Half-Life 3 is likely the most prolific and frankly mind numbing case of vaporware the gaming industry, nay, the world has ever seen. And no matter how we try to ignore it, to resist the urge to click on that headline saying "Half-Life 3 confirmed" or "Half-Life 3 leak", we do it anyway, regardless of the fact that we know it's never going to contain any viable information.
It's been nearly a decade since the last instalment in the series, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, and yet still we hope that we shall see a conclusion to that story of Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance left on a cliffhanger knife edge.
But the truth seems to be thus, Valve don't care about the Half-Life series any longer. Either that or they're executing the longest, cruelest troll of modern gaming.
Valve Managing Director Gabe Newell is no stranger to this "controversy", illustrated by his constant side-stepping of the question. In fact it's been more than a year since the game was last mentioned in the Valve circuit; in a March 2015 interview the billion-dollar Newell was again asked the million-dollar question regarding the proposed sequel to Half-Life 2: Episode 2. His response to the most recent round of questioning was again less than optimistic:
"The only reason we'd go back and do like a super classic kind of product is if a whole bunch of people just internally at Valve said they wanted to do it and had a reasonable explanation for why... But you know if you want to do another Half-Life game and you want to ignore everything we've learned in shipping Portal 2 and in shipping all the updates on the multiplayer side, that seems like a bad choice. So we'll keep moving forward. But that doesn't necessarily always mean what people are worried that it might mean."
Okay, so he didn't deny that Half-Life 3 will ever see the light of day, but he doesn't sound particularly enthused about it either, right? We're not holding our breath either way.
The sign off to his answer — "that doesn't necessarily always mean what people are worried that it might mean" — is the sliver of hope fans still grasp too; just cause they're focused on other properties right now doesn't mean that they can't go back and do Half-Life 3 whenever they want! It's Valve for goodness sake, they can pretty much do whatever they want at this stage in the game.
But the longer they wait, the smaller their Half-Life audience becomes, and at this point is there any game that could live up to the expectations set for Half-Life 3? Anything less than perfection would be an abject disappointment after the near decade long wait.
It's been widely speculated that Half-Life 3 has fallen to the wayside as Valve is too busy making huge profits from their massively successful Steam distribution platform (which boasts more than 125 million active users and corners about 75% of the digital games market) and their other popular franchises such as DOTA 2. This is a feeling that Newell's comments regarding Portal 2 and multi-player updates certainly seem to chime with.
Finally shipping Half-Life 3 would be pretty high risk for Valve who are currently doing more than insanely well both financially and critically with their MMO and online based services. It's almost understandable that they're hesitant to commit to a release date for the third instalment in the well loved series.
To cap it all off, the original writer and co-creator of the series Marc Laidlaw is now retired, claiming to be "too old" for the video games industry now and wishing for a return to "self-directed writing projects." Say it ain't so!
Futhermore, the vast majority of "leaks" and speculated "release dates" are pulled straight out the air. A recent "leak" back in January reported by the Mirror came via a text dump on Pastebin, which could've been written by anyone, and The News Independent claim a 2018 release date for the game, with no reasoning or proof behind such a claim. It's all a bit depressing by this point.
So yeah, sure. Keep those hopeful fires burning if you must, keep the flame alive. But don't buy into any of these leaks and rumors until such a mythical time comes as we have an official line from Valve on the status, or indeed the existence of, Half-Life 3. This is, after all, the internet, and it is dark and full of terrors (and fake sources).