Back on 27th February, I announced a writing competition, asking for people to write a review of HL3.
Here is the original post:
I’m sure you’ve seen the recent rumours about Half-Life 3. Some may have even seen my silly prank on Steam, where I changed the name of a mod to something like “HL3 – Dev Test” – sorry about that. You would be surprised at how many people messaged me and asked..”IS THAT F*%KING REAL?!“.
Anyway, I am a fan of Stanisław Lem, a Polish science fiction writer. He wrote some great SF but he has also written fictitious criticism of non-existing books, which is an idea that fascinates me. So much so, that I decided to steal it for a writing competition.
I would like you to write a review of Half-Life 3.
Obviously it hasn’t been announced or released so this will have to be complete fiction.
The review must be between 750 and 3,000 words.
Closing date for entries is 11pm GMT Monday 9th March 2015.
Reviews must be emailed to: [email protected] either as the content of the email or preferably as an attached .txt file.
Joint entries are allowed but only one game will be sent to the winner.
Multiple entries are also allowed.
If you have any questions, suggestions or comments, please post them below.
Please help promote the competition and this site, by linking to it in websites or forums you visit – thank you.
I decided to choose the winner myself, since I was so slow in publishing the details.
And now for the entries and winner.
There were four entries. It’s interesting how a few have similarities – it’s clear we have the same worries and fears.
One thing that is also interesting is how some say they won’t include spoilers and then do exactly that. My definition of a spoiler is basically ANY information about the game, so for me it’s impossible to write a review without including them.
Anyway, thanks to all four entrants.
For me, the best review was Don’s with Urby a close second. They both managed to paint a picture that made me want to play the game.
“Half Life 3. I feel tingly even writing the review for this. What’s to say about this game that hasn’t been said before? It’s likely the most hyped game ever made, and a thrilling conclusion to the pure excellence that is the story of Half Life. The Gameplay is as action-packed and exciting as ever, and it seems Valve has really outdone themselves this time.”
Is what I’d like to say.
Half Life 3- Eli Lives was a disaster. After Ubisoft bought out the company of Valve in September 2019, they scrapped the concepts Valve were working on and took the development into their own hands. uPlay is required to play the game, and an additional 750,000 uPlay points are required to download and play the single-player campaign.
The gameplay has shifted dramatically from the series’ standards, with it being a third person open-world adventure game and Gordon being voiced by none other than the one-liner spouting Nolan North. The story takes place immediately after Half Life 1: Episode 2, with the protagonists taking off in the helicopter and making their way to the Arctic. I wouldn’t want to share any spoilers of the campaign, but I can say one thing: There’s nothing noteworthy. The story is really lacklustre and is devoid of any sense or even proper English grammar.
The game was written and directed by Tommy Wiseau, hand-picked by Ubisoft higher-ups for his work on The Room and The Neighbors. The campaign is yet to be finished, as the final 3 chapters of the game are scheduled to be included in the upcoming season pass. No word has come yet from Ubisoft about the release of the season pass, or its price.
In addition to the single-player story, Ubisoft has added a new multiplayer mode exclusive to Half Life 3. The multiplayer game mode, titled “Citadel Destruction”, is a team death match style arena game. The gameplay of Citadel Destruction is decent enough, but the game only comes with 3 multiplayer maps. Ubisoft announced a season pass would include 6 new multiplayer maps and the final 3 chapters of the single-player campaign.
The game runs at 24fps and 720p on PC, on an engine Ubisoft officials have called “a modified hybrid MS Paint-Cheetamen engine that we codenamed the “Stercore” engine” It has severe frame drops in the graphically intensive areas, with frequent crashes and soft-locks as the game progresses. The game also suffers from numerous game-breaking glitches, namely a bug in the facial animations, which makes every NPC in the game have no eyes, mouth or nose. Ubisoft has not announced any fixes for these issues, even 18 months after the game’s release.
Several famous review sites have tackled the game; IGN stated “It’s Like Half Life but with nothing- 7.5/10”, TotalBiscuit complained “WTF is this? For the first time in my reviewing career, I’m not entirely sure” Kotaku praised the game for Nolan North’s wittiness and charm as Gordon Freeman.
