Hands-on: New HL2VR Mod is the Best Way to Experience Half-Life 2 (video)

HL2VR is a mod for Half-Life 2 which adds Razer Hydra support and a bunch of other tweaks, it turns Half-Life 2 into one of the best virtual reality experiences available today. The latest version of HL2VR adds new features and is easier than ever to use.

The HL2VR mod, made by Nathan Andrews and WormSlayer, has actually been around for some time now. Previous versions of the mod relied on the Vireio Oculus Rift drivers which could be difficult to configure. Additionally, Razer Hydra support required some extra software which could also be a configuration nightmare.

The latest version, HL2VR 1.2, now available to download here, is significantly easier to configure, and brings a number of other improvements. Both of the aforementioned roadblocks to usage have been eliminated. Oculus Rift rendering for Half-Life 2 now uses Valve’s built-in implementation (the -vr launch option), and the Razer Hydra works out of the box, properly configured with no need for extra software. Clear HL2VR instructions on how to use the mod show the proper way to calibrate — once you learn how to do it, you’re golden.

Half-Life 2 Virtual Reality with the Oculus Rift and Razer Hydra

Since I started writing about virtual reality, Half-Life 2 has been at the very top of my list of games I wanted to experience in VR. I knew that the great story, characters, and atmosphere could be greatly amplified by virtual reality.

And while Valve added Oculus Rift rendering to the game, along with some basic VR control schemes for the mouse, it still wasn’t the quite the immersive experience I was looking for… after all, I still had to sit down and control the game with the keyboard and mouse. With HL2VR I now play standing and have my hands right there in the game.

The addition of Razer Hydra support adds significantly to the level of immersion. In my book, the HL2VR mod is the best way to play Half-Life 2, thanks to a number of smart additions made by the folks behind HL2VR. (Watching my own video above is making me want to play more….)

Weapons

Feeling like you are holding the weapons in your own hand takes things to a whole new level. The weapons, which you normally only see part of due to a fixed perspective, can now be rotated and inspected from all angles. And they’re really cool to look at; tell me you don’t feel like a badass holding that big Revolver (see 0:58 in the video above)… and who knew that there was a battery crudely attached to the Crossbow? Being able to inspect your weapons up close is very satisfying, and aiming with your own hands is so much more immersive than using the mouse to move a cursor.

Nathan Andrews, co-author of the HL2VR mod, tells me that work had to be done on every weapon in the game to get them to function well in virtual reality.

“All of the weapon models and animations had to be significantly reworked to work properly with 6 DOF movement, the original viewmodels were optimized for a very specific on-screen perspective, so moving them all over the screen at any angle turned up a lot of interesting stuff, from missing polygons, asymmetrical guns, sideways recoil, etc. WormSlayer did a great job of fixing up the models while staying true to the original game.”

The Crossbow is particularly cool to use. Normally a button press takes you into a zoomed view through the scope. In HL2VR, you actually need to look through the scope itself to land the shot. At the moment, the scope display is a bit small and sometimes awkward to hold up to your eye, but landing a shot through it is really satisfying. I imagine more work will be done on the scope in the future.

half life 2 oculus rift ammo count

Weapons have their ammo counts displayed on their side like a holographic projection. Health and shield readouts are on the back of your hand — just flip your wrist over like you’re looking at your watch to see them.

half life 2 virtual reality health and shields hl2vr

Having that important information as part of game world itself is a much more immersive alternative to the traditional HUD system. Mid-fight you might need to glance down at your weapon to make sure you have enough rounds left. Regaining health and shields, through wall-mounted terminals in the game, becomes a more interactive experience as you need to check the values on the back of your hand as you juice up, rather than simply moving your body within the vicinity of the terminal and holding a button.

Did I mention that the Crowbar hits when you actually swing it with your hand? Who knew smashing boxes could be so much fun.

Movement and Loading

When I tried Valve’s Oculus Rift implementation for Half-Life 2 alone, the quick movement and constant spinning around in the game made me nauseous. HL2VR makes various tweaks to movement which slow the pace of the character and have, for me, completely eliminated any nausea from the game, even after some pretty lengthy sessions.

Half-Life 2′s infamously frequent loading screens, which suddenly freeze head-tracking and cause the world to be pulled around by your gaze, were another point of contention when trying to play the game in VR. HL2VR adds a fade to black as you approach the loading screen, preventing this commonly nauseating event.

Positional Tracking

Provided you have the necessary controllers (a Hydra and an Xbox 360 controller for PC), you can use one of the Razer Hydra controllers mounted to your body for positional tracking.

