Valve is doing anything but big games. But, a long time ago this company was one of the main bestseller providers in the industry. I decided to remember the good old times and make an excursion into history. Let’s remember the best games made by Gabe Newell’s team.
The opening place in our list – Half-Life. The game that began Valve’s ascent to the game Olympus. An alien invasion through a portal created as a result of an unsuccessful scientific experiment, in 1998 simply blew up the industry – all thanks to innovative storytelling and an exciting plot that was new to the genre at that time. Script scenes inside the gameplay plunged the players into the story, creating an incredible presence effect.
However, other elements of the shooter, from the design of locations and shootings to the interactivity of the environment and puzzles, were performed at the standard level. As a result – high scores from critics and gamers, a tremendous influence on the genre and a deserved place in all kinds of Tops of the greatest games of all time.
The first version of Counter-Strike was not created by Valve – initially, it was a multiplayer mod for Half-Life, developed by enthusiasts Min Le and Jess Cliff. And this provided them with work in the Valve company: drawing attention to the popularity of CS, Valve gave these modders jobs, and also provided the game with technical and material support.
How did Counter-Strike attract the audience? The shooter became successful thanks to the intense gameplay, an abundance of tactical techniques, good balance of maps, as well as extremely simple rules of the game, which were learned literally by the second or third network match. And again, the game influenced the genre, contributing to the popularization of e-sports.
Day of Defeat (2003)
Another popular multiplayer game was also born from a mod for Half-Life. And here Valve did not miss a promising project, inviting developers to work in the studio and releasing Day of Defeat as a separate title.
A shooter in the setting of World War II suggested that players fight each other using several character classes and various weapons. Well-balanced sides allowed players to rely on team tactics and skill, and a large selection of maps and modes (including custom ones) provided the project with huge replay value. In 2005, the game was updated by switching to the Source engine.
Counter-Strike: Source (2004)
Remake of Counter-Strike, made on the Source engine, received a map redesign and a number of gameplay innovations. Not all changes were liked by fans of the classic CS, but nevertheless, the re-release is successful both among gamers and modders who are steadily releasing new content for the game even now.
Half-Life 2 (2004)
Probably the greatest game from Valve, a shooter that has won many awards and positive reviews, an important milestone in the gaming industry and just a gorgeous adventure that constantly throws up new and interesting situations for gamers.
Why did Half-Life 2 deserve so much praise? A fascinating story that puts the player at the center of the unfolding events. An impressive interaction with the environment and advanced physics, which is still a rare occurrence in video games. Good artificial intelligence that makes battles with enemies unpredictable and exciting. Finally, a high degree of immersion in a world where elements of fiction, post-apocalyptic and anti-utopia are united.
Half-Life 2: Episode One (2006)
The first independent addition to Half-Life 2 of the planned three. Here, the developers focused on the story of the escape from City-17, and also focused the gameplay on interacting with Alyx Vance, the charming companion of Gordon Freeman. To do this, the authors significantly improved the AI, Alyx and added many situations in which both characters can not do without the help of each other. The result was a memorable trip with a furious campaign and interesting puzzles.
Half-Life 2: Episode Two (2007)
The second independent addition to Half-Life 2. Here Valve provided players with the opportunity to explore huge locations on a new car, as well as take part in the intense defense of the base from the Alliance’s advancing forces. The game turned out to be no less exciting than the previous games in the HL franchise. But, long story short – we didn’t get the final chapter of the series 🙁
Team Fortress 2 (2007)
The Team Fortress series has a curious story: the first game was a modification to Quake, and then redesigned as a separate game by Valve.
The sequel was developed for a long nine years, and during this time, the authors repeatedly changed the concept and visual style of the project, abandoning the realistic military setting in favor of the cartoon. The confrontation of funny characters and the general frivolous atmosphere of Team Fortress 2 pleased the audience, but the shooter got even more fans after adding cosmetic accessories (famous hats) and switching to free-to-play. As a result, the game is still livelier than all the living, showing high numbers of players online and unquenchable interest from fans of multiplayer entertainment.
