Half-Life: Alyx looks like the best argument for a VR upgrade

Half-Life 3 confirmed? Well, yes and no.

Valve’s Half-Life series hasn’t seen any new games released since 2007, but the developer showed off a new title in the franchise earlier today. Titled Half-Life: Alyx, the new game lets players take the role of Alyx Vance, a popular side character who supported series protagonist Gordon Freeman in Half-Life 2 and the two episodic games which followed. The new game is set between the events of the original Half-Life and Half-Life 2, and it’s been developed as a premium virtual reality experience which will require a VR rig to play. The game will release sometime in March of 2020.

Valve has been a huge proponent of virtual reality since the current wave of VR development kicked off in 2012. Alyx will be compatible with all supported VR headsets, including Valve’s Index and Vive, Facebook’s Oculus, and Microsoft’s Windows MR. It looks like HL: Alyx will be a PC exclusive for the time being, as no mention of PlayStation VR was made in the trailer. The title will be provided free to anyone who’s already purchased a Valve Index. Valve has also promised that a new set of authoring tools will ship with Alyx, allowing players to create their own environments using the Source 2 engine.

The trailer doesn’t give much away, though the game appears to focus on immersion and light horror elements. The first scene shows Alyx facing off against a Headcrab, one of the leaping alien monstrosities synonymous with the franchise. It looks like Alyx and her father Eli will be working against the alien Combine, trying to steal an alien weapon from a vault near City 17 to help the human resistance fight back against the occupiers. A new, unnamed character acts as a guide, providing information about what Alyx is about to face as well as (mostly) unloaded firearms.

Many familiar enemies were shown in the trailer. It looks like Alyx will encounter Combine soldiers, Headcrab zombies, Vortigaunts, Barnacles, Striders, and several other creatures on her journey. The creepy, otherworldly G-Man makes a silent appearance at the end of the trailer, though his role in the story is anyone’s guess. Valve says this is a full-length game, and that playtesters have taken approximately 20 hours to complete the title. This will be the first single-player game Valve has released since 2013’s Portal 2.

Alyx is shown using a pistol in the game, and later a hybrid firearm which uses shotgun shells. She seems to have some serious tech built into her gloves, which appear to feature gravity manipulation abilities as well as a health meter and some other gadgets. The gloves look like they’ll be important for environmental puzzles, and one section showed Alyx fighting off Headcrab zombies while one arm remained attached to some sort of device.

Both Alyx and her father Eli have new voice actors in the new game. Eli Vance was portrayed by veteran actor Robert Guillaume in Half-Life 2, but he passed away in 2017. He’ll be replaced by James Moses Black. As for Alyx herself, her voice was previously provided by Merle Dandridge, but the role was recast and she will be portrayed by Ozioma Akagha instead. This version of Alyx is meant to be a bit younger, but it’s still a little jarring hearing a different voice coming from the character.

While it’s not a numbered entry in the Half-Life franchise, it looks like Valve has put a lot of time and effort into making Alyx. The Half-Life series has always prided itself on innovation, and it’s clear Valve is hoping Alyx will do for VR what Half-Life did for narrative in games, and what Half-Life 2 did for digital distribution. It remains to be seen whether a new Half-Life title has enough cachet to tempt PC gamers into shelling out for VR equipment, but the new game certainly looks enticing.