Grab buckets, poke headcrabs

Valve’s much-anticipated virtual reality game Half-Life: Alyx debuts on March 23rd, and it just offered a little more detail on what we’ll be playing. It released three short videos today showing off combat and puzzles in Alyx, as well as the game’s overall vibe.

The videos showcase some things we already knew about Alyx. First, much of the game is about semi-realistic gunfights, including manually reloading while being mobbed by enemies. Second, there are a lot of hand-based interactions — in the demo videos, we see Alyx Vance tip over buckets to search for items, grab grenades from midair, pull boards off a barred door, and flip a dead headcrab with the tip of her pistol. Valve has said its Index controllers will provide extra interaction options, but we don’t get any detail on that here.

And third, Alyx Vance isn’t a Gordon Freeman-style silent protagonist. Alyx spent Half-Life 2 performing one-sided banter, but as a playable character, she’s more than ready to chat with other characters and occasionally muse to herself.

Half-Life: Alyx incorporates some familiar VR and shooter mechanics. As an IGN hands-on video shows, you can switch between teleportation-style locomotion and free directional movement — and if you choose the former, you can strategically pop behind enemies or cover during fights. You can also apparently collect an upgrade material called “resin” and add new features to your gun, adding a level of customization that the Half-Life series has mostly eschewed.

The gameplay videos mostly show off familiar elements of the Half-Life world. They feature classic enemies like headcrabs, Combine soldiers, and barnacles. And they confirm that Alyx will still use Half-Life’s old-school health stations and medkits, offering a nod toward explaining them within the game’s fiction. This all makes sense, since Alyx is set before Half-Life 2 and its sequel episodes — although Valve has also suggested it could help resolve lingering questions from those games.

Half-Life: Alyx will be VR-only but playable on any PC-based headset. For anyone who’s just getting into VR, though, options are currently limited. Valve is still trying to restock its Index headsets, and Oculus Quest is heavily backordered, in part due to coronavirus-related delays.