In 2017, former Valve writer Marc Laidlaw broke the internet when he updated his blog with a mysterious letter that appeared to contain the plot summary for his version of Half-Life 3. The post immediately caught the attention of a legion of Half-Life fans who deciphered the false names and hidden messages used in the original post and determined that it revealed plot details about the Half-Life sequel that never arrived. A translation of the text that inserts all the proper character, location, and occurrence names into the summary can be found here.
Fans have matched certain plot elements detailed in the summary to previously “leaked” concept art for an unreleased Half-Life game. Mentions of an arctic fortress and a downed helicopter in the summary have made appearances in leaked concept art in the past.
So what is the plot all about? Well, following the death of Eli Vance in Episode 2, Gordon Freeman, Alyx Vance, and a band of allies agree they need to trek to the Arctic in order to locate a research vessel called the Borealis. Alyx and Gordon believe that the vessel should be destroyed before it falls into the hands of the Combine. Others think it might still be used to turn the tide of battle.
Along the way, their helicopter is taken down by unknown forces believed to be Combine-related. Soon thereafter, they discover that the Borealis has seemingly become unstuck from time. It appears at random and the Combine have set up facilities in this area to study where it may appear next. After agreeing to board the ship whenever they get the chance, Alyx and Gordon are captured by Dr. Breen’s henchmen. Shortly after, Alyx and Gordon meet up with Judith Mossman, who convinces the group that she is not a traitor and joins forces with them.
What happens next is quite fascinating. After using Mossman’s support to board the Borealis, the group discovers that a study into portal-related technology appears to be to blame for the vessel’s predicament. It was meant to be sent to the Arctic via a portal when the Combine invaded, but a misunderstanding of the technology meant that it ended up floating through time and space. At one point, Gordon even references being able to see Aperture Science from the ship as time changes around them.
The finale sees Judith and Alyx argue over whether the ship should be destroyed. Alyx shoots Judith and convinces Gordon to turn the ship into a time-traveling bomb that they’ll use to make a suicide run and destroy the Combine’s ability to hop between worlds.
Just then, the G-Man appears and seems to speak to Alyx as if they knew each other from the past. She walks away from the explosion with him. Gordon, meanwhile, is able to catch just a glimpse of the vastness of the Combine war machine – he realizes they will never have the strength to defeat them outright – before he’s rescued by the Vortigaunts. He regrets the futility of his actions and hopes that the player will find what is left of the resistance and find “the appropriate course of action.”
As we’ve previously noted, Laidlaw admitted to having previously created a draft of the Half-Life 3 story but stated that he was unsure what remained of it at Valve. The fact he released this summary seems to indicate that he may have learned further information regarding Valve’s plans with the plot. That would fall in line with reports that have emerged for the past few years regarding why Valve will never make Half-Life 3.
As Laidlaw warned, this version of the story does end on a bit of a cliffhanger. While he stated on Twitter that Valve might want to explore this world again in order to explain things like the relationship between the G-Man and Alyx, we still encourage you to not get your hopes up and instead take whatever comfort you can find from knowing the end of the proposed original Gordon Freeman saga.
Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014.