Half-Life 2: Episode Three is an unusual case in the world of vaporware. While most games would simply be given up on after nearly eight years of no new information or signs of development, Episode Three has become an internet legend and meme.
While it remains to be seen if anything new in the Half-Life series will ever emerge from Valve itself, fans aren't giving up the ghost. Fans have created a myriad of works, including live-action shorts, the Black Mesa prequel, game engine ports, and now, a Valve-approved fan-made upgrade to the original Half-Life 2 experience.
Scheduled to release on March 27th, Half-Life 2: Update is a free, ambitious fan modding project headed by Filip Victor. The 7GB mod promises to visually overhaul the game's graphics, lighting, shadows, particle effects, and improve its fog effects. It's also set to repair the glitches ranging from minor to game-breaking that have arisen as the game has grown older and become less compatible with modern graphic cards. The comparison trailer, seen above, demonstrates how well the graphics have been upgraded.
While Half-Life 2: Update promises to retain the original's visual feel and gameplay, it's not afraid of bringing new technology into the mix, either. The mod supports virtual reality peripherals, which offer an entirely new experience to gamers and may give Valve an opportunity to see if there's substantial interest in a new Half-Life VR game. If so, this may create the perfect opportunity for Valve to push their upcoming VR device, the Vive. The promise of a new VR Half-Life game could send Vive sales skyrocketing and potentially make it gamers' VR peripheral of choice before the delayed Oculus Rift even gets released.
It's worth noting that in a recent interview, Gabe Newell specifically said that Valve is more interested in moving forward than returning to a classic product. Half-Life 2 revolutionized gaming with the Source engine and its physics-filled, reactive world. Creating a virtual reality-enabled Half-Life game to tie in with the Vive could be exactly how Valve plans to address a "classic kind of product" and simultaneously make it revolutionary all over again.
On the other hand, Valve may have simply moved on from making new games at this point. Between the Steam platform, the Steam Machines, the SteamOS, Steam Link, and revenue generated from microtransactions in games like Team Fortress 2, Valve can keep its hands (and pockets) full without ever counting to three.
Half-Life 2: Update releases March 27, 2015 on Steam for PC.