 2 are great.Theres wolfenstein:the new order,if you want a more modern good example.

      And,if you want comedy,Id recommend far cry 4 for a game where you just switch off your brain and enjoy the silliness of pagan min.Also badgers.You can go with 3 if you want,but its basically the same game in a different setting and with slightly less fun.

  31. Leonardo says:

    “Part of becoming an adult is looking back through the stuff you loved as a child and sorting the things that were genuinely great from the things that only seemed great because you didn't know any better. ”

    *standing ovation*

  32. Geebs says:

    I do wonder whether Valve was waiting for VR to be A Thing, and backed off when they realised that it's still not really ready.

    There's definitely room for another traditional Half-Life game though. It's kind of the Super Mario Brothers of shooters, and nobody else is really doing that.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      My cynical take on it is that Half-Life 3 will be a full VR experience, and thus one I’m not going to be interested in. Oh, sure, maybe it’ll have a traditional 2D mode, but the level design and game flow will make it obvious that you’re supposed to be playing in VR.

      There are a number of leaks that have come out from Valve referencing things like “HL-VR” and a “grabbing glove”

      1. Philadelphus says:

        *”grabbity glove”. Of course the one time I hit post too early is when there’s no edit button…

        Anyway, I expect it’ll be some time yet till they solve some more issues with VR, but I also expect it’s just a matter of time given how practically everyone at Valve seems to be over the moon for VR and how that’s kind of the next big frontier for gaming; imagine a HL3 that revolutionizes VR gaming the way the original HL apparently did for shooters.

        1. Thomas says:

          Half-Life and VR feel like a good fit. Throwing stuff is unbelievably fun in VR and way more accurate.

        2. Lanthanide says:

          Gabe has specifically said that when they make a game, they want to have a particular gimmick or new force behind it.

          I think HL2 was facial animation and character interaction (+ the source engine as a whole), as well as the gravity gun.

          Portal was the game concept. I think Portal 2 was just more extensions on that.

          When Gabe said that (maybe 2 years ago now), it really seemed like he was saying that HL3 would be in VR, which I think is a tough decision to make, because it seems they’ll be cutting out a lot of their audience if they go that route, and playing it traditionally just won’t be as good, as you suggest.

          1. Fizban says:

            On the other hand, if they actually solved it then the multi-hit combo of a *good* VR game plus name recognition plus existing rabid fanbase could potentially be the thing needed to make VR take off. ‘Cause its never gonna happen on new IP alone- big names are gonna have to take the hit. There’s a Sword Art Online game in the works and it’s pretty much guaranteed to be terrible because it’s a game about swordfighting* that will never have weight, but it will at least get some iteration out of the way so maybe future games can be better.

            *Though the fact that sword skills usually just go through opponents videogame style actually does match well enough if you stop to think about it. Really, I think the best way to do swordfighting in VR would be to drop the pretense of you holding the sword yourself and have it sort of hover there and then respond to your flicks, clearly moving at your command but very definitely not part of your arm, so the lack of feedback isn’t as jarring. But as below, I haven’t actually been in any VR yet so this is just speculation.

            1. Syal says:

              I would think the main reason a Sword Art Online game would be terrible is that it’s a game about Sword Art Online.

            2. Redrock says:

              Force feedback can actually do a lot there. The Switch’s Joy-Cons can convey pretty detailed info through rumble – there is actually a game in the 1-2-Switch pack that has you counting the nu,ber of balls in a box represented by the Joy-Con by tilting it and feeling the vibrations. And it works! So some good VR peripherals may actually achieve the same.

              1. Fizban says:

                I expect that much at least as a matter of course (and I’m pretty sure at least one of the current VR controllers does do that), and it would be needed to make the floating sword work. I’m not surprised that after actually doing a decent job at motion controls, Nintendo went on to do more precision rumbling, but its still not going to stop your arm. Which is why I think backpedaling so a less directly controlled weapon with the rumble feedback would work just as well as it did in the past without the problem of having something attached to your arm not obeying physics as well as it should.

                On the other hand, I actually haven’t heard that many complaints about melee in Fallout 4 VR, so maybe its not as jarring as I’d expect (I haven’t watched that much about it though).

