Many years before the release of Half-Life: Alyx, a group of fans built a rudimentary Half-Life 2 VR mod which allowed the game to be played with early VR headset development kits. Unfortunately the mod eventually lost compatibility with newer hardware as the first consumer VR headsets began to hit the market. In 2017 the project was seemingly reignited with ambitions to not just update it for the latest headsets, but to remaster the game for VR more broadly; unfortunately that effort never came to fruition. But now a group of proven VR modders is aiming to finally make it a reality.

If you’ve been following the VR gaming space for a long while, you probably recall back in 2017 when the Half-Life 2 VR mod was announced to significant fanfare. The team that had made the original version of the mod (compatible only with older Oculus development kits) planned to update it for modern consumer headsets and remaster the game with VR-specific touches like a made-for-VR UI, multiple locomotion methods, and more. The mod’s original announcement trailer gives an idea of what they hoped to deliver:

Unfortunately, despite a blessing from Valve permitting the release of the project on Steam, the revamped version of the mod never got completed, having seemingly fallen into development hell.

Somehow between then and now Valve made an entirely new VR game, Half-Life: Alyx, which released in 2020 to widespread acclaim. But the Half-Life 2 VR mod may live on yet.

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The project has purportedly been re-rebooted by a team including VR modder extraordinar Simon “Dr. Beef” Brown, who is behind VR mods of Half-Life, Doom, and plenty of others.

In a message posted to the Flatscreen to VR Mod Discord community earlier this Summer the team announced that it is working with some of the mod’s original team and building on work it had already done, with the goal of readying an open-source version of the code so that others can begin contributing in a structured way.

A couple weeks ago, @DrBeef and @cabalistic stepped up to see how we could revitalize the project and get it out the door. The goal has been to make sense of the existing work the previous team had done and to polish it enough to get some open source version released as soon as possible in at least an alpha state so that others could contribute to continue to polish it up.

In just the last couple weeks, DrBeef has re-written almost all of the VR code to run a whole lot better and even ported the engine’s VR implementation to use Vulcan instead of DX9 with the help of DXVK! (current VR APIs only work with DX11 and above). He also has fixed a lot of game breaking issues that were in the build. Cabalistic has also done some magic and has gotten MSAA working for textures too.

There’s no rough release date for the new Half-Life 2 VR mod, but one sticking point on the current development path is deciding which version of the Source engine to use as a foundation.

One thing we need to finalize before we get too far along is whether we want to continue the project with the Source 2013 SDK version (all the VR work has currently been done to that version). Or whether we want to switch to the newer CS:GO engine (all of [another modder’s] updated maps was done with that version). We’re not sure at this point how much of a setback switching engines would be. One side advantage of working on the CS:GO port is that that’s what a version of Portal 2 uses and it could mean one day making a Portal 2 VR port (or at least making that easier). The disadvantage to switching is that the project couldn’t be open source as that version of the engine requires a Valve signed NDA for anyone to have access to.

Just this week the team confirmed that work is continuing on the Half-Life 2 VR mod, and further noted that there’s yet a separate mod project in the works by another modder which is aiming to add modern VR support to a version of Source Engine which could be compatible with Half-Life 2.

“Currently, [the other mod’s author] plans to continue working separately, but perhaps there’s still things we can share between projects. If anything, competition could be nice along with options for players,” one of the modders wrote.

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It’s been nearly eight years since the original version of the Half-Life 2 VR mod was released, and four years since the reboot was announced. For anyone craving more Half-Life in VR, you’re gonna want to keep your fingers crossed.

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  • VR5

    I really want a Portal 2 VR port/mod. And if this mod can play Episode 2, I’d take that too. Garry’s Mod got me through HL2 and Episode 1 already.

    • FrankB

      I second that. I think I can handle Portals intense nature.

      • VR5

        I started playing Portal 2 with VorpX and it’s great until you get the portal gun, which is this huge static 2d texture. I still played some of the actual portal levels and falling through portals to jump out of the other side was surprisingly not nausea inducing.

        I played Portal 2 back on PS3 but never completed it. So I definitely would like to revisit it in VR and finally beat it. But VorpX is too glitchy for me, I need working room scale and a hand tracked portal gun that isn’t a fixed 2d texture in your fov.

    • Emmitt Morgans

      Have you tried Ep 2 yet? It’s been a while since I’ve tried it, but it was *mostly* playable with only a handful of times I had to noclip my way through a scripting error.

      It was a total pain to get running, but once I figured out the eccentricities of the VR Mod for Gmod, HL2 was an amazing experience (I even got a few HL2 mods to work)… I can only imagine this version will be borderline mind-blowing!

