Last week, I posted a speculative article that listed some of the things I would like to see in Half-Life 3 if it ever comes out. A couple of the items on the list seemed to upset readers pretty badly—primarily the fact that I wished Half-Life 3 would include ADS (aim down sights) for its guns. Apparently, some readers felt that ADS would completely ruin the Half-Life experience and make the game feel more like Call of Duty. I was even accused of not being a "true fan."
Personally, I played a ton of non-ADS FPS games back in the early 2,000s and enjoyed them very much. However, in recent times, I've grown to love aiming down the sites of my weapons. It makes the action feel more visceral and helps aiming accuracy to not feel completely weird. I mean, I have a hard time believing that Gordon Freeman could consistently take down headcrabs at fifty yards while hip-firing. But that's just me. Valve has a history of not including ADS in its shooters, and I suppose there's no reason to actually assume Half-Life 3 would be the exception to this. However, Portal 2 did add a zoom feature to the portal gun. It's not ADS, but it's at least vaguely similar.
For me, ADS wouldn't make or ruin Half-Life; it would simply be a convenience. Whether you like ADS or not, though, I think it's pretty hyperbolic to claim that such a feature could ruin an entire game. Especially for a game in a series as phenomenal as Half-Life.
The real complaint I wanted to touch on, though, is co-op. I made what I felt was a fairly compelling argument that Half-Life 3 would probably include co-op. First of all, much of Half-Life 2: Episodes One and Two involved Freeman working very closely with Alyx Vance. Allowing a human player pick up the controller and play as her would hardly alter the basic feel of the game at all. (Of course, that's assuming you don't get paired with some whiney brat on Xbox LIVE, which is probably the real fear that a lot of people have. But I'm sure HL3 will include couch co-op as well, which lessens the chances of this happening.)
Secondly, Valve has already had great success with co-op in Portal 2. Do you remember how the original Portal was so good because it was a solo experience that put players' wits directly against the murderous GLaDOS, and how having a second player in that experience would have completely ruined it? Well, Valve managed to create a fantastic cooperative mode for Portal 2 that didn't destroy the "Portal vibe" or feel tacked-on. Portal 2's co-op was legitimately good, a feature that made the already great gameplay even better.
Thirdly, there were hints from Valve that seemed to suggest the company was considering moving away from wholly single-player experiences. There was a statement in "The Final Hours of Portal 2" that went a little something like this: "Portal 2 will probably be Valve's last game with an isolated single-player experience." Of course, this might not be completely accurate, but Gabe Newell, Valve's top dog, clarified: "It's not about giving up on single-player at all. It's saying we actually think there are a bunch of features and capabilities that we need to add into our single-player games to recognize the socially connected gamer." Now, this doesn't necessarily confirm that Half-Life 3 will include co-op, but many people are interpreting this statement to mean exactly that. I mean, how many other features can you think of that would appeal to "the socially connected gamer?"
As a huge fan myself, I do admire the lonely feel of Half-Life 2. It made the Combine's presence feel like more of a threat, and made encounters like the phenomenal bridge scene feel so much larger. Yet, to me, it seemed like that feel was toned down a bit in Episodes One and Two. Gordon Freeman had the witty Alyx Vance at his side for a good portion of the time. It may not have been an actual co-op experience, but it could have been without affecting the overall feel at all. (Of course, Alyx's near-death experience in Episode Two would have been a little dull for player 2. Then again, during much of that scene, Freeman was assisted by a friendly Vort, who could have easily been a temporary replacement for Alyx.)
Considering how well Valve managed to splice co-op into the Portal series, I don't think we have anything to worry about as far as Half-Life is concerned. I'm fairly confident that if Half-Life 3's co-op ends up being complete crap, it will be removed or reworked until it's actually fun.
My prediction: Half-Life 3 will have co-op. Just accept it.
Now, I do think that Half-Life's co-op shouldn't exceed two players. A Left 4 Dead-type four-player experience would be a tough fit for Half-Life. But two-player co-op wouldn't be such a departure from Episodes One and Two.
Either way, the bottom line is that the folks at Valve know what they are doing. I have confidence that when they actually make Half-Life 3, it will be in capable hands, and that we don't have a whole lot to worry about.
Then again, any "true fan" already knows this.
Editor / News Director
Date: January 19, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*