Half-Life reveal teased in Valve's Portal ARG? Clues to appear in The Orange Box? Here's the pant-wetting evidence

Could it be? Could it really be? Yes. Yes it could. Sit yourselves down people, and regulate your breathing, because it looks like Valve's epic Portal 2 ARG could be about to drop the motherlode.

That motherlode? Half-Life.

Yeah. Half-Life. Finally, blessedly, mercifully, after our years of frustration and faith, it looks like sweet, sweet Half-Life might be set for its next reveal. My feelings? Incandescent, explosive joy, obviously, and also a hint of smugness, because I called this one in an excitable semi-drunken tweet to Tyler Wilde the other night. What was my (non-booze-related) reasoning for that tweet, and what is the evidence backing up this latest potential development? Well...

First up, the latest edition of the unofficial Steamcast podcast featured an unexpected morse code message. The hosts claim to have had no knowledge of it previous of the podcast's release (Are they hoaxing? Are they in cahoots with Valve? Either is possible, but the optimistic side of me swings towards the latter), and a quick translation of the message revealed the following non-beepy human words:

"It’s not over. The others have been compromised"

More Aperture Science game-infestation to come? More revelations? A bigger, second wave of the ARG about to fire up?It's entirely possible. But there's something even better.

The Portal 2 ARG site has recieved a message from Valve, in the form of an Aperture Science internal memo:


1. We designed the entire thing to be very, very durable. It was easy to get the materials since everyone’s been thinking
    it’s a simple icebreaker ship. Ha.

2. We have made sure to strip it of anything not necessary, so that we have plenty of space for it. It doesn’t have any
    backup supplies in the event the crew runs out of food, though. And there isn’t much food onboard in the first place.

3. In the event you need to send it off all of a sudden, use the OR box with code ‘hb1′.

That’s all, C.J. Not much else I can tell you other than this won’t leave a blight on our record. Mesa is going to be sore when they see what we’ve done.


The important things to take from this? The icebreaker ship part is an obvious reference to the Aperture science ship The Borealis, the lost vessel which is currently the focus of the Half-Life 2 plot, Episode 2 having ended with Gordon and Alyx racing to find it in an attampt to stop the Combine harnessing its technology. The reference to Mesa? An obvious shout to Aperture's long-standing rivalry with Gordon Freeman's Black Mesa institute.

C.J. would refer to Cave Johnson, head of Aperture. And as for the rest of it? I'd like, if you'll allow me, to drop a small theory I've just come up with.

It might be a little too obvious, but is "OR box" a reference to The Orange Box? And, given that the podcast message hints that more games are to be updated with ARG content, and that Valve started all of this game-updates-as-reveal-teasers malarky when it put a new ending in Portal to reveal its sequel, could The Orange Box be next in line for the patched-in clue treatment? And should that happen, could "hb1" code reveal something related to the continuation of Half-Life 2 once we work out where and how to enter it? Also, does this guy sound a bit like the G-Man to you?


As I said to Tyler the other night, this ARG has always felt too big to culminate in a simple early release of Portal 2 as far as I'm concerned. It's always felt like something more significant is coming, with the interweaving in-universe fates of Aperture and Black Mesa gathering more pace and significance all the time. It started with Black Mesa references in Portal four years ago. It continued with plot points and hidden Aperture blue-prints in Half-Life 2: Episode Two. Have Valve been planning to build this grand narrative into the ultimate reveal for all this time? Maybe, maybe not. But if any company is clever and imaginative enough to do something like that, Valve is that company.

So yeah. Basically I'm still calling it. And if you want more of my semi-hysterical Half-Life callings while we wait for further developments, feel free to check out my story predictions for Half-Life 2: Episode Three and see how you think they tie into the current ARG situation.

Cheers, Rock, Paper Shotgun!

April 18th, 2011




  • Jacko415 - April 19, 2011 1:13 a.m.

    At the end of Portal 2 Chel is gonna cause the borealis to vannish somehow and we'll realize that portal is a prelude to Half life 2 EP 3 BAM! NOW FUCKING RELEASE IT
  • WillisTron - April 18, 2011 9:56 p.m.

    You know what else I could see happening? It's a stretch, but could be one of the craziest things ever done in gaming - have Portal 2 BECOME Half-life Episode 3 like half-way through. Idk, most likely not, but what better opportunity could there be to release Episode 3 right with Portal 2?? They've already introduced it to thousands of console gamers, so I doubt they'll shun them and have a PC only release (not to mention this would increase sales). And while most people are looking for a full length game rather than an episodic entry, realistically I don't see Episode 3 as a stand-alone product, after all this wait I highly doubt they'll just release it as a little episode. I see either 1. It's a full new game, or 2. it's part of Portal 2 somehow. Just grabbing at straws though really :P
  • mattmaranan - April 18, 2011 7:30 p.m.