        3. Fizban says:

          Heh, yeah that would feel appropriate, if one of the last surviving names from the era of revolutionizing gaming managed to find the magic bullet to making VR games that aren’t about standing around.

          Though honestly, from what I’ve seen of Fallout 4 VR, the way rapid firing the limited range teleport turns into a sort of stepping motion seems pretty good. If it weren’t Bethesda Bethesda’ing up the interfaces (how do you not have a motion based menu with motion controls, Nintendo solved this back on the Wii for god’s sake!) and my having no interested in Fallout 4, I’d start being tempted to give it a try.

          I would be interested in Skyrim VR (in spite of Skyrim being the best game you’ll play for 300 hours before realizing its the worst), but since it came out earlier I expect the controls would be even worse. Of course in either case I’ve haven’t actually tried any VR yet so there’s no way I’d just jump into spending that much money without visting a “VR bar” or something fist.

  33. Langis says:

    I hate Half-Life 2. But I played it in 2008.

    It had worse gunplay than FEAR which came out around the same time (short of 3 guns that actually feel good to fire). The Gravity Gun felt worse to me than the one in Bioshock. The vehicle sections were worse than Halo by a mile (even compared to 3). The “cutscenes” felt awful – I felt like I was stuck in a room with the most boring characters I had ever met, waiting for the game to continue.

    I missed every single G-man sighting, but I blame that on me not paying attention.

    I didn’t use the Gravity Gun nearly enough because it honestly felt worse than a good old bullet to the head for enemies.

    Ravenholm was not terrifying in any way and mostly felt like I was trying to find what the designer thought was the next step (I think it was at one point a single tiny plank of wood going up? In any case, I got lost). I also noticed the zombies literally spawning in a stream from a back alley. It felt cheap.

    The entire revolution section sucks because of teammates blocking doors.

    The boat section is offensively bad – it feels like a high speed chase that stops every 30 seconds for a physics puzzle, completely killing the flow. Music will occasionally play, but it’s placed in the most amateur way – it will play once, stop, and then silence until you find where you’re going. No ambient music, no dynamic music, just a track that plays and ends. Halo in 2001 did this better. I almost fell asleep.

    Half-life 2 feels like a shooter that knows its shooting element sucks, so it gives you gimmicks.

    I hated this game.

    1. Langis says:

      I can’t edit so… some corrections.

      * worse than Halo (even compared to 1*)

    2. BlueHorus says:

      The entire revolution section sucks because of teammates blocking doors.

      Ah, happy memories.

      “Dr Freeman, it’s this way! Dr Freeman, this way! Dr Freeman!”

      YES I KNOW YOU FUCK STEP TO THE SIDE SO I CAN ACTUALLY GO THROUGH THE DAMN DOOR ALREADY

  34. Disc says:

    I think Valve’s silence might be part of a policy they’ve seemed to have to never talk about Half-Life sequels. There’s this bit about “Ricochet 2”, from 5-6 years ago which explains at least a little why they’d never talk about a sequel before. Only reason I could still see them sticking to the policy is a desire to leave the franchise open for some other possible future project, if not the Half-Life 3 game that seems to be more or less buried now.

  35. Riley Miller says:

    Honestly I don’t know where the Half Life games could go from here. The series has always been pushing innovation. With the games Valve found ways to immerse players and push physics and animation well beyond their contemporaries. The best shooters of recent years have absorbed these lessons and have distinguished themselves mechanically.
    Titanfall 2 feels is all about movement and its campaign introduces, elaborates on, and concludes mechanics in an almost Mario-like way.
    Doom 2016 is all about its combat loop. The game features adaptive difficulty in its item drops, an idea Half Life 2's episodes toyed with.
    Far Cry has been doing the open world shooter thing for 15 years.
    You can find elements of all of these games in Half Life and its sequels. Each of the games above took or independently derived ideas the Half Life games have dabbled but are not core to the series.
    Where does Half Life fit in moving forward? Aside from polish what is its identity? I don’t have great answers to these questions but I suspect the problem with Half Life 2 Episode 3 was and is a lack of identity and direction. When other developers have caught up and pushed forward where do you go?
    And Valve wept because it had no more innovations to conquer.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      The trick is to stay ahead of the curve. The HL3 plot summary clearly intended to play with time travel. Maybe someone else just got there first? Perhaps Braid is HL3?

