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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Play all of Half-Life: Alyx without VR thanks to this mod

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Half-Life: Alyx might be one of the best VR games in existence, but that doesn’t mean much to those for whom virtual reality is still out of reach. Ever since Valve’s VR masterpiece launched back in March 2020, there have been people clamouring to experience this intermediary Half-Life chapter without the VR requirement.

Step forward Half-Life: Alyx No VR, a functionally titled project to convert Alyx into a more traditional flatscreen experience. The mod has been in development for a while, receiving an Early Access launch in late March. But creators GB_2 Development Team reached a significant milestone over the Easter weekend. The mod now lets you play the entire game without VR.

“This is our biggest update yet, and we have no plans of slowing down,” the dev team announced in a post on ModDB. “As the titles state the entire game can now be played from start to finish, with the Gravity Gloves fully implemented along with combine fabricators providing weapon upgrades.”

Note that this doesn’t mean the mod itself is finished. Rather, the game is completable on a conventional PC without players needing to implement cheats or noclip to bypass impassable sections. In the mod’s changelog, GB_2 states “bugs may still be present but a save reload will fix that”.

The changelog also provides insight as to how GB_2 approached converting Alyx to flatscreen. The main hurdle is how Half-Life: Alyx controls. The acute simulation of hand movements and interactions is a world away from a traditional keyboard and mouse setup. Hence, much of the mod’s work has been in distilling these interactions into straightforward button presses. This latest version comes with “updated gravity gloves” that allow flatscreen players to grab objects from a distance by pressing E, while “all cranks, doors, cabinets, etc all now open by pressing E once or twice”.

It’s an impressive technical feat, but all this ignores the question of you should play Half-Life: Alyx sans VR. Without a doubt, VR is the optimal way to play the game. Not only does Alyx introduce whole new ways of seeing City 17, but it also adds new methods of interacting with Valve’s world. That said, there is more to Alyx than its VR functionality. Everything that makes Valve games so uniquely compelling is present in Alyx. Great storytelling, imaginative set-pieces, highly authentic environments that flow seamlessly from one scene to next, an uncanny ability to switch from comedy to action to horror without any of it feeling out of place. Alyx is a fantastic VR game, but it’s a great Valve game too, worth experiencing even in suboptimal conditions.

Whether you’re buzzing at the chance to finally play Alyx, or simply want to see what it looks like without VR, you can download the mod here. Remember, this isn’t the mod’s final version. Planned future updates include the addition of the Half-Life Alyx HUD (the mod currently uses the Half-Life 2 HUD), hand-animations for interacting with weapons and environments, and more general balancing and bug-fixes.

If you do own a VR headset and have played Half-Life: Alyx, why not check out some mods that expand the experience? Levitation is a 4-5 hour unofficial expansion that takes place after the base game’s dramatic conclusion, while Incursion transforms Alyx into a frantic survival wave-shooter.

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