New Half-Life: Alyx gameplay details shown from footage by Tested
VR prequel runs on any headset with SteamVR access
Clement Goh |
Dec 23, 2019
Tested host Norman Chan tries his best to be quiet inside a derelict subway train. Crouching steadily, his hands slide open doors to the next car.
A headcrab zombie waits for Chan on the other side and begins shuffling towards him. Without hesitating, he quickly pulls out his gun and empties the last three bullets before the slide locks back. A panicked Chan manages to teleport away from the zombie’s violent swing. He reaches over his shoulder for a new clip, but realizes there aren’t any. A nervous smile draws on Chan’s VR-covered face as the zombie closes in.
Alyx uses its VR platform to turn up the chills felt
by players across the beloved first person shooter series. It’s also Valve’s
answer to a new Half-Life game fans
have been asking for since the last installment in 2007.
In their latest 100th
episode, Chan and former Tested
editor Will Smith dove into three hours of Alyx
at Valve Corporation’s headquarters in Washington. Announced in late November, players become Half-Life 2 partner Alyx Vance in an
original story set before meeting Gordon Freeman.
But according to Chan, Alyx is looking to reach most users “on the widest range of
PC-based VR headsets with motion controls.” It’s also compatible with eight of
the headsets tested with Steam VR:
Oculus Rift S & Oculus Quest
(with Link cable)
Oculus Rift CV1 (first generation)
HTC Vive Cosmos
HTC Vive (first generation)
Samsung HMD Odyssey+ with WMR
Pimax 5K Plus with Index
Based on the off-screen gameplay in the
30-minute hands-on, VR users might feel right at home with Alyx if they’ve played other shooters like Arizona Sunshineor Boneworks.
For those entering VR through Half Life, they’ll be relying on
locomotion options from teleporting to throttling. Valve’s efforts to make the
game accessible are apparent and even offers a seated experience for stationary
The hands-on confirms Alyx will let users move by blinking from one spot to another. Like
Epic Games’ Robo Recall, it also
includes choosing which direction to face before letting go and teleporting.
Personally, I think this is the best way to reduce headaches and increase
comfort during longer play sessions.
On the game’s official compatibility
page, users who gained their “VR Legs” by overcoming motion sickness
can also move around with their analog sticks. Others can also “shift”, which
lets players teleport around without losing track of their surroundings.
Staying in motion is the key to surviving
encounters with the Combine or other strange Xen enemies. Combat relies
exclusively on VR motion controllers across all platforms and lets you handle
full-sized varieties of handguns, shotguns and assault weapons.
A level of satisfaction comes from steadying
weapons and chambering rounds manually in games such as Pavlov and Hot Dogs,
Horseshoes & Hand Grenades. In Alyx,
the same VR gun rules apply and reloading adds tension when enemies get closer.
More importantly, you’ll need steady hands to
aim for weak spots. Much like the Dead
Space series, headcrab zombies fall apart quicker if you strategically aim
for the knees or head (with some enemies having colored spots to set your
Other situations encourage you to holster your
gun for creepier enemies like the ceiling barnacles, which return to fish you
away if you’re not careful. Luckily, you can feed them grenades or explosive
canisters nearby and watch them come down (in pieces).
If you though low-resolution headcrabs were
terrifying enough from your monitor, these life-sized VR ones will mercilessly jump on your face and
you’ll have to use your hands to pry them off. You’ve been warned.
Be careful about taking too many hits, as the
gameplay also showed a three-heart health system. Take damage, you’ll lose a
heart. Thankfully, you can pick up medical stims which can be found by smashing
crates and rummaging for supplies.
Scavenging was also shown to help you collect
ammo and keycards which can be placed in an inventory system. It’s unknown if
hidden Lambda symbols will be back across Alyx’s subways, streets and underground
corridors (and if extra exploring brings achievements for Steam bragging
For VR, you won’t be using a Gravity Gun for
physics this time around. Instead, you’ll be using new gravity gloves which let
you use the force grab and throw objects from a distance. A small screen
on your hand also shows health and an unknown “resin” count.
It’s also a clever way of bringing in VR-standard telekinesis controls from I Expect You To Die and Virtual Virtual Reality into the game, using technology in the Half-Life universe.
But your hands might have some real-world
problems depending on what controllers are being used. Problems rose when Chan
struggled to slide his pistol with the larger tracking rings from Windows Mixed
“In fact, it’s more of the physical design of
the other controllers that got in the way of me playing the game,” said Chan
during the demo’s afterthoughts.
He also found that most dexterity came from
the Valve Index controllers, which allowed for individual finger tracking with
Alyx Vance’s hand models.
But is Alyx
being tailored to benefit Valve’s native headset the most?
“It seems like they haven’t,” Chan said.
“They’ve done a bunch of work to adapt the things that you can do in-game, to
work on all these other controllers.”
Life: Alyx is coming to all SteamVR compatible headsets in March 2020. You can
read our November announcement coverage here. The game can also be pre-purchased on
Steam and comes as a free title for all Valve Index Controller owners.
see the full 30-minute hands-on video by Tested below