Half-Life: Alyx - review

I spent while playing with Half-Life: Alyx several hours with VR goggles on my head, but I'm not going to drink with delight. The king is naked and the new game from Valve is disappointing on several levels.

The heroine of the new game is Alyx Vance, and it is her, not Gordon Freeman, that players now take on to fight the Combine. The title was set five years before the events presented in Half-Life 2, and reviews from reviewers suggested that it was such a creme de la creme VR.

We were promised a "normal-length game," but "designed from the beginning with virtual reality in mind." The heroine was given a multitool, three types of weapons and gravitational gloves to manipulate the environment. All this to fight the aliens, which in the trailers looked simply phenomenal.

In practice, Half-Life: Alyx did not live up to my expectations

It is possible that I expected something more from the game because of the noisy announcements and the high notes she received in the Western press, but after spending a dozen hours in goggles on my head, I am not delighted. Half-Life: Alyx is solid craft work, but it lacks God's spark .

And don't get me wrong, the new production from Valve is without a doubt the most ambitious project of this type in VR, but let's agree - the bar was not particularly high suspended. Virtual reality works well only in games such as Beat Saber or Superhot in a la TRON.

In the case of games with photorealistic graphics, VR is doing ... poorly.

Valve has not been able to magically circumvent technical restrictions. The need to render the entire scene in high resolution in over 60 frames per second while analyzing data from various sensors and maintaining minimal delays requires a lot of power.

half-life alyx steamvr valve review

As a result, Half-Life: Alyx graphics didn't cause my jaw to drop, although I started the game on Ultra settings. I used the Acer Predator Triton 900 notebook with the Nvidia GeForce 2080 graphics card, to which I connected two headsets and three sets of controllers as part of the tests.

Half-Life: Alyx played mainly on HTC Vive Cosmos Elite goggles, to which the manufacturer adds a new game Valve for free.

In addition, I started the title on Oculus Quest (via Oculus Link) and HTC Vive Cosmos (with other pads and without satellites). Unfortunately, PC-based virtual reality is still plagued by numerous problems - ranging from a complicated configuration to Valve software failures.

SteamVR spilled several times into the desktop due to a "critical error" and sometimes had to remove the battery from the controller. It is possible that if I had access to the Valve Index set, it would be better, but it's just the tip of the iceberg problems.

The further into the forest, the more errors I encountered in the game itself, despite the patch released after the premiere.

Just as the first chapters were technically refined from the beginning, the later chapters are still heavily bugged. For several hours of fun, I had to load the save myself, or restart the game or Steam, for example, because the avatar stopped moving or fell off the map.

half-life alyx steamvr valve review

Already in the case of ordinary games, crashes have a very negative impact on immersion, and in the case of virtual reality the need to remove the goggles to manually reset the game is extremely discouraging. It is possible that if not for the fact that I undertook to write a review, I would give up playing in half.

I can't get over the fact that in the last chapter of Half-Life: Alyx I spent a quarter of an hour solving a puzzle that ... wasn't there.

During a very intense sequence, I went from room to room, until I came across a deaf door. Those who entered it closed behind me. I was trapped in a virtual room. I thought I missed something and started looking around carefully.

Minute by minute, time after time, I picked up cardboard boxes and ripped off paintings from the walls, but the lock did not move. I thought that the fault was on my side, and only after a long time I came up with the idea to load the previous state of the game. And I'm lucky that I made the quicksave in the right place.

The problem was the door opening script, which in my case did not work.

Although it crossed my mind that something is wrong here, but I decided that I would head a bit at first - it happened at the end, and I had enough of looking at the loading screens. The game has not communicated many times before exactly what is expected of me.

half-life alyx steamvr valve review

This is one of the main problems of Half-Life: Alyx - it pretends to be a sandbox, but the script constantly forces very specific actions. The scripts are ruthless and suppress any attempts by the player to show creativity.

Riddles in Half-Life: Alyx resemble a test in which we have to adapt to the key at all costs.

Unfortunately, the environment itself is only slightly interactive. Most of the scenery's elements are nailed to the walls and floors of the chill. As a result, although you can break almost any bottle here, which is a bunch, so the bulbs are probably made of titanium - hitting them with a hammer does nothing.

