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Everything we know about Half-Life: Alyx Part II
It sounds like a proper Half-Life game, and it's as long as Half-Life 2

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Valve promises that Half-Life: Alyx will feature "all the hallmarks of classic Half-Life" including "world exploration, puzzle solving, visceral combat, and an intricately woven story that connects it all with the characters iconic to the Half-Life universe." The story is set between the events of Half-Life and Half-Life 2 and sees Alyx and her father Eli secretly mounting a resistance to the brutal occupation of Earth by the Combine, mysterious invading aliens. "As Alyx, players take the fight to the Combine to save the future of humanity."

So welcome (back) to City 17. One screenshot shows the Combine stronghold, the Citadel, under construction, with hunter-choppers carrying large metal panels toward it. Another screenshot shows what look like proto-Combine Metrocops pointing their guns at Alyx while a city scanner, one of the photo-taking robots from Half-Life 2, hovers behind them. We also see Combine barricades blocking off streets in the city.
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Some speculated that Half-Life: Alyx might be a short demo for Valve's new VR hardware, Valve Index, but it's actually a full-length game. According to the studio, internal playtesters have taken about as long as it takes to finish Half-Life 2 to get through the entirety of Half-Life: Alyx. Valve designer Greg Coomer also adds that some players "take much longer as they choose to more deeply explore and interact with the environment." So we're looking at least 20 hours of play here, which is a significant chunk of time—especially for a VR game.

Here's Half-Life: Alyx being tested on several VR setups

The YouTube channel Tested went to Valve recently to play a few hours of an early build of Half-Life: Alyx on a variety of different VR setups, from Valve Index to Windows Mixed Reality and the original HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. The video is mostly discussion of VR hardware and less actual gameplay but you can see the gravity gloves at work, some exploding barrels, and the headcrabs. If you want less talk and more play, someone stitched together and stabilized, all the gameplay. Be warned, though, you're trading tech talk for monologues from Half-Life 2 and the music from Boneworks.

All the guns are one-handed
In the Reddit AMA from January, Valve confirms that all of the guns in Half-Life: Alyx only require one hand, though you can grip the end with a second hand to steady them.
"We really wanted to focus on simultaneous two handed play throughout the game, so we needed the player to always be able to easily have a free hand," the team explained. "We keep that hand pretty busy with gravity gloves, movement, world interactions, flashlight, and so on."

It's the first Half-Life with a voiced hero
Half-Life hero Gordon Freeman, of course, never utters a word. But Alyx will have plenty to say when you play as her in Half-Life: Alyx. "Early on we decided it was important that playing as Alyx felt different to playing as Gordon Freeman," says Coomer. "Alyx being an active participant in conversations made it much, much easier to incorporate narrative into the game in natural ways, and as a result there's a higher density of storytelling over the course of the game."

And a new actor is playing Alyx
While Alyx was portrayed by Merle Dandridge in Half-Life 2, the younger version of the character in Half-Life: Alyx has been recast. This time Alyx will be played by Ozioma Akagha, an actor who has starred in a number of videogames including Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and Mirror's Edge: Catalyst. "Casting choices are incredibly hard, especially considering the time gap," says Coomer. "But when we heard Ozioma's performance we knew we'd found the right Alyx."

G-Man and other familiar characters return
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Maybe it's not a surprise—it's hard to imagine a Half-Life game without the mysterious G-Man, who even appeared in the mostly Gordon Freeman-less Half-Life: Opposing Force and Blue Shift. But it's great to have it confirmed, and once again G-Man will be voiced by Mike Shapiro.
We'll also see the return of the alien Vortigaunts, once again voiced by Tony Todd. Ellen McClain (the voice of GLaDOS in the Portal series) is returning as the sinister synthesized voice of the Combine Overwatch. 
Alyx's father, Eli Vance, will make an appearance, although he's been recast after the sad death of his original voice, Robert Guillaume, in 2017. "The new voice of Eli, James Moses Black, has big shoes to fill," says Coomer. "But we're all excited about his performance and can't wait for players to hear it." Black has appeared in This is Us and 24: Legacy, among many other film and television roles.
Other roles are voiced by Rhys Darby (Flight of the Concords) and Cissy Jones (Firewatch).
Over on Twitter, Mike Shapiro posted a short clip in the voice of the G-Man complete with stilted tone, odd speech pattern, and all the other mannerisms that haunted the Half-Life series over the years.

“Should old acquaintances be forgot, then, after so much… time. Some things can prove difficult to remember. See you in the new year. And, do prepare for… consequences, hrm? Mhm.”

