Is 'Half-Life 3' the New 'Duke Nukem Forever'?

Half-Life vs Duke Nukem

The 'Half-Life' series is one of the most popular and respected in gaming, but there hasn't been an official addition to the franchise since 2007.

Update: There's a good chance a new Half-Life game could be coming — but it’s not what you think.

The "Half-Life" series is one of the best-loved franchises in gaming, and developer Valve is one of the best-loved studios.

But Valve hasn't added to the series since "Half-Life 2: Episode 2" in 2007, even though "Episode 3" had been announced for release later that year, leading fans to question whether the series' fabled final installment will ever come out.

The delays and secrecy surrounding a "Half-Life" sequel are even enough to draw some comparison with the now-infamous "Duke Nukem Forever," another sequel to a beloved game. That title was in development limbo for 15 years.

When "Duke Nukem Forever" finally came out in 2011, it was disappointing, to say the least. Crass, offensive content aside, the game's mediocre graphics and stale gameplay made it clear that the long development cycle had hindered, not helped, the game's quality.

Because Valve is known for making smart, highly polished games, on first glance, comparing a "Half-Life" sequel to "Duke Nukem Forever" may seem like comparing apples to rotten oranges.

MORE: Gearbox Still Greenlights "Duke Nukem" 3D Remake

But the two games do have one thing in common: When people talk about "vaporware," or software that has been announced but never released, "Duke Nukem Forever" and "Half-Life 3" are the first titles that come to mind.

It's tough when fans aren't even sure if the game they're waiting for is "Half-Life 2: Episode 3," which was originally slated for a 2007 release or, if the rumors are true, "Half-Life 3."

Valve has never confirmed the existence of anything called "Half-Life 3." The company has been tight-lipped about the franchise for years, though it has released many other games in the interim, including "Portal 2" and "Left 4 Dead."

'Half-Life 3' timeline

A screenshot from the original 'Half-Life' game.

A screenshot from the original 'Half-Life' game.

It all started in 1998 with the original "Half-Life." This first-person survival horror shooter stars Gordon Freeman, a bespectacled, silent, crowbar-wielding physicist who must fight back a tide of interdimensional invaders.

"Half-Life" was met with near-universal acclaim, particularly for its immersive, player-driven story told entirely through Gordon Freeman's eyes, without cut scenes or other typical video-game tropes.

Rumblings of a sequel were finally confirmed at the E3 2003 gaming conference, and in 2004, "Half-Life 2" came out to just as much critical acclaim as its predecessor.

In 2006, Valve released "Half-Life 2: Aftermath," which was soon renamed "Half-Life 2: Episode 1." At the time, Valve said "Half-Life 2: Episode 1" was the first game in a trilogy of episodic games that would continue the series.

"Probably a better name for it would have been 'Half-Life 3: Episode One,'" Valve's co-founder and managing director Gabe Newell told Eurogamer in 2006. In the same interview, he explained that the "Half-Life" development team had switched to an episodic format in order to release content on a regular basis.
"This is what we're trying instead of the large monolithic release," Newell said. "Let's take what we would ordinarily do and break it up into three pieces and see."

The second episode came out in 2007. At the same time, Valve announced that a third episode would come out later that year, with a planned fourth to follow, but 2007 came and went with no sign of the promised "Half-Life 2: Episode 3."

MORE: Download 'Half-Life 2: Fistful of Frags' Mod 3.5 for Windows

Both "Episode 1" and "Episode 2" were fairly short — only four to six hours of play time each — which helped Valve achieve such quick development cycles. But now, six years have passed since the last official "Half-Life" title was released, and "Episode 3" has yet to follow "Episode 2."

The long wait for what should have been a short game has made fans suspect that Valve is no longer continuing the series episodically. Rumors abound that "Half Life 2: Episode 3" has turned into a game called "Half-Life 3."

'Half-Life 3' news

Verified information on "Half-Life 2: Episode 3" is scant: Valve released three screenshots — two to Games Radar and one to Into the Pixel.

A deaf character may also be planned for the game: In 2009, Newell discussed the challenges of programming sign language.
In 2010, Newell also told Edge Magazine that he wanted the next "Half-Life" game to return to the series's horror roots: "I feel like we've gotten away from genuinely scaring the player more than I'd like, and it's something we need to think about, in addition to broadening the emotional palette we can draw on."