The damage model looks half-implemented and we have here, for example, two types of wood. Some boards look solid, but they crack from just looking at them (because they block the road further), so others, although they look rotten (they are part of the environment), they will not crack, even if a grenade exploded on them.

In the case of glass it is different, because some can be smashed at will, while others are not only bulletproof, but even indestructible.

Of course, there are times when the game convincingly pretends to be the real world, but during the game it most often turned out that the developers did not anticipate what I just wanted to do. In addition, objects that can actually be touched and picked up become repetitive. The number of 3D models is limited.

half-life alyx steamvr valve review

After several of the eleven chapters available, I recognized all boards, padlocks, bottles, computer connectors, ammo magazines, first aid kits and other items with which I could interact. In addition, each of them can be highlighted in red.

The player receives a gadget in the form of the so-called gravity gloves.

Thanks to this, you don't have to approach the magazine with ammunition or a beer bottle to pick them up. To enter the object with the environment, all you need to do is ... reach out in the right direction. After highlighting the contour of the selected element of the environment, just press the trigger and point your hand towards you, which will set it in motion.

The object aiming at the player can be easily caught on the fly. It works well, but detecting which of the several objects next to each other I actually needed, not quite. Notoriously, when I reached for another magazine or first aid kit, the game offered me a cardboard box or bottle.

Controllers proved to be the hardest opponent in Half-Life : Alyx

It irritated especially in the chapter, which consisted of creeping in front of a nasty creature that had no eyes and reacted to noise. It is not a coincidence that the room after which he was chasing me was filled with glass bottles, and I broke them because I was attracting them every now and then by accident.

There were more moments that irritated, instead of being fun, because I couldn't use the controllers to convey my intentions to the game. Even the movement itself was problematic. None of the transport modes (including smooth movement and several types of teleport) work perfectly here.

And that's the biggest absurdity of storing spare ammunition in Half-Life: Alyx.

First you need to lift cartridges, then move the controller behind the back and release the trigger. Unfortunately, very often my heroine ... did not go to the backpack. If the characteristic sound was not heard, it meant that I had to turn around and bend for such an unruly object and aim for my shoulder again. Nightmare.

half-life alyx steamvr valve review

Reloading is also a pain. In the case of a pistol, each time after firing the magazine you have to release it with one button, and with the other hand you need to remove the new one from behind and put it in the right place - of course, remembering all the time to insert the first cartridge into the chamber with the next button.

Shooting, which is the mechanics that are fun in the shooters of the Half-Life series, after moving to VR has become a real orc.

I will not lie if I write that during a dozen or so hours I picked up ammunition from the floor more often than I actually shot. Not even half of the game was over, and I was already fed up with firearms, and I didn't get to the very end when I could use all this arsenal.

Developers also came up with a truly brilliant idea to implement the crafting mechanism to play in virtual reality. The whole world of the game has been scattered about raw material that can be used to improve weapons. To find it, you need to look under the proverbial every stone.

Literally everyone.

The huge number of places where you can find ammunition for three types of weapons, two types of first aid kits, gas masks, grenades and this crafting material is impressive. Negative. Objects are scattered too densely on the map, and their placement usually makes no sense from a story's point of view.

half-life alyx steamvr valve review

It's best not to ask too many questions about who threw three brand new magazines with a gun ammunition into the nearby trash and what a gas mask does in the channels forgotten by all channels. Some things can't be rationally explained, and the game developers don't even try to do it.

Perhaps this is due to the fact that Alyx does not have a crowbar that would allow her to successfully eliminate enemies without firearms.

It's great that in the new Valve game, played only in virtual reality, as my editorial colleague Szymon deftly put it, "the whole environment is a crowbar", and on the network you can find movies showing repelling headcrab attacks, e.g. with a chair, just ... in practice it doesn't work . No fun without ammunition.

The creators had to be aware of this and the game makes sure that Alyx has constant access to cartridges and first aid kits (her health, as was the case in FPSs, is not restored automatically over time). Otherwise the player could get stuck. Unfortunately, it leads to various odd situations.

