Just when all hope appeared to be lost for the Half-Life series, Valve shocked fans by revealing Half-Life: Alyx in November. Even more surprising? The game will be a full virtual reality experience, with Valve positioning it as a flagship release. Initial skepticism about the game being a VR exclusive was quickly quelled by the game’s impressive launch trailer, which teased a full-fledged Half-Life game filled with familiar enemies and mechanics. Expectations couldn’t be higher as many players anticipate that the game may be VR’s first true killer app. Here’s everything we know about Half-Life: Alyx.
Release date and platforms
Valve announced that the game will be available on March 23. Players can pre-purchase the game on Steam now for $60.
The game is only compatible with VR headsets, which means that fans will not be able to play it normally with a mouse and keyboard. Alyx will run on any PC-compatible headset, including the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. It will also support any tracked motion controllers and can be played both standing or sitting.
For players who don’t already own a VR headset, the game comes free with the purchase of a Valve Index. Index owners will even receive extra bonuses, including alternate weapon skins and Alyx-themed content for Counter-Strike: Global-Offensive.
Sales for the Index shot up over 100% following the game’s announcement, making it the best selling PC VR headset in the fourth quarter of 2019. The bounce in sales placed the headset on back-order as Valve tried to keep up with demand over the 2019 holidays.
Here are the game’s minimum PC requirements:
OS: Windows 10
Processor: Core i5-7500 / Ryzen 5 1600
Memory: 12 GB RAM
Graphics: GTX 1060 / RX 580 – 6GB VRAM
In the meantime, players can play all Half-Life games, including both episodes, for free until the game launches.
It’s not Half-Life 3 or Episode 3
While fans have spent nearly two decades waiting for a third installment of the series or a proper follow-up to Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Alyx isn’t either of those projects. Instead, it is its own installment, which lands somewhere between the first and second games.
Despite being a spinoff, it’s still a full-length game. Geoff Keighley tweeted that early versions of the game took him over 15 hours to beat, which would make it even longer than Half-Life 2. Like previous games, players will have the ability to save and restore their file at any time.
The gameplay will also be familiar to fans of the series, featuring “world exploration, puzzle-solving, visceral combat, and an intricately woven story that connects it all with the characters iconic to the Half-Life universe,” according to Valve.
Players who are still inconsolable about Half-Life 3 may still want to pay attention to Alyx. Game programmer David Speyrer said that everyone at Valve is enthusiastic about returning to the Half-Life universe and hope to explore it more if Alyx is a success.
Familiar setting and faces
While you won’t play as Gordon Freeman in the game, Alyx does feature a host of familiar characters, enemies, and locations from the Half-Life universe. Players will control Half-Life 2’s Alyx Vance, who has founded a fledgling alien resistance with her father, Dr. Eli Vance.
The plot will return players to City 17 as they take on The Combine, the primary antagonistic force in Half-Life 2. Judging by how things go in that game, it’s safe to say Alyx won’t win the fight against them in this game.
The Combine aren’t the only familiar faces we’ve spotted so far. The launch trailer shows a whole host of old enemies, including the iconic headcrabs (we can only imagine how horrifying it will be to deal with those in VR). The game’s Steam page notes that you can even “rip a Headcrab off your face and throw it out the window.”
As for other enemies, Barnacles will be returning too, though in a slightly updated fashion. In a Reddit AMA, the game’s developers said that physically moving the player without input didn’t work well, so they had to tweak how players interact with the creatures to better fit within VR. The developers have also pointed out that enemies will respond to any noise that players make.
Valve has been careful to reveal too many spoilers about what other characters are coming back in Alyx, but one big return has already been confirmed. The game’s announcement trailer ends with a shot of G-Man, the series’ sinister bureaucrat.
Gravity gloves and weapons
The most noticeable new addition in the game’s trailer are Alyx’s finger-less cyber gloves. At one point, we see her using the gloves to force-pull an object out of an enemy’s hands. That power looks similar to Half-Life 2’s gravity gun, which allows Gordon Freeman to throw enemies around like rag dolls.
As for weapons, we’ve mostly seen pistols so far, but a one-handed shotgun does make an appearance. Valve confirmed that all weapons will be one-handed, though players can use their other hand to steady their gun. Firearms will require a fair bit of interaction, requiring players to manually load them in a multi-step process.
Half-Life: Alyx seems similar to previous games in a lot of ways, but there’s one key difference: The game will not feature a multiplayer mode. Programmer Robin Walker confirmed that the game will not feature a traditional death match mode and Valve currently has no plans to add them.
The list of personnel who worked on Half-Life: Alyx is who’s who of Valve stalwarts. Series veteran Erik Wolpaw came back to Valve to help write the game, working alongside Portal 2 scribe Jay Pinkerton. Half-Life co-writer Marc Laidlaw returned to provide consultation on the game as well.
The game’s score is being created by Mike Morasky, most known for his work on Portal 2 and Team Fortress 2, and series composer Kelly Bailey.
All in all, a team of around 80 people worked on Half-Life: Alyx, which included members of Firewatch developer Camp Santo, a studio that was acquired by Valve in 2018.
For the voice cast, Mike Shapiro is returning to voice G-Man, while Tony Todd will return to play Vortigaunts. Merle Dandridge will not reprise her role as Alyx, with Valve casting Ozioma Akagha to play a younger version of the character. James Moses Black will play Dr. Eli Vance, as original voice actor Robert Guillaume died in 2017. Flight of the Conchords star Rhys Darby will join the cast as well.
For those who are hoping to tinker around with Alyx, the game will ship with a new set of Source 2 tools. These will allow players to build environments, which can be shared with the game’s community. An updated version of Hammer, Valve’s level authoring tool, will be available as well, adding VR gameplay tools and components.
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