Reviewed on a RTX3080 with Oculus Quest 2
I know, I know…. Half Life: Alyx launched March 23rd, 2020. At the time, had moved and with Oculus Rift there are all those wires for all those sensors, I just didn’t have the room to play such a masterclass of a game. I desired Oculus Rift S because of its sensor-less nature, but then I heard rumors of Quest 2 being a much more powerful version in comparison and so, I waited patiently. Fast forward Christmas 2021 and my wife gifts me Oculus Quest 2. I was a happy grown boy.
Between the Oculus Rift S and Quest 2 – Quest 2 outperforms it by a large margin; per eye pixel count is 1832×1920, has 120Hz refresh rate, slightly better viewing angles and the ability to go portable or as a Rift device – SteamVR included. And sure, it launched just a few months after Alyx, but I totally forgot about it because of Destiny 2 Beyond Light. Now, enough of why I shamefully waited so long to play Half Life: Alyx. Let’s talk about why not only is Half Life: Alyx the baseline of VR games, but also one of the best games in the market, and probably the best Half Life title in the series.
5 Years Before Half Life: Episode 2….or is it?
You play as Alyx Vance, daughter of Eli Vance – the event take place 5 years before the ending of Half Life: Episode 2. At this point, the Combine has won, and humanity struggles to survive against their new oppressors. No one knows what has happened with Gordon Freeman, Eli Vance is captured and everyone’s only chance of winning this war is finding him. Soon after you uncover the Vault, a super weapon that could end the Combine’s grip to humanity, information that tips the balance of what’s to come in the series.
The story is told in both equal parts environmental and voice acting. Valve’s approach with their famous physics and their clever VR space has proven to me that their level of game development is unmatched; no VR game has yet caught up with the level of pacing in which Half Life: Alyx is providing. Valve has showcased excellent story telling through your surroundings and sound while moving within their VR space – creating such an intense immersion factor. If you have the machine to be able to run this at its peak, you will find that coupling these elements with Alyx’s unparalleled graphical fidelity is one experience that is overwhelmingly powerful.
This is how it’s Done
My living room has enough space for me to take several steps in all directions – and with the help of Oculus’ passthrough tech, I avoided slapping walls and my big screen TV with ease. This helped me navigate the world of Alyx with comfort and freedom. Half Life: Alyx plays pretty much like every FPS VR shooter, but what makes this special is the number of items you can interact with in physics – when I realized I can pick up and toss items like toothbrushes, forks, squished cans, books, calculators, I was blown away. Oh, and it’s not like 2 or 3 items per room, its usually jam packed with items you can physically interact with, it’s amazing especially when you realize that the environment is also crafted with amazing sense of detail too. Although the chapters are separated in levels, you can backtrack and explore, which often rewards you with ammo and Resin – items used to upgrade your weapons. This is a survival game, which means ammo and health is very limited; you have to check every drawer and closet to replenish your inventory because if you don’t, it will cost you a restart.
With every encounter, I found myself taken back with the freedom of movement. This game is encouraging you as a player to play this as a traditionally designed AAA game for consoles, but with your actual body. When you combine the fact that each Combine (see what I did…. never mind) soldier is varied and unique with their own sense of weakness and strength, Half Life: Alyx feels a lot more like a truly realized pinnacle VR game, rather than the stand-still VR games we had up until the initially release. Truly, maneuvering within the VR space never felt more organic, even comparing to VR games today.
It also heightens the immersion when the weapons feel absolutely amazing to shoot – oh, and your hands are equipped with a tech that can pull items from a distance to you. This has proven to be an intuitive element – there were moments I was low on health and pulling a health injector from a distant foe saved my life. Or, when an enemy tossed a grenade, and I used my ability to pull it to me and toss it back. It feels so awesome to pull off tricks like that; more often than not, I would pull large boxes that was behind zombies to stumble them, giving me time to flee and recover. Oh yeah, there’s zombies and other infectious monsters that gives great sense of tension. It honestly felt like I was playing The Last of Us in VR sometimes. Additionally, there’s a great amount of environmental puzzle solving with the use of your multi-purpose gadget. You will be using the device to solve your path forward, unlock upgrade stations and even storage units. All of which comes with unique VR puzzles utilizing your hands – it’s really awesome.
I couldn’t believe that it took me 15hrs to complete my playthrough of Half Life: Alyx – a fully-fledged AAA game with absolutely impressive graphical fidelity, gameplay interaction, exploration, puzzles and story pacing. I’m not as knowledgeable as I need to be for Half Life, but the conclusion of this adventure has left me more than excited and everyone should play this monstrously gargantuan experience.
REVIEW SCORE: 10/10
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