If you live under a rock you may well have missed the announcement of Half-Life: Alyx, the latest game in the Half-Life franchise. Alyx is not Half-Life 3 unfortunately, but it is another full-length game in the franchise, set between the first two games, which is definitely a good thing. Valve announced the game early last week, and released a pretty epic trailer on Thursday, check it out below.
The most striking thing about Half-Life: Alyx is the fact that it’s a VR game. All the Half-Life games have been set in first person, but this is the first VR game in the franchise. Looking at the trailer, it seems as though the universe is well suited to VR, but it’s obviously had an upgrade since Half-Life 2.
Players only see Alyx’s hands in the game, and that’s on purpose. VR games that have more of the protagonist’s arms in them, up to the elbows for example, present users with an issue when playing. Since they can see more of their arms than they’re used to seeing in the VR game, players feel disoriented, and even a little taken out of the game. By only showing Alyx’s hands, players will be more immersed in Half-Life: Alyx than most other VR games.
I’m still astounded by the gameplay shown in this trailer. The speed at which the user is able to pick up items and move looks to be way more responsive than any other VR game I’ve seen. It looks like Valve has put real effort into making controls easy to use, as opposed to other VR games that require very deliberate actions in order to work.
I’m also really into the way that the healing stations and weapons work. In the trailer we see Alyx healing herself with one hand, which is the one that holds her health metre, whilst shooting Crabhead Zombies with the other, dodging around the health station as she does it. This is the kind of immersive gameplay that VR was built for, and it’s so good to see it in action.
Towards the end of the trailer we also see Alyx searching for shells for a shotgun pistol. This wouldn’t be that remarkable, except that Alyx has to pick up a shell, load it very deliberately, cock the pistol, all just to shoot an enemy. It’s rare to see this sort of action in a triple A game’s cutscene, let alone an on-rails action segment with QTEs. This is something very different, it’s putting the onus on the player to save themselves in any way possible.
Half-Life games have always been a bit different when they launch, but they often set the bar for future games to reach. I reckon we’ll see so many more unique features like this almost arduous reload sequence in Half-Life: Alyx, and I think they’ll become staples of all action games moving forward in the next generation.