Half-Life: Alyx

A virtual reality shooter that takes place between the events of the first and second parts of Half-Life. The player will fight against an aggressive alien race called the Alliance.

Half-Life: Alyx is a 1st-person shooter in virtual reality developed and published by the American company Valve. Events take place before Half-Life 2 (2004). The player controls Alix Vance and her father Eli, who confront an alien Combine. The player uses virtual reality to interact with the environment and fight enemies, and uses “gravity gloves” to manipulate objects, much like the gravity gun in Half-Life 2. Traditional elements of the series, such as research, puzzles, and physics-based combat, are returned.

Realizing the demand for a large-scale VR game, in 2015, Valve began experimenting with Half-Life in VR. The development went into full production in 2016, with the largest team in Valve’s history participating. Called the “flagship” VR game by Valve itself, Half-Life: Alyx was made on the Source 2 engine and now supports all computer-compatible VR helmets. This is the first game in the Half-Life series after Half-Life 2: Episode Two (2007). Released on March 23, 2020 on Windows, the game was met with excellent reviews.

Gameplay

Half-Life: Alyx is a VR game that supports all computer-compatible VR headsets, including Valve Index, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest (via the “Oculus Link” feature), and Windows Mixed Reality. Since the gameplay was developed for VR, the developers said that they do not plan to release a version without VR. The game also supports mods via Steam Workshop.

The game takes place before the return of Gordon Freeman in Half-Life 2. The player controls his ally Alix Vance, who, along with her father Eli Vance, is fighting a combine – an alien Empire that has conquered Earth. Designer David Speirer said that Alyx is not an episodic game or side story, but “the next part of the Half-Life story”, its duration is about the same as in Half-Life 2. The player uses VR to take things, use interfaces, throw objects, and participate in combat. Like the gravity gun from Half-Life 2, gravity gloves allow you to manipulate gravity. Returned to the traditional elements of the series: research, puzzles, fights and plot. Each weapon can be used in one hand, as Valve wanted one hand to remain free to interact with the world.

Plot

5 years before Gordon Freeman arrives in City 17, Alix and Eli Vance complete a mission to steal a reactor from a combine. However, Eli notices a strange structure in the Quarantine zone of City 17. So begins a large-scale RAID by the combine. Both Alix and Ali are caught in the RAID. Another Resistance member, Russell, saves Alix and warns her that the combine Will move Eli to Nova Prospekt for questioning. Taking the gravity gloves from Russell, Alix goes to the Quarantine zone to intercept the train carrying Ali. Along the way she meets eccentric Messi Arsenal Christmas special, who warns her that in the future Ali will die.

After making a path through the Quarantine zone, Alix knocks the train off the rails. Messi Arsenal Christmas special saves Ali from the train. Eli warns Alix about what he learned in captivity: the Harvester is storing a superweapon “storage” in the Quarantine zone. He instructs Alix to find the Vault and steal it before the Harvester moves it to a safer location. Along the way, Alix helps the surviving man Larry defeat a mutated alien monster named Jeff. It then descends into the Antlion tunnel network. Then Eli contacts Alix and warns that the vault Is not a weapon, but a container of something that even the Harvester is afraid of. Alix continues, suggesting that the contents of the vault, whatever It is,may help in the fight against the combine.

When Alix gets close to the Vault, she overhears the Combine scientist say that there is a survivor from Black Mesa in the Vault. Eli is sure that Gordon Freeman is in the Vault. Eli says it’s very important to release him. Alix breaks through the Combine’s security forces and enters the Vault. There, she finds a high-tech camera and opens it, but instead of detecting Gordon, she releases g-Man. G-Man thanks Alix for her release and offers his services. Alix asks for the Harvester to be removed from the Ground, but g-Man says he can’t do it. However, g-Man suggests that Alix save Eli, showing her a future event in which the Combine Advisor kills Eli. Alix uses her gravity gloves to kill the Adviser, save Eli, and change his fate. G-Man then points out that Alix has proven herself capable of replacing Gordon, which g-Man is unhappy with because Gordon is unable or unwilling to fulfill the mission given to him. G-Man then leaves, leaving Alix in stasis.

After the credits, Gordon regains consciousness at the Resistance base in the White forest, learns that Eli survived the Adviser’s attack, but Alix is missing. Ali is angry, realizing that g-Man must have taken her. Far to the left, JI-Man can be seen watching. A robot named Dog brings Gordon’s crowbar, and Eli passes the crowbar to Gordon with the words ” you have a job.”

