Half-Life: Alyx is a brand-new game that will move the Half-Life story forward for the first time in over a decade. The catch? You’ll need a VR headset to play it.
Half-Life: Alyx is one of the three flagship VR titles Valve has been working on for the past few years. Earlier this year, alongside the reveal of the Valve Index VR headset, the company teased that one of those flagship titles would release sometime in 2019. Valve operates on Valve time, however, so we’re not getting Half-Life: Alyx until early 2020. Check out the trailer below.
The game isn’t exactly Half-Life 3, but it’s still a fully-fledged mainline Half-Life game. It’s set between the events of the first and second games and features all the hallmarks of a Half-Life game, including exploration, puzzle-solving, and combat. This is a complete video game built from the ground up for VR, not a short experience that only lasts a few hours. It’s reportedly the same length as Half-Life 2, putting this game at around 15 hours or so.
The game doesn’t appear to be VR just for the sake of being VR, either. In the trailer, you can see Alyx interacting with the world in ways you wouldn’t normally see in traditional games. She moves things out of the way on shelves and even throws a box at an enemy to stun them at one point. VR allows for a level of physicality and experimentation that you just can’t recreate with a normal controller. It’s something that’s hard to convey without actually putting someone in a headset.
The problem with getting people in the headset is the price tag, but thankfully, Half-Life: Alyx won’t break the bank entirely. The game is free for all Valve Index owners (which isn’t saying much considering the Index costs $1000), but anyone with a VR headset will be able to play Alyx due to the open nature of SteamVR. HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Windows Mixed Reality owners will all be able to partake in the fun, but the game will have bonus content and functionality on the Index (plus, those Knuckles controllers are super cool). Even Oculus Quest owners will be able to play Half-Life: Alyx thanks to Oculus Link, which just entered beta this week.
Getting into VR can be expensive, but it isn’t as expensive as it used to be. Three years ago, an Oculus Rift would set you back $600 plus an extra $100 for the Touch controllers. Now, an Oculus Rift S or Oculus Quest only costs $400 with the controllers included, and the hardware is greatly improved, removing the need for external cameras entirely. If you don’t want to spend too much, you can pick up a cheaper Windows Mixed Reality headset, which can be as cheap as $150 and even cheaper used. With a $60 game purchase on top, that’s still a lot to ask for some people, but VR is still cutting-edge hardware, and cutting-edge hardware can get expensive.
Then there’s the misconception that you need a $1000 PC to even run VR games. Yes, you need a decent PC, but if you’re already playing the latest PC games, even on low to medium settings, you’re fine. Can you play Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order on PC with medium to high settings? How about The Outer Worlds? If you can, then congrats! Your PC is VR ready! The minimum requirements for VR have actually gone down since release, with the minimum recommended graphics card for an Oculus Rift being a GTX 960 or equivalent. More demanding games like Half-Life: Alyx require a GTX 1060, which is the most popular card amongst Steam users.
Back to Half-Life: Alyx, though. Valve will also be releasing Source 2 tools alongside the game, allowing users to create endless custom content. Custom levels and game modes will be created by users post-launch, and maybe we’ll even see some innovative new fan games spawned from these tools, just like how Counter-Strike originally began as a Half-Life mod.
Half-Life: Alyx will be released in March 2020 for all SteamVR compatible headsets, including Valve Index, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Windows Mixed Reality, and now even Oculus Quest thanks to Oculus Link. The game is available for pre-order on Steam now with a 10% percent discount leading up to launch.