Hands-on with Half-Life 2's next chapter

Valve, the creator of Half-Life, recently opened the doors to its plush headquarters, where we were given an exclusive session with one of the most anticipated games of the year, Half-Life 2: Episode One. We'll have a review for you soon;the game goes live next week on Steam (www.steampowered.com). But, until then, we can tell you what we saw for ourselves.

Episode One is the first in a trilogy of new adventures for Gordon Freeman, Half-Life's bespectacled hero. Throughout the action, you'll be accompanied by Alyx and her mechanical dog. She's no slouch in the combat department and, though she's not invincible, you won't have to work hard to keep her alive - she is, after all, a survivor.

Valve has given Alyx some crunchy moves, and she's always aware of what's going on around you both. Knock an Antlion on to its back with the grav gun, for example, and Alyx will concentrate her fire on it. And, if you blast her out of trouble, Alyx makes sure you know she's grateful. It's this sort of co-op team play that really impresses us about Episode One - it gives every encounter a little bit of extra spice.