Alyx promises action with the flow and sparkle of a magic trick

Now that 2020 is here we’re having a little look ahead at some of the year’s new games that have us intrigued.

I can’t stop rewatching the Half-Life: Alyx trailer, and it’s not just because it’s one of the more elegantly put-together teasers of recent years. It’s not just because it’s another Half-Life game. It’s not just because I’m scanning it for clues of what’s to come.

It’s because of the flow of the thing – and I guess that means the flow of the main character. Half-Life: Alyx takes the gravity gun and puts it on your hands. Ingenious! Even so, look at the handling here: pushing objects aside to get a better view, plucking doodads from distant guards, insouciantly flicking ammo clips into pistols and ramming them home.

I have seen movements like this before, and they belong to magicians – the studied lack of care, the ease that comes through repetition, through mastery. To have a whole game built around this stuff is thrilling even before you think about Half-Life, about Alyx and Eli, about Rhys Darby, about slick gun micro-management that calls to mind brilliant oddities like Receiver.

Why has Half-Life been absent for so long? Millions of reasons, I imagine, both fascinating and prosaic. But one of the big ones must have been this: there’s been nothing new and of Half-Life size that needs mastering, as Half-Life 1 mastered scripting and Half-Life 2 mastered in-game physics. With VR – with those magician’s hands, disembodied, moving around the screen allowing you to grasp and shove and pluck and clip together? Suddenly the G-Man is interested again. Can’t wait.

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