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Alyx's Half-Life Timeline Explained

Remember when a scientific experiment went nightmarishly wrong in the Black Mesa Research Facility, ripping a hole in the fabric of reality and allowing aliens to swarm earth? And remember the unlikely hero Gordon Freeman, a physicist who became humankind's savior? That was Half-Life back in 1998, hailed as Game of the Year by over 50 publications for blending award-winning storytelling with engaging, action-adventure gameplay. Over the next few years, Valve released two expansion packs followed by Half-Life 2 in 2004. Two sequels — Episode One and Episode Two — came soon after. 


Come March 2020, a new game in the Half-Life universe will land on our screens: Half-Life: Alyx, a prequel to the events of Half-Life 2. Rather than Freeman, the focus will shift to Alyx Vance, the capable, resourceful daughter of Eli Vance, Resistance hero. All rendered in virtual reality. Valve promises gamers immersive "world exploration, puzzle-solving and visceral combat." The game will also ship with tools for building environments, allowing players to build and share their creations with the community. In preparation for the upcoming launch, here's a breakdown of Alyx's role and story line in the Half-Life universe.

The story of Half-Life: Alyx

Half-Life: Alyx tells the story of humanity's uprising against the Combine, the vicious humanoid race that controls earth. It is set between the events of Half-Life and Half-Life 2. Memories of the Seven-Hour War still rankle, and among the residents of City 17, now living under the oppressive rule of the Combine, the glimmers of resistance have started to appear. Father-daughter duo Dr. Eli Vance and Alyx spearhead the uprising.


You'll play as young Alyx, originally seen as Gordon Freeman's collaborator through Half-Life 2 and Episodes One and Two. Alyx and Eli work together to create the foundations for the future Resistance movement, performing critical research to develop the know-how and tools that will enable humans to fight for their freedom. This includes uncovering the enemy's weaknesses by hacking into alien interfaces while using the environment to avoid discovery.

Alyx's early years

It's well-established that Alyx Vance is the daughter of Eli, a well-known scientist in the Half-Life universe, and a colleague of Gordon Freeman. The developers have given little away about her mother, Azian, who was of Asian descent. Alyx spent her early years at the Black Mesa Research Facility where her father worked. When The Black Mesa Incident occurred in the Anomalous Materials lab in the same sector where Eli was based, he managed to escape with Alyx, though Azian died. (Eli managed to save a family photo of all three of them for Alyx to remember her mother by.) Alyx was raised by her father in Black Mesa East. She grew up in a world controlled by the Combine.


Alyx has short, brown hair streaked with red, and green eyes. She wears a trademark headband, as well as a battered brown leather jacket, and is usually accompanied by Dog, her "pet" robot.

Alyx's involvement with the Resistance

In the Half-Life universe, where the Combine call the shots, the Resistance refers to the underground rebellion against their oppressive regime. The Resistance does not have a strict command structure, but relies on various leaders responsible for different kinds of operations.


While this is going to be the theme of the upcoming game, Alyx's (future) history with the Resistance has been well documented. Growing up in Black Mesa East and City 17 where the movement is said to have sparked under her father's influence, as well as that of Isaac Steiner, both important leaders of the Resistance, her involvement with the movement was hardly surprising. She joined the Resistance in early adulthood as one of the core members of the City 17 team and went on to become one of its commanders. Alyx, like her Resistance contemporaries, sees herself as a freedom fighter, dedicated to freeing humans from the control of the Combine.

Alyx's skills and strengths

Alyx trained as a hacker and a mechanic, and she is also skilled at combat. She is known to be adept at accessing and manipulating Combine tech, including getting past electronically locked doors and co-opting Combine technologies to Resistance ends. She usually has her electromagnetic pulse (EMP) multi-tool at hand, which not only helps her get into inaccessible spaces but also functions like a USB key to hold information. 


As a mechanic, Alyx is handy at repairing and re-purposing. She and her father put together the Scout Car at Shorepoint, which helps Gordon Freeman get places in Half-Life 2. She has also made numerous tweaks and additions to Dog, the robotic companion her father built for her when she was a girl. Her combat prowess includes proficiency with a pistol, shotgun and sniper rifle, as well as hand-to-hand fighting. Her fighting skills have saved Gordon's life more than once.

Alyx's first Half-Life mission

Alyx debuted in the first chapter of Half-Life 2, Point Insertion. Gordon Freeman, a civilian and as yet unarmed, is captured by Civil Protection officers of the Combine in City 17. It is implied that Alyx takes down the CP officers and rescues Gordon. She then takes him to Isaac Kleiner's secret hideout where the rebels are working on a teleporter, allowing Gordon to be transported to Eli Vance's lab.


The teleporter malfunctions, and Alyx and Gordon are separated. When he finally makes it overland to the lab, Alyx rejoins him and gives him the Gravity Gun. With the help of Dog, Alyx teaches him how to use the Gravity Gun just in time for Combine forces to come looking for rebels. Once again, she gets separated from him (and Dog) — this time because of a cave-in. With Gordon serving as the playable character in all of the existing Half-Life games, you don't directly witness all of Alyx's story, though she remains a key non-playable character.

Gordon's friend, ally and co-conspirator

Throughout Half-Life 2,  Alyx and Gordon's paths cross and diverge many times. After they meet up again, she accompanies Gordon to the horrifying Combine detention facility Nova Prospekt, and together they breach and destroy it. This triggers the Uprising in City 17, a week-long armed battle between the rebels and the Combine forces.