      1. Ander says:

        “Hey, guys, we could have this really cool time travel segment. We can start the gameplay segment with the coolest tooltip in history: ‘Press [use key] to time trav–‘”
        “Uh, Gabe?” [insert Titanfall 2 conversation]

        1. Duoae says:

          Although I agree titan fall 2’s switching mechanic was awesome, you really missed the boat on proper time control mechanics used in timeshift – a game I enjoyed on my first play through but couldn’t get into on subsequent tries.

      2. Canthros says:

        It turns out that Half-Life 3 was actually Frog Fractions the whole time.

        1. ayegill says:

          Headcanon accepted

  36. ehlijen says:

    It was only one conversation, but HL2 did take away control from the player for the big talky cutscene just before the end game (by forcing the player to enter a prisoner hangrail gondola thingy). It was also the only cutscene where an NPC switched sides in the presence of others. The resulting action bit would probably not have been able to flow right if the player’s location couldn’t be accounted for. Or maybe it could? I’d imagine it’d be difficult, though.

    In any case, it seemed natural for Gordon to be trapped in that scene, but it does mean the claim that HL2 never takes control away is somewhat inaccurate.

  37. Retsam says:

    I think Half-Life 2 had great storytelling, mechanically, but the story itself was just okay – certainly good enough to carry the game, but nothing phenomenal – and has been largely overrated in the following years. I think Half-Life 3, had it come out with the “leaked” story would have been disappointing to a lot of people (in regard to the story at least).

    Part of the (IMO) overrating of HL2’s story is the conflation of story and storytelling (admittedly, drawing a distinction between how a story is told and the story itself is a bit controversial), and part of that is just due to HL2’s meme status.

    But I think a huge factor of why HL2’s story is so well-regarded is that it’s largely a mystery box story (à  la J.J. Abrams) that never has to open its mystery boxes. HL2 is free to raise interesting questions like “Who are the Combine?”, “How will humans fight them?”, and especially “Who is the G-Man and what is he doing?”… but it never has to come up with satisfying answers for those questions, which is always the harder part*.

    With the story unfinished, fans are free to imagine that the writers had great answers to those questions, that just never got told. (Though I think the endless delays of HL3 and the massive discontinuity of HL1 and HL2 is a good sign that they never had an overarching plan for this series**) But I think when HL3 came and didn’t answer those questions, I think there would have been some backlash, or perhaps some revised opinions of the HL2 story.

    Again, not that HL2’s story was “bad”; it was definitely engaging enough to carry the gameplay, but I just don’t think the story was ever particularly “good”, either.

    * I always like to imagine if Lost had ended after the first or second season: it’d be remembered as one of the best television shows ever; it’s only when it ended with unsatisfying answers (or non-answers) to most of its questions that public opinion on Lost really changed. (Also, a lessser degree, I think Firefly benefits from the “don’t open your mystery boxes”)

    ** Not that an overarching plan is necessary to tell a good story, but a “making it up as you go ” story is much harder to pull off. *cough* New Star Wars Trilogy */cough*

    1. Gethsemani says:

      I think you’re right. The Half-Life series overall benefits from not having any resolutions or answers given. Since we don’t know who the Combine are or what exactly their ulterior motive is, they are still a creepy and worthy enemy. Since Alyx gets no resolution she’s still the cool resistance fighter. Compared to Mass Effect, where a lot of the goodwill from ME1 (and partially from ME2) was taken away when ME3 botched the ending and gave us poor answers to the important questions.

      Firefly is also a stellar example of this, we all remember it as the coolest sci-fi series ever and all its’ great characters… But the truth is that Firefly ever only got as far as to establish those characters and set up what would have been the first few of their arcs. Of course we’ll love that if the writing is good, because we never got to the weird Season 4 crap where Inaria and Jayne becomes an item while Mal gets a gambling addiction and Wash becomes afraid of flying. Instead, Firefly got 11 episodes that gave us this cool universe and cool crew to follow and then we were left with our own imagination to fill out the blanks of their adventures. The simple truth is that long stories and good plot resolutions are hard, which is why we remember “unfinished” works fondly, because we can head-canon how it all ends.

