Can Half-Life 3 stay linear and compete?

Posted by oraknabo (1457 posts) -

At the time they were released, both Half-Life games, to some degree, led first-person shooters into new and somewhat unexpected directions.

While a few previous games had incorporated narrative elements successfully, Half-Life brought a sense of realism to its world with the use of simple non-combatant non-player characters and Half-Life 2 expanded on the believability of those NPCs and incorporated physics and environmental interaction to a greater degree than any other game of its time.

While the Half-Life 2 episodes have been able to extend Gordon Freeman's world and continue to make use of the once-innovative physics gameplay of the source engine and Portal pushed the use of the engine in impressive new ways, the series is still essentially rooted in linear level design and storytelling.

Now with even first-person games like Far Cry 2 and Crysis making use of the kind of open world  and non-linear, mission-based gameplay that has defined a whole genre of third person games like GTA and Mercenaries, is it possible for the Half-Life series to innovate in any way while still sticking to a linear style of gameplay and narrative? Is it possible to advance the story of Gordon Freeman in an open world or would that diminish the series as a whole?

I don't know what Valve has in store for Gordon Freeman and his associates in their long awaited sequel. I'm assuming new technologes like the gravity gun and portal gun will play a significant role. The people at Valve are incredibly talented and I feel like they will be able to do something big and new with the game's third installment, but I worry that by the time we get to the game's release, that a linear, first-person shooter will feel like a dinosaur.

#1 Posted by oraknabo (1457 posts) -

At the time they were released, both Half-Life games, to some degree, led first-person shooters into new and somewhat unexpected directions.

While a few previous games had incorporated narrative elements successfully, Half-Life brought a sense of realism to its world with the use of simple non-combatant non-player characters and Half-Life 2 expanded on the believability of those NPCs and incorporated physics and environmental interaction to a greater degree than any other game of its time.

While the Half-Life 2 episodes have been able to extend Gordon Freeman's world and continue to make use of the once-innovative physics gameplay of the source engine and Portal pushed the use of the engine in impressive new ways, the series is still essentially rooted in linear level design and storytelling.

Now with even first-person games like Far Cry 2 and Crysis making use of the kind of open world  and non-linear, mission-based gameplay that has defined a whole genre of third person games like GTA and Mercenaries, is it possible for the Half-Life series to innovate in any way while still sticking to a linear style of gameplay and narrative? Is it possible to advance the story of Gordon Freeman in an open world or would that diminish the series as a whole?

I don't know what Valve has in store for Gordon Freeman and his associates in their long awaited sequel. I'm assuming new technologes like the gravity gun and portal gun will play a significant role. The people at Valve are incredibly talented and I feel like they will be able to do something big and new with the game's third installment, but I worry that by the time we get to the game's release, that a linear, first-person shooter will feel like a dinosaur.

#2 Posted by HistoryInRust (6293 posts) -

I think it can remain linear with bouts of pseudo-freedom.  There were several puzzles in Episode 2 that allowed for a good deal of freedom.

The linchpin of the whole argument is that the franchise is equal parts narrative and refined gameplay.  Valve's scripted events are so well implemented, often, it feels like the player just happened upon it, and they are essential to the experience.  A radical shift from that scripted linearity would disrupt the flow of the series.  And besides, most first-person shooters are still rather linear.  They, for the most part, still take their cues from games like the original Half-Life and the original Halo (which was pretty similar, sans crowbar). 

As a Half-Life fan, I wouldn't want the game to strive for a new approach.  The series has run on a tightly-directed path, and the writing and direction have been so mature, so well paced and forethought and established, that a gameplay expansion at the expense of narrative would be a significant detraction from the experience, especially this late in the franchise's life. 

#3 Posted by Vinchenzo (6192 posts) -

Open world? Don't care much for them in a first person shooter. Half-Life should stay what it is. This new "open world" market is quickly becoming over-saturated. I want to be led, and Half-Life does that, but makes me feel as if I'm not following a linear path. Sounds strange, but I like how Valve leads people in their games. I look at Far Cry 2 and instantly dismiss it because of how open it is. Sorry, I don't want to drive all day across a plain of polygons. That's what I call filler.

#4 Posted by crunchUK (5963 posts) -

i haven't played much half life but maybe thats why episode 3 is coming out some really late time or something

#5 Posted by RHCPfan24 (8609 posts) -

I think it could remain on a straight path.  While games like Far Cry and Mercenaries are popular, they definitely don't highlight the way when games like Call of Duty, Halo, and, in some respects, BioShock remain at the top of sales and critical reception.  I think Half Life 3, whatever it may be, is going to be great but no one here actually has any idea yet of what it is right? Let us wait to see what the wizards at Valve have in store.

#6 Posted by SpinCookie (680 posts) -

I prefer Linear paths in my shooters, I don't like having to "figure out" what to do next.  Dead Space has my name all over it, you can literally push a button and see where you have to go, sweet.