Some people have even attempted to speed run the game. Twitch streamer Gocnak states: “There’s no physics engine to manipulate at all, even. I went into the games files and found a copy of MS Paint and a rom hack of Cheetamen 2 for the NES, along with a month-old bag of Cheetos and that’s about it. I’ll stick to running Half Life 2, thanks.”
Half Life 3. What could’ve the greatest game of all time has been packaged and sold as a paper bag of shattered dreams, dripping with fanboy tears. As of writing this review, the internet has been down for 17 months. (The first month of the game’s release was the period in which gamers racked up enough uPlay points to play the single-player campaign.) Fans were crushed to see what became of their beloved franchise.
Gabe Newell personally apologized on national television for what had happened. He soon quit his job at Ubisoft and went to work at a TV studio on the production of Season 2 of Firefly. Wiseau has begun production on the movie adaption of the game, set to be bundled with the Game of The Year edition of the game. Ubisoft has not said a word on the release date of that either, or its price.
Half Life 3 suffers from numerous game-breaking issues, but you can still see remnants of Valve’s version if you hunt closely enough. You can feel the never-dying spirit of the fans who wanted only the best of the Half Life series. You can see the blood, sweat and tears Valve put into their magnum opus. You can almost imagine a world in which Half Life 3 lived up to the hype. What a world that would be.
How do you release a concluding chapter to a series of games that includes two of the best ever released? If you’re Valve Corporation, you work on your own time schedule and make sure it’s polished beyond reproach. You whet the appetite of players gently, by not even obliquely referring to the existence of the game until it’s ready to be shown. And even then, information is released only on your terms. In this unique case it’s important because, simply put, this was the most anticipated game release in history. But when it’s finally ready for release, you know it’s truly ready.
Since this review will stay spoiler-free, I’ll have to write in generalized terms only. Let me start by mentioning the highlights of the game. Surprisingly, the game doesn’t pick up right where Episode 2’s cliffhanger left us; instead, we’re whisked into the future a little bit. If I had to guess, the game takes place perhaps 3 years after the events at White Forest. Veteran Half-Life writer Marc Laidlaw was back at the reins for the plot of this game, and it’s clear he had help from funnymen Erik Wolpaw and Chet Faliszek, co-writers of the Portal games. As a writing team, they know what they’re doing – this game gripped me from start to end and had a good dose of black humor without ever becoming silly.
This final entry in the Half-Life series stands up to its predecessors and more – it does them one better. This game ties everything together, capping off the Half-Life experience and elegantly linking to the world built up in the Portal series of games. Of course there are perhaps more questions posed than answered, but it’s still a satisfying end for the most part. And it sheds light on the fate of the mysterious, enigmatic character that we’ve been waiting all these years to learn more about – Lamarr, of course.
All kidding aside, it has everything you’d expect in a Half-Life game. You get to meet a bunch of allies, both old friends and some new faces. Your adversaries are more varied in this game than in any previous Half-Life game. You face off against human, Combine, and alien forces – with a few new surprises, including some old foes not seen since the original Half-Life. And I don’t want to spoil too much, but there’s a chilling sequence involving a Combine advisor and your crowbar that you’re not likely to forget anytime soon. The combat has a nice difficulty ramp to it, and thankfully you have a superb arsenal of weapons at your disposal. There’s certainly a standout in the new set of weapons – officially the Relativistic Chromodynamic Confinement Device, or as called by Alyx colloquially, the GaRG (Gravity and Relativity Gun, and a tongue-in-cheek reference to the original Half-Life alien). It’s a fantastic new weapon that marries Half-Life 2’s gravity gun, Portal’s handheld device, and time-shifting. It’s not just a gimmick, the GaRG makes this game what it is.