Half-Life: Alyx on SteamVR is such a garbage collector simulator

The game from Valve is like Fallout 76 on steroids in this respect. Not only is it necessary to rummage in the garbage (sometimes literally!) In search of items necessary to pass subsequent maps, but the game does not adequately reward it. Carrots in this case turn out to be extremely tasty.

I guess, however, that encouraging players to look into every nook and cranny was Valve's idea of ​​extending the game. This lasted at my Steam counter for just over 15 hours, of course counting all repetitions, loading the boards and the time when I took off my goggles to give my eyes a rest.

I am convinced that if I were only crafting I would have finished Half-Life: Alyx twice as fast.

At the same time, I am convinced that if only depriving Valve of crafting and improving the system of collecting ammunition by automatically putting it in the backpack, I would have fun not only half as much, but also much better. I would focus on history and atmosphere, not collecting useless equipment.

half-life alyx steamvr valve review

Valve couldn't afford it. The company inadvertently promised fans that Half-Life: Alyx would have the length of a classic video game and the developers apparently decided to combine how to keep this promise at a low cost. Unfortunately, they came up with the worst idea possible.

Artificial extension of the gameplay is irritating in ordinary video games and is a crime in VR.

Although I found most of the hidden objects and probably solved all the puzzles, which after a few repetitions were also boring, instead of playing, I didn't get much satisfaction from it. A better idea would be to introduce a classic find system in the form of, e.g., the memoirs of NPCs.

If only I could get to know the secret rooms by exploring the somewhat lore of the world depicted, I would probably dig through these unfortunate trashcards with a smile. Unfortunately, instead, I got weapon upgrades that didn't really help me in the final.

The new Valve game is a step back in the eyes of the modern player

Collecting ammunition and first aid kits in the strangest places reminds me of classic shooters from many years ago. The physics and way of interacting with the environment could be impressive, but a decade ago. Even having all the time in mind that we are talking about playing in virtual reality, there are no delights.

During the game, I was more disappointed with what can't be done than what the creators allow. The gameplay quickly became, simply, boring and repetitive, and after watching the epilogue, I was glad that this plot was behind me, instead of grieving that it was over.

I must admit that I am extremely surprised that Half-Life: Alyx collects such high marks.

Of course, I do not defend anyone having a great time playing this game and I do not claim that it is a production of evil, because it is not so, but in my eyes there are too many flaws - and this is on a conceptual basis, independent of the platform - to be considered outstanding. This is only good craftsmanship, which probably pulls only the brand.

half-life alyx steamvr valve review

Not without reason, after confronting my negative impressions with many hurray optimistic opinions of others, I immediately thought about Ferdydurke. I also wonder if its surprisingly positive reception is not due to the fact that this is another part of the popular series that fans have been waiting for years.

It's possible that that's why hungry fans are able to forgive a lot of creators.

I am convinced that the same game under a different title and in a different universe would go unnoticed. It is no secret that after the announcement of the release of Half-Life: Alyx Valve Index goggles sold out on the trunk, and other manufacturers of VR headsets also enjoyed an increase in sales.

It can reasonably be assumed that for many people the new production of the creators of the Steam platform was the first VR game they ever played, which can certainly affect the ratings. The fact that goggles are an accessory costing a lot certainly plays a significant role here due to the effect of decision support.

half-life alyx steamvr valve review

I cannot, however, generate enthusiasm on my own.

I've really had a lot of titles behind me on both the HTC Vive goggles and the Oculus Quest and PlayStation VR sets, so I don't have the "wow" effect anymore. It is possible that is why I am so harsh in my opinion of Half-Life: Alyx.

I hope that the next part of the series will appear earlier than in the next several years and will be able to be played in a classic form. Now I am counting on modders. Half-Life: Alyx, if only Valve provides the right tools, can shine in the hands of the community.

PS Valve also deserves a yellow card for the fact that their own game did not support the release of Steam Family Sharing. In addition, as a result of an error, it still after the first Half-Life update: Alyx does not display dialog lines when the Steam client has a language other than English set.

Half-Life: Alyx - review


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