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Half-Life: Alyx release date, trailer and platforms

Over a decade has passed since the last installment in the Half-Life series released. Though fans of the franchise have long clamored for a follow-up, developer Valve offered little hope over the years. That changed in November 2019 when Valve gave the world its first look at Half-Life: Alyx, its flagship VR game.

The reveal, while momentous, spawned more questions than answers. When will Half-Life: Alyx release? Is it really a VR exclusive? Where does the game fall in the Half-Life timeline? What happened to former protagonist Gordon Freeman, and will he make an appearance? Read on to find these answers and more.

What is the release date for Half-Life: Alyx?

Those thirsting for another entry in the Half-Life series don't have long to wait: Half-Life: Alyx arrives on March 23, 2020. If you're new to the series or want to relive the good old days, you can play the other Half-Life games for free from now until launch day. This includes: Half-Life, Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, and Half-Life 2: Episode 2.

"The Half-Life: Alyx team believes that the best way to enjoy the new game is to play through the old ones, especially Half-Life 2 and the episodes, so we want to make that as easy as possible," explained Valve when it announced the promotion.

Is there a trailer for Half-Life: Alyx?

Valve was kind enough to include a trailer as part of the Half-Life: Alyx reveal. In it, you see Alyx hacking, showing off her gun skills, and generally establishing herself as a large-and-in-charge protagonist. You also get a taste of the stellar voice acting, tense and gritty environments, and array of mechanics the game has to offer. 

At just under two minutes, the trailer offers a decent impression of the types of enemies and situations you'll face, including the mix of dark and humorous elements the series has earned a reputation for. The gameplay is 100% in VR, and it looks rather stunning. You have to search around to find batteries and bullets — unlike most traditional action games where supplies are more conveniently placed. While you'll have to withhold judgment on how Half-Life: Alyx plays until launch day, high hopes seem like a safe bet.

When does Half-Life: Alyx take place?

Half-Life: Alyx takes place between the first and second games as Alyx and her father put together a resistance to the multidimensional empire known as The Combine. It's not a brief glimpse of this time period, either, but a fully-fledged game with a campaign that rivals that of Half-Life 2 at approximately 13-15 hours.

According to an IGN interview with Valve programmer Robin Walker, the company originally set out to make a short, 15-minute experience, but was impressed with how playtesters didn't want to leave the world. Their eagerness to keep exploring is why you have the game you're looking at today: Half-Life: Alyx. Thank you, playtesters.

Which platforms will Half-Life: Alyx be on?

How can you experience Half-Life: Alyx? The game will be playable via all PC-based VR headsets, so owners of the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and even folks with a PC link cable for the usually cableless Oculus Quest are in luck. Console owners seem less fortunate, at least for the immediate future.

What specs are required to play Half-Life: Alyx?

According to Valve, you'll need to have a surprisingly high-end computer to handle the Half-Life: Alyx experience. On Steam, you'll find the minimum specs needed for the game

  • OS: Windows 10
  • Processor: Core i5-7500 / Ryzen 5 1600
  • Memory: 12 GB RAM
  • Graphics: GTX 1060 / RX 580 – 6GB VRAM

And that's just to get the game up and running. For the optimal experience, Valve recommends:

  • Processor: Quad Core+
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 or better
  • Additional Notes: Available USB (3.0+) Port required for Headset Pass-Through Camera

Fans eager to get their hands on the latest Half-Life game may want to consider upgrading their rig before the March 2020 release. As you saw from the gameplay, the graphics are downright amazing and the interactions are incredibly lifelike, so an older PC might huff and puff trying to keep up.

It may not matter which VR headset you're wearing, but in order to actually play the game, you'll need to have a pretty powerful PC.

Is Half-Life: Alyx VR only?

Fans of the Half-Life franchise have been famously impatient while waiting for a third installment in their favorite series. Because of this, you may be unhappy to learn you'll need to own or have access to a VR system to play the latest Half-Life game. 

Half-Life: Alyx is VR-exclusive and likely won't release in any other formats. Of course, there's always the chance a clever developer might try to create their own version of the game for those who don't own a VR system, but the official version of Half-Life: Alyx will require a VR headset. 

