A year on from its release, we look back on Half-Life Alyx and see why its still the undisputed king of VR gaming and still the very best that VR has to offer. It set the benchmark for VR gaming that so far, is unrivalled in its mastery. It’s not just a fantastic VR game; it’s a fantastic video game, period
It was 13 years since the last Half Life game came out that Valve released this masterpiece and any truly immersive VR gaming was in itself still a distant fantasy. There had been 11 previous Half Life games prior to Alyx, and they really did save the best till last. Make no mistake, this is no Half Life 3 money grab.
Alyx isn’t a direct continuation of Half-Life’s epic story. Instead, it takes place five years before the events of Half-Life 2 (2004 release). There will be no spoilers here, but we will warn you now, you’ll want to keep your VR headset on until the credits roll. You don’t play as the series champion Gordon Freeman, instead as his Half-Life 2 companion Alyx Vance. In this epic prequel, Alyx is a 19-year-old rebel who stands fighting a guerrilla war against a force of alien invaders, known as the Combine. Your father, Eli, has been abducted by Civil Protection, and your job is to venture into the City’s alien-infested quarantine zone to rescue him back.
Alyx will have access to several VR-enhanced tools at her disposal for the journey ahead. A pair of gravity gloves will enable her to move objects with a flick of the wrist, which can then be caught mid-air by pressing the controller’s grip buttons. Alyx also has a remote device for hacking electrical systems, and an array of weapons that must all be handled, aimed, and reloaded using virtual hands. You can move continuously by holding an analog stick, but using the “Blink” setting offers instant teleportation. A perfect alternative to help those with any VR sickness.
Aside from the new first person perspective, Alyx will feel very much like the traditional Half-Life game fans are familiar with. Set up as a series of areas, launching into the City 17 neighborhood, moving underground, through more intense industrial areas like a distillery, high-tech Combine facilities, discovering alien nests and much more. The campaign itself will provide at least 15 hours of gameplay action, each chapter so much more different from the last. Great value for gamers who are more used to finishing some more recent VR games in a mere fraction of the time.
Although combat is a major part of the journey, so is puzzle-solving. There are some clever hacking puzzles which will pop up when you go to unlock some of the Combine technology. Whilst not particularly difficult, all of them make heavy use of VR’s ability to use the entire 3D environment. There’s also some environmental puzzles to crack too. In this game, Half Life fans will be more than aware that simply getting from one place to another is often more complicated than it seems.
A stunning visual masterpiece which sets the bar for all other VR developers to look towards, Half Life Alyx is a must for any gamer.
What do I need to play Half Life Alyx today?
The game: Get it today for $59.99/£46.99 from Steam.
VR headset: Alyx works on various Windows-based, Steam-VR compatible headsets. Creators Valve have their own headset, the Index, but it will even with Facebook’s standalone Oculus Quest.
Gaming PC: Alyx will work on many headsets because it will utilize the computers hardware to do the hard work. You’ll ned a gaming PC in order to run the game behind the screen. Offical minimum specification for Half Life Alyz is listed below. If you game on PC already you may be ok (check our guide here), but we suggest you go higher, as you wont want to ruin the experience with inferior performance.
- OS: Windows 10 (Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system)
- Processor: Core i5-7500 / Ryzen 5 1600
- Memory: 12 GB RAM
- Graphics: GTX 1060 / RX 580 – 6GB VRAM