      1. Bubble181 says:

        Very true.
        I really liked Castle for the first few seasons, but after the whole wedding/alnesia storyline it really lost its footing. Not to say there weren’t good episodes in the last….two or so seasons, but the big storyline definitely didn’t work or help. I can still rewatch episodes of te earlier seasons, but I’d have enjoyed it more had they ended the show with the resolution of the romance arc and the Beckett’s mother arc.
        Similarly: The Big Bang Theory, which, as a sitcom, simply has gone on for too long.
        Not daring to kill the goose with the golden eggs can be a mistake, too.

      2. Fizban says:

        I don’t think this Firefly example really flies. While Valve dropped the ball on HL3 and there’s no way it could have held up to the hype, most of Joss Whedon’s stuff has gone over just fine when it actually goes. Most people seem to agree Buffy was good, Angel was good, Avengers was good, etc. There was some show about rewriting brains that was pretty hit or miss, but you could kinda tell from the get go if you weren’t going to be into it. If you liked Firefly, I see no reason to assume that it would have suddenly gone bad or overstayed its welcome (unless you disagree with the premise that most of Whedon’s stuff is good). The only link to Castle is the lead actor, not the writer.

        1. Retsam says:

          I don’t think Firefly is the greatest example (hence why I said “to a lesser degree” in my original comment), because, yeah, I think a continuation of Firefly would still have been good, but I don’t think it would have been as good as its current reputation. It’d have been a solid Sci-Fi series, but not the nigh-perfect bit of writing that it’s seemingly viewed as today.

          1. Fizban says:

            I can agree that it’s been put on quite the pedestal by some people, but I haven’t heard as much gushing over it as I did back when it was still fresh. Probably just ’cause I don’t hang out with anyone who gushes over it then.

  38. DwarfWarden says:

    “Marc Laidlaw is really good at writing fiction in the style of Marc Laidlaw”

    Are you certain about that? What does Marc Laidlaw know about the writing style of Marc Laidlaw? Can you really say he’s even comparable to Marc Laidlaw?

    I can say one thing for sure – the games were good and it is not because of nostalgia. Why do I say that? I didn’t have a gaming PC til 2014 and I didn’t play Half-Life til 2015. Yes, the first game does have some “Make this game kill the player here and here to pad the play time” design, but HL2 and its 2 subsequent episodes are just as good as you remember them. As someone who’s been a PC Gamer for only 4 years (family never had much money and I never saw the appeal of DOS as a kid. Still don’t but the games were admittedly good.) I can confirm that games like Deus Ex, Half-Life, Thief, Fallout – these games are not tainted by rose-tinted nostalgia goggles. They are simply that good.

  39. CloverMan says:

    Thanks for sharing The Writer Will Do Something, it’s fantastic!

  40. Drathnoxis says:

    I wasn’t really fully engaged in the story of Half Life 2. Everybody in the game is always talking about what a great strategist Gordon was, but it felt like he was basically just blundering his way along, taking the only path available to him. At least that’s what I was doing and he never gave much indication otherwise.

    There is one moment that exemplifies this. There are these iron maidens the combine use to transport people for nefarious purposes. We’ve seen them before, we’ve rescued someone from one. They are basically impenetrable hunks of steel designed to completely entrap anybody inside. There comes a point in the game where you NEED to climb into one for… some reason. I have no idea why Gordon thought it would be a good idea to climb into it based on what we’d seen of them. We don’t know where it’s going, we have no means of escape, I looked all over for an alternate path to no avail. So in I climb, and where does it go but straight to the big bad who is astonished, ASTONISHED that we were so idiotic as to deliver ourselves to him all chained up and ready for subjugation. Dumb luck eventually saves us or something, but still what reason did Gordon have to climb into that thing? What possible reasoning could there have been that made that a good idea?