Valve's Dario Casali explained the nuances of VR were necessary to give gamers the full experience with Half-Life: Alyx. Casali cited the visceral difference between opening a door on a computer and cracking open a door to slip a grenade through before shutting it again, among other examples, when asked why the game had to be a VR-only.

Unfortunately, not just any VR setup will do for this new game. Because of the smooth graphics and advanced engine, gamers will need a VR setup that can handle the frame rates and advanced technology. The Valve Index is an obvious choice, but having a computer that can handle what Alyx has to throw at you will also be vital to your gaming experience. If you've been waiting for the next Half-Life game for ages and want to thoroughly enjoy your experience, you should make sure you have the right hardware to do the game justice.

Is Half-Life: Alyx on PSVR?

At launch, Half-Life: Alyx will be available to play on PC-based VR systems through Steam. Valve has decided to focus its efforts on the PC version of Half-Life: Alyx before committing to porting the game over to any other setup. So, where does that leave gamers who own a PlayStation VR system? Push Square asked Valve that very question.

"We believe Sony's VR platform has been a huge success for the medium, and we assume that lots of Sony customers would love to experience this new chapter of Half-Life," stated designer Greg Coomer

While this answer doesn't provide much information about whether or not you'll see a PSVR version of Half-Life: Alyx, it does give PlayStation fans hope that he didn't come out with a flat "no" on the subject. In fact, when pressed further about the possibility of a PSVR port, Coomer emphasized they were very focused on the initial SteamVR release but that they have not "ruled anything out."

Odds are, Coomer and the rest of Valve are waiting to see how well Half-Life: Alyx is received before bringing the game to a whole new platform. After all, if the game bombed, it wouldn't make financial sense to spend the extra time and money to port it to PSVR. Given the thriving Half-Life fan base, it seems unlikely that the game will end up a failure. Keep your fingers crossed for a PSVR port in the future.

How much will it cost to play Half-Life: Alyx?

When determining how much it will cost to play Half-Life: Alyx, there are a lot more factors to consider than a regular game. Because the title is a VR exclusive, you'll need a compatible VR setup to play. Specifically, a PC-based VR system you can use through the SteamVR store. If you don't already have a VR headset, you'll need to take into account the hefty price tag that comes with obtaining one. 

Additionally, you'll want to make sure your computer can handle the requirements of Half-Life: Alyx. Because of all of these factors, purchasing the game might get pretty expensive for those who don't already own the proper equipment.

The cost of Half-Life: Alyx itself isn't too outrageous for a new game. You can grab it for $59.99 on the Steam store. If you decide to pre-order the game, you'll receive a 10% discount off the total price. Basically, Half-Life: Alyx won't kill your bank account if you already have a good VR system. If you don't, your wallet will likely feel the pain.

Is Half-Life: Alyx free for Index owners?

Concerned about how much it's going to cost you to purchase Half-Life: Alyx? Well, if you're already the proud owner of a Valve Index VR headset, you're in luck: the game will be completely free for you. 

Offered as an incentive to help with sales of the Valve Index, Valve may have underestimated just how much people were willing to spend to play the first Half-Life title in 12 years. The headsets completely sold out everywhere and the demand for them continues to soar as the release of Half-Life: Alyx approaches.

Though it's difficult to get your hands on a Valve Index right now, if you had the foresight or dumb luck to get one before the incentive was announced, you can rest easy knowing you get a free copy of the new game. For those who don't have their Valve Index yet, there is a "notify me" button on the website to alert you when more stock is available. It seems the company is scrambling to make more units before the launch of Half-Life: Alyx

It's unclear how long Valve will offer the game for free for new purchases of the Valve Index, but if it keeps the incentive going, you'll likely see those "sold out" signs for weeks or months to come.

What engine is Half-Life: Alyx on?

The original Source engine created by Valve was good enough for the beloved Half-Life 2 and Portal games back in the day, but with advances in technology come new expectations. In 2015, at the Game Developers Conference, Valve announced it was creating Source 2 as a new engine for its gaming needs. This would be used to streamline content creation, allowing the company to create more content for fans at a quicker pace. 