And a fansite called ValveTime claims to have concept art of the character Alyx Vance from "Half-Life 2: Episode 3," but the images' authenticity is unconfirmed.

'Half-Life 3' rumors

First, a reiteration: Valve has never even confirmed that "Half-Life 3" exists. Nevertheless, "Half-Life 3" is a hot-button phrase, and any mention of it is enough to send the many dedicated fans of the series into a frenzy.

The fake \

The fake "Half-Life 3" tee shirt picture that Garry Newman tweeted.

Garry Newman — the developer of "Garry's Mod," a game based on the "Half-Life 2" engine and published by Valve — is well aware of the game's potential to induce fan frenzy.

Newman tweeted a picture of a T-shirt that appeared to bear a "Half-Life 3" logo. "Of course I'm trolling!" Newman tweeted soon after.

Earlier this summer, a gaming blog called No S--- Shurlock announced it had exclusive confirmation from John Guthrie, a level designer on the "Half-Life" series, that a trailer for "Half-Life 3" would be revealed at E3 2014.

Once again, the Internet blew up faster than you could say "crowbar," but Valve quickly quashed the rumor, calling the quote and its claims "bogus."

And in late June, a software update to Steam, a game distribution platform also owned by Valve, mysteriously changed the audio on Steam's version of "Half-Life 2" to Korean, and fans believed that the language switch was the first stage of a "Half-Life 3" announcement.

(Valve had previously announced the game "Portal 2" through an in-game update to the original "Portal," so this leap of logic is not as incredible as it seems.) However, it turned out that the Korean audio was just a wacky glitch, which Valve quickly patched.

For legions of hopeful fans, the many "'Half-Life 3' confirmed" jokes that plague the Internet are getting old.

The company continues to maintain strict noncommital silence on the subject of "Half-Life 3" — which, in itself, is probably indicative that something "Half-Life" related is still in the works. After all, the series is too popular to let alone. Valve has something up its sleeve — we just don't know what or, more importantly, when it will come.

Email or follow her @JillScharr. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

Jill Scharr is a creative writer and narrative designer in the videogame industry. She's currently Project Lead Writer at the games studio Harebrained Schemes, and has also worked at Bungie. Prior to that she worked as a Staff Writer for Tom's Guide, covering video games, online security, 3D printing and tech innovation among many subjects. 

  • XngXtuHl
    Half-Life 3 never announced and never officially on development
    like Duke Nukem Forever
  • Vorador2
    There's two key differences:

    1º Valve doesn't rely just on the Half-Life franchise. They could be just sitting their asses off managing Steam and still make money. They can take their time.

    2º Half Life 3 isn't announced in any shape. We know for sure it will be released some day, but there's no official news and no proposed date of release.
  • nitrium
    How can something that has never been announced be "vaporware"?
  • Zac Lloyd-Jones
    Fuck off markv rodriguez. Stop advertising shitty jobs here! I'm sick to death of seeing your ads at the bottom of every article!
  • HEXiT
    DNF i really hope not. i would be more than happy if they shelve it, if it doesnt meet expectations. and them expectations are very high indeed...
    also if i remember right the devs said at the release of hl2 ep2 it would be 8-10 years in development if they were to ever make hl3 as ground breaking as hl2. so theres still some time to go if that statement holds true...
    but honestly im past caring as the originals are held in such high regard. so im perfectly happy if they dont release it if it will never eclipse the originals. better to burn out than fade away as they say...
  • lancelot123
    Half-Life 3 not confirmed? :(
    That makes me a sad panda.
  • fonzy
    Why the hell do people act all stupid saying it's not in development?? They have already said it is in development along with a new engine, Gabe has said so himself!

    Do you really think Valve is going to walk away from one of the best selling games of all time and leave the ending of the last Episode like that? Yes it's taking a damn long time but abandoning the game...come on.

    Q4 of next year at the very latest!
  • abbadon_34
    Depends whether it's good or not
  • jaslion
    the thing is valve only goes to 2 and then stops it is like they can't count to 3 and its not hard it goes like this 1 2 3. :p i would like to have a half-life 3 a portal 3 or a lfd3
  • Divyanshu Sah
    I really want the third episode. I hadnt yet played any of them . But i Heard its a fantastic.
    So i would love to play it if it is going to have eye catching graphics.