21 votes

Half-Life: Alyx review (spoiler-free): The greatest VR adventure game yet—and then some

20 comments

  1. Deimos
    Link
    This is a great review with a lot of info and care to avoid spoilers, but a couple of roundups of all the reviews coming out today: On VGC:...

    This is a great review with a lot of info and care to avoid spoilers, but a couple of roundups of all the reviews coming out today:

    6 votes
  2. [7]
    Eric_the_Cerise
    Link
    I bought the original Half-Life circa 2002, got less than 45 minutes into it, had to quit. You know how some people get a kind of motion sickness in VR? Turns out, I get that even in...

    I bought the original Half-Life circa 2002, got less than 45 minutes into it, had to quit.

    You know how some people get a kind of motion sickness in VR? Turns out, I get that even in reasonably-immersive 2d 1st-person perspective games. Half-Life was the game in which I discovered this.

    The Elder Scrolls games (mainly Oblivion and Skyrim) are among my favorites for many reasons (open gameplay, user-added content, yada), but among them is the optional God's-eye camera view. I can play that way, but not from the "looking at the world thru the character's eyes" perspective.

    Actual VR seems to affect me the same way, although some are worse than others (the VR quality matters).

    I'll check out Alyx some day, on someone else's rig, see if my system can handle it.

    6 votes
    1. [6]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Does changing the FOV help you at all with first-person games? Most games default to somewhere around 90 which, if played at, usually makes me ill enough that I have to go lie down for an hour or...

      Does changing the FOV help you at all with first-person games? Most games default to somewhere around 90 which, if played at, usually makes me ill enough that I have to go lie down for an hour or two while my head hurts and my stomach spins. I have to bump the FOV up in almost every single first-person game to 100-105 to feel comfortable (as well as turning off things like head bob if they offer it).

      I ask because I can very much relate to your experience. I had to fight my way through Half-Life 2 which, IIRC, has a default FOV of 75 (which is nauseatingly low). The only way to change it is by console command, but the game will occasionally reset the FOV during some loading zones and cutscenes. If I didn't notice the change back to the default FOV and started playing again, I'd start to get a bad headache after only a few minutes. Unfortunately for me, by the time I realize it's starting to set in, it's already too late -- I have to go lie down and wait out the resultant hour of disorientation in misery. I forced my way through HL2 (and its episodes) only because it's considered to be one of the greatest games of all time by many out there. I, personally, consider it to be one of the most overrated games of all time, however I think my opinion is likely influenced by the fact that it is one of the few games to ever make me physically ill to such a significant degree.

      7 votes
      1. [5]
        Eric_the_Cerise
        Link Parent
        FOV? Field of view? I didn't even know it's a setting. What does it change? Every year or two, I try an hour on Skyrim (the only 1st person game I've owned for years) in 1st person view, to see if...

        FOV? Field of view? I didn't even know it's a setting. What does it change?

        Every year or two, I try an hour on Skyrim (the only 1st person game I've owned for years) in 1st person view, to see if it's still an issue. It is.

        2 votes
        1. [2]
          kfwyre
          Link Parent
          Yup! Field of view. There's a good visual guide to it here, and a video with some side-by-side examples here. A higher FOV will make the camera feel a bit more zoomed out, and you'll be able to...

          Yup! Field of view. There's a good visual guide to it here, and a video with some side-by-side examples here.

          A higher FOV will make the camera feel a bit more zoomed out, and you'll be able to see more stuff in the periphery. A lower FOV will make the camera feel a bit more zoomed in, and you'll be able to see less. I joke that a low FOV is "like looking at a game through a paper-towel roll". It feels restrictive and makes me feel really nauseous. On the other hand, if you go too big with your FOV, you'll start to get a weird "fisheye" effect that introduces some uncomfortable distortions.

          It's a bit of a goldilocks situation where I had to find an FOV that wasn't too high and isn't too low. After some experimentation, I've learned that 100-105 is usually sufficient, with anything <90 or >115 being pretty much unplayable for me. It's also dependent on how far away you sit from the screen, with narrower FOVs being more comfortable the farther away you are, and larger FOVs being more comfortable the closer you are.

          Many games will include a slider in the settings that lets you adjust the FOV to your liking. If you're playing on PC, PCGamingWiki is a good source of information about many games' FOV and whether they're easily adjustable. Here's their entry for Half-Life, which is adjustable, but not easily.

          The FOV is pretty much the defining factor of whether or not I can play a given first-person game. It, more than anything, is what needs to be right to prevent me from getting ill, and I've had to pass on a number of games that didn't let me adjust it. View bob/screen shake is a close second (I always turn it off if possible -- it's also nauseating to me in most cases). For example, I really wanted to play the Tomb Raider reboot, but I've tried twice and the shaky camera is just too much for me.

