'Half-Life' franchise free until VR game's release

The studio behind "Half-Life: Alyx" is making the franchise free to play until March.

Valve Corporation really wants you to play the "Half-Life" games before "Half-Life: Alyx" comes out; if that means installing its computer gaming platform, Steam, so much the better.

Everything from "Half-Life 2" to early multiplayer spin-off "Team Fortress Classic" and alternative takes "Opposing Force" and "Blue Shift" are free to play for the next few months, the company has said.

The influential series is making a comeback in March 2020 and its development team believes that "the best way to enjoy the new game is to play through the old ones."

"Half-Life 2" and its subsequent extensions, "Half-Life 2: Episode One" and "Half-Life: Episode Two," are particularly recommended by the game development and publishing giant.

And, just as 2004's "Half-Life 2" compelled computer-based game fans to install Valve's proprietary Steam software client, "Half-Life: Alyx" is being presented as an on-ramp to virtual reality gaming.

It's compatible with the broad range of headsets that support Valve's Steam VR protocols, but appears particularly well suited to the Valve Index system, which launched midway through 2019.

"Half-Life" and its sequels tell the story of a research scientist who witnesses the opening of an interdimensional rift, resulting in the earth's invasion by an alien species.

As it turns out, that bespectacled, lab coat-wearing theoretical physicist was also a fast learner when it came to wielding everything from crowbars to anti-gravity weapons.

While "Opposing Force" and "Blue Shift" told the "Half-Life" story from different perspectives, "Half-Life: Alyx" also switches roles, this time casting players as a major supporting character from "Half-Life 2" and its episodic follow-ups.

Though it's set between the two main "Half-Life" games, it shares characters and elements with both, especially those found within "Half-Life 2" and onward.

Several community-made modifications can be used to enhance the legacy "Half-Life" experiences, perhaps most notably a highly-praised, free graphical overhaul called "Half-Life 2: Update."

Meanwhile, "Black Mesa," though not included in Valve's free promotion, is an ongoing and acclaimed project to recreate and remake the original game.

[Official trailer for Half-Life 2: Update - youtu.be/q9X7mNyTmu8]