22 November 2019 02:36

Half-Life: Alyx

Valve has now officially announced its next Half-Life game, titled Half-Life: Alyx. As we heard earlier this week, Alyx will be set between Half-Life and Half-Life 2. You'll play as the latter's Alyx Vance as she and her father mount a secret resistance to the alien Combine. Alyx is set to launch on Steam in March 2020 and be compatible with all PC-based VR headsets. It'll cost $60 on its own - or it'll be free if you have shelled out for a Valve Index headset.

Valve describes Alyx as being in the vein of a "classic Half-Life game" with a focus on exploration, puzzles, combat and story. "Everyone at Valve is excited to be returning to the world of Half-Life," Valve founder Gabe Newell said. We've invested a lot of ourselves in the technology. We can't wait for people to experience this." Fans have waited more than 10 years for Valve to do something, anything with the Half-Life franchise. Half-Life 2: Episode 2, the second in a proposed trilogy of stories, is the last we'd seen of that world.

Earlier this week, after a series of leaks, Valve announced it would soon unveil Half-Life: Alyx. Here, finally, is a new Half-Life game: Alyx arrives March 2020, and it's a virtual reality game. Valve does produce their own high-end VR headset, Index, but Alyx will be compatible with any headset that connects to a PC. (If you own an Index, Valve will actually be tossing in a copy of the game free of charge.) The game, according to Valve, will include "all of the hallmarks of a classic Half-Life game: world exploration, puzzle solving, visceral combat, and an intricately woven story." Rumors pegged Alyx as a prequel set in-between the events of Half-Life and Half-Life 2, and Valve confirmed that timeline today. Here's how Valve characterized Alyx's place in the story: "Set between the events of Half-Life and Half-Life 2, Alyx Vance and her father Eli secretly mount the resistance to the brutal occupation of Earth by a mysterious alien race known as The Combine.

As Alyx, players take the fight to the Combine to save the future of humanity." Valve did say Alyx will connect with "all the characters iconic to the Half-Life universe," which certainly suggests we'll see the ol' man with a crowbar. The presence of Eli Vance comes with a somber reminder: the voice actor behind Eli, Robert Guillaume, passed away in 2017. Presumably Alyx is using a new voice actor, but Valve didn't respond to my request for clarification, as of this writing. Update: PC Gamer reports both characters will have new actors, with Ozioma Akagha (Runaways) voicing Alyx and James Moses Black (Logan) voicing Eli. "Everyone at Valve is excited to be returning to the world of Half-Life," says Valve founder Gabe Newell in a press release. We've invested a lot of ourselves in the technology. For that to come in the form of Half-Life feels like the culmination of a lot things we care a lot about: truly great games, cutting edge technology, and open platforms. We can't wait for people to experience this." Journalist Geoff Keighley, these days mostly known for hosting things like The Game Awards, will be writing another one of his behind-the-scenes books about the making of Alyx, and released a video teasing the game's origins: As a massive Half-Life fan who's been desperately hoping Valve would return to this universe, it was extremely weird to have my first glimpse at what Valve's been cooking up be clicking on a Dropbox link that opened up a screenshot gallery. Nonetheless, here is every screenshot Valve shared from Alyx: Is VR how I wanted Half-Life to come back? But I can't wait. Wait. Follow Patrick on Twitter. Half-Life: Alyx will be the first we've seen of Half-Life 2's breakout character since 2007. While Gordon Freeman remained voiceless across the Half-Life series in the sequel and its follow-ups, Alyx Vance filled many of those silences. It wasn't an easy decision, as designer Greg Coomer told us. "Previously, Half-Life games have always had a silent protagonist. We try to avoid being dogmatic about any game design choice. Letting Alyx have a voice will ensure she feels different to play than Gordon did, Greg went on to explain, and opens up new storytelling options. Meet the new Alyx. (Image credit: Ozioma Akagha) While Alyx was voiced by Merle Dandridge in previous games, in this prequel she'll be played by Ozioma Akagha, who you may know from TV's Runaways or prior voice work in Wolfenstein II and Mirror's Edge: Catalyst. It's been 12 years since we last heard Alyx in Half-Life 2: Episode 2, but it's still going to be a change we'll need to adjust to. "Casting choices are incredibly hard, especially considering the time gap," Coomer told us. "With the game being a prequel featuring an even younger Alyx, when we heard Ozioma's performance we knew we'd found the right Alyx." Greg explained Alyx's father Eli Vance also has a new voice—he was previously portrayed by Robert Guillaume, who died in 2017. "One of the real regrets we have about so much time passing between games is that we lost Robert Guillaume," Coomer said, noting that Robert Culp, who voiced Dr. Breen, has also died in the years since. "The new voice of Eli, James Moses Black, has big shoes to fill," he said, "but we're all excited about his performance and we can't wait for players to hear it." Recasting voice actors is obviously a fraught business, and fans don't always respond well to it, as seen in the reaction to Troy Baker's replacement in Borderlands 3 or Ashly Burch no longer playing Chloe in Life is Strange: Before the Storm during the SAG-AFTRA strike. That said, Destiny players seem to have adjusted to Nolan North taking over from Peter Dinklage as Ghost and if you noticed Mordin Solus changing actors between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 you've got a keener ear than I do. (Image credit: Valve) Some familiar voices will be returning for Half-Life: Alyx. Mike Shapiro will once again provide the unearthly voice of the G-Man, Ellen McLain (aka GladOS) is doing the voice for the Combine Overwatch broadcasts, and Tony Todd (who will always be the villain from Candyman to me) returns as the alien Vortigaunts. Half-Life: Alyx will be out in March 2020.