  41. Mike Andersen says:

    What bugs me about the absence of HL3 (or HL2:E3) isn’t a lack of resolution, and it’s probably why Valve will never officially cancel the project: it makes lies out of every claim made when we were being sold Steam. Forget a Half-Life sequel, does anybody still believe Valve will make sure we can still play games bought on Steam should the service collapse or be sold? It’s the largest marketplace in PC gaming and still has a customer service department that exists as a mostly conceptual farce. I think that admitting Half-Life is over will just prove a liar of Gabe Newell, and given how Steam has gone lately, it’s going to open the door to justified questions of competence over at the multi-billion dollar experiment.

    1. Joshua says:

      Well, I guess they solved telling no more lies by not having anything new advertised on their page for almost two and a half years:

      http://www.valvesoftware.com/news/

      They have job postings, but there’s no date on any of them that I could see.

      Makes me wonder what they even do there anymore, other than collect Steam money.

      1. Fizban says:

        Make terrible reactionary updates to TF2 in response to zomg Overwatch!?

  42. ElementalAlchemist says:

    Interestingly, I absolutely hated HL2 when it came out. I wasn’t exactly a child at the time either, being only 5 years younger than Shamus, but I could not understand what all the hype was about. Vampire Bloodlines, coming out around the same time on the same engine, was far more my speed. A few years later I gave HL2 another chance, and the second time around I seemingly discovered what everyone else already knew. In the years since it has grown in stature in my personal game rankings, although I still find the repeated physics puzzles irritating. Despite not really having the level of character interaction as, say, something like Mass Effect, Alyx remains one of the best NPCs to have ever graced a video game. It’s real shame her story didn’t get the closure it deserved.

  43. Duoae says:

    I guess I never thought that HL3’s sorry could never be written well enough for me – even by valve. In fact I didn’t like the ending as penned by Mr. Laidlaw as it felt a bit wishy washy to me.

    I think my main problem was the whole borealis deal. It was kind of pulled out of nowhere (in the episodes) and the idea of its physics and operation in the propsed story made it sound both outlandish and boring at the same time.

  44. zompist says:

    I’m surprised you liked Laidlaw’s Ep3 outline. When it came out, I happened to be reading your excellent 500-article analysis of Mass Effect, and I thought “Shamus would destroy this outline.”

    One, Alyx kills Mossman? Don’t you remember DM of the Rings, where an NPC kills the balrog? If Alyx gets the only real event in the story, make her the player character.

    Two, there’s no closure at all… Gordon does nothing at all, the Combine are just as big a threat as ever, and worse yet, the outline undoes whatever progress was made in the rest of HL2. The outline whiffs once again on what the heck the G-Man thinks he’s doing.

    Three, bringing back Breen, but having him do nothing, is pure laziness. (Making him a Combine slug is some nice body horror, but it adds nothing to the story.)

    Also, there was no game there, but that’s the one area the old Valve would have aced. They would have added in neat puzzles and monsters and vistas. Back then you could have handed them the phone book and they’d have made it a compelling game.

  45. default_ex says:

    I personally make it a point to play games that I once considered to be amazing games. Sometimes simply because someone yelled “rose-tinted glasses” and I challenged their assertion (while remaining open that they may be right). The whole “rose-tinted glasses” thing hasn’t held true for nearly as many games as I like to think it does.

    When I first played Half Life, nothing that anyone has pointed out since stuck out to me. Those were the game mechanics of the day and the only newish mechanic I can think of is crouch-jumping. I remember struggling with that concept initially since prior to that it was just a trick you could do but the game wasn’t designed to handle (as in a side-effect that was fun to abuse).

    Levels drawing you toward your goals was pretty common in games of it’s era. Really think about it. How many games in the 90s and early 2000s did you genuinely get lost in? The whole use intentional imperfections to guide the player thing was a trick of the trade introduced to me by a game developer from that era. Valve never dropped the practice and carried it into the modern age.

    What made HL2 special wasn’t any of the things mentioned. It was the fully interactable levels. For the first time we had a game designed around the idea that physics is a thing the player should be encouraged to use for more than just shoving some boxes or barrels around.

    To me the games still hold up aside from one thing. The difficulty has fallen greatly as we’ve gotten used to games designed to be a bit harder. Or maybe that we just got used to all the mechanics required to negate the difficulty. After all going into a HL2 room full of headcrabs before your accustomed to grabbing a flammable canister and lobbing it at them is challenging to say the least. Once your used to it however you just look for the nearest flammable canister and lob it in there. Even with the lower difficulty I still have fun playing through the Half Life games. The same sentiment holds true in a lot of other games as well, especially RPGs and building equipment loadouts to focus in on weaknesses.

