- gravity gloves;
- phenomenal, very natural combat;
- ingenious puzzles;
- interesting levels;
- impressive graphics in Virtual Reality;
- the old atmosphere!
- attention to detail;
- a satisfying, long campaign;
- pretty terrifying horror scenes;
- the plot isn't just pretext;
- clever controls.
- loading screens;
- occasional errors and constraints of physics.
Recounting the details of how Valve created one of the best gaming series ever just to abandon it for more than a decade seems a futile exercise in self-torment. Why Gabe Newell's company abandoned the story (in it's most dramatic climax) after two excellent installments, and equally good episodes, remains a mystery. Ever since, the mythical third episode is the holly grail of gaming, and speculations and rumors concerning it are among the most fruitful conspiracies out there. But is there any truth to any of them? We'll probably never know. When Valve became interested in VR a few years ago, there was no shortage of ironic comments saying that the next installment of the series would appear as an exclusive title for the technology. Funnily enough, that's exactly what happened.
If someone had told me a year ago that Valve was announcing Half-Life: Alyx in this form, I would have laughed and heralded a huge backlash from players. But the very first footage offered new hope: not only the return of a great universe, but also of the company that has always created the best single-player games. Now, after spending several hours with a VR helmet on my head, I know all I needed to know. Even though I can hardly believe it, my passion for Half-Life was reinvigorated the way I had never suspected.
How, after all these years, do you go back to such a well-established universe and make players interested in a spin-off? Valve achieved that with a single phrase that appears at the beginning of the game. It makes it clear that what we're watching is in direct relation to the events of the second episode of the second installment of the series. That's when a powerful cliffhanger occurred, just to "hang in the air" for several years. Until today. The game, which takes place five years before the events of Half-Life 2, we play as Alyx Vance performing a seemingly routine reconnaissance missions. Alyx is already heavily involved in the fight against the Combine the militaristic, multidimensional organization that controls City 17. During one of the combat operations, the Combine kidnaps Eli, the hero's father. Armed with a distinctive gun and some new toys such as the gravity gloves an invention specifically designed with virtual reality in mind we rush to the rescue.
Although the starting point for the plot seems a little pretentious and rather insubstantial, the adventure takes us into the heart of the mysteries of the Half-Life world and allows us to get answers to at least some of the questions that have been tormenting us for years. What's more important, however, is that the story is told in the unique, Valve style: it's thrilling and dramatic, also light and approachable. We have great, humorous exchanges between Alyx and Russell, a scientist who supports us with advice and displays complete lack of empathy. There's the murky agenda of the Combine, repressing the humanity with increasingly sophisticated technology. There are unlikely alliances, such as a friendly alien who cooks headcrabs. There's humour, drama, and feels all that Alyx represented with her character in Half-Life 2.
Valve keeps trying to make the plot and gameplay blend seamlessly and, as always, it works out great. There are not cut-scenes at all, which makes sense, considering the game happens in VR. We see everything directly from first-person perspective, controlling her super realistic hands that really feature some incredible details. While the first Half-Life was ahead of its time by ditching cut-scenes, Alyx takes another step forward: it removes the borderline between the player and the game. Betting on the VR, though considered a superfluous decision by many, allowed the creators to deliver an absolutely mesmerizing experience that the visit to City 17 is.
How Valve Index turns out? I played Half-Life: Alyx the Valve Index VR headgear, which reportedly sold like hotcakes after the game was announced. In addition to great technical parameters, this equipment offers peculiar controllers that recognize the movement of the fingers. If you don't have such controller, don't worry it's pretty much just a gimmick, and it doesn't make much difference.
I played on the first version of the Oculus Rift. The graphics aren't that sharp, so you've got to take Hed's word for it when it comes to the hands' details. However, the game was still very enjoyable, and visually appealing.