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A new Half-Life game could be coming — but it’s not what you think

an artistic image of Half-Life 2's Gordon Freeman
(Image credit: Valve/PC Gamer)

In the 14 years since Half-Life 2 Episode 2 came out, one question has been on fans’ lips: “When is Half-Life 3 coming out?” Yes, 2020 saw Half-Life: Alyx, a virtual reality-only experience set before Half-Life 2, but given the small percentage of gamers with the hardware to run the title, it didn’t come close to scratching the itch for all.

Well, there’s good and bad news according to Valve News Network’s Tyler McVicker: Half-Life 3 is not currently in development, but the company is working on another spin off “with the Steam Deck in mind, due to how the game is supposed to be controlled.”

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. In the video titled “What is next for Gordon Freeman — The State of Half-Life,” McVicker doesn’t pull any punches about the limited prospect of Half-Life 3 emerging any time soon. 

“No, at the current time, there isn’t a major development team working on anything outside of the few pieces of software that are specifically tailored for hardware,” he explained.

“Right now, Valve is trying to get the Steam Deck out and, like many people have observed, the Steam Deck has been significantly more successful than originally anticipated, so Valve is throwing a lot at it.”

“Any kind of traditional mouse and keyboard first-person shooter at Valve is not taking place,” he concluded. 

That said, a small footnote has been added to the bottom of the screen softening this slightly: “there is a very minor group working on HL3 at the time of recording.” So some slight long-term hope there, maybe.

So what is this Half-Life spin off then? Well, it’s certainly different — Half-Life: Citadel. Citadel is, according to McVicker, “a nostalgia fest” designed to showcase Steam Deck’s capabilities: A “Half-Life-based FPS/RTS hybrid that is cooperatively based.”

What would that look like? “Think about Left 4 Dead and Alien Swarm and an RTS and Half-Life all having a baby.” While much of the team has moved to support Steam Deck’s final push, this is something we should see in the next year and a half to two years, apparently.

Supposedly, there was originally meant to be some optional VR element too, but that’s been dropped as Valve is apparently losing interest in VR in general. On that note, McVickers is also pessimistic about the future of HLX — a project to make a VR title like Half-Life: Alyx for much weaker, standalone hardware. He believes it’s at such a nascent state that it’ll fall victim to the ‘winter break syndrome’ where it falls through the cracks after an extended leave from the office. 

Much of this is down to the unusual way Valve is structured, where employees have a certain amount of freedom to pick and choose what they work on, as covered in the recent Reply All podcast examining Team Fortress 2’s so-called “bot crisis.” It’s all there in black and white in the company’s freely available employee handbook

That makes it hard to know exactly what Valve will do next, which is good news for those still pining after Half-Life 3. But for the moment at least, it seems the next big release is going to be Half-Life adjacent, but not the game you expect.  

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.