    Sadly you can’t solve that problem. Once you find a new gimmick to make things genuinely harder. Everyone will start to mimic it and before you know it, it’s become “the way things are done” so much that players expect it.

  46. Daemian Lucifer says:

    How many games in the 90s and early 2000s did you genuinely get lost in?

    Heretic is the goto example of a game from the 90s that was truly mazelike.But its far from the only one.And even the great games,like thief,were guilty of this(damn that second level!).

    1. Gethsemani says:

      Duke Nukem 3D also suffered from it, as did Quake 2 and even Unreal to some degree. The problem for games in the 90’s seems two fold to me:
      1. Game design wasn’t refined enough yet, which meant that things like “go to one end, get a key, then run back to other end and use key” seemed like good gameplay filler. Level design in general wasn’t all that good in early shooters due to the relatively basic game design. It would take until the advent of the Arena Shooters (UT and Q3) for map design to really evolve beyond “mazes with identical textures” into “easily navigatable spaces”, bar the few exceptions that paved the way like HL and R6.

      2. The technology limited a lot in level design. One of the tricks that HL1/2 and L4D1/2 uses is to put light sources near exits to draw your attention to them quickly or just make the usable doors really stand out by being different textures etc.. Many of these technological tricks weren’t available in the 90’s and so it was pretty hard to actually use environmental cues to guide the player, especially when you were constantly fighting the very constrained texture memory of early GPUs.

  47. Joe says:

    I remember listening to an ep of the Dev Game Club podcast, though not which one. It’s two game devs playing old games and talking about them. They said the problem probably was, what new game mechanic would HL3 introduce? If the Valve devs couldn’t come up with something good enough, that’s a real problem. IIRC they said the same about TES6. What new and fresh idea can you build your game around?

    1. Duoae says:

      The problem I have with this line of thinking is that it assumes that only games with new mechanics are worth publishing. (I know it’s not your opinion)

      Personally, I would hate to live in the universe where nothing new was made because it didn’t bring something new, mechanically speaking, to the table. I really get a lot out of game worlds and stories and I don’t need new mechanics to make me enjoy a well-made game.

      I also baulk at the idea that even two games with the same mechanics play or feel the same. Even with developer churn, very few games even manage to get the same feel of something as basic as character movement.

      Even worse, I refuse to conceed that a game with the same mechanics is not worth paying multiple times. I mean, no one is complaining about chess or its multiple variants (e.g. battle chess).

      Prey 2018 was about as close to a re-release of system shock 2 as you can get but I enjoyed it EVEN MORE than the original. Did it bring new mechanics and gameplay to the gaming table? I don’t remember any. But the story and world where great…

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Its the problem of valve philosophy.They are the ones who like doing only new things.

        1. Duoae says:

          I agree – but it’s not just valve who fall into this mindset.

  48. Zaxares says:

    I saw the writing on the wall long before this. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that Valve’s senior management long ago saw that there was way more profit (and much less risk) in simply selling their online delivery portal service rather than continue to make games themselves. Attempting to make a game now would entail so much expectations that if it flopped (and it almost certainly would, simply because the hype is so high), the negative press might be damaging to the company as a whole.

    Still, I’m sad that this means we’ll never get to see HL3 made now. Or Portal 3. Or L4D3. Valve really had a knack for how to make immersive and engrossing games. It’s the end of an era, really. (Just like how I think Bioware is in its death throes. Like Shamus said in another article, I think EA has almost finished completely digesting it.)

    1. Lanthanide says:

      On the contrary, how would a game flopping hurt the rest of the company? People gonna say “I refuse to buy anything more through your service because HL3 sucked”?

      If anything, Valve are in the safest position of any of the major publishers, even Blizzard isn’t as safe from a flop as Valve is.

