Valve, If That Half-Life Movie Ever Comes Out, Tell A New Story In That World

Video games are a tough medium to translate into film, whether it’s RPGs that build themselves upon character customization and choice, or story-based games with silent protagonists. Even without that issue, making the leap to tell the same story but condensing it down from dozens of hours to just two will always leave it feeling somewhat empty, and that’s exactly the problem Valve will run into if they tell Gordon’s story again through such means. Instead, they should expand upon that world with someone else, and fill out the corners with a fine-tooth comb.

This could take on a variety of forms. For example, a lone City 17 civilian, beaten and bruised in an apartment raid, their belongings ransacked and left sprawled across the rotting floor in pieces. They’re barely breathing, the Metrocops towering above them in their soulless masks with fierce blue eyes, stun baton in hand, charged and ready for another swing. A story about how the people of City 17 went from obedient cogs in the Combine wheel, constantly pushed down, constantly berated, to rebels with a vengeance.

Telling this from the perspective of a civilian turned rebel could bring in the intimacy we adore from the games without butchering the original story. They don’t need to be so prolific and over-the-top that they garner a reputation rivaling Gordon Freeman’s – if they did, we’d have heard about them in the games – so it can be a smaller, more personal story.

Valve could also do the opposite. A grand story about the Seven Hour War, a wide-scale butcher with the world collapsing into disarray as interdimensional conquerors crush humanity into submission. Display the Combine at their most powerful to drive home the hopelessness of it all alongside the characters we know and love standing in defiance. Gordon Freeman lingering in stasis, G-Man watching it all unfold: a bittersweet action film that doesn’t need Gordon to work.

Valve could even delve into the liberating rebellion and its beginnings – Eli, Kleiner, Alyx, Barney, Magnusson, those who no doubt died along the way before Gordon ever stepped foot onto the scene. Perhaps even, more upsettingly, how Ravenholm went from a refugee town to a zombie-infested hellhole riddled with the stench of rotting carcasses. How one man was left to act as a guardian angel, bringing lost souls through the limbo of undeath toward the rusted gates of escape.

That’s if Half-Life 2 is even the world that Valve explores – perhaps we see other scientists escape Black Mesa’s alien invasion and subsequent nuking, maybe even Kleiner and Eli. Telling Gordon’s story will no doubt leave fans disappointed when certain elements are omitted, he speaks and it doesn’t live up to what was in our heads, or it blunders like most adaptations do because it just doesn’t quite capture the game’s original magic.

Terraforming a 12-hour personal adventure into a two-hour romp is a risky affair. Taking risks is, of course, a must – it’s what leads to some of the best works of art out there, and there’s no denying that. Ultimately, the world of Half-Life can be introduced to new audiences at large with new angles, new personalities, new approaches, a risk in of itself in building off the back of others. It’s akin to condensing three seasons of a television show into a single film. At the end of the day, though, it’s as simple as the fact that it doesn’t need to be Gordon to be Half-Life, and if anything, Alyx proved that.

But if a prequel bores, a new angle on an existing story feels like filler or none of this screams appealing, there’s always the potential to dive into sequel territory, and again, there’s no need for Gordon to be involved, because there is one character that’s still left in the foggy unknown – Barney Calhoun. He assists you and Alyx in getting civilians out of City 17 before it goes kaput in a portal storm extravaganza, but we never see him after that, and his fate is left ambiguous.

Did he die in the cataclysm or is he out there, doing his own thing? Perhaps the answer to what a Half-Life film could be sits with Barney. It’s a story fans love thanks to Blue Shift, which has been built upon and given life, charm, and rich memories in the sequels. There’s so much potential outside of Gordon Freeman: is three hours of him wading through the waters in a boat, smacking things with a crowbar, solving puzzles, and standing blank-faced while everyone around him celebrates really a good time if we’re not the ones doing it?

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James Troughton is a writer at TheGamer. He’s worked at the Nintendo-based site Switchaboo and newspaper TheCourierOnline and can be found on Twitter @JDTroughton.

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