Check out our Tom’s hands on review with Half Life Alyx, played on the Oculus Quest. We’ll give you the lowdown on everything you need to know before you play.
Hello and welcome to our review of Half Life Alyx. We’ll give you the lowdown on everything you need to know before you play, but before I do, make sure to hit subscribe and the notification bell to make sure you don’t miss a single video!
They said it’d never happen, they said you’d be mad to believe it would happen, but it has indeed happened… sort of. After 13 long years, a new Half Life game is here! Ok, it may not be Half Life 3, but Half Life Alyx is still something to get excited about.
A prequel taking place between the original Half Life and Half Life 2, you play as series icon Alyx Vance, on a mission to save your father Eli and while you’re at it, potentially steal a super weapon right from under the noses of the evil, invading Combine.
Half Life Alyx is exclusively available in VR, with Valve using it as a unit pusher for their latest Index headset. The decision to make the game VR only was a controversial one, given the necessary tech is still pretty expensive, not to mention you need a fair amount of space to play in to get the full experience.
Will the gamble pay off, or will it prove more painful than a night in Ravenholm? Watch on to find out.
Firstly, and probably most importantly, the VR elements work very, very well. In fact as good, if not better, than any home VR experience I can recall to date. Half Life has always been as much a puzzle game as a first person shooter, and the addition of VR ramps this up to a whole other level of immersion. The new gravity gloves make everything more tangible, allowing you to interact with almost anything not nailed down. From finding your way through to the next part of the world, to aimlessly pilfering through junk, it all feels real and satisfying.
The added immersion also makes certain moments genuinely frightening. Barnacles were once just an annoyance to avoid, now I actively run from them, lest I have that horrid chomping maw drag me in. Headcrabs have also never made me jump quite as much as this!
I can also confirm it is a full game, quashing any rumours of it being a throwaway spinoff or tech demo. It’s the quintessential Half Life experience, taking place throughout and underneath the familiar setting of City 17. Compared to previous games in the series, you only have a limited arsenal of weapons, and reloading is a far more manual process in VR, but all this adds to the sense of tension as you fight against seemingly insurmountable odds. And just a quick not on the story, make sure you’re up to speed on what happened in the previous games. Without spoiling anything, I’ll reiterate that this isn’t a throwaway spinoff, and the plot of Half Life Alyx has major ramifications for the wider narrative. And make sure you keep watching until after the credits for one of the most jaw dropping scenes I can remember witnessing in a video game.
It’s also just nice to see the world of Half Life with current gen visuals. Graphics never make or break a game, but when you remember how groundbreaking they were in Half Life 2, it’s good to have that feeling of realism once again.
Now as you can probably already tell, I’m a massive fan of Half Life Alyx. But I am also an ethical journalist, and as such I feel duty bound to address the elephant in the room. There’s no getting away from the limitations of VR. It does offer you different ways to play, ranging from fully standing in a wide open room, to experiencing everything stationary and seated.
Alas I had to choose the latter, and while I still had a blast playing, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t getting the optimal package. But honestly that’s more of a critique of the technology, rather than the game itself, and it’s great to see the likes of Valve pushing what VR can do.
To wrap, Half Life Alyx is a triumphant return for the franchise, and demonstrates the team at Valve still have it in them to make a great single player experience. VR may still be a novelty to some, but Half Life: Alyx highlights how when used effectively, it’s a powerful tool.
Now release Half Life 3 you cowards!
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