Tested Goes Hands-on with ‘Half-Life: Alyx’ Using 8 Major VR Headsets

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Valve let Tested’s Norman Chan and Will Smith into their headquarters recently for a multi-hour session with Half-Life: Alyx, the studio’s famed flagship VR game coming out in March 2020.

Chan and Smith couldn’t reveal plot details and some of the mechanics after their three-hour preview of the still in-progress game, but testing it out on eight major VR headsets did give them some latitude to talk about some of the game’s design elements as well as Valve’s work to make Half-Life: Alyx equally playable on all of the major PC VR headsets.

The 30-minute video shows off a small portion of what we assume are the early parts of the game. The video didn’t reveal much about the game itself, which is said to take around 15 hours to complete, although we did get a good look at some of the nuts and bolts, such as the quick inventory system, which lets you highlight and select items from a limited number of slots, locomotion schemes, and some of the super detailed art in the game.

Although still in-progress, locomotion thus far seems to include both teleportation and free locomotion, which also includes snap-turning. Rotational teleportation also lets you select your ‘landing’ position, ostensibly the same movement scheme seen in Oculus Home.

The video spends a good amount of time going through some of the finer points of platform-specific hardware such as ergonomics, viewing experience, and their individual motion controllers, all of which are important in its own right when thinking about which headset plays best with Half-Life: Alyx.

Chan and Smith agree that Valve Index is the most comfortable headset and adept at meshing with the game’s heavy emphasis on object interaction, which is thanks to the Valve Index Controllers (ex-Knuckles). Throwing objects, which has some measure of auto-aim, was especially suited to the open-hand design of the Index Controllers.

Image courtesy Valve

Smith rated the Vive Cosmos as the least reliable due to what he called the headset’s “hinky” motion controller tracking, something we noted too in our review of Cosmos. Much of the game requires aiming with iron sights, so having a stable, mostly occlusion-free tracking solution is key, something Cosmos just doesn’t seem to be able to handle when you bring your controllers too close to the headset’s inside-out tracking sensors. Smith mentioned that all of the systems they tested, including Cosmos, were entirely viable though, which include the original Oculus Rift, Rift S, HTC Vive, Valve Index, Samsung Odyssey Plus, Oculus Quest via Link, and the Pimax “5K”.

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Tested mostly focuses in on headset comfort and motion controller design, things you ought to know about before buying any VR headset. Both new and old Touch variants seem to play well with the game’s manual reload scheme. Both the Vive wands and the Windows MR controllers were least adept at reloading, which may require Valve to implement some platform-specific workarounds. Comfort is well documented on all of the VR headsets we tested, so make sure to check out our hardware reviews if you’re looking to pick up a headset for Half-Life Alyx.

One of the least talked about factors here was the wide variation when it comes to headset display type and resolution. To Chan and Smith, Pimax “5K” suffers from its standard distortion, although it is remarkably comfortable and capable of using the Valve Index controllers, two big pluses.

In the end, Smith concludes that Half-Life: Alyx is “awesome on everything,” which they say demonstrates the fact that Valve isn’t just making a game to tempt prospective players into buying a Valve Index, but rather building something everyone, regardless of chosen PC VR headset, can enjoy.

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  • rtvr boutta get copyright striked for news

  • Hivemind9000

    Sounds like it’s not supporting wider FoVs (like for the Pimax) and doing some sort of cropping instead. Disappointing. I hope they can fix this closer to release date.

    • kuhpunkt

      They as in Valve or Pimax?

  • NooYawker

    It’s great how Valve is trying to make sure it works on all the hardware out there. But the fact they’re still working on certain aspects of the game makes me worried it won’t be ready for the March release date.

  • Trip

    That’s about as opposite the Oculus methodology as could be eh? Oculus makes “Oculus Exclusives”, Valve makes their own VR set and their own in-house VR game and puts in extra effort to make it play as well as possible on all platforms including Oculus. This is part of why I love Valve.

    • Adil H

      Oculus made tens of VR that could play on every headset with revive software.
      Without Oculus maybe we could not find 80% of good quality VR games to play on rift or on other headsets.
      So other companies should contribute with new VR contents.

      • Ellie 187

        Problem with revive (I use it for a few titles) is that Facebook can turn off revive support at any time.. revive is not made by Facebook. At the moment they are allowing it but they are not making it the official way to play their content….. which is fine by now, but I wouldn’t buy very much on that eco-system with my Vive and Valve Index kits as I know Facebook can turn on a dime and restrict my ability to play my Oculus games unless I buy their hardware

      • NooYawker

        Doesn’t change the fact Facebook doesn’t want people using revive.

    • Adrian Meredith

      Except without oculus none of those games, e.g. asgards wrath, stormlands etc would have even existed without oculus. That is part of why I love oculus

    • Andrew Jakobs

      You forget that SteamStore is what drives Valve, not the headset, if they only made it work only with their headset they wouldn’t sell much of their game. As I said, everything Valve does is for more sales on their goose with the golden eggs, steamstore..

  • It was cool that they said that the Oculus CV1 is still a great system to play this game