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Half-Life: Alyx: Everything we know about Valve's new VR-exclusive Half-Life game

(Image credit: Valve Software)

It's not Half-Life 3 (officially), but it'll do. Half-Life: Alyx is billed as a "VR return for Half-Life," and its announcement is about as exciting as it gets for fans of the franchise. Valve says the VR-exclusive Half-Life: Alyx is a full-length game developed specifically to take advantage of their Valve Index hardware, but you'll also be able to play it on other VR kits.

While Valve opened the gates with a fair amount of information, we're sure to learn more in the coming weeks leading up to Half-Life Alyx's release. Here we'll introduce you to the basic facts about the game and keep you up to speed with any new developments, big or small. Read on to learn everything there is to know about the long-awaited return of the fabled Half-Life series. 

Fast facts

  • Release: March 23, 2020
  • Format: VR
  • Developer: Valve

Where it's at in development

(Image credit: Valve/Valve News Network)

Development on Half-Life: Alyx is complete. In a January AMA on Reddit, different members of Valve's development team answered questions on a wide range of topics. In one reply, we're told that "with the exception of some tweaks to the absolute final scene, the game is done," and that some of the team "have played through the entire game multiple times."

The Alyx dev team also confirmed that they're right on track to hit their intended release window, which is a huge relief in a time where it seems everything is being delayed.

When it's coming out 

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The final Half-Life: Alyx release date is Monday, March 23, 2020. It's odd to see this kind of game launch on a Monday, and the release date is a bit deeper into March than many had expected (and hoped), but it's nice to finally have a firm day in mind. 

When it takes place 

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Valve says Half-Life: Alyx takes place somewhere between Half-Life and Half-Life 2, but given Alyx's apparent age and the presence of City 17, we're guessing it's a lot closer to the events of Half-Life 2. 

What it's about 

(Image credit: Valve Software)

As you might expect, Half-Life: Alyx puts you in control of Alyx Vance in your fight against the Combine. You and your father, Eli, are holed up in City 17, and together you'll build the foundation of the resistance Gordon Freeman heads up in Half-Life 2. The reveal trailer also features the elusive G-man, the guy in the suit who pops up sporadically in Half-Life and Half-Life 2 to give creepy speeches, so we can assume he's still pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Valve says Half-Life: Alyx was built from the ground-up for VR. "Lean to aim around a broken wall and under a Barnacle to make an impossible shot. Rummage through shelves to find a healing syringe and some shotgun shells. Manipulate tools to hack alien interfaces. Toss a bottle through a window to distract an enemy. Rip a Headcrab off your face and throw it out the window," reads a chunk of the official description.

What platforms it's compatible with

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Half-Life: Alyx works with any Steam VR-compatible VR headset. Basically, if you own a VR system that connects to a computer, you're good to go. Even the standalone Oculus Quest is compatible - all you need is a PC with enough grunt to run the game and a link cable.

Valve says you'll get the best results using Valve Index, which they say Alyx was built "hand-in-hand" with. But you'll be perfectly fine running Half-Life Alyx on HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Windows Mixed Reality. 

Source 2, explained 

(Image credit: Valve Software)

Half-Life: Alyx is built on Valve's shiny new Source 2 engine, and the reason that's especially significant is that it allows players to build their own custom environments. The environments you create will be available to the Alyx community to enjoy, giving a near limitless selection of virtual spaces to explore.

"Hammer, Valve’s level authoring tool, has been updated with all of the game's virtual reality gameplay tools and components," writes Valve about Source 2.

How to buy it and pre-order bonuses 

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If you already own a Valve Index VR kit or Index controllers, Half-Life: Alyx will automatically appear in your Steam library at release for free.

Otherwise, you can pre-order Half-Life: Alyx right now via Steam, and if you act quick you can take advantage of the current 10% off sale. As long as you pre-order Alyx before 2019 comes to a close, you'll have access to a few tempting bonuses.

One of the bonuses lets you explore some of the environments from Half-Life: Alyx early, though so far Valve has only said the feature will go live "early next year." The two other pre-order bonuses are special gun skins and Half-Life: Alyx-themed content for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

How to play it 

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Half-Life: Alyx is a VR-exclusive experience, and currently there aren't plans to bring it to traditional platforms. Once you've got your compatible VR headset sorted out, you can let Alyx scale your VR gaming room or play stationary sitting down or standing up.

You can move around in-game by teleporting or shifting smoothly from one place to another, or by using a VR controller to walk or run. Alyx is compatible with finger-tracking and trigger controls.

Whether it'll come to console

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Half-Life: Alyx is releasing exclusively on PC in March, but it's an open question as to whether it'll release on console at some point, specifically PSVR. Valve aren't ruling out that possibility, acknowledging to PushSquare that Alyx would likely be popular for PSVR players. While a PSVR port isn't in the works at the moment, game designer Greg Coomer said the studio has "not ruled anything out" in that regard.

A PSVR port could be a deciding factor for many Half-Life fans who want to experience the latest entry without paying the premium to get into PC VR. While there are relatively affordable PC VR options like the Oculus Quest, PSVR would still be the Alyx-compatible VR set with the lowest entry price.

Whether it'll spawn any sequels

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Half-Life: Alyx likely won't be the end of the series. In fact, it sounds more likely that it spawns at least one sequel. Speaking to Game Informer, Valve's Robin Walker said the studio doesn't see Alyx as the end of Half-Life, but rather a proper return for the series.

"Half-Life means a lot to us, and it's been incredibly rewarding to refamiliarize ourselves with its characters, setting, and mechanics," Walker said. "There are Half-Life: Alyx team members who have been at Valve since Half-Life 2, and quite a few who go back to the original Half-Life. There are also people on the team for whom Half-Life: Alyx is their first time working on this series at all – and many of them certainly hope it's not the last. We absolutely see Half-Life: Alyx as our return to this world, not the end of it," Walker said.

Whether that means more VR Half-Life games or simply more games following the same storyline, it's a relief to hear Valve doesn't plan on letting Half-Life die with this latest entry.

Confirmed and rumored voice actors

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Judging from the reveal trailer, you're likely to see plenty of familiar faces in Half-Life: Alyx. Unfortunately, we're not so sure how many familiar voices you'll hear. Actress Ozioma Akagha will lend her voice to the titular Alyx Vance, formerly portrayed by Merle Dandridge.

Eli Vance will be portrayed by James Moses Black, an actor primarily known for his roles in TV and film. The actor who portrayed Eli in Half-Life 2 and the episodes was Robert Guillaume, who unfortunately died in 2017.

Here's every voice actor we know to be a part of Half-Life: Alyx's cast (thanks PC Gamer):

  • Ozioma Akagha - Alyx Vance
  • Mike Shapiro - G-Man
  • Tony Todd - Vortigaunts
  • Ellen McClain - Overwatch Broadcasts
  • James Moses Black - Eli Vance
  • Rhys Darby - Unnamed
  • Cissy Jones - Unknown