          Anyway, hopefully some of this helps! I know your pain!

          10 votes
          1. Eric_the_Cerise
            Link Parent
            Thanks. I just tracked down how to change it in Skyrim (.ini file tweak). I'll try it next time I'm set up for Skyrim.

            Thanks. I just tracked down how to change it in Skyrim (.ini file tweak). I'll try it next time I'm set up for Skyrim.

            4 votes
        2. [2]
          joplin
          Link Parent
          Yes, FOV = Field of View. Most games have it as a setting. Another thing that helps some people is playing it in a window so it's not quite so immersive. You can still see the desktop around the...

          Yes, FOV = Field of View. Most games have it as a setting.

          Another thing that helps some people is playing it in a window so it's not quite so immersive. You can still see the desktop around the edges of the window, so it makes it more like watching TV than being in it.

          6 votes
          1. Eric_the_Cerise
            Link Parent
            Thanks. For me, the 'in-window' tip sounds even more promising than the FOV setting. Will try both next time I'm set up for Skyrim.

            Thanks. For me, the 'in-window' tip sounds even more promising than the FOV setting. Will try both next time I'm set up for Skyrim.

            4 votes
  3. [4]
    ali
    Link
    Anyone here play it? I got a vive for a few weeks so I can work on a project while my university is closed for corona. So I was thinking of seizing this opportunity to play the game while I can......

    Anyone here play it?
    I got a vive for a few weeks so I can work on a project while my university is closed for corona. So I was thinking of seizing this opportunity to play the game while I can... 50 bucks is discouraging me right now, because I literally bought borderlands and animal crossing in the last week

    3 votes
    1. [3]
      PetitPrince
      Link Parent
      I do ! Background: I have an Oculus Quest and a PC describe somewhere in "Very Good" range according to LogicalIncrements (1660Ti, i5-4570K, 24 GB Ram). My taste in gaming is somewhat eclectic but...

      I do !

      Background: I have an Oculus Quest and a PC describe somewhere in "Very Good" range according to LogicalIncrements (1660Ti, i5-4570K, 24 GB Ram). My taste in gaming is somewhat eclectic but with some bias towards Japanese game. My latest played game on Steam include Yakuza 0, Devil May Cry 5, Control, Divinity Original Sin 2, Metal Gear Solid 5, Factorio, Ape Out. My most played game is Binding of Isaac and Tetris (I'm a huge Tetris nerd).
      I have my "VR legs" and I finished Boneworks without being sick.

      That said: they nailed it. It's clearly one step above anything I've played in VR.

      So it's definitely the same style as Half-Life 2 : there's an equal part exploration, combat, and puzzle.
      The first striking thing is the graphical quality. This is a beautiful game, even in my middling-to-ok system. Then they understood that what is fun in a VR game is its immersive aspect. Thusyou are incentivized to explore and search every nook and cranny (scarce ammo + this is how you get your weapon upgrade token). Then there's the traditional Valve polish where the game teach the player various mechanics and/or level gimmick without breaking immersion (see Mark Brown). I cannot comment on the game length yet as I do not want to rush it, but the Ars reviews says 15h.

      5 votes
      1. [2]
        gpl
        Link Parent
        How do they handle movement? Most games I've played (on friends' systems) have some type of point-and-click mechanics where you teleport around. It works reasonably well, especially given the...

        How do they handle movement? Most games I've played (on friends' systems) have some type of point-and-click mechanics where you teleport around. It works reasonably well, especially given the constraints of VR, but it is honestly the main thing holding me back from plunging in. To me it just feels so unnatural to be so immersed in one way (looking around, interacting with your hands, etc) but so stilted in another. Maybe it just takes some getting used to.

        3 votes
        1. PetitPrince
          Link Parent
          There's three main modes: teleportation: as you describe "shift teleportation" : the same but you see yourself moving very quickly (as if someone was force pulling you) joystick locomotion : what...

          There's three main modes:

          • teleportation: as you describe
          • "shift teleportation" : the same but you see yourself moving very quickly (as if someone was force pulling you)
          • joystick locomotion : what it says on the tin

          You can also snap rotate (instant turn by a fixed amount of degree) or continuously rotate (this get me sick quickly).

          Moving in VR definitely takes some time to get used to. If you're worried about immersion you could do some sort of redirected walking: walk to the edge of your chaperone / guardian, then rotate 180° while also turning 180° in the game. You can then continue to walk in the same direction in the virtual world. Of course this is a going to be tricky once you need to manage some headcrab zombies at the same time.

