Valve are known for their strange, confusing story telling, with mixed up, confusing timelines. The question that has bothered many is whether our favourite first person shooter series is connected to the other popular first person shooter, the fps storytelling cliff hanger, the puzzle game and the zombie survival game. Are Valve’s games all connected to one another?
Sadly, right off the bat, the world of Team Fortress is not connected. The catch up comic starts in the 1800s, predating really any other game. Unless Dota 2 is set in the past, but the variety of magics and technologies, plus the fact that it’s based off Blizzard’s universe, mean it could be set at pretty much any time. The issue is that TF2’s past is completely separate from reality, a world where Australia nearly colonized space before the airplane had been invented. Yes, Half-Life has gravity guns and Portal 2 looks into the past but it’s all far more plausible and hidden away. In fact, the majority of significant scientific advances are hidden away by big companies and the military, so there could be real-life portal guns being tested as we speak.
That’s not to say that other games are connected. For HL and Portal, that’s already the case, as there are references in Portal about the events of the Half-Life series. And Half-Life 3 or Half-Life 2 Episode 3 is supposed to contain a boat that was run by Aperture Science or something like that. Clearly the universes are related in some way. Portal has the nice trick of being part of a hidden facility thing, so it could theoretically sit in the background of pretty much any game set in modern times and would still somewhat work.
We can also say the same about Day of Defeat and Counter-Strike. Being military games, particularly for Counter-Strike, they could happen anywhere too. Day of Defeat does struggle a bit, being set in a world war, but it’s pretty likely that the HL universe did have a world war or two in it before the events of any of their games (parts of the HL/Portal timeline date back to the end of World War 2, according to the Combine Overwiki), and a world war does spur huge jumps in scientific knowledge, giving us space to add both Half-Life and Portal.
The Left 4 Dead games are slightly harder to add in, as they’re based much more on reality. Half-Life has the Combine invasion, the L4D universe has the infected as their main threat. The only real secret stuff is standard military nonsense, with the army and CEDA both having their own weird ideas. There simply isn’t enough space between the events of Half-Life 1 and Half-Life 2 to fit in a zombie apocalypse, and surely people would mention these sorts of things, right? Someone would stop and mention zombies in the HL universe, or aliens from Xen in the L4D universe.
Interestingly though, both Counter-Strike and TF2 appear in Left 4 Dead. Heavy and Pyro have both been seen advertising things in the series and Ellis makes a couple of quips about how “This is just like Counter-Strike/TF2!”, even mentioning Payload. Louis had a Heavy model on his desk at work, as seen in the TF2 comic. This is probably a huge jump, but what if L4D is set in the future of the TF2 universe, after RED and BLU and Mann Co have all died and gone away? Nope, still not possible, simply because Team Fortress 2 incorporates so much stuff that just doesn’t mix with reality – two giant companies, weapon companies, wars over gravel, to the point where normal technology, futuristic science and magic can all exist on the battlefield.
If you REALLY want to link everything up though, there is a simple way to do it. Day of Defeat and Counter-Strike can exist in the same universe, due to the lack of major fantasy, cartoon or sci-fi elements. Together, they make up a real life Earth, a universe parallel to our own. After the second world war, this parallel universe splits in two – one becomes the HL universe, the other becomes the L4D universe. In both games, Team Fortress 2 is a commercial enterprise, their world’s biggest form of western entertainment. Basically the TF2 universe would only exist as a series of games, commercials, toylines and TV shows within the universes of HL and L4D.
Or we can just make them all their own separate universes and call it a day.