Half-Life: Alyx: Everything you need to know

Half-Life: Alyx screenshot.
Half-Life: Alyx screenshot. (Image credit: Valve)

It's been 12 years since an official Half-Life game release, so many fans simply gave up hope that Valve would return to the franchise. However, prayers have been answered, and Valve has announced Half-Life is making a return — though not in a way that most people were expecting. Next year, Half-Life: Alyx, a virtual reality-only midquel between Half-Life and Half-Life 2, is set to hit headsets. Here's everything you need to know about the game.

Development and reveal

On Nov. 18, 2019, Valve tweeted the announcement of Half-Life: Alyx, labeling it its "flagship VR game," and that more information would come on Nov. 21. On that day, Valve dropped a trailer for the game that showcases gameplay as well as the story premise, graphics, and sounds, which we've embedded above. On top of that, the game's Steam page went up on the same day, providing the gaming community with further information about the title.

As far as the game's development goes, we know very little aside from the fact that the project was conceptualized when Valve was looking for a good franchise to use for a VR title. According to several Valve employees in this interview, Valve was ultimately down to choosing either Portal or Half-Life for the project. The developers said Half-Life was chosen because it offered the best opportunities to leverage the power of VR. The game will be powered by Valve's brand new Source 2 engine, the sequel to their original game engine.

Story and setting

Half-Life: Alyx screenshot. (Image credit: Valve)

Half Life Alyx Handgun (Image credit: Valve)

Source: Valve

Half-Life: Alyx is a midquel that takes place between the events of the first Half-Life game and Half-Life 2. The player will control Alyx Vance as she, alongside her father Eli Vance, searches for a way to fight the alien Combine Empire and ultimately mount a resistance. The game will take place in City 17, though other locations may be visited as well.

Gameplay design

Half-Life: Alyx screenshot. (Image credit: Valve)

Half Life Alyx Headcrab Zombie (Image credit: Valve)

Source: Valve

Half-Life: Alyx will retain the same focus on blending physics-based puzzle solving with dynamic shooting mechanics that the other Half-Life games have had, although from a new VR perspective. Examples of gameplay that will be possible in the finished game given by Valve include pulling a headcrab off your face and throwing it, tossing a bottle to distract enemies, digging through shelves to find ammo and healing items, manipulating hacking tools, and leaning around a wall and underneath an enemy to make a precise shot.

Valve released gameplay footage that showcases combat, movement, and object interactivity so that players can get an idea of how the game will look in motion. You can watch it by checking out the video below. Notably, the footage shows that you can move around with either joystick or with teleporting, and that nearly everything in the environment can be manipulated by the player and used against enemies.

In terms of the types of enemies players will face, it looks like it'll be Combine's elite military as well as various hostile alien lifeforms, same as in Half-Life 2. There will likely be new enemy types within these two groups, but no specific information is available yet.

There will be no way to play the game outside of VR, as Valve developers have stated it would simply be way too complicated to try and assign all of the different in-game interactions to a regular controller or keyboard.

Bonus content

All copies of Half-Life: Alyx will ship with Source 2 tools that will allow players to create their own levels and environments for other players to play. These will likely be distributed via the Steam Workshop. Valve has also stated that its level editing tool, Hammer, has been updated with all the necessary requirements to support VR.

Release date and pricing

Half-Life: Alyx screenshot.

Source: Valve (Image credit: Source: Valve)

Half Life: Alyx is available now on Windows 10 PCs through Steam. It released March 23, 2020.

The game will be compatible across VR devices, including the Valve Index, HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, Oculus Rift devices, and the Oculus Quest, but only with the PC and Link cable.

In terms of pricing, the game costs $60.

Your thoughts

What do you think of Half-Life: Alyx? Are you excited to finally see Half-Life return, or are you disappointed that it's a VR-only experience? Let us know in the comments.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.