There are only a few things in this world that are as certain as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. And up until today, one of those things was the absolute certainty that Half Life 3 would never, ever exist. There is nothing that gamers have ever been so sure about — ever since the release of Half Life 2 in 2004, every dream of the fabled followup game has been systematically destroyed by Valve, earning them the reputation of a company that is “unable to count to three.”
And yet, here we are, and the internet has lit aflame from the Twitter announcement that a new Half Life game is officially in the works. But hold your horses, we put that “sort of” in the article title for a reason — it’s possible that this isn’t the Half Life 3 everyone has been hoping for. But then again, it also might be. Check out the Tweet for yourself, and let’s take a moment to process this news.
We’re excited to unveil Half-Life: Alyx, our flagship VR game, this Thursday at 10am Pacific Time.
Can’t wait to share it with all of you! pic.twitter.com/BupFCxSrTw
— Valve (@valvesoftware) November 18, 2019
What’s the Catch?
So, yeah. A new Half Life game has been announced. But since this is news that falls very firmly in the “too good to be true” category, let’s take a look at some of the fine print in this announcement. While the Tweet speaks for itself, we’ll break down the most important takeaways:
It’s Not Technically Half Life 3
Look, we’re not the gatekeepers of what constitutes a “true” numbered sequel, but it’s important to note that we’re not technically looking at THE Half Life 3. Or are we? Honestly, it’s a bit too early to tell. But what we do know is this: the game isn’t called Half Life 3, it’s called Half Life: Alyx. And, as of right now, it’s unclear whether this is a sequel, a prequel, a side-story, or a completely unrelated spinoff based on JCPenney’s popular line of women’s clothing.
If the only criteria you have for Half Life 3 is that it’s a new Half Life game that exists at all, I suppose you can take a moment to celebrate. But if we applied that logic to everything, Kingdom Hearts 3 would be Kingdom Hearts 46, so that’s a bit of a slippery slope.
It’s a VR Game
Aaaaand this is where we’ll probably lose a lot of people. Yes, Half Life: Alyx is confirmed to be a VR game. But the phrasing is important here — the Tweet mentions that Alyx is a “flagship VR game” for valve, which could have intriguing implications.
VR gaming, at the moment, is still pretty in a fairly early, experimental stage of its life. For all intents and purposes, VR games primarily exist to be glorified tech demos, and because of the many limitations that the medium currently faces, most of the behemoths in the gaming industry haven’t sunk their teeth very deeply into it. Consequently, VR experiences based on popular IPs are rarely meaningful, complex games — they’re more like fun little sideshows that are complementary to more robust console games.
It’s easy, then, to assume that Half Life: Alyx is just another example of a famous IP being used as a cheap cash grab to push VR sales for a quick buck. But let’s not be so quick to jump to conclusions. Valve did, after all, describe the game as a “flagship” VR experience, and that could very well mean that Alyx is what VR games have been aspiring to: a full-fledged, AAA gaming experience built from the ground up for virtual reality.
More Answers Are Coming
What is Half Life: Alyx? Is it an ambitious project that’s attempting to live up to the lofty expectations of the mythical Half Life 3? Is it a gimmicky VR stunt? Is it an evil November-fools joke? The bottom line is that we simply don’t know — at least, until Thursday rolls around.
At Thursday 11/21 at 10 AM PST, Valve will pull the cover off of Half Life: Alyx, and we’ll finally know for sure whether or not miracles do exist, or if life is nothing more than a continual string of crushing disappointments. What a time to be alive, eh?