#7 Edited by mracoon (4967 posts) -

Yes. HL: Ep 2 did it, BioShock did it, COD4 did it, Gears 2 did it. Lots of games have been linear and been great. Everybody loves Half-life for its tried and loved formula. The best part of the series is having the set pieces and they probably woundn't have happened if it was open.

Moderator
#8 Edited by Linkyshinks (9880 posts) -

Despite my like for them and what they attempt to do, games like Crysis and Far Cry2 show to me that the open world game is still very much in it's infancy and littered with issues.  I really would not want Valve to embark on something of the sort until the development community as a whole get a good handle on how to create such games. They need to without causing technical issues and mish mashing a story by taking focus and direction away from it.

I would not mind some greater freedoms to explore if it adheres well to the story, but as far as creating a open world game entirely, no thanks, I would rather Valve play safe. Things work fine now and yet more innovation could be added in other ways. 

I wonder if they will include elements of the AI Director in the new game.

#9 Posted by DualReaver (3882 posts) -

I heard COD4 did okay in sales.

#10 Posted by Linkyshinks (9880 posts) -
SpinCookie said:
"I prefer Linear paths in my shooters, I don't like having to "figure out" what to do next.  Dead Space has my name all over it, you can literally push a button and see where you have to go, sweet."

After playing Warhead, FC2 and then Fallout3, Dead Space is such a breath of fresh air, ironically.

#11 Posted by Vaxadrin (2297 posts) -
Sir_Ragnarok said:
"As a Half-Life fan, I wouldn't want the game to strive for a new approach.  The series has run on a tightly-directed path, and the writing and direction have been so mature, so well paced and forethought and established, that a gameplay expansion at the expense of narrative would be a significant detraction from the experience, especially this late in the franchise's life. "
My thoughts exactly.  What I want them to do is more animations for first person for better immersion.  Hands on a steering wheel, ladder climbing, LEGS, stuff like that to get with the times.

As for the linearity and way they approach narrative, that's the reason I like the Half Life games so much.
#12 Posted by oraknabo (1457 posts) -

I guess I'm just worried that by the time we get to this game's release that all the other shooters will allow so much freedom that the typical constrained path we're used to in Half-Life will seem outdated no matter what other cool tech they add. I think at least a seamless, streaming environment like in Far Cry 2 instead of loading each area would do a lot to make 3 feel more open without actually going mission-based.

I guess I just expect a valve game to make a significant leap ahead of everyone else on a new full release. the incorporation of things like AI Director could add an unexpected dimension to the Half-Life experience.

#13 Posted by Vaxadrin (2297 posts) -

Yeah, it'd be pretty sweet if Portal's portal gun and L4D's AI director were sort of prototypes or proofs of concept to incorporate them into episode 3.

#14 Posted by pause422 (6179 posts) -

Of course it can....so Far Cry 2 and Crysis have been out now, that doesn't change anything. I doubt everyone suddenly agrees these games are the best shooters ever now, or needs to be how every shooter is made. It will be fine.

#15 Posted by pirate_republic (1117 posts) -

Definitely. As long as it has a few vehicular open sequences, then yes, it can definitely compete and suceed.

#16 Posted by wefwefasdf (6729 posts) -
Vinchenzo said:
"Open world? Don't care much for them in a first person shooter. Half-Life should stay what it is. This new "open world" market is quickly becoming over-saturated. I want to be led, and Half-Life does that, but makes me feel as if I'm not following a linear path. Sounds strange, but I like how Valve leads people in their games. I look at Far Cry 2 and instantly dismiss it because of how open it is. Sorry, I don't want to drive all day across a plain of polygons. That's what I call filler."
I'm the same way.
#17 Posted by lordofultima (6234 posts) -

Half-Life is still ages ahead of other First-Person Shooters. So I'd say Valve really doesn't have much to worry about. Non-linear is not always the best course of action. That Call of Duty 4 was pretty popular, I hear.

#18 Posted by oraknabo (1457 posts) -

I understand that COD4 was very popular in the past year, but I'm talking about what's going to be popular in whatever year we get a Half-Life 3.

Look at Resident Evil: RE4 was a gigantic step up in controls for the franchise pretty much everyone said it was a perfect game and a huge improvement. Almost immediately we started seeing other games switch to the over-the-shoulder style of RE4. In the years since, there have been a lot of advances in the controls fro 3rd person action games, so now that RE5 is coming out, everyone's ripping on the control scheme for not being Gears of War.

When a franchise makes a name for itself for surpassing everything in its class, people begin to expect the next big release to continue the trend. I doubt Far Cry 2 and Crysis are the end of open world shooters.

I also think COD4 is a bad comparison, because while both are first person shooters,  it's about the missions, not the world. The levels are basically just maps for the missions to happen in. Two missions in COD could be across the world from each other. In Half-Life there's a lot more invested in the realism of the world around you and a continuity to the space.

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