It’s been 14 years 1 month since Half-Life 2 first graced our digital shelves. It introduced Steam to the world, much to the annoyance of fans at the time, and it also revolutionised first-person shooter design. We got two expansion packs and then all was quiet. The years have ticked by. Hype for Half-Life 2: Episode 3 rose and fell. Hope for Half-Life 3 pushed us to the brink of insanity for a decade. But now we’ve entered a world of acceptance. I think a lot of Half-Life fans have been forced to make peace with the fact there will probably never be another Half-Life game. And if there were, it could never hope up to expectations.
But it’s been so long now that the Half-Life franchise has fallen from grace. Adoration for the franchise has slowly ebbed away. There’s a whole generation of gamers that can only look at Half-Life and Half-Life 2 as museum pieces. Odd curios of the way games used to be. These hallowed games probably don’t even agree with modern tastes at all.
Off the back of the deeply controversial Artifact, Valve has some soul-searching to do. This was a studio that built its name on sublime craft, an element that has arguably fallen by the wayside in the pursuit of ever-deeper pools of DOTA cash. Should Valve want to win over its old-school fans once again, it’s going to need something magnificent. There’s the feeling that even Half-Life 3 wouldn’t quite cut it at this point. That Half-Life 3 couldn’t be fresh, or ambitious enough, to warrant all those years of waiting. It’s understandable, over 14 years since Half-Life 2.
This isn’t a problem exclusive to Valve though. Leave a franchise dormant for far too long and it’s in danger of being eviscerated from the public consciousness. Back in the day, the System Shock series was as highly regarded as Half-Life. Now? Somebody check System Shock 3’s pulse. Half-Life 3 won’t go quite this low, it’ll always make a splash, but the tsunami that would’ve been felt five years ago had HL3 been announced has already given way to sizeable wave.
Popular game franchises need some loving, basically. We need to be reminded of their greatness every so often or we just stop caring. Borderlands is another series that’s in massive danger of suffering such a fate. But, it can also go the other way. Ubisoft saturated the market with Assassin’s Creed, forcing a year off. Tomb Raider outstayed its welcome, then the reboot repeated the same trick. There’s a careful balancing act at play between giving us more of what we love or leaving it to die entirely.
If Valve even still cares about the Half-Life franchise, they must be careful. Half-Life is rapidly becoming the franchise that grouchy old men yell about at clouds, reminding anyone who'll care to listen how it great it used to be back in their day.
What do you think, is it now or never for Half-Life? Do you reckon the hype for Half-Life 3 has died down? Let us know what you think!