Half-Life’s Return 13 Years Later

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Alexander Gray

The most elusive character in Half-Life, the G-Man: an entity who is neither on your side or against you (Photo courtesy of Alexander Gray).

I have been really excited for Half-Life: Alyx since the reveal in late 2019. (I’ve even screamed in excitement in class.) After all, it’s been thirteen years since the cliffhanger in Half-Life 2: Episode 2. Now that Half-Life: Alyx has come out, how good is it?

Before I continue, there will be spoilers for the whole franchise in this review. So if you haven’t played the franchise yet, I recommend picking up Black Mesa which is a fan remaster of Half-Life and The Orange Box bundle which comes with Half-Life 2 and its two episodes,  Portal and Team Fortress 2.

The game starts with a brief synopsis of the game, being five years before the death of resistance member Eli Vance (the father of Alyx Vance). You are then dropped into the shoes of Alyx Vance who is caught by the Combine alongside Eli Vance, her father. While being transported to a train to Nova Prospekt, resistance member Russell frees you and directs you to his hideout.

It is here where you and Russell hatch a plan to free Eli. You also get the Gravity Gloves which are called the “Russells.” Now, the Gravity Gloves are super satisfying to use. When I first got a hold of them, I kept throwing objects I found and pulling them back to me which was pretty fun.

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Photo of the Combine weapon station and Alyx’s gun completed (Photo courtesy of Alexander Gray).

Along with the Gravity Gloves, there’s also “The Alyx” which is required for multiple puzzles that are in the game. There are also three different firearms to unlock as you progress through the game. Each firearm can be upgraded at a Combine weapons station. This also provides context on Alyx’s gun in the previous games and how it came to be as you are slowly building it through the game.

All enemies in Half-Life: Alyx have been reworked and updated from previous installments in the series.

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A Headcrab lunging at the player’s head to attack them (Photo courtesy of Alexander Gray).

The Headcrabs (creatures that turn people into zombies) are more terrifying than they have ever been as they have been redesigned for Source 2 and given the ability to jump onto your face. There are also three species of them. There are the regular Headcrabs, the Armored Headcrabs, and the Poison Headcrabs. They will also be on zombies, so it’s important to keep an eye out after you take a zombie down.

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A Barnicle hanging on the ceiling in the Northern Star hotel in chapter 5 (Photo courtesy of Alexander Gray).

There are a few more enemies such as the Antlions, Banicles, Xen Dogs, and Jeff which come from the alien world Xen, along with Headcrabs that were released during the Resonance Cascade at Black Mesa during the first Half-Life. (The Resonance Cascade was an event in which the teleportation experiment at Black Mesa went horribly wrong and bridged the Earth and Xen dimension, causing Xen creatures to flood Earth.)

There are also variants of Combine Soldiers. The Combine Charger, Grunts, and Suppressors are constantly fought against in-game. Along with soldiers, Combine Chargers can also throw up Manhacks (Drones) to attack you from the air.

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Jeff breaking out of the freezer after attempting to restore power to the elevator (Photo courtesy of Alexander Gray).

My favorite chapter in the game, Chapter 7: Jeff, was a stealth chapter having you go up against a Xen alien who was named Jeff by a scavenger you come across. In the chapter, you have to use bottles distributed around the map to distract Jeff and proceed through the level. On top of that, there are also spores producing plants around the map which cause you to cough and give your location away to Jeff. To combat this, you have to physically cover your mouth to avoid coughing.

In the same chapter, you have to get a door open to access the elevator. To do that, you have to trap Jeff in a freezer. Minutes later, the power goes out and you have to backtrack to where you trapped Jeff in order to turn on the power and get the elevator working. Upon getting the elevator working, Jeff hears the noise and stumbles in. From there, you have to ride up with Jeff while hiding in the corner so he doesn’t find you.

It’s one of my favorite stealth missions in gaming. The fear and anticipation of making noise or Jeff being behind your back really made the experience even better.

The finale of the game was amazing as the final boss was a Strider. Having to fight off Combine Soldiers while dodging the gunfire from a Combine Strider made me feel like a boss, to say the least.

After defeating the Strider, you enter The Vault, a Combine facility to rescue Gordon Freeman who is presumed to be in the vault. Instead, you free the G-Man, a menacing and mysterious being who has the ability to warp through space and time and set the Resonance Cascade into motion. (I have to say, G-Man received a huge upgrade in quality thanks to Source 2 which made him even more menacing than he already was.) He reveals that he has Gordon Freeman in stasis and that Eli Vance will die in the future. At this moment, the G-Man instructs Alyx to save Eli, not knowing that it would cost her freedom.

After the credits rolled, we got to see how Alyx’s choice erased her from the ending of Episode 2. You also get to play as Gordon Freeman for a minute as it confirms something the Half-Life fanbase has been waiting for: Half-Life 3 Confirmed! (That’s a joke.)

Half-Life: Alyx is amazing and is most definitely one of the greatest VR games on the platform. The characters, dialogue, environments, soundtrack, and gameplay all add to the experience which ends up being a beautiful, funny, and frightening one. This game is currently my favorite in the series and I would play it all over again in a heartbeat.

10/10 Amazing