Funnily enough, about a month before Half-Life: Alyx was revealed to the world I had just finished up another playthrough of all the Half-Life 2 games. I needed something to play during DnD sessions when my character had just finished up their turn and the game in question couldn’t be too taxing on my PC because of the abundance of Chrome tabs I have open when I’m in the middle of a hot round of role-playing, you naught bugger.
Half-Life 2 was my go to game, largely because I’ve played them all so often that I don’t need any hints as to what is happening in the story and those games still remain utterly satisfying to this day. I’m sure most people would agree. Yet the real question was whether or not Half-Life would make for a compelling VR experience. Not just compelling, mind you, but game-changing given Valve’s reputation at this point. While initial gameplay reveals showed off a game that looked like a fairly stock-standard VR shooting gallery, these newly unveiled clips of Half-Life: Alyx paint a very different picture.
The biggest thing to take from the first clip I think, is how Valve is going all in on the realism of Half-Life: Alyx. Beyond the more obvious canonical sci-fi elements of gameplay and the mechanical necessity of teleporting for movement, the player is expected to largely do things without the help of systems and menus. Looting a locker or a trashcan isn’t done with a handy auto-collect feature or sub-menu, you’ll be required to dig around in them and actually search for stuff that’s useful. Beyond that, it’s impressive how much emphasis is placed on interacting with the environment beyond just resource collection. The poking of a limp headcrab to see if it’s actually dead is a really nice touch.
The second video is more about showing the utility of the gravity glove as a means to solve puzzles in the game world over a tool for combat. Starting off with a fairly robust looking hacking mini-game. It’s certainly a less action-packed piece of gameplay but it shows off some classic Half-Life enemies in action, including some new weapons and tools for how to deal with them.
The last clip is a deeper dive on the implementation of the environment during combat and weapon variations being equipped and changed on the fly. It’s also totally possible to catch a grenade in mi-air and throw it and really, is that not what the promise of VR has always been. There also appears to be a range of new Combine soldiers with unique weapons and battle roles which should make combat feel a little more fresh and robust over Half-Life 2’s original faceless army of thugs with different guns.
I’ve never really looked at VR as a thing I needed in my life, thinking it was far more often than not a gimmick save for a select few games. Yet if these trailers have done anything…it’s made me want to jump on the VR bandwagon because Half-Life: Alyx actually looks really good. If Valve can maintain that level of quality over the course of what is meant to be a fairly lengthy campaign, this might actually be the killer app VR has needed for a while now.
Last Updated: March 3, 2020