Can you believe we're a few weeks away from Half-Life: Alyx, the new virtual reality (VR) game being released by Valve on March 23 -- with Half-Life: Alyx acting as a prequel to Half-Life 2 and only playable in VR... and only on the PC.
VR is a market that has really grown over the last couple of years, and in the last 12 months or so we've seen a huge expansion in the number of VR gaming headsets you can buy... but there's been no big AAA release that makes a VR headset a 'must buy', until Half-Life: Alyx.
Valve will be opening a new world to gamers with Half-Life: Alyx, but what do you need to run the game itself? That's something I'm going to cover in this article, and then after the game has been released I'll follow it up with some performance articles as I will be playing it in-house here at my lab on the HTC Vive, hopefully a HTC Vive Cosmos Elite soon, and the Valve Index in the coming months.
Half-Life: Alyx takes place between the events of the original Half-Life and its sequel, Half-Life 2. You play as Alyx Vance, the daughter of Eli Vance, after Eli founds a secret that finds them on a journey to the heart of the Combine's occupation of City 17.
Half-Life: Alyx Gameplay Videos
You'll Want To Make Some Room
Valve has full support for room-scale VR gaming goodness in Half-Life: Alyx, as the game allows (and really pushes you to) stand and walk around your room, turn and crouch, and get ducked behind cover. You can play the game sitting down if you really want to, as Valve has provided multiple ways of moving around in the VR environment in Half-Life: Alyx.
Valve has included 3 different forms of locomotion in Half-Life: Alyx, these include: continuous, shift, and teleporting. The 3 videos that I embedded above will give you an idea of what to expect from the different styles of movement.
- Continuous - In this movement, players will play Half-Life: Alyx similar to a normal first-person shooter with free movement done through an analogue stick.
- Shift - The Shift style of movement in Half-Life: Alyx is similar to the Teleport method, where you will place a market on the ground for Alyx to move to. Once this is done, you'll zap over to the spot, but the movement isn't as instantaneous as the teleporting option.
- Teleporting - Teleporting is pretty self-explanatory in Half-Life: Alyx, where instead of the slight lag in moving with 'Shift', you will simply teleport instantly using this method.
Keyboard and Mouse -- NOT SUPPORTED
I wanted to make this clear, in case you didn't already know -- but the keyboard and mouse are not supported in Half-Life: Alyx, period. Valve has made a VR-only game, and you will need a VR headset and controllers to even play it. Your keyboard and mouse are useless in Half-Life: Alyx.
Half-Life: Alyx -- PC Minimum Requirements
At a minimum, Valve recommends that your VR-ready gaming machine has:
- CPU: Intel Core i5-7500 or AMD Ryzen 5 1600
- RAM: 12GB
- Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 580 (with at least 6GB of VRAM)
- OS: Windows 10
I wouldn't want to be playing a VR-exclusive game like Half-Life: Alyx on mediocre specs like that, and I doubt anyone that has spent many hundreds (or $999 on a Valve Index) on a VR headset is going to have a mid-range Core i5 or Ryzen 5 processor and only a GeForce GTX 1060 or Radeon RX 580.
I would dare say most people would have a higher-end Core i7 or Ryzen 7 processor, and GeForce GTX 1080/1080 Ti or Radeon RX Vega 56/64 at a minimum to want to play Half-Life: Alyx. I would definitely be leaning on the most powerful graphics card you can afford, and maybe a more mid-range CPU and 16GB of RAM.
I will know more about exact performance once Half-Life: Alyx launches, as I'll run my own performance benchmarks on various VR headsets to get a better look at performance on a bunch of different graphics cards.