It’s been ten years since Half-Life: Episode 2 came out and left us on a cliffhanger, with Eli’s death and a world of opportunity opening itself out to the Resistance. In ten years, a ton of things have happened, as is often the way with the passing of time. Heck, in the last 4 years, we’ve managed to pump out 1600 articles, and there’s been a billion new Call of Duty games. But the one thing that HASN’T happened was an answer or a sequel to what occurs after Half-Life 2 and its chapters.
Then, all out of the blue (although coincidentally around about the same time a non-disclosure agreement would end), Marc Laidlaw, the writer behind the wonderful, confusing, twisting and turning universe of Half-Life, writes a blog post. Not just any blog post, but the plot to Half-Life 2: Episode 3. The names are all messed up, the genders are all swapped and everything’s slightly off, but it’s clear as day, right from the start, what is going on. Go and read it. Then come back here. If you’re struggling with the altered names, there’s an archived, corrected version available here.
Seriously, go and read it first. It’s a wonderfully well-written piece, detailing one last trek into chaos and desperation, one last struggle against the Combine. It’s also partly why I didn’t publish this article sooner. I just wasn’t sure what to say.
The story basically covers Gordon and Alyx’s journey as they search for the Borealis, an Aperture Science research ship which disappeared and apparently holds the answers they seek. It’s thought to be located somewhere in the Arctic, but everything quickly turns into a convoluted mess, with Combine everywhere. Everyone realises that the Borealis is fading in and out of existence, being stretched across space and time. Getting onto the ship turns out to be a complete mind fuck.
Then there’s what to do with this ship. Do we destroy it? Do we capture and study it? Do we use it as a missile to attack the Combine? Alyx forces her hand and chooses that last option, before being whisked away by the G-Man in a weird act of betrayal.
Gordon is then left to watch as both he and the Borealis soar towards the Combine’s nexus, only to realise just how futile it all is. He’s saved by the Vortigaunts at the last minute, but nothing is the same.
The most interesting part though is the end of the blog post. The focus switches from describing events to what almost seems like giving up. Gordon Freeman isn’t just talking to the reader, it reads like Marc Laidlaw is talking about the situation at Valve, with an old crew leaving and dying away, and him no longer recognizing what used to be his family. There’s anger and sadness.
There is also a lot of futility though. While futility and running out of hope have always been key parts of Half-Life, it reaches a peak here. The rebellion, the revolution against the Combine, it was all pointless. Gordon’s travels had meant nothing. Their most powerful weapons would have never been able to stand up to this relentless war machine.
But it was all also futile, waiting for this game to happen. There will most likely never be a Half-Life 2: Episode 3, or a Half-Life 3, or anything like that. This is how it all ends, with us accepting our fate, and maybe someone coming along later to pick up the pieces. While there are still a lot of unanswered questions, we at least get some sort of conclusion.
As for how everyone’s taking it, it’s hard to judge. The majority are sad that we will probably never have a game. Some are just glad that we have something new, that we know what happened. Others are angry and taking it out on others, for example leaving negative reviews on Dota 2. I get it though. This is a community that has been utterly faithful, that has stuck around for years, waiting.
As for me, I was never a massive Half-Life fan, but I liked the story and I completely understand people feeling sad and angry and hopeless after seeing all this unfold. Years of nothing, and then it all fizzles out in a weird, obfuscated blog post. Almost an apology from Gordon Freeman himself.
At least we have closure now. Better than another ten years of utter silence.