Development

The last game in the series, Half-Life Episode Two, released in 2007, ended with a cliffhanger. Valve made several attempts to make further Half-Life projects, but they all stopped. Finally, Valve abandoned episodic development, considering it contrary to the growing ambitions for new parts. In addition, since the simultaneous development of Half-Life 2 and the original Source engine created problems, Valve decided to complete its new engine, Source 2, before continuing development of the new Half-Life game. Before the announcement of Alyx, three key Half-Life writers-mark Laidlaw, Eric Volpo, and Chet Falishek – left Valve. Linking this fact with Valve’s support for other franchises, journalists decided that no new Half-Life games are being developed yet.

In 2015, Valve began working with HTC to develop the HTC Vive, a virtual reality helmet released in 2016. Valve experimented with VR games, and in 2016 released a collection of VR minigames, The Lab. The company realized that many players wanted a more ambitious VR game, at the AAA level, and started developing a big game for Vive. The team made several prototypes, and at least three VR games were in the works in 2017. There were experiments with a VR game in the Portal puzzle series, but it turned out that portal systems in virtual reality disorient the player. So we stopped at Half-Life. Design Robin Walker said that Half-Life 3 was “a terribly discouraging prospect” that the team saw in VR as a way to return to the series.

Valve built prototypes on Half-Life 2 assets and narrowed the gameplay systems so that they are optimally suited for VR. One of these prototypes was a mini-game in The Lab. It turned out that Half-Life systems are “strikingly natural for VR,” but VR has influenced almost every aspect of the design. For example, for shooting in VR, the player must physically position their hand in space, and this is different from traditional mouse and keyboard control. According to Walker, “All of this is wedged into every aspect of mechanic design, level design, gameplay pace, things like ammo selection frequency and combat setup.”

Full production of Alyx began in 2016. The team, consisting of about 80 people, was the largest in Valve’s history, including the Campo Santo Studio, which Valve bought in 2018. Valve’s new engine, Source 2, includes improved VR support and collaborative level editing. The developers planned to release a new level editor for the engine called Hammer. Valve also planned to release a partial SDK for Source 2 in order to make subsequent updates with a focus on delivery and support for Alyx.

The story was written by Jay Pinkerton, Sean Vanaman, and Volpo (who joined Valve under a contract). Laidlaw, one of the writers of the first Half-Life games, provided advice. Mike Moraski, composer of Portal 2 and Team Fortress 2, composed music for Alyx with the Advisory support of Kelly Bailey, composer of past parts. Unlike previous games that had quiet protagonists, Alix was voiced. The developers considered the game “a full-fledged part of the Half-Life series” both in content and plot.

Valve introduced Half-Life: Alyx in November 2019. The game became free for everyone who bought Valve Index hardware in 2020. To promote the game, all past installments of the Half-Life series were made free on Steam from January 2020 to March 23, 2020, the release date of Alyx. When asked about plans for future games in the series, designer David Speirer said the team is interested, but wants to wait for a reaction to Alyx. According to Walker, “We see Half-Life: Alyx as a return to this world, not as the end.”

Reception

Two days after its release on Metacritic, the game had average ratings of 92% (27 reviews) and 89% (712 ratings), on Steam 9,869 reviews (9,648 positive).

The trailer for the game was viewed more than 10 million times in the first 24 hours. While most fans were delighted, some were upset that the game is only available in VR – in 2019, a still small but growing market. The valve Index helmet, controllers, and base stations sold out in the United States, Canada, and Europe within a week of the game’s announcement, and by mid-January 2020 were sold in all 31 regions where they were offered. According to Superdata, Valve sold 103,000 Index units in the 4th quarter of 2019 thanks to the announcement of Alyx, while a total of 149,000 units were sold in 2019; thus, this VR helmet became the best-selling in PC history for the quarterly period. Valve expected to provide several Index pre-orders for the release of Alyx, but the coronavirus pandemic in China limited the company’s supply chain.

Vic Hood at TechRadar said: “This is definitely not the long-awaited Half-Life 3. However, it is cool to see that Valve has made the Half-Life project, given the past uncertainty when asked about the new part of the series. But we always live with the hope of Half-Life 3.” Kevin Webb in Business Insider wrote: “Alyx can generate fresh interest in the VR industry, which is still difficult to win the attention of hardcore players.” Microsoft chief Executive Phil Spencer said he played Alyx before the announcement and found the game amazing.

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