Valve pioneering the medium of gaming once again.

While I wasn’t old enough at the time to experience Steam and Half-Life in its heyday, I’ve grown up hearing all the stories about them. Even though I didn’t experience it first hand I can still see the influence Half-Life has had on the industry and Half-Life: Alyx is just a natural continuation of that legacy.

Game Name: Half-Life: Alyx
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed)
Publisher(s): Valve
Developer(s): Valve
Release Date: March 23rd, 2020
Price: £46.49 / $59.99 USD

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Half-Life: Alyx is a VR only title that is a continuation of the legendary Half-Life series which had its last entry 13 years ago. The VR nature of Half-Life: Alyx has divided fans a little, I personally feel that Valve made this decision because they make games to further the medium rather than just to make another one and VR right now is the wild west waiting to be pioneered.

If you’re a regular on this site you’ll know I’m a fan of VR as I feel it is the future of modern gaming, so you can believe me when I say that Half-Life: Alyx is the best VR game I’ve had the pleasure of playing so far.

Half Life Alyx review - don't shoot

The gameplay of Half-Life: Alyx focuses on exploration and combat and like most VR games, you are in full control, so your effectiveness depends on how well you can aim. People who are familiar with other VR games such as Pavlov VR will be familiar with how the weapons work especially with regards to reloading manually. Going one step further, Alyx rises above the aforementioned game with responsive and intuitive shooting mechanics.

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While games such as the aforementioned Pavlov VR are more focused on realism where guns have recoil and you have manual control. Which can cause problems when trying to aim and shoot properly due to the lack of feedback you feel when shooting. Half-Life: Alyx has chosen to forego this, and thus making the game more fun, to which I found myself having a better time shooting accurately.

With regards to the movement, you can choose to either teleport everywhere or use locomotion to get from A to B. The movement system you use all comes down to personal preference, but I found the locomotion to be the more immersive option as teleportation can often be disorienting and also makes it harder to get yourself in the right position which is quite important in combat sections. Locomotion isn’t all sunshine and rainbows either, especially if you’re not used to movement VR. You can find yourself being motion sick after sessions with the game. If I may offer some friendly advice about possibly overcoming this, which is to take it slow. play in bite-sized sessions and ease yourself into the game. 

A staple of many VR games is the use of telekinesis to pull items towards you to make it easier to pick up, Half-Life: Alyx has this but with a fun little twist in the form of “The Russells”. The way they work is by reaching out to what you want to pick up, such as a pistol magazine, you ‘grip’ it and flick your hand back to fling it towards you and then you have to catch it as it reaches you. While this doesn’t sound like much it is a massively fun twist on an established VR mechanic.

In addition to the shooting and The Russells, Half-Life: Alyx also features the multi-tool which is used to open doors, loot crates, and other electronic devices. While the hacking minigames are fun to start with they become a bit overused as you approach the end of the game, it’s one of those mechanics that I’m all for but at times I wish there were some other methods of opening things. For example, you could have some doors needing to be rewired manually before they opened or you have players needing to shoot some hinges off or something. Variety is the spice of life after all and Half-Life: Alyx could use a little in its puzzles.

Half Life Alyx review - Alyx's Hands

With regards to the plot of Half-Life: Alyx, I won’t go into too much detail as I feel any Half-Life fan should experience this for themselves. However, the basic plot is you are in the shoes of Alyx Vance a few days before the events of Half-Life 2. After a routine scouting mission goes terribly wrong and your father ends up imprisoned. With you being tasked with rescuing him, which leads you to find out about a mysterious vault that the Combine is using to house a ‘Super-Weapon’. Alyx must first find herself into the vault, ascertain the nature of the weapon and then either extract or destroy it. But of course, nothing is that simple.

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Half-Life: Alyx strives to be a triple-A game in every aspect especially with its campaign if you decide to pick up Half-Life: Alyx be warned this is not a game I recommend you do in one sitting.

It took me 7 hours to complete the game which is your average campaign length in most triple-A titles. However, remember that you could be on your feet for those whole 7 hours. So be sure to take regular breaks or put the game down when your feet start to ache. Take it from me when I say that standing on your feet for more than 4 hours in one spot will absolutely kill them. While it is possible to play Half-Life: Alyx sitting down I don’t recommend it as certain parts of the game require you to crouch and as far as I could tell there was no dedicated crouch button at least not on the Oculus Rift S. 

Half-Life: Alyx is one of those rare VR games that not only great by VR standards, but it also looks good by AAA-game standards. The environments are gloomy and atmospheric with pickups standing out from a distance which is a nice change from a lot of VR games which can be blurry by comparison. Normally with great graphics come high requirements, however, that’s not the case here.  The minimum requirements of Half-Life: Alyx are quite low, though a bit higher than most VR games released to date. You can see the minimum specs below:

  • OS: Windows 10
  • Processor: Core i5-7500 / Ryzen 5 1600
  • Memory: 12 GB RAM
  • Graphics: GTX 1060 / RX 580 – 6GB VRAM

A little heads up, you may have a warning pop up when you launch up game saying your graphics card may not be up to scratch and performance may be affected. I chose to ignore that warning as it as my pc could run at medium graphics and I have just above the minimum requirements. Your experience may vary.

Half Life Alyx review - what a view

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In any VR game sound is a key component because it’s vital you know which direction a threat is coming from. For the most part Half-Life: Alyx achieves a good balance of atmospheric ambiance and in-world stimuli so the player is never overwhelmed.

My only criticism about the audio design is the soundtrack. All in all, it’s not very memorable, mostly consisting of tracks in the style of upbeat electro-pop music that just blurs together over your playtime. It just didn’t feel like it fit the atmosphere or the overall mood of the game.

Expectations were high for Half-Life: Alyx, not only is it the first Half-Life game in a long time. It’s also the first real Triple-A VR game to grace our world and I’d say that Half-Life: Alyx not only met expectations but it’s far exceeded them. At the time of writing, this is the best VR game out there right now and if you have a VR headset you need to get this.

Want more game reviews from The Outerhaven? Consider the following: 

Doom Eternal PS4 Review
Foregone (Early Access) Review
Granblue Fantasy Versus Review: A Beautifully Basic Fighting Game

Half-Life: Alyx

Summary

Prepare for the experience of your life in the best VR game yet from legendary Developers Valve. Valve have taken all their innovative ideas that they’ve kept bottle up for years and finally unleashed them unto the world.

Pros

  • Gorgeous Visuals
  • Engaging Gameplay
  • Great Story

Cons

  • Repetative Minigames
  • Uninspired Soundtrack
  • Can be slow at times
  • Half-Life: Alyx
Overall
4.5

About The Author

Conner B
Writer

People often say that I'm very vocal about my view on games and when I get going you can never stop me from yapping on and...I don't really have a response for that.