2010s virtual reality decade: Oculus Rift, Valve Index, Half-Life: Alyx, and more

Half-Life: Alyx is the VR-exclusive prequel to Half-Life 2

The long-awaited return of Half-Life.
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Fans rejoice! The promised day has finally come, and Valve did not disappoint. After teasing the reveal of the game mere days ago, the full announcement trailer for Half-Life: Alyx is out and ready for the series’ rabid fan base to meticulously comb through it.

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As its title implies, the VR-exclusive game puts players into the high-tech gloves of Alyx Vance on a mission to help her father push back the Combine forces. That may seem highly improbable, given the events of Half-Life 2: Episode 2, but Half-Life: Alyx will take place between Half-Life and Half-Life 2. This would put the events of the game before her chance meeting with Dr. Gordon Freeman. Despite the lack of the Freeman, though, Half-Life: Alyx is in every way a fully-fledged Half-Life entry. Designer Greg Coomer says the game will last at least 20 hours if players choose to spend time interacting with the environments. Geoff Keighley puts the game’s length at 15 hours.

The trailer ends with the reveal of a March 2020 release window. It will be free for owners of the Valve Index but cost the standard $60 for owners of other VR headsets. Valve Index users will also get various cosmetics for other Valve titles. The game is available for pre-order today on Steam at a 10% discount.

New Half-Life, new Alyx

Half-Life traditionally has Gordon Freeman as a cipher character – a faceless and mute protagonist for players to project themselves onto. But new, old hero Alyx will be fully-voiced by new actor Ozioma Akagha. Awkward dialogue has always been an unintentional hallmark of the series, and Valve is looking to remedy that starting with this game. James Moses Black will also be voicing Eli Vance, whose originally voice actor, Robert Guillaume, passed away.

As seen in the announcement trailer, Alyx sports a particularly odd set of gloves — a replacement for the Gravity Gun. The VR-appropriate gloves help her manipulate objects in the environment in good ol’ Half-Life fashion. When not tossing crates at Combine, Alyx can do battle with a host of firearms. One of the most interesting bits in the trailer is how players can rummage through the environment in search of ammunition. Realistic reloading is another anticipated feature that’s sure to provide that extra dose of immersion.

And, of course, what’s a Half-Life reveal with the G-man rearing his head at the end? This might not be Half-Life 3, but it’d be strange if the game didn’t try to answer a few decade-old questions.

The future of Valve, Half-Life, and beyond

Geoff Keighley also sat down with several Valve employees to discuss the return of Half-Life in an interview. In it, the staff expresses a desire to continue working on not just Half-Life, but on all their IPs. This is no surprise — Valve cooks up all manner of things behind the scenes that never make it to the public. With Half-Life, however, Valve will be carefully watching the performance of Half-Life: Alyx before making further decisions. Its success or failure will determine the direction the company takes with the series and with virtual reality.

But it might not just be the future of Valve that’s on the line. We recently expressed concern for Campo Santo’s In the Valley of Gods, which appears to be stuck in limbo. Valve acquired Campo Santo early last year, and it looks like the studio has been working alongside Valve on Half-Life: Alyx. Perhaps the sudden silence was a result of a shift in focus over to the new Half-Life game? It’s still unclear whether or not development on In the Valley of Gods has been canceled or simply put on hold.

Regardless, great work has been done on Half-Life: Alyx, and we’re excited to re-join the fight in March 2020.

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Image of Lawrence Le
Lawrence Le
A self-deprecating, overly sarcastic pair of glasses that occasionally possesses a human host in order to partake in the delightful process of playing video games, then immediately complaining about them. When he is not playing games (a rare occurrence), he can be found either writing about things that no one cares about, or haunting the quiet streets of his Canadian suburb.