Half-Life is back.
Valve Software officially announced Monday that it is working on a new virtual reality game, Half-Life: Alyx. This marks a rare first-party release by Valve, headquartered in Bellevue, Wash., and a new entry in the Half-Life series after 12 years of inactivity.
Alyx is reportedly one of the three new Valve VR games that studio founder Gabe Newell teased back in 2017. The announcement comes seven months after the public debut of Valve’s expensive new VR headset, the Index, and Ars Technica has catalogued some of the rumors regarding Alyx’s potential specialization for the Index’s particular features.
Valve plans to unveil the game in more detail on Thursday at 10 a.m. PT. The original plan was reportedly that buyers could see the game in stores by the end of the year, but the Game Awards leak mentions March 2020 as a potential release date.
We’re excited to unveil Half-Life: Alyx, our flagship VR game, this Thursday at 10am Pacific Time.
Can’t wait to share it with all of you! pic.twitter.com/BupFCxSrTw
— Valve (@valvesoftware) November 18, 2019
The original Half-Life came out in 1998 as a modestly-budgeted first-person shooter for the PC, starring silent protagonist Gordon Freeman in the aftermath of a botched teleportation accident, a subsequent alien invasion, and the subsequent attempt by a black-ops squad to cover the whole thing up.
Half-Life became a surprise hit, selling over nine million copies by 2008, and has left an indelible mark on PC gaming in general and first-person shooters as a whole. One of the most popular mods for Half-Life, Counter-Strike, was eventually purchased outright by Valve, who hired its developers and proceeded to make Counter-Strike into its own long-running franchise.
2004’s Half-Life 2, set several years after the events of the original game, picked back up on an Earth that had been largely conquered by the alien Combine. It marked the debut of Alyx Vance, who would go on to become a major presence in the series and the most common NPC ally for player character Gordon Freeman. Alyx, voiced by Merle Dandridge and face-modeled after actress Jamil Mullen, became a sort of breakout star of the game, and has stayed reasonably popular among players ever since.
Valve followed up Half-Life 2 with two follow-up campaigns, Episode One and Episode Two, which continued the game’s story with Gordon and Alyx fighting to continue the revolution against the Combine.
However, 2007’s Episode Two ended on a cliffhanger, and the third installment of the trilogy simply never appeared after that. In the last 12 years, it’s gone on to become one of the most notorious pieces of “vaporware” in the video game industry. A 2017 post by Half-Life ex-writer Marc Laidlaw served as a sort of metaphorical epilogue for the series, and it had become widely accepted that Half-Life as a series was probably just dead in the water, with Valve dedicating more of its internal resources to DOTA 2, Steam, and its VR department than to its old franchises.
Half-Life: Alyx has a lot riding on it, not least of which is the outcome of 12 years of false starts and hype. I’m not sure anyone at all could actually deliver under these circumstances, but it’s impressive that Valve is going to try. If Alyx ends up being a prequel or something, though, expect a big part of the nerd Internet to lose its collective mind come Thursday morning.