Back again is the superb Half-Life music, a mixture of thick, atmospheric soundscapes and a handful of more upbeat combat-enhancing tracks. Kelly Bailey is back at the top of his game, and his re-teaming with Mike Morasky has produced arguably the best Valve soundtrack to date. Tracks run the gamut here, with moody tracks like “Orbital Depths” and “Lorentz Ascent” that certainly hearken back to the Half-Life train ride theme “Vague Voices” and Half-Life 2’s creepy “Lab Practicum.” Later on, there are echoes of Episode 2’s “Vortal Combat” as the game builds toward the climactic battle with the pulse-pounding “Our Accelerated GaRG.”
Technically speaking, the game is simply at the top of the heap of the releases in recent memory. The graphics are gorgeous and silky smooth throughout, whether you’re fighting inside claustrophobic ship passageways, among the ice floes of the Arctic, or even in the canyons and desert of New Mexico during your memorable return to the original game’s now-decimated site of the Black Mesa Research Facility. The game is just a feast for the eyes – but you’ll get the most out of it on the third-generation model of Valve’s own Vive virtual reality system.
For those players for whom game length is all-important, rest assured. The game itself is longer than any of the preceding Half-Life games, especially once all four endings are unlocked. The replayability of the core game is also fantastic compared to the others in the series; there are dozens of new character and weapon skins available for purchase. The designers completely dispensed with the notion of a silent protagonist (sorry, does that count as a spoiler? -Ed.), so the best of the add-on items for sale are the Gordon Sound Packs, which let you play as anything from clueless California surfer Gordon, to uptight aristocratic British Gordon, to foul-mouthed racist redneck Gordon complete with ill-tempered pit bull sidekick ‘Bama (for an extra charge).
Thankfully, Valve’s decision to take the company public really propelled the development and release of Half-Life Forever. The new stockholders made sure of it by outsourcing the game’s development to Ubisoft, who built on the early contributions of the above-mentioned Valve personnel and of course put their own spin on things. Honestly it was the salvation of the game; who knows if we’d even have seen HLF by now if Valve was still at the helm?
Ubisoft really gets credit for taking the Half-Life formula and throwing it out the window for a fresh start. Yes, they retained the narrative framework and the brilliant music discussed above – but started anew otherwise. The open world approach truly gives the player freedom when wandering around what is effectively hundreds of square miles in-game. It’s simply awesome, sometimes you can just wander around for hours without much of anything happening, giving you time to really enjoy the scenery. Thankfully the obvious flashing objective markers are right there on your HUD for those times when you just want to get on with the missions, of which there are a solid four dozen doled out by the likes of Alyx, Dr. Kleiner, and in her triumphant return, Dr. Mossman. (Is that another spoiler? -Ed.)
As with most reviews, it boils down to: Should you buy this? Good news – you don’t have to; Half-Life Forever is free-to-play. When they took over development, Ubisoft heavily lobbied the stakeholders to switch to a F2P model, and Valve conceded (or was strong-armed according to industry rumors). Ubisoft further challenged Half-Life convention by fully committing to cinematics to convey the game’s plot. At last, I could complete my clearly-communicated mission objectives and then just sit back as I was rewarded with dramatic cutscenes. By this reviewer’s count, the cutscenes total to over 90 minutes of screen time; you really do feel like you’re watching a movie!
The 5 confirmed Half-Life Forever DLC campaigns promise to extend the enjoyment of the game. Stay tuned for my reviews of those as they are released.
Developer: Ubisoft Entertainment
Publisher: Valve Corporation
Price: Free-to-play, items and DLC for sale
Platform: Console exclusive
Released: November 2021
There is so much to say about Valve’s latest addition to the Half-Life series but before we start you can rest assured that this is a completely spoiler free zone. However, reviewing Half-Life 3 without mentioning some points of the story is a particularly daunting task. From start to finish the story never lets up. Whether it is being delivered in major chunks during the scripted scenes between the primary characters, or seeping in through the fine details in the stunningly crafted environments, you are never put in a situation where you aren’t learning something about Laidlaw’s universe.
