The first hint of firm evidence as to the existence of a true sequel to Half-Life 2 has finally appeared, courtesy a rather strange medium: a promotional T-shirt.
According to Garry Newman, creator of the famous Garry's Mod physics playground system for Half-Life 2, Valve is quietly distributing T-shirts bearing a familiar logo with a twist: while the encircled lambda of Half-Life 2 is clearly visible, the numeral has been incremented to 3.
Valve, for its part, isn't talking; while Garry is keeping fans guessing by following up the image, which he posted to microblogging service Twitter
, with a simple statement
: 'Of course I'm trolling!
Fans, however, are wondering if the move could be a double-bluff; Valve is notorious for running strange marketing campaigns, up to and including complex and intricate alternate reality games (ARG) such as that which preceded the launch of first-person puzzler Portal 2.
The image of the T-shirt shows no signs of modification, suggesting that the article itself is real; the question that remains unanswered, however, is whether Newman created the item himself to troll his followers or if Valve really is beginning to hint at another entry in the Half-Life universe.
Perhaps the biggest clue, however, is in the nomenclature used: the next Half-Life game due for release is Half-Life 2: Episode 3, the follow-up to 2007's Episode 2 and originally slated for preview at the Electronics Entertainment Expo 2008.
Since then, Valve has been silent on Episode 3. However, Newman's image suggests that the company could be skipping the final episodic entry entirely in favour of an entire sequel. If so, it's a move that could please fans who have waited patiently through two Portal games to get their hands on Gordon Freeman's latest adventure.
Until Valve speaks out on the matter, however, it's likely too early to get excited.
Do you think Newman's just trolling, or could Valve really be planning a Half-Life 3 launch in the immediate future? Share your thoughts over in the forums.