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.
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”.
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.