'Half-Life: Alyx' release date, price, and gameplay for Valve's VR comeback

'Half-Life' returns, like you've never experienced it before.

Twelve years after the most notorious cliffhanger in gaming history, Valve has revived its Half-Life series in virtual reality. Half-Life: Alyx was announced Thursday as a VR-exclusive prequel to the acclaimed sci-fi shooter.

It’s not the Half-Life 3 fans of the series have been fantasizing about for the better part of a decade. The trailer Valve debuted Thursday didn’t mention Gordon Freeman, the main character of all the pervious games. Instead, Half-Life: Alyx will revolve entirely around two secondary characters who played a major role in Half-Life 2 and its two episodic sequels.

Players will step into the shoes of Alyx Vance and face many of the same challenges Gordon did in the four earlier installments. But this time, they’ll be completely immersed in a VR environment, making every headcrab that much more bloodcurdling.

Both Half-Life (1998) and Half-Life 2 (2004) rank among the most influential games ever made. Both laid the foundations for gameplay and storytelling techniques gamers have come to expect out of AAA shooters today. Valve has put itself in the position to reinvent the genre again with Half-Life: Alyx, making Thursday’s announcement the biggest VR game to ever be revealed in the history of the technology.

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Here’s everything we know and what to expect from what could be a groundbreaking title.


When is the Half-Life: Alyx release date?

Half-Life: Alyx is slated to be released in March 2020 and is currently available for pre-order on Steam. Expect at least another trailer or gameplay video, which should reveal the exact date of when to expect the prequel as the early spring of 2020 approaches.

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

Half-Life: Alyx will be exclusively released for PC for $60. It will require a VR headset and controllers to play. Valve stated that it will be compatible with the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, Windows Mixed Reality, and the Valve Index (duh).

The most affordable out of all of these is the Oculus Quest that retails for $399. VR rigs can get as expensive as $1,098 for the HTC Vive Pro. If you need to buy a PC, Half-Life: Alyx will get even more expensive to play. Here are the system requirements needed to run the game:

  • Operating System: Windows 10
  • Processors: Core i5-7500 or Ryzen 5 1600
  • Memory: 12 GB of RAM
  • Graphics: GTX 1060 or RX 580 with 6GB of VRAM
half life alyx valve

A GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card can cost $200 alone. So building an entire PC and also picking up VR hardware for Half-Life: Alyx will easily cost you over $1,000 and substantially more for top-of-the-line equipment.

What will the Half-Life: Alyx gameplay be like?

From the glimpses of gameplay Valve teased in its trailer, Half-Life: Alyx looks like it will be the highest-quality VR title to date. The developer built the game exclusively for the technology and made most of in-game objects interactive. It seems to be a sandbox set in the Half-Life universe.

“Lean around a broken wall and under a barnacle to make an impossible shot,” states Valve’s description of the gameplay. “Rummage through shelves to find a healing syringe and some shotgun shells. Manipulate tools to hack alien interfaces. Tear a headcrab off your face and throw it out the window.”

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Half-Life: Alyx’s standout gameplay feature will likely be the Gravity Gloves. Alyx is seen slipping on mechanical gloves that allow her to push and pull items towards her like a Jedi Master. She’s seen disarming a Combine solider and yoinking a gun from the hood of car with a only a gesture.

Heavy Half-Life and Half-Life 2 spoilers ahead.

These magnetic mittens also seem key to solving puzzles and unlocking doors to progress in the game. They’re clearly the predecessors of Gordon’s Gravity Gun in Half-Life 2, which Alyx and her father Eli Vance give Gordon when they meet.

half life alyx valve headcrabs
Fighting headcrab zombies in VR? Sign us up!

What will Half-Life: Alyx be about?

Half-Life: Alyx takes place between the incidents of Half-Life and Half-Life 2. In the first game, Gordon — a physicist for Black Mesa Research Facility accidentally opens a portal to another dimension, Xen. This cataclysmic event becomes known as the Black Mesa incident, which set headcrabs loose in the world and plunges humanity into darkness.

The first game culminates with Gordon traveling to Xen and defeating Nihilanth, an alien entity that was maintaining the rift between its home world and Earth. Gordon is then confronted by the G-Man — a seemingly omniscient and omnipresent puppet master — that explains his “employers” have job for Gordon. The G-Man then places him into a stasis until Half-Life 2.

When Gordon awakens, he finds himself in City 17. The world has been taken over by the Combine. The multidimensional species, was attracted to Earth by the portal Gordon had opened and conquered humanity in Seven-Hour War. Gordon soon catches up with a resistance group fighting the Combine that was started by Alyx and Eli.

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Eli Vance

Half-Life: Alyx takes places directly after Earth’s brief attempt to defend itself, while Gordon is still in stasis. “The loss of the Seven-Hour War is still fresh. In the shadow of a rising Combine fortress known as the Citadel, residents of City 17 learn to live under the rule of their invaders,” reads the game’s description. “But among this scattered population are two of Earth’s most resourceful scientists: Dr. Eli Vance and his daughter Alyx, the founders of a fledgling resistance.”

Eli is a former Black Mesa scientist and at the end of Half-Life 2: Episode Two we learn that he’s the one that suggested the facility test a mysterious substance that caused Gordon to open the rift to Xen. He also reveals that it was the G-Man who gave it to him in the first place.

The G-Man and his employers are clearly the masterminds behind the catastrophic events of the Half-Life, but who controls the G-Man and why are they doing this?

half life alyx valve g-man

What secrets did the Half-Life: Alyx trailer reveal?

The trailer ends with the G-Man emerging from the shadows only to deliver a sinister stare. It appears he will once again play the puppet master role in Half-Life: Alyx. The new footage teases that we might find out about how Alyx and Eli fit into the plan the G-Man has set in motion for Gordon.


Half-Life: Alyx will be released on March 2020 on any PC-compatible VR hardware.