Half-Life: Alyx will be the first we've seen of Half-Life 2's breakout character since 2007. And mostly what we'll be seeing is her hands, as we embody her in virtual reality using high-tech "gravity gloves" to manipulate physics objects and no doubt throw things at some Combine soldiers.
While Gordon Freeman remained voiceless across the Half-Life series in the sequel and its follow-ups, Alyx Vance filled many of those silences. Alyx won't stop talking as she makes the transition from NPC to PC. It wasn't an easy decision, as designer Greg Coomer told us. "Previously, Half-Life games have always had a silent protagonist. We try to avoid being dogmatic about any game design choice. All of these choices are trade-offs, and that's definitely the case with silent protagonists."
Letting Alyx have a voice will ensure she feels different to play than Gordon did, Greg went on to explain, and opens up new storytelling options. "Alyx being an active participant in conversations made it much, much easier to incorporate narrative into the game in natural ways, and as a result, there's a higher density of storytelling over the course of the game."
While Alyx was voiced by Merle Dandridge in previous games, in this prequel she'll be played by Ozioma Akagha, who you may know from TV's Runaways or prior voice work in Wolfenstein II and Mirror's Edge: Catalyst. It's been 12 years since we last heard Alyx in Half-Life 2: Episode 2, but it's still going to be a change we'll need to adjust to. "Casting choices are incredibly hard, especially considering the time gap," Coomer told us. "With the game being a prequel featuring an even younger Alyx, when we heard Ozioma's performance we knew we'd found the right Alyx."
Greg explained Alyx's father Eli Vance also has a new voice—he was previously portrayed by Robert Guillaume, who died in 2017. "One of the real regrets we have about so much time passing between games is that we lost Robert Guillaume," Coomer said, noting that Robert Culp, who voiced Dr. Breen, has also died in the years since. "The new voice of Eli, James Moses Black, has big shoes to fill," he said, "but we're all excited about his performance and we can't wait for players to hear it."
Recasting voice actors is obviously a fraught business, and fans don't always respond well to it, as seen in the reaction to Troy Baker's replacement in Borderlands 3 or Ashly Burch no longer playing Chloe in Life is Strange: Before the Storm during the SAG-AFTRA strike. That said, Destiny players seem to have adjusted to Nolan North taking over from Peter Dinklage as Ghost and if you noticed Mordin Solus changing actors between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 you've got a keener ear than I do.
Some familiar voices will be returning for Half-Life: Alyx. Mike Shapiro will once again provide the unearthly voice of the G-Man, Ellen McLain (aka GladOS) is doing the voice for the Combine Overwatch broadcasts, and Tony Todd (who will always be the villain from Candyman to me) returns as the alien Vortigaunts.
Half-Life: Alyx will be out in March 2020.