On Monday, three weeks before its retail launch on Windows PCs, Half-Life: Alyx received its most revealing look yet. This new video series, weighing in at 10 minutes, is an incredible summary of the upcoming VR game’s three pillars: puzzles, action, and creeping dread.
I can confirm that this footage is spliced from various moments through the campaign, with only one scene, labeled “Gameplay Video 1,” taking place within the game’s earliest section. Based on what I’ve learned from multiple sources, this video series has been very carefully curated, because it focuses more on how Alyx‘s VR movement and beat-by-beat gameplay will look and feel, as opposed to spoiling its storytelling or more complicated puzzles.
The three-part series has one huge component in common: the Gravity Gloves. This new control system appears to work exactly as I’d learned ahead of last year’s reveal:
Need to grab or pick something up? Point at whatever that object is (whether it’s close or far away) with an open hand until it glows orange, then close your hand and flick your wrist toward yourself to fling the item in your direction. At this point, you get a moment to physically “catch” the object in question. Point, clench, flick, catch.
Sure enough, this series shows a player repeatedly pointing at relatively distant objects, then gesturing in a flick-like motion to call the item towards them, thus saving them the real-life trouble of bending to a knee or reaching awkwardly with their hands. We also see a couple of slightly tricky moments where the Gravity Gloves aren’t good enough. In one case, a locked door with bulletproof glass requires a creative solution; in another, an attempt to flick an item towards the player is interrupted by a familiar menace from above.
Of course, the Gravity Gloves also prove compellingly overpowered in one cool moment. A grenade is lobbed in the player’s direction, and they proceed to catch it in mid-air with their high-tech gloves, then toss it right back at a crowd of Overwatch forces.
One of Alyx‘s most compelling VR-specific elements received a brief spotlight in the form of a single, spherical puzzle. I’ve taken care to include illustrative images in the above gallery, but it’s a tough concept to sell without seeing it in action: rotating a floating, transparent sphere with one hand while drawing lines through its center with your other hand. It’s arguably the three videos’ best evidence for any “this would only work in VR” conversations. From what I’ve heard, Valve is keeping most of these examples close to the chest before the game’s launch.
Each of the three videos differs in a key regard: how players walk. As Valve has advertised, players will get to choose their favorite control method, and these will likely vary both in usefulness and comfort level. Two of the videos include different types of teleportation movement: “blink” (where the screen blacks out until your movement is complete) and “warp” (where your presence shifts abruptly forward). In both cases, players hold a button to bring up a pair of glowing feet in the near distance, and this not only shows where players will teleport but also which direction they’ll face when they land. We also see a smooth-walking sequence, where players are seen slowly walking as if they’re holding a joystick down. This one conveniently lacks any combat. It remains to be seen whether the hectic gunfights in the teleportation videos will translate well to a walking-pace experience.
In terms of combat, we see the player throw everyday items to stun foes, though guns seem to be much more effective at downing Combine soldiers and Headcrab-afflicted grunts. When these demos’ players aren’t using their hands to reload guns or stick attachments to their barrels, they’re slotting extra items and ammo into a high-tech inventory “pouch” lodged in their wrist (or occasionally grabbing a loose stimpack and jabbing its needle into their other hand). There’s also a hefty helping of teleport-and-crouch action, aided by the player’s use of a free car door as a piece of cover.
The above galleries only tell part of the story. That’s partially because it’s easier to understand the actions of shooting, reloading, throwing, and Gravity Glove-ing by seeing them in action, but it’s also because the natural movement of a VR camera changes the way these videos’ beautiful and series-allegiant scenery plays out. And that’s saying nothing about the immaculate backing music in each sequence, which already has me itchy to buy Alyx‘s official soundtrack whenever it goes on sale. Hence, I’ve embedded all three videos below, and I strongly encourage any interested Half-Life fan—or, honestly, any doubtful VR haters—to see what’s about to land in three weeks on all major PC-VR systems.
Listing image by Valve