It’s been a long 9 years since we last took control of Gordon Freeman, last seen slumped on the floor beside Alyx Vance, while she wept over the body of her father. This dramatic cliffhanger was more than just a way to keep the audience eager for the next part. In fact it drastically alters the course of the series. Alyx, understandably distraught, chooses to remain at White Forest and sends Gordon to the north with another rebel, simply named “Animal” (a character previously cut from the HL2 Beta). Naturally, things go rather pear shaped en route and after a brief but intense air battle, Freeman and his new comrade find themselves grounded on the arctic tundra, quite a distance from their intended destination.
Now, somewhat surrounded, deep within enemy territory and having lost all but his trusty crowbar, the player is required to command Animal to proceed through a few tight spots. This is mechanic does a perfect job of showing off the new and improved AI. As with the rebel citizens in HL2, they can be positioned or rallied with a single key. However, I was amazed with how intelligent the NPCs are this time around. Spotting a couple of combine soldiers approaching, I placed my crosshair on a nearby rock and tapped the command key. Animal immediately jogged to the position, dropping to a crouch when entering the enemy’s field of vision and diving to the cover at the last second. He then got to his feet and pressed his back against the cover. The combine soldiers walked right by him but I was too slow to find any cover of my own and they opened fire on me. Still armed with only the crowbar at this stage, I figured I should be playing stealthily here and was ready to hit the quickload key when Animal tackled the rear soldier, dropping him to the floor. The other soldier turned to assist his fallen squad member and I saw my chance. The HEV’s systems remain as they were in HL2 and episodes, holding shift gives me a much needed boost of speed as I close the gap between myself and the enemy as I hold the attack button.
I’m almost blown away by what happens next. Valve has spent a lot of time on the physics system in Source 2.5. Holding the attack button whilst wielding the crowbar now draws it back, similar to the wrench in Opposing Force. Releasing it brings the bar down hard on the back of the combine’s skull with a sickening crunch. I can almost feel the impact vibrate up my arm as the soldier drops to the floor, with his hands clasped over his head. There are no simple ragdoll physics to be seen here. These enemies have a fully simulated nervous system, and I have just caused this guy a severe amount of pain. Quickly sweeping up his SMG from the ground I turn it on the remaining soldier, who has managed to overpower Animal and is proceeding to swing at him with a baton. As I fire it soon becomes apparent that the improvements to physics system go far beyond the melee combat. The gun feels weighty and every round I that flies off target knocks a chunk out of the rocks in front of me. Two hit home however and strike the combine, one in the shoulder, causing him to stagger back before the second hits him square in the chest. He falls, briefly clutching his chest before he succumbs to his wounds. The combat has been significantly intensified and it’s ridiculously satisfying, even when your target is a simple weapons crate. The sense of weight behind the crowbar and the way the wood splinters rivals anything seen in any other release to date.
The environments are stunningly put together. Most studios would struggle when dealing with the setting of Half-Life 3. Arctic tundra, to the interior of a research vessel and then on to a hidden rebel base. All of them sound fairly bland on paper, without much scope for interesting colour palettes but there are some really interesting uses of lighting seen through the icy plains and frozen caves of the first two chapters. Then there?s the Borealis, a section originally intended for HL2 which was ultimately cut. Anyone who has played the unofficial beta remakes will know that overall these sections were confusing and awkward to navigate. However, having given themselves a decade long window to improve on these sections it is difficult to see how they could have made it any better. The interior of the ship has been gutted and what remains is a sterile laboratory design, not unlike the maps of portal and portal 2. The style of Aperture Science is undeniable and even contains several amusing references that fans of the series are sure to appreciate. Then we move on to the final two chapters, set within a hidden rebel base. Originally known as the Kraken base, this was another drab and uninspiring set of levels that was removed from HL2. Now the deep sea base combines human and xen technology, operated by a handful of rebels and a band of three vortigaunts.
Overall, the game will last anywhere between 7 to 8 hours depending on your desire to explore which is a little disappointing. Valve appear to have reworked a lot of the cut beta content into what feels like it could have easily been delivered in the originally intended format. That said, it more that makes up for it with the engine improvements which make it so easy to replay, and with the upcoming coop levels starring Griggs and Sheckley (Rebels from Episode 2) and with Valve promising to deliver HL3 episode 1 within the next 12 months (we’ll believe it when we see it) then there’s still plenty to get excited about.