      1. Zaxares says:

        Customers can be exceedingly fickle when it comes to “association with failure”. If Valve’s future games turned out to be flops, it might build a reputation that Valve has “lost their touch” when it comes to games. Gamers might come to see them as just another IT company (like EA) rather than a company of gamers who are in tune with what gamers need and want, which is an integral part of why I think Steam did so well. Provided Steam itself continues to provide good service to customers, they can probably weather even that kind of bad press, but if they screw up along the way, you can bet people will be quick to point fingers and maybe start looking at alternatives like GoG.

  49. PPX14 says:

    a world of stilted photorealism, expensive motion-capture, awkward lip-sync, and cringy dialog in an attempt to be more like Hollywood and less like game developers

    Exactly! This is my exact thought on Tomb Raider 2013. The graphics were “good” but so uninteresting, and the whole of the story, characters, dialogue, animation and direction seemed like it was trying aim for cinematism but considered the pinnacle of cinema to be a bad blockbuster!! Bleauch.

    1. Redrock says:

      Have you seen the trailer for the new Tomb Raider movie based on the reboot? It manages to look way, way worse than the game. Somehow.

      1. PPX14 says:

        oh gosh yes I saw that. The most awful part of the game (the story characters and dialogue) made feature length. Not sure I’d say it looked worse than the game’s attempts but at least in that case there was gameplay too :D

        But! It did appear to have some of those Prince of Persia swinging spiky logs.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Thats because it doesnt have the glorious hair like the game.

        1. PPX14 says:

          They tried turning it on but couldn’t maintain 24fps

  50. Urthman says:

    I really don’t think Half-Life or Half-Life 2 had good stories.

    They had superlative environmental story*telling*. They did a wonderful job (particularly HL1) of convincing the player they were in a real, interesting place where Stuff Was Going On. Including some Weird and Crazy stuff. But the actual stories weren’t very unique or interesting.

    But I think Half-Life demonstrated that a convincing sense of place–the feeling that there’s a real world going on around you and you mostly just have to navigate and survive it–that those things make a more compelling and entertaining game than a really interesting story. That tram ride showing you what a weird place Black Mesa was and how very deep you were within it once everything went to hell was way more compelling than some backstory about the aliens or Black Mesa’s agenda or Freeman himself.

    For instance, I think it’s pretty obvious that Valve never had any really good ideas about what the G-Man was up to. But the glimpses we get of him doing *something* — which did not seem to include caring about the well being of anyone at Black Mesa — were fascinating and infuriating in the first game. It maybe would have been even better to get some cool narrative twists and turns about the G-Man or the aliens at the end or along the way, but what they gave us (again, particularly so in HL1) was just enough to make you feel like whatever the story was you were there stuck inside it having a cool adventure.

    So I was never looking forward to Half-Life 3 to get more of the story or learn more about Freeman or Alyx or any of the characters. It was more that Valve had almost unlimited time and money to make a game really good and the institutional capacity to actually use those resources to make these compelling places and experiences without getting stuck in all the difficulties 3D Realms had turning the same unlimited freedom into a good Duke Nukem game. I don’t think Valve has that capacity anymore (does anyone?)

  51. TehShrike says:

    A ~20-year-old friend of mine played through HL2 for the first time a couple weeks ago. He loved it. He wanted to play episodes 1 and 2, as long as they were like HL2.

  52. GoStu says:

    I disagree, Shamus. While Half-Life 2 has aged better than a lot of its contemporaries, I don’t find it all that fun to replay now.

    The various physics puzzles just feel like a waste of time, and possibly a tech demo. The way some of them creep into otherwise-more-exciting stuff is a drag as well. I’m thinking particularly of the Goldberg Machine that you have to figure out mid-airboat chase: a tense and exciting scene broken up by a simple puzzle.

    The ‘seamless’ dialogue sections, while pretty neat for a sense of immersion, really hamper my replay fun too. I’ve seen this dialogue before and really don’t care about it today. Yet here I am, locked in a room with no way to escape, listening to half the former staff of Black Mesa ramble on.

  53. baud001 says:

    I played all the half-life games for the first time, including the expansions packs/DLCs over the last year.

    Half-life 1 has been a way better experience, than Half-life 2. I can’t really explain and I have little desire to play 1 again to make a better opinion. Perhaps a problem of better gun feedback, weapon and enemy variety vs system that feels gimmicky (I mean what’s the point of the gravity gun if in 2/3 of fights you have no objects to use with?).