    There's a subtle reference in portal 2 about l4d.....this is maybe a spoiler?? But Glados says this line when you reactivate her "Maybe I'll pick up a new reanimate the dead" ? could be a reference? who knows haha
  • Lionzest7 - April 18, 2011 7:07 p.m.

    @thewhitelight what reason would anyone have for releasing episode 3 on a new engine? If they're going to make a new engine might as well make Half Life 3 instead of episode 3 just for it.
  • shadowreaper72 - April 18, 2011 6:36 p.m.

    Yes!!! Its about damn time!!! Better sharpen my crowbar!!!
  • iano - April 18, 2011 6:34 p.m.

    Half Life 2 Episode 3 is Portal 2. Portal 2 is Half Life Episode 3. I had Half Life the day it came out, I bought it in Dixons, that makes me know shit. I am the greatest of all Half Life supporters, I even wrote a song when Opposing Force came out. Any body questions my knowledge; one word... Lies.
  • CH3BURASHKA - April 18, 2011 5:22 p.m.

    Honestly, I'm all out of words of joy, or frustration, or anger, or happiness. Just fucking release it...
  • TheWhiteLight - April 18, 2011 4:35 p.m.

    I still believe there will be a proper Episode 3, but seeing as how Valve has refused to release even one screenshot of it, I'm pretty sure that it's going to be running in whatever new engine that they're developing, which would also be used for a full Half-Life 3 game. I feel like they will release HL2 Episode 3 as a relatively short precurser to the full Half Life 3 game. Valve has to be well into development on whatever new engine they're working on, but I'm guessing they're gonna want to make it comparably more powerful than the last source engine. The last engine unfortunately came out a little too soon, and wasn't quite powerful enough to become a widely used in this console generation. You better believe Valve will want their next one to be top of the line, along with the Crytek and Unreal engines.
  • FOZ - April 18, 2011 3:36 p.m.

    The internets already started figuring this out the week following April 1st (that "potato day" update). But I don't think we'll get anything good until E3.
  • darkrider105 - April 18, 2011 3:26 p.m.

    Here's to hoping that this article is right!
  • angelusdlion - April 18, 2011 2:54 p.m.

    the wiki mentions 5) Old entertainment packages which have not been updated Steam is coming to the PS3.. does this mean that the orange box for ps3 will be updated fnally?
  • ThatGuyFromTV - April 18, 2011 2:11 p.m.

    Now what could hb1 mean?
  • Xophen - April 18, 2011 1:55 p.m.

    @lukas1051 We don't criticize them because they make great games, they take fucking ages to put them out yeah. But they're still great games. I'm fairly sure it'll be a full sequel but even if its just an episode i'll be happy. Because I know it'll be a great experience.
  • lukas1051 - April 18, 2011 1:37 p.m.

    I don't see why we're now worshipping the ground Valve walk on for hinting at a game, no not a game, half a game, that should have been released ages ago. It's about time; not that any of you Valve fanboys would dare criticise them for it. After this wait, if it's not a fully blown sequel, then they're having a bloody laugh.
  • Xophen - April 18, 2011 12:53 p.m.

    @jackthemenace It took me a while to actually get into Half Life I started off at 2 and wasn't really into it. Played 1 and was hooked. Try them again, their worth it. As for the Half Life reveal it's amazing seeing how Portal and Half-Life may come together. 18 Hours from release.
  • jackthemenace - April 18, 2011 12:44 p.m.

    It would be awesome to see another Half Life released, but I have a confession to make- TECHNICALLY, I've never... exactly... FINISHED... A Half-life Game... reCAPTCHA: There is absolutely NO WAY that 'ipssingl' is a word.
  • sirdilznik - April 18, 2011 12:21 p.m.

    @BonesawisreadyforsomeFootball - I completely agree. At this point HL2: Episode 3 would almost be a letdown. with all the time that's elapsed since HL2: Episode 2 they should be coming out with Half-Life 3 rather than just an episode. With that said I'll take whatever I can get as long as it's Half-Life. *holds his crowbar close as he laughs maniacally and rocks back and forth in his chair* reCaptcha=radish emsedigh. The first reCaptcha had greek letters in it and I wasn't about to go there.
  • philipshaw - April 18, 2011 12:19 p.m.

    Sound theory, my theory is that Portal 2 links into the start of HL2:EP3
  • EnragedTortoise1 - April 18, 2011 11:57 a.m.

    It's actually awesome watching this all unfold.
  • BadLadJon - April 18, 2011 11:50 a.m.

    i swear to god if valve makes Episode like 1-3 hours long in the amount of time they've had to make it im gonna be pissed

Showing 1-20 of 26 comments

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