Even with Dr. Breen defeated, the citadel destroyed, and the superportal shut down, the Combine hasn’t surrendered yet. The death of one resistance leader won’t harm the resistance that much. Gordon and Alyx are still going strong and are on their way to the Borealis to rescue Dr. Mossman and stop the Combine from using the Borealis to make another portal. Dr. Kleiner and Dr. Magnusson wish Gordon and Alyx the best of luck in finding Dr. Mossman, and Dog takes the long way to the arctic to meet them there. On the way to the arctic via the helicopter, the helicopter gets shot down by some Combine air patrol. With the Combine ground units not able to find Gordon and Alyx’s bodies, all the troops could find was the gravity gun, so they take it back to their nearest base for research. Gordon and Alyx must travel through the arctic deserts, fighting the undead, and some Xenian wildlife, as well as Combine patrols, including Scanners, which are now more recommended to be avoided at all cost instead of shot down, otherwise it could summon reinforcements such as a Dropship full of troops, artillery canisters filled with headcrabs, or a squad of Hunters. Since bugs don’t like the cold, there isn’t going to be any Antlions, but instead, bringing back the Houndeyes and Bullsquids from HL1.
There will be new and old enemies, new and old weapons, and even new vehicles! On the way to the Borealis, Gordon and Alyx meet up with a new deaf character that Alyx had a crush on in the past, as well as some old friends will be returning, such as Barney Calhoun, who was assigned by Eli to go after Dr. Mossman after his arrival at White Forest. Other returning characters are Col. Odessa Cubbage, Lamarr (whose finally going to be helpful for once), the Overwatch Voice, and even Cpl. Adrian Shepherd! A couple of new enemy characters, such as high ranking Combine generals, and traitors to the resistance.
After going to the Borealis, Gordon will be given choices for the first time on what to do next. Dr. Mossman assigns Gordon to go to four different locations around the world to locate items or help to help activate the Borealis and use it to travel to the Combine homeworld, and take out their leaders. The four different locations around the world will depend on which character is going. Barney will go on one journey; Alyx will go on another, etc. Alyx won’t be alongside Gordon the WHOLE time. This game will feature a bunch of different plot-twists, such as the secrets of the G-Man, the backstory of the HECU and the Seven Hour War, the backstory of the Combine, how Earth survived during the 20 years Gordon was absent, and even finding out that the only way to defeat the Combine is to become one.
There will be a new weapon system in this game with different categories, and only one weapon from each category can be held at a time. There are the melee weapons: the crowbar, the iceaxe, and the stunstick. The iceaxe is faster to use but uses less damage, the stunstick is slower to use but uses more damage, and the crowbar is in the middle. Same thing goes with the pistols category: pistol, magnum, and semi-automatic pistol (Alyx Gun); the fast weapons (SMG, AR2, OICW, each having its own advantages), the slow firing weapons (Shotgun, Crossbow, Combine Sniper Rifle), the explosives (grenades, SLAM, and ), and the heavy weapons (Rocket Launcher, Strider Cannon, Tau Cannon). There is also one weapons category that Gordon will be able to carry all types at a time; this category includes the Gravity Gun (and Super Gravity Gun), Alyx’s EMP Device, and the Xenian Staff (which Gordon will be able to lead Xenians against the Combines). Which brings me to the new NPCs category.
New allies will include not just Vortigaunts helping, but Xenian Grunts and Controllers too; the remaining Grunts and Controllers on trapped on Earth that have no choice but to team up with the humans. Gordon will be able to lead them in the incoming battles, much like the Pheropod Bugbait. Returning allies will include the Rebels, and certain returning characters fighting along side Gordon, such as Alyx, Barney, Shepherd, and Dog. If you thought Rebels were silly in the past games, they’re even sillier in this game. Reprogramed Combine technology will also be provided as allies, with the help of Alyx’s EMP device or rebel engineers.