Left 4 Dead (2008)
The multiplayer horror Left 4 Dead was originally created by Turtle Rock Studios, but later Valve joined the process, as a result of which the shooter became the fruit of collaboration.
Here, the authors realized several good ideas at once. Firstly, a co-op, perfect for fans of a joint game. Secondly, “smart” bots for single players. Thirdly, multiplayer, where gamers could feel in the role of not only survivors but also infected. Finally, fourthly, the AI director, which created unique situations and ensured the project excellent replayability. All this in total gave a high-quality zombie shooter, the popularity of which was overshadowed only by its sequel.
Left 4 Dead 2 (2009)
The “ideal” second part in the L4D series: everything is the same as in Left 4 Dead, only more, better. Game devs improved the graphics, animation, and physical model, added new characters, campaigns, weapons and infected, finalized the gameplay. As a result – high scores from critics and gamers as well as big sales. Thanks to the near-perfect gameplay and user mods, the shooter stays afloat to this day.
Alien Swarm (2010)
A free team shooter made with Source engine, created by developers from Valve as a tribute to the modification of the same name for Unreal Tournament 2004, which they once released.
Alien Swarm is a coop adventure for 2-4 players, in which you have to fight with hordes of aliens, using characters of several classes and various weapons. Free, cooperative, dynamic gameplay and a built-in level editor – these are the pillars on which the popularity of the project rests.
Portal 2 (2011)
If the first Portal was a kind of “breakdown of the pen”, a three-hour adventure. However, the sequel is an expensive blockbuster with an exciting story campaign and a fun cooperative mode. Even more puzzles, even more humor, even more, incredible events, as well as the long-awaited revelation of the universe in terms of links to Half-Life! All this has provided Portal 2 with attention from the gaming community, high scores and great sales. If for some reason you missed this game, I strongly recommend that you familiarize yourself with it – even if you are not a fan of the genre.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (2012)
The next iteration of the Counter-Strike series, finally taking shape as an e-sports discipline – with well-known teams, large prize pools, and major tournaments.
The gameplay of Global Offensive remains close to the previous releases of the line, adjusted for improved graphics, balance changes and some innovations, such as the appearance of Molotov cocktails. But in terms of content, the game far surpasses its predecessors: players have access to a wide selection of maps and modes, including the Battle Royal (Danger Zone mode). Moreover, in December 2018, this game offered on Steam absolutely for free.
Dota 2 (2013)
Among all the games from Valve in this list, only one was not based on someone else’s intellectual work – Half-Life. All the rest, including Dota 2, were spotted on time by the company among user modifications and adapted to release as separate games.
So, Dota 2 grew from a mod to WarCraft III from an enthusiast known under the name IceFrog. Valve hired a modification developer to create a full-fledged project, and the result exceeded all expectations: Dota 2 became extremely popular, eventually becoming one of the leaders in the MOBA genre, sharing this title only with League of Legends. One can criticize the toxicity of the Dota gaming community. But the game is successful, and this success achieved through deep tactical gameplay, combined with extremely simple rules, a large amount of content (including user-specific) and eSports focus.
Dota Underlords (2019)
The last position in my selection is a relatively fresh (released in summer of 2019) project, an independent version of the Dota Auto Chess mod for Dota 2 (in fact, a game based on a modification to a game that is based on a modification to a game – C-c-c-combo breakeeeeeeer! 😀 ). Dota Underlords is a kind of chess with heroes from Dota 2, offering gamers to fight in the online matches on PC and mobile platforms. This may not be what Valve players are expecting, but it is definitely what will bring a ton of money to Valve – which means that people who craving for Half-Life 3 may still suffer a little more.
Games from Valve with the number “3” in the name have long turned from funny memes into unfunny jokes. The last good story-driven project from Valve was released back in 2011. Let’s hope that Half-Life: Alyx will be a great story-driven game.