Let’s take a look at ALL of the things you didn’t notice in the trailer for Half Life: Alyx.
There are a lot of particles, smoke and volumetric lighting used in the video – I wonder if all this stuff will be overused in VR because it looks cool in 3D. Where do you think all this electricity is coming from? Couldn’t it be from THIS enemy, found later on in the trailer? A new type of enemy? ENHANCE! Scissors and screws on the shelf here – you think you could use them as makeshift weapons? I know what you’re all thinking – what excellent subsurface scattering! The alien’s legs are thin enough for you to see light through them. This isn’t a new tech – I think I first saw it on the tech-demo, ‘Luna’, and this was back in 2005! In other words, this tech
is old enough to be in Half Life 2 episodes 1 and 2. I wonder how close a view you’ll get of this in the game, and how you pull a headcrab off in VR.
This game is set between the two existing Half-Life games, but just after the 7-hour war where the combine attack Earth in the first place. You can see them constructing the Citadel seen in Half Life 2 here. There’s a lot to see in this shot. A strider… in an exoskeleton… carrying a look-out tower? I wonder if part of the game will be set up here to give everybody vertigo and motion sickness. Also it reminds me of this bit near the start of Half-Life 2.
And this park reminds me of another bit early on. They’ve deliberately shown all of the same park rides as they had in Half-Life 2 here. What I think happened here was that they made a demo for Half-Life VR using Half-Life 2 assets, and people spent more time than expected doing random stuff in the park so they decided to keep it in. I expect this to be one of the first places you see, and you’ll be free to play about with all these things. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense for this game to be in VR. Half-Life 2 was all based around its cutting edge physics.
All of the puzzles and environments were made deliberately to showcase physics and the gravity gun was your way of interacting with it all. VR makes more sense in Half-Life 2 than it does in most games. They said in an interview that people had fun with VR even when the graphics were rubbish, but they went and did it all in Source 2 any way. That being said, you can still make out the polygons on the wires over here, most of the bricks surrounding this doorway are flat and the bottom of this hedge is disappointingly flat. And if anyone can explain why the shadows on these wires suddenly cut off half way up a flat wall, please let me know. Valve pls fix
Just as the citadel was the thing you headed towards in Half-Life 2, I expect this floating ship to be what Half-Life Alyx is based around. And I wonder if you’re meant to sabotage the power cables leading to it at some point. I have no idea how this puzzle is meant to work but I fully expect it to utilise VR and your hand controls, so I don’t think it can be compared to anything we currently have in games. That being said, it looks a bit like pipe mania. As for what this is, the more I look, the less sure I am. It’s on a track, so you’d think it’s a train of some sort. But that front bit really doesn’t look like it can move along the track, yet fits perfectly with the rest of it. So is it a vault door to the inner part of the city? A train undergoing a transformation? Or a loading bay for a train that’s about to arrive? Or something completely different? Place your bets.
The first friendly person we see! Character models were something very important in Half-Life 2, being ahead of their time by several years. It looks like this game has adopted a more cartoonish look, not too dissimilar to the facelift the models in CS:GO have received these past few years. He’s wearing some kind of biohazard suit here. I assume that because it looks just like what this poor guy’s wearing.
I think you’re charging up or activating your gravity-gloves here, as you can see these things are made out of make-shift microwaves, turned on their sides. I assume you have no hud, no crosshair or anything in VR to get in the way of the immersion. So instead, your health and ammo are shown on your left hand, on nice little glowing displays. Later we also see a torch attached to the left hand. I’m actually looking forward to using a torch in-game, shining it into all kinds of weird nooks and crannies. I don’t know what these 2 green lights mean, but they’re red later on- and these come on as your hand’s going into the health machine, so maybe that means you can’t use it for anything else while the red light is showing. Also, an engine warning sign shows up on this screen here.
And this next sequence is nice as well, reminding me of the bit in Half-Life 2 where Barney drops you the crowbar. If we slow it down enough I’m happy to report that the bullet does fire out the direction the gun was facing at the time. I’m sad the glass particles fade away almost instantly. These gloves are the game’s gravity gun,
it seems. It makes sense as Alyx was the one to give Gordon the gun in the first place, so who knows what steps went into developing it initially. And for VR it helps to pull stuff towards you because if you’re in a restricted space, or are sat down to play this game (Yes that is an option) then you won’t always want to be crouching down topick stuff up, and sometimes it may simply be out of reach in your play-space. I can imagine VR scales nicely as you use a bigger and bigger zone.
Now’s a good time to talk about movement in VR. You can see Geoff in a room here, teleporting about in Half-Life Alyx, with brief black ‘blinks’ between the transitions… though the website says it supports 3 different styles of motion, the other 2 being a smoother transition between zones. I am worried about motion sickness with some of these. I have never been travel sick, but 5 minutes of running about in VR using WASD made me feel terrible for about half an hour. I’ve been too scared to return to it since.
