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Three Endings for Episode Three on Game and Player
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Three Endings for Episode Three

Michael Ubaldi  //  June 26, 2008


In the absence of fact, there is irresponsible speculation.

I

t is a very good bet that Half-Life 2: Episode Three will involve a gravity gun flinging soft objects at hard objects or vice-versa, zombies, and maddening riddles from a trans-dimensional Eastern European with a briefcase and plain need for a three-credit course in public speaking.

But what of the conclusion to the story Valve Corporation has been telling for over ten years? No one but Valve knows, and Valve hasn't made a peep.

As, in the absence of fact, there is irresponsible speculation, here are three possible endings to Episode Three.


SUPER MARIO BROS. 2 ENDING ('IT WAS ALL JUST A DREAM')


Gordon is first aware of himself screaming. Then he sees the white-blue lamps hanging from the ceiling outside of C-33/a. He's on the floor, jackknifed, clutching the crowbar. Huddled around Gordon are startled members of the Science Team. They're all still alive, even Eli Vance, who lays a hand on Gordon's shoulder as he turns to the doorway and gives Barney the all-clear.

Eli frowns. We didn't know what was going on, Gordon. You looked preoccupied, really zoned out. Started pacing, left the room, came back with a crowbar — swung it a few times! — then doubled over.

Able to speak again, Gordon sits up and relates his adventure from beginning to end — the experiment, the resonance cascade, escape, travels, the Combine, occupation, liberation. The heroes, the landscapes, the creatures are all described in detail. And you, and you, and you were there! There's shifting in the huddle. Somebody makes a low whistle.

Gordon looks past Eli and yelps. G-Man! he shouts, pointing at a fellow who goes white. Who? That's Dmytro, the assistant from Belarus. Belarus? — yes, mumbles Gordon. Not far from City 17, he begins, trailing off.

Seventeen sounds about right, thinks the section chief, as he pages through Gordon's calendar for unused vacation time.

It was all so real, insists Gordon. He looks off into space, then at Eli, then at the AMAT chamber. Headcrabs. The headcrabs! Remember, smiles Eli, that you're a little allergic to poultry, and then when we pulled Tuesday's all-nighter our gofer brought nothing but compliments from General Tso? Gordon shrugs, looking down. But — his eyes suddenly bulge — what about scything through scores of mutated colleagues like, like him, and him, and, and even Patel over there? Well, now. Eli smiles again, nods — and takes and hides Gordon's crowbar.


2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY ENDING ('GORDON BECOMES A STAR CHILD')


Fighting his way through the Combine and its synthetic cohort, Gordon locates the missing vessel Borealis. He bids Alyx to stay close behind, and slowly climbs from the forecastle to the deck. Hefting back a corroded entry hatch, Gordon and Alyx gaze into infinity to the second power, as a pinhole between two ineffably distant points of creation opens a foot away. MY GOD, gasps Alyx, IT'S FULL OF — but Gordon doesn't hear what Alyx thinks the singularity is full of, because he's wrenched forward and through.

Minutes turn to hours, or just seem to, as computerized sequences, Rorschach blots, and heavily saturated flyover footage from unidentified national parks pass in view, over and over and over again. This psychedelic monotony is broken up by an orchestra playing every perceivable note at the same time. Also interjected is a guttural, abrasive drone that an avant-garde film director meant to be terrifyingly sublime — but which instead sounds like an open microphone feed turned up really, really loud.

Gordon arrives in a well-furnished somewhere. Slightly disoriented, he spends several timeless eon-moments regaining the capacity to uncross his eyes. Then he walks through the eternity-foyer to peer inside a sempiternal dining room. G-Man, just finishing lunch, turns, notices it's half-past an interval outside of space and time, and rises to exit.

Compelled to find all of this meaningful, or at least artistically convincing, Gordon wanders for an apparent fifteen minutes. He silently ages, dies, and manifests as a bauble-encased infant orbiting earth. Credits roll, leaving players to consider that, Hey, this weird-out didn't need lines lifted from The X-Files, or for that matter any of those damned Vortigaunts.


LUCASFILM ENDING ('VALVE MERCHANDISES')


Dr. Breen, whose return is as inexplicable as a second Citadel's, appears in telecasts not only to denigrate Gordon and the Resistance but also to remind them (and, really, anyone else who's listening) of promotional tie-ins like Overwatch bobbleheads, grooming accessories (for, naturally, Breen's and Gordon's beards), and archery sets with quarrels painted to resemble superheated rebars.

Enter the Oarwhiks, a diminutive, cuddly and highly test-marketed race of caniforms who have been stirred to belligerence by the Combine's intrusion on their habitat. After being captured by the Oarwhiks, Gordon, Alyx and Dog win the lovable little bears' trust, swearing to battle the Combine together over a martial feast from Oarwhik-branded lunchboxes, thermoses and placemats.

Under the tutelage of Chief Twirpa (whose 12", poseable doll retails for only $12.99!), Gordon learns the secrets of Mokepon, the Oarwhiks' magical (and collectible!) trading cards. With mastery of the supernatural, he bests the Combine's biomechanical horrors (TechTerrors, out this September!), unleashed by Breen during the climactic last battle in a blinding, frantic succession (warning: game may cause seizures).

As with Portal, this installment features a musical number like "Still Alive," written by Jonathan Coulton. Except it's sung by Miley Cyrus, penned by fifteen uncredited pop writers, and is a ballad from Alyx to her comrade-turned-fiancé, "Hey Freeman (Baby, I Super-Totally Love You)." The track isn't marketed to players of the game or, for that matter, anyone over the age of 15 — rather, to tweens who haven't the faintest idea what Half-Life is. But they sure lo-o-o-o-ove Hannah Montana, and Valve knows it.





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