      • VR5

        Episode 2 breaks on every cutscene basically. It is missing working animations for anything that only occurs in that episode. I stopped trying to get episode 2 to work during the scene in which the Vortigaunt revives Alyx, which never happens because the animations for it don’t work. Noclip doesn’t get you through that.

        • Emmitt Morgans

          I didn’t have such extreme issues, but I forgot all of the extra changes I made to get things to somewhat work for the episodes.

          I *do* know that this comment on Reddit helped me a bit:

          • VR5

            Thanks for the link, it has an add on for Episode 2 that is missing from the official workshop and the sources I previously found.

  • Dang, they got Dr. Beef on it? Well we know it’s gonna happen now

    • brandon9271

      been playing the heck out of his Doom VR port. Amazing to revisit and old game in VR. i really can’t believe publishers aren’t going back and porting more games to VR. i guess there’s just no money in it

      • Jonathan Winters III

        There is money in it, but they make much bigger money on non-VR AAA titles.

        • brandon9271

          yeah, but adding VR support to existing games gives people an excuse to buy them all over again. I bought Skyrim 3 different times and one of them was for VR. lol

      • Jason Wilson

        I’ve been saying the same for awhile now. VR breaths new life in older titles, makes them into a completely new experience. Did you ever play Condemned? That would be an incredible VR game!

        • johann jensson

          And then F.E.A.R. and F.E.A.R. 2, please. (same engine)

  • Yeah I never gave up, but the programming team has waned over the years. Its good to have some fresh blood on the project :)

    • Sven Viking

      Great — best of luck with it! Don’t be afraid to leave some planned features for future releases if appropriate.

    • Keep up the amazing work and keep us posted!

    • xyzs

      Thanks for your work!

  • Orator

    This is great news — I just finished playing Wolfenstein VR made by Dr. Beef.. It was a great port and I trust his work! I donated $20 and will be donating more to keep his team going :)

    • FrankB

      to be honest i’m thinking of buying a Quest just to play Dr Beefs’ mods?

      • Cybrdmn

        Worth it!

      • johann jensson

        At this point i think it’s the only reason to buy a Quest 2.

  • Psycold

    The thing I want the most is Left 4 Dead 2 in VR, hopefully the release of HL2VR will expedite this. Would be even better if Valve was already working on a L4DVR game themselves of course.

    • NotMikeD

      Yes, a L4DVR game with the sorts of production values HLA has would be the dream.

  • Raphael

    I want the HL2 VR again. I miss it. Would like Portal 1 and 2 VR as some others have stated here as well. I like fast violent motion in VR.

  • ReverendTed

    I was excited at first, but then disappointed to find Dr Beef’s work is all Quest-only. (I’m on a Rift CV1.)
    Ah well, plenty of other unplayed games already in my queue.

    • brandon9271

      this is going to be on PC and will work with anything that works with Steam VR

      • ReverendTed

        Sweet, thanks for the heads up!

  • NotMikeD

    Oh amazing, this is going to happen now. Dr Beef ships.

    • Jonathan Winters III

      This! His name attached to the project gives it legitimacy after years of nuh-uh.

  • Foreign Devil

    Why not just recreate it using the modding capabilities of Half Life Alyx? SHould be much simpler to do as it’s already optimized for VR. Maybe it’s too limited??

    • Brian Elliott Tate

      Half Life: Alyx’s modding capabilities are still quite limited, you’d probably need the full SDK access to the engine like the creators of S&box have. And no, definitely not simpler to do. You can import parts of the levels, then recreate all the broken lighting, etc. But then all scripting and “game mechanics” etc. would all have to be written from scratch.

    • brandon9271

      I’m sure Valve used parts of HL2 when testing Alyx. I’d love to run through the HL2 maps with Alyx even if all the enemy AI and scripted stuff was broken! I just want to explore until the full mod is ready :)

  • Oh wow, PORTAL 2! Please make that also to happen…

  • david vincent

    I don’t understand why there aren’t more VR moders like Dr Beef and LukeRoss.

    • benz145

      Because it’s hard work and often goes unpaid!

      • david vincent

        And yet there are tons of moders for non-VR games…
        And the price barrier is not an issue anymore as you can find cheap headsets on ebay nowadays.

  • Skippy76

    There is no reason to have a MOD version for VR. All they need to do is use Half Life Alyx’s custom engine and import all the map assets with better textures!

  • johann jensson

    Wow, incredible! At this point, Dr.Beef and his team are single-handedly keeping VR alive!