During their escape from Nova Prospekt, Alyx and Gordon uncover the secret Combine facility located there. Alyx, with her techie abilities, guides Gordon through its halls and corridors and they arrive at the control room, only to discover that Dr. Judith Mossman, thought to be an ally, is actually working for the Combine. Fighting past various Combine forces, Alyx and Gordon finally arrive at the teleporter room, intending to use it to escape Nova Prospekt, but Mossman gets to it first and whisks herself (and Eli) away to an unknown location. When Alyx and Gordon manage to reset it and return to Kleiner's lab, they find that a week elapsed as they teleported. Alyx reunites with Dog and helps Kleiner and his pet headcrab, Lamarr, escape City 17.


The Dark Energy Explosions

"Do your worst, Gordon. But ... be careful." With these words, Alyx parts ways with Gordon inside the Citadel as he enters the final part of his pursuit of the game's main antagonist, Dr. Wallace Breen, once a Black Mesa big shot, now Combine admin. As Breen tries to escape using a Combine teleport machine, Gordon pursues him, following instructions from Alyx, who is at the controls. 


To stop Breen's teleport from working, Gordon destroys the dark fusion reactor of the Citadel and the teleportation portal's shields. This causes Breen's lift to the portal to collapse, plunging him — one assumes — to his death. Half-Life 2 ends when Gordon successfully manages to stop Breen from fleeing to "another universe." Alyx joins him on the platform opposite the now-defunct reactor, but just before the G-Man comes on for some final words of wisdom, the explosion from the reactor catches Alyx, leaving her frozen in place, her fate unknown. Meanwhile, Gordon escapes.

Dead or alive?

Half-Life 2: Episode One picks up the story right after the dramatic ending of Half-Life 2. Good news: Alyx is alive and well. Thanks to a flashback scene, you find out the Vortigaunts, a sapient alien species allied with the Resistance, rescued and deposited her in one piece at the base of the Citadel. Alyx and Dog find Gordon under the rubble near the Citadel base, reuniting the trio yet again. 


Of course, danger is far from averted. A deadly chain reaction unfolds following the destruction of the dark fusion reactor, which is slowly building up to the explosion of the Citadel core and will likely take the whole of City 17 with it. It's up to Alyx and Gordon to avert disaster and evacuate the city. After conferring with her father, Alyx re-enters the Citadel with Gordon with the aim of engaging the reactor's containment system and slowing down the countdown to the explosion.

Saving the Citadel (or not)

Alyx and Gordon reactivate the core's stabilization mechanism, delaying the inevitable meltdown. Alyx also discovers the Combine intend to use the Citadel's destruction to send a message to other Combine forces in the universe. Having bought them some time, Alyx and Gordon navigate the labyrinthine underground sewers, tunnels and parking garages of the city, looking for a way out. As they fight their way past zombies and Stalkers, Alyx uses her tech powers to clear the way, and also provides cover for Gordon. Among the alien creatures, they also come face to face with zombified Combine soldiers or "Zombines" according to Alyx.


They eventually reach the train station where they help a number of evacuees start their journey to safety. As Alyx and Gordon board a train out of the city, the Citadel explodes, leveling City 17. The shock waves overtake their train, resulting in the sickening sound of metal twisting and another cliff-hanger.

Journey to the White Forest

During Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Alyx remains at the forefront of the Resistance's attempt to take down critical structures of the Combine, though still as an NPC. She and Gordon survive the train derailment and much of the game deals with their quest to reach the White Forest, a Resistance base outside City 17, and deliver a crucial transmission package about the Combine's superportal. 


Not far into their journey, a Combine synth impales Alyx, leaving her critically injured. With the help of a Vortigaunt, Gordon takes her deep into the mines, where they harvest the larval extract of an alien insect species to save her. Recovered, Alyx provides cover using a mounted Combine sniper rifle as Gordon retrieves a transport to continue their journey to the White Forest. Of course, it's hardly a matter of just rolling through the countryside. Not with delightful Combine creatures to waylay them.

The death of Eli Vance

Along the way, Alyx and Gordon encounter an Advisor, a highly intelligent, grub-like creature that happens to be the unlikely brains behind the Combine forces, even speculated to be the master race. In attempting to take it out, they inadvertently fall prey to its telekinetic powers and are saved from certain death by sheer luck.


After fending off numerous Combine ambushes, they arrive at the White Forest with their delivery, and help Eli, Kleiner and others work on a rocket to take down the Combine's superportal. Meanwhile, the information packet carried by Alyx turns out to be about Dr. Judith Mossman's Borealis project, a research vessel developed by Aperture Science (of Portal fame). With the superportal closed, Alyx prepares to leave with Gordon to search for Judith when two Advisors ambush them. Using their psychic powers to leach everything from Eli's brain, they kill him, leaving Alyx grieving with Dog by her side.

Half-Life 3, anyone?

Originally envisioned as a trilogy, Valve has yet to confirm whether it will release Half-Life 2: Episode Three. That said, one former Half-Life writer, Marc Laidlaw, published his version of the third episode's story.


According to Laidlaw, Alyx and Gordon travel to Antarctica on the trail of the Borealis. The story crosses over with Portal when they find the ship unmoored in time and space. While they eventually manage to destroy the ship — essential to stop the Combine — they also sacrifice themselves. Just like the end of Half-Life, the G-Man appears, choosing Alyx over Gordon to keep on ice until she is needed. Note, however, that Laidlaw also called his version of events "0% official." Back in 2013, Valve filed a trademark for Half-Life 3, so, it's possible the story may continue in another form. For now, it remains one of PC gaming's greatest mysteries.