          4 votes
  4. seizethegoddamngap
    Link
    I've got about 4 hours in on my Oculus Rift CV1. This is the best VR game I've ever played and it's not even a competition at this point. • The first time I used the gravity gloves (or 'Russels'...

    I've got about 4 hours in on my Oculus Rift CV1. This is the best VR game I've ever played and it's not even a competition at this point.

    • The first time I used the gravity gloves (or 'Russels' as they are called) to pull an object towards me and grab it in mid-air is something I won't forget for a long time. I'm still giggling just thinking about it.

    • The game is stupidly beautiful. I would say my system is mid-to-upper-mid spec wise (i5-6600k, 1070 OC, 16GB) and the detail is mind blowing. When you pick up a dead zombie, the gore is grotesque and visceral; you can see individual organs shift! Alyx's fingernails have dirt underneath them. There's dust on derelect hospital beds.

    • The voice acting quality, especially when comparing it to other VR titles, really puts it in another league.

    If you don't have VR but can find a way to play it, this is a must-play. If you have a VR headset, this is the definitive VR title and a 100% must-own.

    2 votes
  5. [7]
    jcdl
    Link
    I desperately want to play this but have no headset. Is the consensus that the Index is the way to go?

    I desperately want to play this but have no headset. Is the consensus that the Index is the way to go?

    1 vote
    1. Deimos
      Link Parent
      I think Index is the best overall, but it's also very expensive. Oculus Rift S is probably the best option with a cheaper pricepoint.

      I think Index is the best overall, but it's also very expensive. Oculus Rift S is probably the best option with a cheaper pricepoint.

      4 votes
    2. TheJorro
      Link Parent
      The Samsung Odyssey+ is the most cost effective option to get into modern VR, it frequently goes on sale for just over US$200 and includes controllers. It's not a top of the line model but it's...

      The Samsung Odyssey+ is the most cost effective option to get into modern VR, it frequently goes on sale for just over US$200 and includes controllers. It's not a top of the line model but it's still better than previous generations of VR HMDs in terms of fidelity.

      4 votes
    3. [4]
      PetitPrince
      Link Parent
      I have an Oculus Quest and having a standalone system to show your friends on a whim is really cool. But if money and/or portability is not an issue, Index is the way to go.

      I have an Oculus Quest and having a standalone system to show your friends on a whim is really cool. But if money and/or portability is not an issue, Index is the way to go.

      4 votes
      1. [3]
        wundumguy
        Link Parent
        I thought the non-wired Quest experience with this game is a non starter

        I thought the non-wired Quest experience with this game is a non starter

        2 votes
        1. [2]
          PetitPrince
          Link Parent
          I play Alyx with a cable of course, but I was referring to the 6DOF VR experience in general. Also, some people on the Quest subreddit report positive experiences with Virtual Desktop (a software...

          I play Alyx with a cable of course, but I was referring to the 6DOF VR experience in general. Also, some people on the Quest subreddit report positive experiences with Virtual Desktop (a software wireless solution ; I haven't tried this).

          3 votes
          1. zlsa
            Link Parent
            I've used both Link (tethered to a PC with a 5-meter USB-C cable) and Virtual Desktop (a WiFi streaming solution), and Link is far better IMO. Virtual Desktop has persistent latency issues, making...

            I've used both Link (tethered to a PC with a 5-meter USB-C cable) and Virtual Desktop (a WiFi streaming solution), and Link is far better IMO. Virtual Desktop has persistent latency issues, making your hands in-game lag behind your real-life hands, making them feel rubbery and inconsistent. (There was a very recent Virtual Desktop update to reduce motion-to-photon latency even further; however, I haven't had a chance to try this yet.)

            And yes, Quest tracking is very very good. (It uses the same fundamental system as the Oculus Rift S, just with one less camera and a different camera layout.) However, any streaming solution (including Link and Virtual Desktop) won't be as high-fidelity as playing on a dedicated PCVR headset, like a WMR headset or the Oculus Rift S. There is always some degree of additional latency and video compression artifacts. While these are easily tolerable with the Link cable, I wouldn't say the quality is equal to that of a dedicated PCVR headset.

            Also, price is a factor: with the base-model Oculus Quest ($400 USD) plus the official USB-C Oculus Link cable ($80 USD, highly recommended for its flexibility and length), you're paying $130 USD more than the Rift S ($350 USD). If you only plan on playing PCVR, I strongly recommend against the Quest; but if you ever want to play standalone (i.e. somewhere where you don't have a PC), the Quest is the only viable option.

            2 votes