Game developer, Valve Software’s latest installment of their Half-Life imprint marks the first full-length release for Virtual Reality (VR) . Half-Life: Alyx fully immerses players in a dystopian environment, as the game revisits City 17 while delivering hours of nail biting thrill.
The first addition to the Half-Life series since 2007, Half-Life: Alyx offers a fully immersive First-Person Shooter (FPS) experience. Being an expansion of the Half-Life story, players are given control of main Half-Life character, Gordon Freeman’s comrade, Alyx Vance, to explore, solve puzzles and blast their way to their objectives as members of the Combine resistance movement.
Half-Life: Alyx takes place about five years prior to the events of Half-Life 2; in which Freeman regains consciousness after a 20 year nap, only to find the world overrun by an alien race, the Combine. Alyx, and her father – a former colleague of Freeman’s – find themselves taken captive by the Combine. Alyx manages an escape with the aid of fellow freedom fighter, Russell (voiced by comedian, Rhys Darby), who also informs her that her father, Eli, will soon be carted off to Nova Prospekt for interrogation (never a fun prospect).
Alyx, after travelling through the Quarantine Zone outside of City 17, manages to save her dad. She accomplishes this task with the help of a weird Vortigaunt, who prevents Eli from falling off the wreckage they had just caused in order to save him. Note that the Vortigaunt predicted an untimely end for Alyx’s old man in an earlier conversation with the lass.
It’s not happily ever after time yet however, as Eli tells his daughter theat he learned of a super-weapon that could tip the scales in favor of their enemy. Now Alyx is tasked with perambulating the Quarantine Zone and locating the vault containing the super-weapon.
Alyx then shuts down the power station keeping the vault airborne (the faults fload in midair), only to find that the vaults are being kept up by enslaved Vortigaunt. It turns out that the Vault is not a weapon containment unit, but rather, a prison. A prison holding, what is first assumed to be the missing Freeman, but what Alyx discovers may leave players wondering when the next installment of Half-Life will be ready (we’re talking big, integral-to-the-story type stuff here).
Gameplay & Graphics
Half-Life Alyx, widely touted as VR’s killer app, delivers a spectacular immersive experience, with the crispest graphics one has encountered in quite a long time. Half-Life Alyx places the player right inside City 17, sparse ammo, dangerous atmosphere, and all.
Half Life staples, like head crabs, and puzzles have not been left out, but have undergone a VR tweak that makes every battle Alyx encounters a real challenge.
Replacing the gravity gun, however, are a pair of gravity gloves designed to help the wearer better interact with the world around them. The gloves enable a player to pull objects from a distance, and/or use said objects to distract would-be opponents.
Though the game requires a lot of movement during gameplay (crouching, aiming, throwing, etc.) one thing that takes some getting used to is how one traverses spaces in a VR game setting. As walking space may be limited, Alyx, as with other VR games, enables users to float through or teleport from one point on the map to another (if Room Scaling, or an attached Joystick are not an option). One may need to finetune their use of this feature as they may teleport themselves into a firefight, more often than not.
Alyx Vance vs Gordon Freeman
While Freeman offered an unshakable, 90’s action hero-like character, Alyx Vance’s adolescent character is more fitted for the thrill that Half-Life: Alyx delivers. She seems more nervous and out of her depth than Freeman did.
Taking VR Mainstream.
Having been in development since 2016, Half-Life Alyx released, to much fanfare, in March of 2020. Though the are no official numbers as of yet, it is postulated that
Alyx may be responsible for a spike in VR headset sales in the leadup to the game’s official release. Apparently several VR headset brands sold out in the two month period preceding the release of Half-Life: Alyx.
The release of Alyx, as it appears, may have been a boon for the struggling VR industry, taking a gaming franchise with a large cult following, and giving it a full-length VR build-out may have attracted a large number of, previously on-the-fence, gamers to virtual reality based gaming. Other gaming firms will likely be following suit, given the critical acclaim Alyx received. If they steal a page from Valve’s playbook, by putting out full-length VR versions of their most popular franchises, then it will be safe to say that VR has just entered the mainstream.