Unseen Half-Life Concept Art Released – Including a Spin-Off That Never Came Out

Many Half-Life projects have never come to fruition, from Half-Life 2: Episode 3, to spin-offs that never reached development. Thanks to some new concept art, we at least know what they could have looked like.

2K developer and Half-Life fan David McGreavy (via Kotaku) has released a selection of never-before-seen images from the long-awaited Half-Life 2: Episode 3 – confirming some previously-released plot points – not to mention a game idea that never saw the light of day.

Although McGreavy never worked on Half-Life 2, he has become an avid collector, and found himself in possession of concept art that gives us a glimpse into the chapter of Half-Life 2 that never came to be.

Back in April, McGreavy teased the never-before-seen artwork as he began cataloging his Valve collection, with new additions from a former Valve employee looking to downsize their collection. The most immediately interesting part is the slug-like creature at the top left.

That’s ‘BreenGrub’ – a large, slug-like creature that fans will recognize almost immediately due to its name. Half-Life 2 villain Dr. Wallace Breen appeared throughout Half-Life 2 and was seen falling to his death after Gordon Freeman destroyed the reactor at the top of the Citadel. During Episodes 1 and 2 he only appears in flashbacks. Nevertheless, it looks as though he would have returned in Episode 3 after a video recording in Episode 2 mentions a transfer into a “host body”. It’s just not the kind of host body he might have preferred.

The once-human Dr. Breen was going to have his conscious mind transferred into a slug-like creature at the behest of the Combine – becoming a prisoner who would have been found by Alyx and Gordon during the events of Episode 3. How do we know that? Well, this gorgeous (but pretty gross) concept art confirms a plot revealed by former Half-Life 2 writer Marc Laidlaw before he left the company in 2016.

The plot, as revealed by Laidlaw, would have seen heroes Alyx and Gordon traveling to the Borealis – an Aperture Science vessel in a perpetual state of flux, phasing in and out of existence. The Combine, who set up base around it, have meanwhile transferred Breen’s mind into the aforementioned slug-like creature… and begs Alyx and Gordon to kill him.

Although Laidlaw has asserted that his version of events is “0% official” after he left the company, it’s nevertheless a fascinating glimpse into what might have been.

Additionally, McGreavy released scans of other concept art for Half-Life 2: Episode 3 that include post-apocalyptic vistas and a coastline covered in debris.

However, the two pieces of concept art showing Alyx Vance and robot companion, Dog were not from Episode 3 at all. Instead, McGreavy told Kotaku that these were part of a spin-off attempt that would have been entirely separate from both Half-Life 2: Episode 3 and the never-released Half-Life 3.

We can only guess at what that spin-off might have been for now.

Half-Life 2 was a landmark moment in game development, with IGN’s review saying: “It sets the standard in all areas, especially the use of physics as a gameplay tool instead of merely a visual treat for gamers.” It was followed by two extra episodes, with a cliffhanger for a third. However, it took until 2020 for Valve to tell us why Episode Three was never made.

We’ve since gotten the incredible VR-only game Half-Life: Alyx, but we’re still waiting for an official Half-Life 3. Multiple versions of the game have been abandoned, but we may be closer than ever – Valve’s developers have said that they want to keep making more games in the series.

Ryan Leston is an entertainment journalist and film critic for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter.

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