So I was just reminded that Kingdom Hearts 3, a heavily anticipated game that I personally had been waiting for with bated breath for years, came out this year and that I played and beat it.
Yeah, I had to be reminded.
After an incredibly long production cycle (one that involved not one, not two, but three main Final Fantasy titles), studio restructuring, the creation of a new game engine and subsequent transfer over to an existing third-party engine, Kingdom Hearts III came out on January 29, 2019. That’s almost 14 years exactly since the previous main installment, Kingdom Hearts II, came out for the PlayStation 2.
And it was… fine. It was fine. I played through it, mostly skipping the Gummi Ship stuff. I felt like I had gotten what I wanted, only I didn’t know what I wanted anymore. It was like a finger had curled on the monkey’s paw, and – boom, here’s Kingdom Hearts III, it’s a little bit moldy, hope you enjoy.
But anyway, yeah, I had to be reminded of Kingdom Hearts III because in the interim, I’ve played so many better or at least more consequential games that my brain just doesn’t have the capacity for that kind of nostalgia-seeking mediocrity. And in being reminded of that game, I was reminded in turn of another: Half-Life 2.
Fuck, Half-Life 2. For many it was a revolutionary first-person shooter, a game that expanded the boundaries of what that genre could do, a sterling example of environmental narrative, of creating an experience that was both horrifying and kind of beautiful. And it was beautiful. Utilizing the Source Engine, Half-Life 2 created a story with a rich backdrop that is still easy on the eyes to this day – no mean feat in a genre that requires an element of hyperrealism.
Half-Life 2 and its spinoff puzzle franchise, Portal, were game changers. But Half-Life 2: Episode 2 came out in October 2007, and Portal 2 released only four years later. You can still see Half-Life and Portal’s influence on games like Borderlands, Destiny and The Division.
But I don’t think you want Half-Life 3 anymore, not really. And I think that if you’ve convinced yourself that you do, in fact, want Half-Life 3, you should reconsider.
Let’s start with the bare facts: most of the development team that made Half-Life 2 has moved on from Valve. Whether they’ve left game development altogether or have gone on to found new studios or fell somewhere in between, they simply won’t be present for Half-Life 3‘s creation.
As if that wasn’t enough, Valve doesn’t seem very interested in making games anymore, much less a follow-up to one of the most critically and popularly acclaimed games of all time. After years of silence and dodged questions about the status of Half-Life 3‘s production from the company, writer Marc Laidlaw – one of the dev team members who left the studio – posted “Epistle 3,” a lengthy prose vignette that looked suspiciously like the plot to a version of Half-Life 3 that Laidlaw wanted to put out.
Despite fans clamoring for Half-Life 3, and even taking things into conspiracy theory territory by adding ever-more-complex layers of intrigue to every single thing Valve does, the sad fact is, we’re more than 12 years out from a Half-Life release. There has been no word from the studio. The game’s original writing team is gone. At least with Kingdom Hearts III, there were new games being added to the franchise to tide us over; barring that, we at least had production screenshots. We have none of that from Valve.
But I don’t think you want Half-Life 3 for a much simpler reason: It will never live up to the hype. At best it will be an underwhelming snooze that you play through to the end only out of dogged obligation and forget about later. At worst it will be criminally outdated, with a convoluted story, weak level designs, and characterization that falls well short of expectations.