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Half-Life: Alyx review
Exceptional
by Emily

Video gaming, in its current incarnation, is an artform that has existed for nearly 40 years - so it's rare to find an experience that truly redefines gaming in such a dramatic way. For me, Half-Life Alyx is that game - the game that proves that VR games can be as expansive and cinematic as any game on a TV or monitor.

While it is far from the first attempt to create a coherent FPS campaign within VR, Alyx manages to nail the core concepts so many other VR games merely grasped at - locomotion, interaction, motion-sickness avoidance, gunplay, and more are all tuned to perfection, so the mechanics of moving around in VR fade into the background and allow you to focus on the game's story and truly exist within its world - and at a 7-10 hour runtime, you're able to spend a great amount of time in that world.

Being a VR game - and intended as a potential jumping-in point to VR games as a medium - it's slower-paced and less intense than you might be used to - but that allows Valve to pace the game remarkably well, giving you a good mixture between puzzling, exploration, and, yes, gun-based combat. While it starts out simply enough, the game knows how to escalate - before long, you'll be thrown into spectacular set pieces with competent, well-armed AI and never quite enough bullets for them all.

A few flaws take away from an otherwise incredible experience- for example: the game continues the series trend of mixing up the gameplay dramatically in its final section, but this game's gimmick doesn't work nearly as well as Half-Life 2's Super Gravity Gun.

And, of course, there's a major barrier to entry for this game, in that you must own both a powerful gaming PC and a VR headset - but the Oculus Quest 2 alongside its native AirLink to connect to PC works perfectly, and is how I played the majority of this game. While this game benefits from running on the Valve Index and its Knuckles controllers as intended, neither are necessary and almost any combination of PC-enabled VR hardware will work. (There's even a supported mod to make this game work with the bHaptic force-feedback haptic vests, if that's your jam.)

But, if you can play this game, I'd argue it is an absolute must; it is one of only a handful of absolute essentials in VR and, I would argue, the finest Half-Life game ever made. I reached the credits feeling a mixture of unbridled joy and melancholy - because I've come away wanting nothing more than to play more of this incredible experience. But I know only too well not to get my hopes up for a sequel... because as Valve keep insisting, Half-Life: Alyx is not Half-Life 3.

They're right, of course. Half-Life Alyx is better than Half-Life 3 ever could have been.
«Blew my mind»
«That ending!»

Other reviews6

Wow
«Blew my mind»
«That ending!»
One of the most mind-blowing video game experiences of my life. On an Index this game looks and plays like it's 5+ years ahead of it's time.
«Blew my mind»
«Can’t stop playing»
Holy fuck high res Gman I camed
12.5 years of waiting
Valve still can make single-player games
One of the best VR games ever where all mechanics work like a charm (ok except ladder climbing)
But the main thing - development of HL story
«Blew my mind»
«That ending!»
Half Life: Alyx truly surprised me and surpassed my expectations. 
I went in expecting a decent story with gameplay a la a dumbed down "Boneworks".

I was truly, truly surprised by the characters, Alyx, despite having a different voice actor, talks as much as I'd expect a protagonist too, with enough flavor chatter with the guide/comic relief, Russel, to keep things feeling fresh and alive. 

The gameplay, while not "revolutionary", is incredibly polished. Would I like to be able to put my gun down? Yes. Would I like to be able to HIT the enemies with something like the series mainstay, a crowbar. No melee leads to many situations where you round a corner only to realize that you're a foot from a zombie, with no quick way to dispatch of them, except with your shotgun that, at any given time, you only have 8 or so shells for. The gun design is incredible though. 

A breakthrough in many a genre. Puzzles that engage, in a similar fashion to Resident Evil. A horror section that blends so effortlessly with VR that I doubt anything will match the incredible experience I had until someone like Capcom takes a stab at an ACTUAL VR focused game. I won't spoil it but it's probably the best fear I've felt in a VR game. Ever. 

Leading into my next point, design. Everything is deliberate, everything was clearly labored over. During the "last hours" interview they noted that "in VR players tended to take much longer to clear a room, inspecting each thing manually." and that is DEFINITELY here. Obviously not every section of the game is a visual "showcase". But there's always going to be a place where you'll settle in and realize you are surrounded by assets of which more than half are thought out. 

Before I delve into spoilers, I should note. If you are a Half Life fan. PLEASE. PLEASE. Take the time required to play this game. They say to play HL2:EP2. Do it. You will not regret it. 

----Spoilers----

Okay so this is just me freaking out. 
G-Man speech???? HOLY FUCK!!! I can now quote it word for word. Also, was it a retcon??? sure! Do I care? NO
Epistle 3 baby. Who gives a shit. Life is amazing.
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