Mention the name Half-Life to a passionate gamer and they’ll probably acknowledge that while the series was once great the fact that Half-Life 3 has been discussed by fans to the point of oversaturation kills a lot of the nostalgia. However, that was reignited last year when Valve revealed Half-Life: Alyx. Ok, so it wasn’t the sequel most hoped for and the fact that it was exclusive to virtual reality (VR) irked the normal PC gaming community but hey, Valve does what Valve wants because it can. Quite frankly if Valve is putting the Half-Life name to a VR videogame it’s going to be AAA all the way and that’s fine by us, so let’s take a look at all the gameplay info currently available.
Half-Life: Alyx’s Story
If it’s not a sequel then where does Half-Life: Alyx in the Half-Life universe? The videogame sits between the events of Half-Life (1998) and Half-Life 2 (2004), where you take on the role of titular character Alyx Vance. The series follows humanity’s fight against an alien race called the Combine.
Naturally, you and your father Dr. Eli Vance are the planet’s last hope, forming a resistance force to gather intelligence and learn about this hostile menace to learn its weaknesses. This sees the story take place across City 17 with screenshots revealing the Combine’s stronghold, the Citadel, at the centre and under construction.
Half-Life: Alyx’s Interaction
If there’s one gameplay mechanic Valve is keenly focused on its hand interaction. Half-Life: Alyx has been built with Valve Index and the Index Controllers in mind, offering complete finger tracking. That said, Valve Index isn’t the cheapest – or easiest to come across – headset so controllers for Oculus Rift or HTC Vive will also work fine.
So what can you do with your hands in Half-Life: Alyx? Quite a lot by the looks of things. Your hands are equipped with Gravity Gloves so you can remotely pick up items you find littered around. You can search bodies for useful stuff like ammo, slowly slide open doors to sneak through or pull wooden beams of entrances to make a new path.
Puzzles have been designed so that you have to twist and turn them for maximum involvement – seen in this gameplay video – and of course, guns can be manually reloaded.
Half-Life: Alyx’s Weapons
When it comes to your offensive capabilities a few options have now surfaced. The pistol seems to be a weapon of choice, great for close to medium range combat plus it’s upgradable. A shotgun has also made its way into the videogame which seems to have a dual-use. One video for the Shift locomotion highlighted an item which could be attached for a single-use grenade launcher. Hand grenades have also made an appearance, handy for those dug-in opponents.
Valve also wants players to be tactile with their weapons, so all the guns can be used single-handed but you can optionally grab and steady weapons by your offhand. Your free hand can then be used for world interactions, flashlights and more.
Half-Life: Alyx’s Locomotion
Being an adventure videogame with lots of environments to explore, items to find and enemies to deal with getting the movement right is of the utmost importance. To ensure Half-Life: Alyx is as comfortable as possible to play for everyone, whether they’re a VR veteran or a complete newbie Valve has employed three locomotion styles.
The most comfortable for all players will be Teleportation, where they have an arching pointer to select the next location, reappearing there in an instance. This locomotion option generally helps negate any nausea felt when moving in VR. As previously released videos have highlighted, you’ve still got room to move around, peeking around corners or grabbing items off of shelves.
For those a little more attuned the VR then there’s the Shift mechanic. This is halfway between Teleportation and full locomotion where you still have the curved pointer but the visuals don’t fade in and out. Instead, the whole gameworld quickly ‘shifts’, offering a far more immersive alternative to Teleportation as it keeps you in the world.
Then there’s Continuous locomotion. Offering the most immersive gameplay experience where you can walk or run around with complete freedom, easily moving behind cover when under fire or wandering around explorable buildings. This freedom does come at a price, not everyone can handle digitally walking when their physical body isn’t.
Half-Life: Alyx’s Visuals
From the epic images of the Citadel to the screenshots of Alyx’s hands and the enemies themselves, Half-Life: Alyx is gearing up to be one of the best looking VR titles.
Videogames like Sanzaru Games’ Asgard’s Wrath or Insomniac Games’ Stormland both pushed the boundaries of what could be achieved in VR and Half-Life: Alyx looks like it’ll do the same, if not go one step further. Close up objects like the back of your hands and the guns are all highly detailed while the environments feature rich textures and use of dynamic lighting.
Half-Life: Alyx’s Inclusive Features
As mentioned, Valve wants to ensure as many people as possible can enjoy Half-Life: Alyx – gameplay-wise, not hardware, that’s another issue entirely. In addition to all the locomotion options Valve has ensured that Half-Life: Alyx can be played seated, standing and in roomscale, there’s a ‘single controller mode’ for those who can only use one controller, a left-handed mode, a crouch toggle, a standing toggle (for seated players) and a light sensitivity option presumably for those with epilepsy.
There will also be subtitles and interface translations for 10 languages: English, French, German, Spanish-Spain, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish-Latin America, and Traditional Chinese.
And all the rest
Longtime fans will be glad to hear there will be headcrabs, G-Man will return voiced by Mike Shapiro but Merle Dandridge who voiced Alyx in Half-Life 2 won’t be returning. Alyx will now be voiced by Ozioma Akagha (Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst).
Half-Life: Alyx will be released on 23rd March 2020 for £46.49 GBP. Currently, there’s a 10% discount ahead of the launch and Valve Index owners will get the videogame for free.
Don’t forget that all the following titles are free to play until the launch of Half-Life: Alyx:
- Half-Life 2
- Half-Life 2: Episode One
- Half-Life 2: Episode Two
- Half-Life: Opposing Force
- Half-Life: Blue Shift
- Team Fortress Classic
Valve hosted a fairly in-depth Reddit AMA back in January where the team confirmed it won’t be a short experience, with play testers finding it shared a similar amount of gameplay time to Half-Life 2. If you really explore then expect 20 hours plus.
And there you have it if there’s something we missed (probably) then let VRFocus know in the comments below.