I think Half-Life 3, at this point, can be officially classed as a cryptid, you know, like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. We have rumors, anecdotal evidence, and occasional alleged sightings, but the Valve FPS sequel is otherwise a total mystery, the missing link between Half-Life 2 and Portal 2, roaming deep in the forest somewhere. On the contrary, two other new Half-Life games are becoming more and more believable. You may have heard rumblings of something called Neon Prime, or Citadel, or Half-Life X. The latest Counter-Strike 2 update offers new evidence as to their existence – if you’re eager for the return of Gordon Freeman, G-Man, and the world of Black Mesa, Valve may well have something on the stove.
Half-Life will be back in some form. Even with Counter-Strike 2 and Dota 2 pulling in players by the millions, the epochal FPS game surely remains Valve’s most beloved series – all Valve has to do is tweet the number ‘3’ and the entire videogaming world will burst into flames. Nevertheless, it’s been four years since the launch of Half-Life Alyx, and almost 20 years – 20 years! – since the full Half-Life 2. When it comes to the Borealis, Mossman, and the Combine Advisors, you can be forgiven for thinking we’re just never going to find out what happens. In fact, Half-Life 3 feels further away now than ever.
Then again, something new and Half-Life flavored certainly seems to be cooking. Neon Prime, also known as Citadel, is a supposed new Valve game set within the distant future of the Half-Life universe. A third-person shooter, it’s alleged to combine mechanics from Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike, and Dota into something completely new. Half-Life X meanwhile is more mysterious. It may be an updated version of Half-Life Alyx, or, more excitingly, the codename for a software testbed used to build and shape new Half-Life episodes using the same framework as HL: Alyx.
With that in mind, veteran Valve investigator and data miner ‘GabeFollower’ has discovered some fascinating files buried in the latest Counter-Strike 2 update. There is an entire repository of game files labeled Citadel, including mentions of player lobbies, hero IDs, and map markers, which you can see below:
GabeFollower has also discovered a single reference to ‘HLX.’ This wouldn’t be the first time that something has leaked via a Counter-Strike 2 update, as we previously got files for an entire unreleased prototype of Left 4 Dead. You can see the HLX reference in the below image:
Again, I feel like I’m watching that famous video of what’s meant to be the sasquatch, squinting my eyes, trying to work out if it’s just a person in a suit. But surely this means Valve is still working on something connected to Half-Life. There was a time when Counter-Strike 2 itself felt like it would never happen, and look where we are now. Time will tell.
While we wait, and wait, and wait on Half-Life 3, you can return to the golden age of shooters with some of the best old games. Alternatively, if you’re a big Counter-Strike 2 fan, try the best free Steam games available right now.