July 22, 2012
If there's one question Valve must be sick of hearing it's this: where is Episode 3? No-one's saying anything - not yet. But inquiring minds might find their own answers by playing through the preceding two episodes.There are other burning questions, too: will the next release still be branded an episodic offshoot of Half-Life 2, or has it, as some fans have supposed, evolved into the grander form of Half-Life 3? Then there's the batch of recently leaked concept art, originating from 2008, prompting many to wonder whether the interdimensional Xen world will make a reappearance (possibly now reimagined as a tie-dye acid-trip featuring floating avioli and alien squid-flowers) and raising the pressing issue of what kind of ear-muffs Alyx will sport in the cold wastes as she hunts for The Borealis, an Aperture Science ship containing either humanity's salvation or its doom.While these mysteries are no doubt intoxicating, the really important questions are the ones Valve will have been asking itself as Episode 3's development slipped further and further away from the release of its predecessor. How has the FPS genre changed? What will fans now expect and demand? Will a voiceless protagonist - little more than a floating gun in black-rimmed specs - still cut it in an era of richly realised character interactions and physically complete avatars? Will the sprawling worlds we regularly see in other games make gamers go green with envy as they bump into the barriers that funnel Gordon's journey? What does the next Half-Life installment need to change, perhaps even at a fundamental level, to be as pioneering and brilliant as those in its past?