‘Half-Life 2’ VR Mod Shows Off New Progress with Gravity Gun Gameplay

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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. But last year a group of proven VR modders rebooted the mod for modern VR headsets, and now they’re showing the first signs of progress.

The HL2VR modding team seems to be making strong progress. Just two weeks ago the group showed off some early work on the revamped Half-Life 2 mod, including manual reloading and ladder climbing in an early section of the game. This week the group has shown off its latest efforts, including a weapon selection menu, a functional Gravity Gun, and a working vehicle driving segment.

The team had not expected to be working on these aspects of the game for some time yet, with u/fholger sharing they “got a lot more done than I anticipated,” after spending two prior weeks hunting down a “subtle, but annoying bug.”

The Gravity Gun is now fully functional, along with the SMG & Pulse Rifle (including secondary fire modes), as well as the RPG. u/fholger says the rest of the game’s arsenal still needs work.

“There’s still work to be done to get some of the weapons into a functional state. Revolver, shotgun, crossbow, grenades and bugbait are in various states of disrepair. Making them functional is currently my primary focus, since having all the weapons should (in theory) make the entire game playable, now that the vehicles are working,” they said. “After getting all the weapons functional, we want to make them great. That includes integrating updated weapon models with actual hand poses and animations. This work isn’t necessarily going to block a public release; we’ll get as far as we can and then keep working on them over time.”

And while the vehicle sections of the game are now functional, the team warns that even with the game adjusted to always keep the view upright, comfort is not guaranteed.

“You do, unfortunately, still need solid VR legs for them. Vehicle rides involve artificial turning, and there’s little I can do about that without completely reimplementing how they work.”

However, the team has a plan to optionally make the vehicle sections of the game project into a flat 2D screen (as if you’re sitting in front of a virtual monitor) which could significantly improve comfort.

Once the game is at least technically playable from start to finish, the team has plans to put out an initial public release of the Half-Life: 2 VR mod to get feedback.

This week Source VR Team member u/fholger posted a detailed update on the HL2VR mod since the team started working on it last year. The group worked initially to salvage pieces which had been previously built, but had to fill in the blanks in a number of places. That included building a missing “bridge” which connected the inherited parts of the mod to the underlying Half-Life 2 game, as well as adding support for Vulkan rendering and MSAA anti-aliasing which u/fholger says “provides a significant uplift to the game’s graphics in the headset.”

While progress was slow at first, things started coming together toward the end of 2021 allowing the team to focus on making early levels of the game fully playable. u/fholger shared a new video showing the latest progress on the Half-Life 2 VR mod, including Index controller finger tracking, proper ladder climbing, and manual reloading.

While the game looks perfectly playable from the video, u/fholger warns that there’s still a lot to do elsewhere; the modders will need to continue progressing through the game fixing what’s broken and making specific sequences functional VR, like the vehicle driving sections later in the game.

The next step after this first milestone is to get the game at least technically playable from start to finish, and to bring more of the old mod’s VR enhancements to the new version of the mod. Once that’s complete, the team has plans to release a public alpha of the mod to find bugs and remaining issues to be fixed.

“Please do not expect a perfect VR experience for [the alpha] release—flat-to-VR ports will always have some jank remaining, and we will still be focussing on the most critical aspects to get the game playable,” says u/fholger.

For now there’s no timeline given for the alpha release of the HL2VR mod, but u/fholger says they’ll make an effort to be more communicative about the mod’s progress than was seen in the past.

The original article, which outlines how this new group of modders brought life to the long defunct HL2VR mod, continues below.

Original Article (September 17th, 2021): 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 extraordinare 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.

SEE ALSO
Preview: 'Red Matter 2' is Raising the Bar on Quest 2 Graphics & Doubling Down on Interactivity

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: https://www.reddit.com/r/Vive/comments/e8g864/comment/flsvj9x/

          • 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)

          • ZeePee

            Oh wow, I did not think about those games. That would be incredible, and absolutely terrifying.

      • Clownworld14

        doom vr port? Please do link, I gotta see that!!!

        • brandon9271

          It’s the original 1991 Doom on the Oculus quest. You have to side load it with SideQuest. Are you on PC or Quest?

          • Jonathan Winters III

            1993.

  • 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!

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  • 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!

    • Killian Grey

      And HL2 is just a walking simulator and has no mechanics whatsoever right?

  • johann jensson

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

  • blue5peed

    This practice of updating old articles just kills my vibe.

    • antonio mora

      Yeah, I think these comments are older than the mod itself

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Yeah, it really gets annoying, if it was a small update to the original article from a couple of days ago, I don’t mind, but this is an old article. Why not just a small new article with a reference to the last, so you don’t have to figure out what’s new and what’s not.
      Roadtovr is the only site I see doing this.

      • benz145

        We do our best to make our articles stand on their own.

        Sometimes when we have an article that includes a lot of foundational background research/writing (something we are proud of), it makes the most sense to write the news as an update rather than an entirely new article (especially for closely related news items that are part of an ongoing project). This leaves keeps the broader context in place for readers who are coming to the story without having seen the previous pieces, and prevents us from wasting time rewriting/paraphrasing that foundational background material in a new article. And in turn that saved is used to cover more news elsewhere.

        We do our best to date/organize the updated sections vs. the original section cleary, and try to make it so you can read from top to bottom (like a normal article) and it all clearly explains itself.

        If you already read or are familiar with the older part of the article, the update is to catch you up to the latest. For those who are coming at it fresh, it’s all in one place for them so they don’t have to hunt down multiple breadcumbs of the story.

        If you have any feedback on how we could be doing this better, please let me know.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          That’s why the small article with a reference to the original article. But hee, it’s your site, so you are the one that decides it.

  • Raphael

    Number 1 flat-earth game I want to see in VR again just like I did on DK2.

    • ViRGiN

      Blame valve for actively removing vr code over the years lol

      • Raphael

        Yes, it could have been handled so much better. All of the HL series should have been brought into VR by valve. Instead what we got was a tech demo with a few mundane mini games at Vive 1.0 launch.

  • Zack71

    Vampire: Bloodlines, with new patches, would be wonderful in VR!
    I would pay for a VR mod of Bloodlines, as for a new game!

  • mirak

    pukotron

  • Ratm

    Manual reload in a fast paced game..
    A repearing two hands use pause..
    This is crippling the game.
    Whats next? You walk slow like the hanticap on Alyx?
    I think just like valve did, people forget where the fun is in a half life game.

  • johann jensson

    Mods/ports like this one are the only things keeping me from selling my VR headset. The VR gaming industly is basically dead ATM – after Lone Echo and HL: Alyx nothing else of worth got released. Thank Melitele for modders porting proper games to VR!

    • NL_VR

      There is a lot of Good games that you can spend hours with.
      But if you into story driven singleplayer games i kinda understand what you mean.

  • Ratm

    Thats just advertising, no way someone would mod hl2 in vr and do manual reload with two hands, and stair climping.
    This repetition is hands down stupid, and probably suported in upcoming hl vr to.

  • Ookami

    this kind of think is so awesome. I hope the best for developers.

  • david vincent

    HLVR from almost 10 years (!) ago is still my best FPS experience. Yes even despite the ghetto tracking of the time..

  • Richard R Garabedian

    I have not seen a good mod ina loong time…still havent since goldeneye mod

  • Snekertechie

    Nothing wrong with a good port! I look forward to relive this classic in VR :D