Even if you don’t have the extra 360 controller, HL2VR offers a control scheme to let you play, albeit with a bit of a comprise, using a single Hydra controller (with the other mounted to you for positional tracking).

Configuration for both can be found on the HL2VR Instructions Page.

More to Come

While HL2VR turns Half-Life 2 into an incredible VR experience, Andrews tells me that he and WormSlayer are “by no means done with this thing yet….” There are still tweaks to be done and features to be added. For one, Andrews notes that getting a HEV suit rendering for the body is at the top of his list (for now it’s just floating hands).

For a game that wasn’t designed for VR, Half-Life 2 with HL2VR is one of the most complete VR experience available. If you’ve got an Oculus Rift and a Razer Hydra, you need to give this a try. Now if you’ve excuse me, I’ve got a HEV suit to step into.

Download HL2VR Mod for Half-Life 2 with Oculus Rift and Razer Hydra

HL2VR Configuration Instructions

Comments

  1. Mageoftheyear says

    Damn Ben, you’ve got some serious marksman skills there!
    Or is that just a benefit of the depth perception? :P

    Looks fun though! I hope they’ll release a mod for Black Mesa too once they’re done with HL2.
    It’s pure fantasy, but I’ve always dreamed that Valve would remake the HL series in Source 2 before they release HL3. Black Mesa would be a better drawing board to start from than HL1 would be though.

    Thanks for the coverage! :)

    • WormSlayer says

      It does sometimes feel a bit easy with the extra immersion and depth :P

      We’d love to work with the Black Mesa guys on a VR version, but they would have to update their mod to the new 2013 SDK before that would even be possible.

      • Mageoftheyear says

        That would be fantastic! And they’ve confirmed that they are planning to port to the 2013 SDK http://tinyurl.com/lclac9f
        Mwhahahahaha! XD
        You’re trapped now! ;)

        I just hope they finish the Xen Chapters before HL3 comes out…
        BM really one of my favourite games of all time.

        Best wishes during the rest of your development. Your team is doing some greatly needed modding!

  2. Kevin says

    My god… I want this now. Right the hell now.

    But I’m waiting for the consumer Rift and the STEM system… so yeah, this will be a long wait.

    *bookmarked*

      • Mike says

        I can’t wait to see all this with an omnidirectional treadmill. Are you guys planning on building in support for one? Would it be possible to match the user’s speed to the ingame speed?

        • WormSlayer says

          Not sure it requires any integration by us. I couldnt afford to kickstart the Omni but they were using HLVR for some of the early promotional videos.

  3. eyeandeye says

    Wormslayer, what are the odds you guys could work this magic on Left 4 Dead 2? I’m dying to play it in VR, but don’t like the current option of forcing support with Vireo, Vorpx or Tridef because of the less than ideal experience I’ve read about with those solutions (HUD issues, no detachment of gun from camera, etc). Also, if you guys can do Left 4 Dead 2, would that hinder my ability to play co-op?

    Downloading your mod…
    …nnnow.

    • WormSlayer says

      We havent looked into modding L4D, but I am a big fan of the game and would love to play it with proper controls. Maybe when we “finish” HLVR I’ll bug Nathan about it XD

      If we did, you would probably only be able to play with other mod users.

  4. Linear says

    Hi WormSlayer !
    Can you hint how to solve hydra controller problem please ?
    - I don’t have Oculus Rift yet, so I trying to use only hydra controllers with Half-Life VR…
    I installed motion creator 2, Source SDK 2013, Half-Life VR v.1.2.0.
    When starting it from Steam, i launching it without “-vr” command, because it says VR tracker not deteted (I think it is because I don’ have Rift), so I starting halflife vr usually.
    But ingame – id doesn’t see any movement comands or any looking comands from hydra :’(
    I tried to set in the console mt_conrolmode 0, 1, 2 but it still doesn’t see any move or turn commands…
    And I also tried to use motion creator in tray with HalLifeVR.mce, still nothing…
    I saw how users with earlier versions play halflife VR without any problems, but oldest versions unavailable anymore.
    Does hydra works only in “-vr” mode ?
    So – help me please to use hydra without oculus rift in halflife VR. Or maybe tell what I’am doing wrong ? Please…

    • WormSlayer says

      Wow, sorry about the huge delay in replying, I obviously dont check the comments here very often XD

      Again sorry, but the mod only works with both Rift and Hydra currently.

  5. Holoplex says

    This is very exciting. I’m patiently waiting until VR tech is wireless so I can stop getting tangled up in all the wires from the Oculus, Hydra, and headphones. I guess I can get wireless headphones in the meantime.

    Great work on the mod, Nathan and WormSlayer!

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