Half-Life: Alyx is the first properly high budget virtual reality effort from a major studio
The previous game in the Half-Life series ended on a cliffhanger, and since then, the franchise sat in limbo for over a decade. By the time Half-Life: Alyx was announced, most had given up hope of a sequel. The inflated expectations for a new Half Life game made constructing a sequel too daunting a task for developer Valve to ever release anything, but now they have. Does it live up to the hype?
For the most part, yes.
With the majority of people currently stuck inside, virtual reality is one of the best ways to pretend you’re not. The problem is the high price point. Currently the barrier for entry for a VR headset is a minimum of $400, and that doesn’t include a gaming PC that meets the hefty requirements of VR. Those PCs generally start at $600. Up to this point, small-scale games made up the majority of the VR catalog. VR lacked a system seller to justify the high price point.
Luckily, Half-Life: Alyx is an incredible game. It takes what made the older Half-Life games great on a 2D screen and translates them to the 3D space with an incredible amount of polish.
In Half-Life 2, your main method of interacting with the world was the gravity gun, the weapon that could pick up and manipulate nearly any object in the world around you. In Half-Life: Alyx you have gravity gloves.
These gloves let you aim your hands at nearly any object, press the grab button and flick your wrist to bring that item towards you. It’s an action so simple and satisfying to perform that since playing I have on several occasions found myself with the urge to perform it in my day-to-day life.
The game’s story is excellent, but can feel sparse at times. Some chapters should have more dialogue than they do, but the writing and performances that are there are excellent.
During those few encounters with human characters I was in awe at how life-like they were. If there’s anything about the game that is a disappointment, it would have to be the lack of melee weapons. You can pick up almost anything in the environment, but none of it can actually harm enemies. Half-Life is known for having the crowbar as a weapon, so it’s weird to not have that in this game.
These are all nitpicks though. Half-Life: Alyx is proof that VR as a medium can work. It’s proof that virtual reality can be its own storytelling medium, with its own stories and experiences and that gets me excited for the future of gaming.