Alyx will have Gravity Gloves
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Before the Zero Point Energy Field Manipulator (sorry,[i] gravity gun[/i]) was invented and given to Gordon Freeman in Half-Life 2, Alyx had gravity gloves. We can assume these can be used in a similar fashion as the gravity gun, to lift, pull, and throw objects around. But there's probably a lot more you can do with them in VR. A screenshot also shows them displaying what we assume is Alyx's health status—three hearts are shown on the left-hand glove. How far we've come from Jurassic Park: Trespasser's boob-mounted health meter.

Marc Laidlaw is involved, kinda
Original Half-Life writer Marc Laidlaw left Valve in 2016 after 18 years with the company, so he won't be taking the lead on Half-Life: Alyx. "As with all Valve games, the writing is a collaboration between the writers and all the animators, actors, and the level designers who implement the narrative within the game itself," says Coomer. "While Marc hasn't worked on Half-Life: Alyx directly (he's probably lying on a beach somewhere), he's been generous with his time answering all the writers' questions throughout the game's development."

There will be headcrabs
The idea of a headcrab lunging at you in virtual reality sounds horrifying, so of course they will feature in Half-Life: Alyx. "Little known fact, it's actually illegal to make a Half-Life game without headcrabs," says Coomer. "Also, the only reason we invested years of time, money, and effort into VR was so we could make a headcrab leap at people's faces."

Alyx's store page on Steam notes that you'll be able to rip headcrabs off your face and throw them at Combine soldiers.

Wait, did Alyx just inject a needle she found in a toilet?

Gross, Alyx. I don't care if those blue needles seem to replenish health, it was [i]in a toilet[/i]. You have no idea where that needle has been!

The Valve Index temporarily sold out following the Alyx announcement
In case you were wondering if people are excited about Half-Life: Alyx, Valve apparently sold out of Index headsets following its reveal. You can still buy one through Steam like usual, but delivery is not guaranteed before Christmas due to availability.
The Index shortage definitely conveys interest, though it's not clear if it's due to overwhelming numbers or a relatively small Index stock maintained by Valve. Either way, Gabe is obviously pleased.

Gabe Newell is excited
"Virtual reality has energized us," the Valve founder says. "We've invested a lot of ourselves in the technology. But we're also game developers at heart, and to be devoting ourselves to a VR game this ambitious is just as exciting. For that to come in the form of Half-Life feels like the culmination of a lot of things we care a lot about: truly great games, cutting edge technology, and open platforms." It's odd hearing Gabe Newell talking openly and candidly about a new Half-Life game. Maybe the Half-Life 3 jokes will stop now? Nah.

You can play it with any PC-based VR headset
Half-Life: Alyx is undoubtedly optimized for the Valve Index and its knuckle controllers, but Valve isn't limiting the hardware you can play it on. It'll be compatible with the HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, Oculus Rift, and Oculus Quest if you have the PC link cable.
It'll also support room scale, standing, or sitting play, and includes three movement options: teleportation, "shift" (which means you "smoothly zoom" between points), and regular analog stick walking and running.
Owners of any part of the Valve Index kit, including just the controllers, will get Half-Life: Alyx free. Those who own any Index hardware before the end of 2019 will get a few bonuses, including "alternate gun skins to embellish Alyx's arsenal."

It'll be Steam Workshop compatible, too, according to the official site. "A set of Source 2 tools for building new levels will be available for the game, enabling any player to build and contribute new environments for the community to enjoy. Hammer, Valve’s level authoring tool, has been updated with all of the game's virtual reality gameplay tools and components."

For anyone wondering if there will ever be a non-VR version of Half-Life: Alyx, it looks like the answer is no. "The complexity going on there it's so hard to… we would have to map an entire section of the keyboard dedicated to just interacting with doors if we wanted to have that kind of functionality," Valve's Dario Casali told Geoff Keighley. "The more we explored those mechanics the more we realized that In order for us to deliver a keyboard and mouse experience we'd have to ship a game that's missing a lot of those interactions, and they were playtesting so well that we didn't feel like that was a good idea."

Half-Life: Alyx probably won't be the last we see of Half-Life in the near future
We've established that, as a prequel, Half-Life: Alyx isn't [i]actually[/i] Half-Life 3. However, that doesn't mean that the game whose name is essentially a gaming prayer is off the table. 
The Verge asked designer David Speyrer if this was a full return to Half-Life and if we could expect more games in the series now that Valve has finally brought it out of stasis. "It’s probably no surprise that many people at Valve have been wanting to get back to the Half-Life universe for a long time," Speyrer said, "and this experience has only reinforced that." He elaborates, explaining that Valve has explored new ways to tell stories in the Half-Life world and new gameplay experiences it can create for players.
"Of course, we’ll have to wait and see how people react to Half-Life: Alyx once it’s out, but we’d love to continue pushing forward," Speyrer said.

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Everything we know about Half-Life: Alyx Part II00