After more than a decade of silence, the “Half-Life” series is finally receiving a new game. The latest installment of Valve’s flagship franchise, titled “Half-Life: Alyx,” may not be the conclusion to the “Half-Life” story fans have been waiting for since 2007. However, as the first entry in the series to be designed from the ground-up for virtual reality, it could still very well become the first proper killer-app for VR.
Thursday’s reveal trailer for “Half-Life: Alyx” gave a brief glimpse of the game in action. Set between the events of “Half-Life” and “Half-Life 2,” players will be thrust into the role of fan-favorite character Alyx Vance, a member of the fledgling resistance movement against the sinister interdimensional authority known as the Combine.
The gameplay shown in the trailer demonstrates an unprecedented level of interactivity with the game world, unlike anything seen in previous entries in the series. We see the player rummaging through tattered shelves in search of spare ammunition, manually loading a pistol by inserting a clip and pulling back the slide, and grabbing hold of a medical station with one hand while firing at a group of enemies with the other.
Amidst all of this, we also catch a new look at the dystopian world of Combine-occupied Earth, complete with massive alien Striders patrolling the streets, Combine Metrocops wearing an older variant of their iconic gas-masked armor, and more imposing alien architecture designed by art director Victor Antonov. Exploring this nightmare vision of the future was already one of the best aspects of “Half-Life 2,” and the thought of being able to revisit it in the breathtaking detail that virtual reality can offer has already got me salivating.
The last game released in this series, 2007’s “Half-Life 2: Episode Two,” notoriously ended on a cliffhanger that remains unresolved more than a decade later. Considering that this is the first “Half-Life” game to come out since then, and that it is a prequel instead of the conclusion that many were hoping for, I can understand why some would be disappointed at Valve right now.
I look at it like this: Valve has a history of perfectionism, to the point where they have completely scrapped and restarted some of their games multiple times simply because they were not happy with what they had made. I see “Half-Life: Alyx” as Valve’s attempt of making the fullest use of VR in a game that is possible, while also gauging the continued interest in the “Half-Life” series. Who knows, if this game sells well, perhaps we will still see the long-awaited conclusion to “Half-Life 2’s” story in the form of a VR game.
Either way, Valve’s return to the franchise is nonetheless a thing to behold. It had long been rumored that the studio had been hard at work creating a VR “Half-Life” game, and to see that those rumors actually held water is very, very exciting.
“Half-Life: Alyx” will launch in March, 2020 and will be playable with the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Valve Index virtual reality headsets.