This plan seems to have worked out for Valve, as the development team is using the Source 2 engine to bring Half-Life: Alyx to life. In an AMA on Reddit, the creators of the game confirmed they were using Source 2 to create the new game, giving fans hope that the gameplay will be even better than what they've experienced in the past.

Gamers aren't the only ones who should be excited about Source 2 and its capabilities. Valve has stated it intends to make Source 2 free for any developers to use as long as the games they create are published on Valve's Steam distribution platform. For those curious about what they can expect from Source 2, all you need to do is play Dota 2. Valve ported the entire game over to Source 2 back in 2015, titling it Dota 2 Reborn. Half-Life: Alyx appears to be in good hands.

Is Half-Life: Alyx a rail shooter?

Half-Life: Alyx seems to be something of a pioneer in many ways. While VR versions sometimes accompany AAA releases, far fewer companies have created full-length titles specifically for virtual reality. The team kept this challenge in mind while creating Half-Life: Alyx. They needed to make sure gamers wouldn't burn out or grow uncomfortable from remaining in VR for long periods of time. Beyond the quality of your physical headset, gameplay remains one of the biggest determining factors of a player's comfort level.

Many first-person shooter games you find in VR these days are considered rail shooters, meaning your character stays on a set path while enemies come to you. Rail shooters offer little in the way of exploration since you only have so much control over where your character can go. This design makes it easier for developers to create a fluid world where events trigger at the appropriate time. It does, however, take away some of the realism when you can't freely roam a map.

Half-Life: Alyx takes a different approach than your typical FPS VR fare. In an AMA held on Reddit, Valve explained to fans that it wants to reward players for exploring the map, making the experience of Half-Life: Alyx feel real on a large scale. Because of this, Half-Life: Alyx will not be a rail shooter. Instead, gamers will have control over where their character goes. Valve has stated there won't be any jumping involved in this new title. Instead, you will be able to teleport onto objects or vault onto them depending on the situation. This will give players free reign over where they explore and what their gameplay yields.

Is Gordon Freeman in Half-Life: Alyx?

Half-Life fans are excited to see some familiar faces and locations in Half-Life: Alyx. Based on where the game falls in the timeline and who you play as, it's logical that you'd encounter characters from previous Half-Life installments. Who can you expect to run into? Alyx's father, Eli Vance, will feature in the game, though it's unclear in what capacity. Valve has also revealed that the G-Man and the Vortigaunts will make an appearance.

There's one glaring omission to the roster: Gordon Freeman. The silent protagonist you play as in the first and second Half-Life games may not have much to say, but he's become a fan-favorite and the face of the Half-Life series. It's clear from the title of Half-Life: Alyx that this game will center on a different character, but fans are still wondering if Gordon Freeman will be in the game at all. 

Given that Half-Life: Alyx takes place between the first and second games, it's very likely Mr. Freeman will play a role. It's hard to determine if Valve has officially included him as a character because he has no voice actor; but, it makes sense that Freeman would at least make a cameo. Just don't count on him delivering a long monologue.

Is Half-Life: Alyx a horror game?

Valve is marketing Half-Life: Alyx as a first-person shooter game, and for good reason. Large chunks of the game will focus on your ability to take out your enemies with an array of weaponry. If the new title is anything like the first two in the series, you can expect strategy and puzzle solving to come into play as well. You may be surprised to learn, however, that several sections of the game will draw on the horror genre.

Horror games have found a perfect fit with virtual reality. The ability to immerse players in a tight, enclosed space and keep them on edge is the exact mechanic horror developers have been looking for. There are plenty of terrifying creatures in the Half-Life titles, and more than enough tense situations. It sounds like putting all of these elements into VR and then amping up the creep factor is exactly what Valve intends to do. 

"I admit I cannot deal with headcrabs in general, and definitely not in VR," divulged Valve's Tristan Reidford. "If I'm testing the game, and I'm in an area where I know one of those things is around, I'll remove the headset and hold it off my face as I attempt to navigate on the 2d monitor screen, to lessen the impact of headcrab discovery."

If you're concerned about the horror elements, Reidford assured the team was handling them with care. "Horror is part of the franchise, and through playtesting, we feel like we've gained some confidence about where to draw this line," he expanded.