There are also returning enemies such as the Headcrabs (all three types), and all four types of Zombies, but the only thing different about the Zombies is that all (except Fast Zombies) have multiple models; like the regular zombies will come in different clothings such as the blue rebel outfit, green rebel outfit, medic outfit, citizen outfit, white-shirt outfit, and since we?re in the arctic, parka outfit. The Zombines will also have multiple models, like the soldier, the shotgunner, and the elite, and the new combine models I’ll be introducing in a second. Poison Zombies only have two models: blue jeans and beige jeans for the medics. Zombie Torsos are also returning, both regular and fast, and the new zombine torsos are added. Barnacles are returning, and like I said before, Houndeyes and Bullsquids for the arctic since Antlions can?t survive that weather, but Antlions will be mentioned multiple times and have slight cameos. To replace the Antlion Guard, the Gonarch from HL1 is also returning, but will have lower health so it will be easier to kill, because there will be a few of them in the game.
The Combine’s that are returning will include the soldiers, shotgunners, and elites. The Combine Soldiers in this game are different; they’re no longer empty shells with no personality, but since the suppression field shut down, a side-effect is making the soldiers return to becoming humans, so they’ll have more personality, like taunts and silly comments, and the soldiers are also going to be tougher to fight because they’re becoming smarter as well. They will duck behind cover more often, and if you throw grenades at them, they’ll sometimes throw them back; that includes the Combine Snipers, which can be killed by any weapon now, not just explosives. Combine machinery will include Manhacks, Rollermines, Hopper Mines, Turrets, Cameras, Ceiling Turrets, Ground Turrets, and both types of Scanners. As I said before, Scanners are now more hostile, so instead of annoying flying cameras that take your picture, they can summon reinforcements by either spotting enemies or being destroyed. Hopper Mines are also a little more difficult in HL3, because instead of hopping and then exploding when hit the ground, they will be hopping and exploding in the air, which will make the player act faster when dealing with them. Combine APCs and Helicopters are also coming back, and APCs will be driven at one point. The Combine synths that are returning are the Dropships (which will carry more than just containers filled with troops and striders), Gunships, Striders, Hunters, and even the Crabsynths and Mortarsynths which were seen at the end of HL2, but were not directly met. Hunters will remain the same, but there are some changes with the other synths. The Dropships are no longer invulnerable; they can be destroyed by either the rocket launcher, strider cannon, or its engines having enough damage. The Gunships and Striders’ tactics are the same, but the Gunship?s belly cannon will return, but only for airstrikes. The only thing different about the Striders and Gunships is the way they die; they can die by two possible ways: either being blown to gibs, or crash to the ground; hope it’s blown to gibs, otherwise, take cover. Stalkers are also coming back in HL3, but are more deadly, much like their HL2 Beta form. The Metrocops may also return in HL3, but either as enemies, allies, or both.
There are also going to be new enemies in this game, and enemies that were removed from HL2 Beta. Combine Assassins and Super Soldiers will be recycled in HL3, there are going to be Headcrabs with explosives, and there?s even going to be the new Combine Heavy Trooper, which is a Combine Soldier carrying a portable emplacement gun. They bring a lot of damage, and they have a lot of health, but they are slow. Think of the heavy troopers as Heavy Weapons Guy from TF2, or the Heavy Grunt removed from HL1 Beta. Another type of new enemy, but is not directly fought except from a triggered event, is the Combine Cruiser. Combine cruisers can carry ships, heavy weapons, and over a thousand soldiers! Think of them as citadels that fly. Another new enemy in the game is the Combine general, which is the highest rank Combine (other than the Advisors), and they are the most protected, and are the deadliest humanoid combine troops you will be fighting. Other new enemies will include soldiers from the Combine homeworld, but not much detail to what becomes them yet.
Half-Life 3 is going to have a ton of story, insane graphics, a lot more detail, a ton of new and returning content, and content that changes the Half-Life universe in a big way! It will be a proper conclusion to the Half-Life trilogy, and it will be worth the wait! Just shush, and be patient. It’ll be all worth it when it’s finally released!