MAJOR SPOILER WARNING for Half-Life: Alyx and all previous Half-Life games!
The first new Half-Life game in 13 years may be a prequel, but Half-Life: Alyx is still very much connected to Half-Life 2 and its episodes.
Since VR is still a fairly small market, chances are many people want to know how Alyx pushes the plot forward without being able to experience it themselves – and those who do have access to VR may not necessarily be familiar with the decade-old plot threads being referenced here.
We’re about to talk FULL SPOILERS, including a breakdown of the Half-Life: Alyx ending, how it connects to previous games, and what it all means. If you haven’t beaten it yet or don’t want its events explained in detail, then abandon ship now.
Half-Life: Alyx Ending and Plot Summary
Half-Life: Alyx is set five years before the events of Half-Life 2, and its story starts out fairly simple: Eli Vance and his engineer compatriot Russell stumble upon information that indicates the Combine have some sort of super weapon locked in a floating vault deep inside City 17’s quarantine zone. It’s up to Alyx Vance to get to the vault and steal that weapon before the Combine can either use it or ship it off world.
However, as Alyx gets closer, Eli decrypts a Combine data pad that reveals that it’s not a vault protecting a weapon, but actually a prison containing a person. While worrying whether this entity is friend or foe, they overhear an unknown human working with the Combine saying this prisoner survived the Black Mesa incident (the events of the first Half-Life) and that they caused hell while doing so – that leads Eli and Russell to believe it’s the legendary Dr. Gordon Freeman (the main Half-Life protagonist) that’s being held captive.
When Alyx finally makes it to the core of the vault – navigating buildings that have been strangely warped through space and time to get there – she does see a figure standing inside of it. But opening the cell reveals it’s actually the G-Man who’s been imprisoned, not Gordon.
For those unfamiliar, the G-Man is a mysterious, otherworldly entity with the appearance of a stern-looking human in a suit who essentially plucks people he deems valuable out of space and time (which he calls “hiring” them) to keep in stasis until he needs them again to complete another task. He “offered” Gordon Freeman a job at the end of the first Half-Life, only bringing him back roughly 20 years later for the events of Half-Life 2.
Back to Alyx: Once the cell is opened, whatever technology the Combine were using to contain his supernatural powers and keep him in one place is disabled, and the G-Man immediately opens up a familiar doorway to another dimension and pulls Alyx and himself through. At this point, the G-Man determines Alyx has proven herself a useful individual, and to show his gratitude for her rescuing him he explains that his employers (who are still a mystery) allow him to “nudge” events in time occasionally. Effectively, he’s a genie granting her a wish – though there are limits.
When asked what nudge she would want, Alyx says she wants the Combine off Earth, but the G-Man explains that’s too big an ask – and not in the interest of his employers. Instead, he offers her something she doesn’t know she wants yet: the chance to save her father’s life in the future.
How Half-Life: Alyx Connects to Half-Life 2
For Half-Life fans, this is where stuff gets crazy. The G-Man shows Alyx a moment five years in the future – the exact cliffhanger ending of Half-Life 2: Episode 2, when Eli Vance has just been killed by a Combine Advisor and Alyx is cradling his lifeless body in her arms. The G-Man then rewinds time to just before Eli’s death and gives her the chance to kill the Combine Advisor before it can murder him. She does so, saving Eli’s life and ending the Advisor’s.
Her father saved and her “nudge” made, the G-Man then explains that Alyx has proven herself to be of “extraordinary value.” He manifests a crowbar, and then steps away to reveal Gordon Freeman behind him as he talks about how a “previous hire has been unable or unwilling to perform the tasks laid before him,” and that they have had difficulty finding a replacement for him… until now.
This is a reference to the start of Half-Life 2: Episode 1 (and many of the events of Episode 2 in general). When the G-Man comes to take Gordon back after the Citadel explodes at the end of Half-Life 2, he is stopped from doing so by the Vortigaunts and does not seem happy about it. Gordon not returning to the G-Man’s custody is the unwillingness referenced here.
Later, in Episode 2, the Vortigaunts work to save Alyx’s life, giving the G-Man a moment to freeze time and speak with Gordon while they can’t protect him. The conversation is about Alyx, and the G-Man reveals he was the one who saved her from the Black Mesa incident when she was a child, and that he is confident that “she was worth far more than the initial appraisal.” He tasks Gordon with making sure Alyx makes it to White Forest, the facility at the end of Episode 2 (which we just saw the end of in Alyx) but it was never explained why… Now we finally know.
Back to Alyx we go again. Just before the credits start to roll, the G-Man “hires” Alyx and presumably locks her in stasis to await her next “mission” (as Gordon was after the first Half-Life). But it’s not over: there’s a post-credits scene where the full implication of these events is made clear.
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Suddenly, you’re seeing through the eyes of Gordon Freeman seconds after the now-altered ending of Episode 2. Eli is alive in front of you, the Advisor is dead behind him, and Alyx is gone. Eli is angrily telling you that the G-Man took her (and you can actually briefly see him walk away if you look to your left), which means she was plucked out of space and time at this moment, not five years earlier when she chronologically would have freed the G-Man from his cell.
The G-Man is an interdimensional, time traveling being, which means his timeline is pretty messy. He had clearly already experienced the events of Half-Life 2’s future when he was captured in Alyx’s past, so my recommendation here is to not think about that part of it too hard.
Eli yells “son of a bitch and his unforeseen consequences,” another reference to the events of Episode 2, where the G-Man has Alyx tell Eli to “prepare for unforeseen consequences.” ‘Unforeseen Consequences’ is also the name of the chapter in the first Half-Life where the Black Mesa incident begins. In Episode 2, Eli says the last time he heard those words was when the G-Man whispered them in his ear right before the incident, referring to him as “our mutual friend” and saying he was the one who brought in the crystal that caused the incident (and thus the eventual Combine invasion of Earth) in the first place.
With Alyx now gone and Eli alive, you see Alyx’s pet robot Dog (of whom there are actually early sketches and a “younger” photo of back in Alyx’s room at the start of the game) arrive as Eli says he wants to kill the G-man when he gets his hands on him. Dog delivers a crowbar to Eli, who hands it to Gordon – you – and says “we’ve got work to do.” Then it ends.
If you want FULL spoilers, you can watch the video above to see Alyx’s ending for yourself.
So while Half-Life: Alyx is a prequel, it’s essentially filling in the gap of what the G-Man’s message of “unforeseen consequences” in Episode 2 actually meant (as well as reversing Eli’s death, 13 years after one of gaming’s most notorious cliffhangers). With Alyx now in his custody, the torch (er, crowbar) is passed back to Gordon Freeman and a new Half-Life game is seemingly set up to pick up directly where the now slightly altered Episode 2 left off.
So… Half-Life 3 confirmed, I guess?
This ending is pretty significant for a number of reasons, altering Episode 2, getting the story ready for a proper sequel, and filling in key details from the past. It’s a lot to take in, and I imagine we’ll be dealing with its unforeseen consequences for a long time to come. You can check out our full review of Half-Life: Alyx here.
Tom Marks is IGN’s Deputy Reviews Editor and resident pie maker. You can follow him on Twitter.