There are very few game properties in a greater state of limbo than the next game from Valve in the Half-Life saga, presumably Half-Life 2: Episode 3. With close to five years since the last episodic release, some have already begun to expect that Alyx Vance and Gordon Freeman will next be seen in Half-Life 3, not another episode.
A new batch of concept art that has appeared online may not explain exactly what Valve is thinking in terms of release, but does give an idea of what to expect from the next chapter. Specifically, winter jackets.
With Episode 2 ending in somewhat of a cliffhanger, fans may have had questions about whether or not Alyx and Gordon would kick off the next edition of Half-Life (Episode 3 or simply 3) by tracking down the Borealis, the Aperture Science-owned cargo ship. Considering how much success and praise Valve earned with the release of Portal 2, a crossover has never seemed more appropriate. Especially since the developer doesn't shy away from blending one franchise into another.
If the concept artwork received by fan site ValveTime from an anonymous source is accurate, it seem an arctic sojourn may be in the cards sooner than some may have thought. The artwork was created in 2008, so there is a chance that Valve may have commissioned the artwork for a different project, or has since changed their direction.
Either way, seeing the new costumes, locations and plot events hinted at is too good for fans to miss:
Unfortunately the artwork doesn't contain any logo treatment matching the previously captured Half-Life 3 t-shirt sported by a Valve employee, so that rumor remains unconfirmed. Still, the new costume and character designs are a promising sign that the development team is trying to make the most of their fiction. The 'used future' aesthetic is all too common these days, but the artwork's combination of Peter Pan's 'Lost Boys' and Superman's Kryptonian ancestry if nothing if not unique.
Any announcement of Half-Life 3 or Episode 3 evidence is immediately met with doubt and accusations of forgery, but those behind the website have defended the artwork's veracity via the Steam forums:
"For the avoidance of doubt, I just want to stress that we absolutely would not release these pictures if we didn't know for a fact they were real.
"They absolutely are.
"Please just enjoy them as they are, and try not to look for conspiracies that aren't there."
The helicopter crashed in the arctic landscape matches what is expected from the next installment, along with small touches, like Eli Vance's name on Alyx's vest, and scenes depicting what looks to be Xen, and a pursuit through that Alien dimension by a Combine Advisor. Previous artwork also explored this notion, so viewers can take that as a sign these images are more or less accurate as they please.
It's unfortunate that most of the 'updates' on Half-Life 3 development seem to come from outside sources or leaks, and not the company itself. The fans are so desperate to gain some sense of whether to get excited or not, even simple tweets can be misunderstood as massive announcements for the franchise. On a positive note, Gabe Newell has (somewhat) explained that the studio is hard at work on the project, and believes that keeping quiet until they know what they've decided to produce would be less painful than subjecting fans to Valve's 'unique' production style. Constant shifts in direction, tone, or plotting would be just as torturous, so they may be right.
Until Valve comments on the validity of this artwork (don't expect a clear statement one way or another) it's all we have to go on. Have any suspicions about new characters or themes the game might center around?
Half-Life 3, or Half-Life 2: Episode 3 is currently without a release date or platform.
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