Valve showed us what the world of Half-Life could look like through a VR headset with Half-Life: Alyx. Now some hard-working modders are ready to show us even more. Half-Life 2: VR Mod entered open beta today and is now playable for free on Steam, so tell Gordon Freeman to take off his glasses and strap a computer to his face.
In the mod, which is compatible with the Valve Index, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift, you can play Half-Life 2 from start to finish in VR. It’s a beta, so the mod isn’t 100% feature-complete and you may run into bugs (and not just the antlion variety), but if you’ve got a headset I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t want to jump into Gordon Freeman’s HEV suit and start throwing things around with the gravity gun. Plus, now you can literally pick up that can. Won’t the City 17 metrocops be impressed!
You may need an iron stomach, though. While the mod does support full roomscale VR, locomotion options do not include teleportation, the blink-like movement system you’ll find in most VR games (including Alyx) which often helps players who suffer from motion sickness.
“Due to HL2’s ever-present physics engine, it is incredibly hard to prevent any and all possible induced locomotion on the player, and so it is not yet clear if teleport can be implemented in a meaningful way,” the modders say. “We are still looking into it, but can’t make any promises.”
And you may recall that Half-Life 2 has some lengthy vehicle sequences, as Freeman first spends a couple hours driving an airboat through the canals of City 17, and then races a janky scout car along the coast to Nova Prospekt. Think about all the speeding, wobbling, veering, crashing, and bouncing in those vehicles, and then think about doing it in VR. Unless you’re immune to nausea, there’s a good chance you’ll feel like whooping your cookies as you’re careening around.
The mod’s developers have worked hard to lessen the negative effects of driving in VR, though. “We have done our best to smooth the view during those rides to minimize motion sickness,” they say. “Even so, the rides still require strong VR legs. For players who struggle with this, we intend to offer an option to switch the vehicle rides to a projected 2D view. While not as immersive of an experience, it should at least allow everyone to get through the rides.”
Despite a lack of teleportation locomotion (except for the kind provided by Dr. Kleiner’s lab) the mod has both smooth and snap turning, customizable controls, full support for left-handed players, and a laser sight for weapons to make aiming easier. And to turn your flashlight on, all you have to do is tap your head, which is handy. Naturally the 2004 game isn’t going to look nearly as beautiful as 2020’s Half-Life: Alyx, but the idea of craning your neck to gaze up at the citadel in City 17 is pretty darn compelling.