    Today, for a first-time average player they feel just … good? Perhaps at the time they were great/awesome/GOTY for ever, but today they are just above average and little else.

    1. baud001 says:

      Also another problem, also cited by Shamus is the “cinematic”, (even if you can move, when there’s no meaningful gameplay, it’s a cinematic).

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        The cinematics in 1 are generally shorter.And there are some really cool ones.

        Also,what do you mean no meaningful gameplay?You can hold a thing above a persons head to make them teleport around.Thats meaningful.If you dont know what Im talking about,watch a speed run of hl2.They are fantastic.

        1. baud says:

          Thank you, I didn’t know that. But it does change the fact that the sequences are boring as hell, even for someone who’s playing the game for the first time.

  54. Jeff says:

    Was Half-Life Really all That Good?

    This section reminds me of pretentious film students talking down on classic movies, of how they’re not worthy of being called a “classic” because of cliches and “amateur” techniques. They complete miss the fact that said films are the ones who pioneered all that, that the cliches became cliches because it was something copied from them, and the techniques appear amateurish because they invented it and it was refined over many years afterwards.

  55. Kalil says:

    My father and I (with vastly different skill levels, as you might guess) both loved HL1.
    We both got as far as ravenholm in HL2, and never played again.
    The tonal dissonance – from playing fetch with a robot dog to infinite zombies at midnight – was simply too much for me. I couldn’t figure out what the game wanted to be. It seems like a lot of people I’ve talked to had similar reactions, but I’ve never seen that reflected in the online conversations about the game.

  56. DavidJCobb says:

    Hey, Shamus, you’ve got what looks like a glitched em dash in the ME retrospective excerpt, due to the site update.

  57. Andrew Phillips says:

    Half-Life really was all that good. I have not lost hope for a Half-Life (universe) sequel. Its coming. It just might be completely different that what we have been imagining it to be.

  58. The Dude says:

    The next Half-Life game is going to be called Full-Life and your going to play the fat dude with a valve on the back of his neck. And the story will revolve around “why the hell do I have this valve on the back of my neck”? Outraged and pissed off you seek answers for what and why, killing everything in your way.

    In all seriousness, maybe they knew it to be best to not keep milking the franchise. If they did do a HL3, it would have to be monumental and ground-breaking.

    Here’s to RDR 2 coming in October!! :D

  59. J D says:

    I was blown away by Half Life and I won’t hear a bad word uttered about HL 2!

    The quality of both story lines gives you that extra sense of immersion in to Mr. Freeman’s world.

    Heck I still play cs 1.6 on a daily basis (join me for a few frags on UGC GunGame Team play nick Samba.ie), I don’t like CSGO but HL2 I’ll happily play through today, even though there are parts of the game that make me say “meh”. Overall it’s a masterpiece.

    Now I’m sure my post will draw the opinion that I’m stuck in the past. I’ve played COD, MW and a host of other FPS. None of them have a patch on Valve’s FPSs.

    A quick look at my Steam stats 700 hours of CS logged Vs a meager 72 hours of Infinity Ward’s latest tripe.

    The recoil, the sounds, everything about cs 1.6 game (with the exception of graphics) just feels right compared to all other FPS.

    I suspect we’ll see a remastered edition of HL2 at some point in the future. Beyond this RIP Gordon Freeman.

  60. Stuart Conrod says:

    I’ve changed my opinion a little since my last post on the topic. Now it can be summarized in two points:

    > Half-Life 2 is still a good game to play in 2018; it has aged well, and I would recommend it to a new player today despite it being almost 14 years old.

    > Half-Life 2 is not a game that replays well.

    I have really fond memories of my first playthrough or two where it was all new, the story and characters were engaging, and every new mechanic and setpiece were cool and fun. Having tried to replay it somewhat recently though, it just started grating. The inescapable not-a-cutscenes really grind on my nerves as I just want to get back to the shooty fun I remember against the Combine.

    The beautiful polish is still here. The storytelling is still as good as I remember. Alyx Vance is still my #1 favourite AI partner. I just don’t want to play Half-Life 2 again.

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