Back to the game, the ammo glows too, so although you get an ammo counter on your hand I wonder if that’s reserved for later and for the first part of the game you’ve just got to count your ammo, literally, by hand. This is a healing station and it uses the same sounds as Half Life 1 and 2. It’s interesting that you have to give up one of your hands to use this machine, meaning your movement will be limited, making this a vulnerable situation to be in. You sure wouldn’t want to have to fight enemies in this state! Also, this looks like one of the antlion bugs seen in Half-Life 2: Episode 2. They’d give you health when you killed them, and if you focus on it in this sequence you can see it gets liquidated as you’re healing. Poor thing. And the health is more sophisticated than being just 3 hit-points, looks like you can get smaller hearts as well to indicate smaller increments. It’s nice to see more than one shadow being cast from this case on the ground, but not so good to see such sharp looking shadows from what I assume is shrapnel from the explosion, meaning it treats this huge fireball as a single, tiny point of light.
Very high quality motion blur in this shot which is generally used to smooth out motion. As the game should be running at more than 60 FPS I expect the effect to be more subtle in actual gameplay. Also, the zombie’s hand passes straight through the wall. And this is when the environment starts to change. You notice all this goo stuff oozing out from the vents? You’ll see a lot more of that in other parts of the trailer. What I THINK has happened is that, by coming to Earth, the combine accidentally contaminated the world with this alien stuff. This will be a 3-way battle between you, the combine and the alien things. I’ve seen a few combine with what looks like a canister on their backs. Maybe this is for flames or some kind of poison to help clear buildings of this stuff which seems to get everywhere.
I think you’ll be spending a lot of this game rummaging through debris for stuff. I have a few questions about ammo in this game. What happens if you pick up a stash of ammo? Where does it go? We see the player pick up 2 at the same time, which magically stack on top of each other to make for easy insertion into a shotgun! Are we going to see two-handed weapons in this game, or is everything one-handed for convenience? Can you dual-wield? Also unlike the pistol, this gun shows its ammo on the back.
What’s with everything being sideways in this game? First the microwaves, now the TVs. If you look closely, you’ll notice you’re stood in an elevator in this scene.
It was never made clear how organic these things were, they always seemed part animal part machine. But these dangly bits indicate they’re more animal this time around.A few nice things to point out here. Firstly, I love the hairs on the headcrabs! Second, what will it be like to be sucked up by one of those tongue things in VR? And third…there’s a headcrab in a toilet.
You get a mix of blurry and sharp shadows, depending on how far from the surface the item is. This is nice to see and as it shows a more advanced lighting model than the real-time lighting seen in CS:GO, for instance. Of course, that’s assuming that Source 2’s lighting IS all in real-time… Notice how all these combine have canisters on their backs. Also, hello, good old van model! There’s no sign of him yet, but Dog is guaranteed to make an appearance isn’t he- and there’s got to be another fetch sequence where you pass and catch items thrown by him. Of all the speculation in this video, I am most confident about this. How can anybody working on Half-Life Alyx NOT have gone back to this bit of Half-Life 2 and thought ‘wait… this is perfect for VR’. And if for some reason you haven’t
done this Valve… what are you waiting for? Get to work on it GO GO GO. Dog was one of the best bits from Half-Life 2, so much so that they found ways of cramming him into important bits in BOTH episodes, and he’s known Alyx since she was a child.
‘Gordon this is Dog. My Dad built him to protect me when I was a kid. First model was… YAYYYYYYY high. I’ve been adding to him ever since.’ Of course, he’s going to be in this game, and when he shows up I expect him to look less advanced than he did in Half-Life 2. I don’t mind if Dog’s cuter… as long as he can still murder people.
Here you are being briefed on a mission. You can see a map of City 17, the combine wall… and then what looks like a giant person in a suit. You can see the Australian guy here again. And I’m confident it’s him in this room because you can see everything from another angle in this screenshot on the Half Life website. You can even see the cup she places on the hologram, just here. We’ll play this in slow-motion so you can see all of the flaws with the physics in this game. I’m hoping you can play with, and rummage through the bits of polystyrene found in these supply crates. REFLECTIONS! But I doubt it’s raytraced. In fact, I don’t even know if it’s using screen space reflections. At worst, it could even be the same old cubemapped reflections seen in Half-Life 2, but maybe with the sort of parallax trick seen in CS:GO’s new Lunacy level. A lot of the stuff seen here is from the Zen world from Half-Life 1. I think this shows a late-stage infestation of one of the houses in City 17. Like how Half-Life 2 had different chapters, I expect this alien contamination to be one with it ending somewhere super disgusting like we can see here.
Another shot of the VR puzzle games, this time really obviously using 3D space. I’m going to assume you use your gravity-gloves to steal a grenade from a combine soldier here. And I’m going to speculate that you can physically rip head-crabs off zombies, and that’s why there’s this new, armoured, poisonous looking one, which you won’t be able to deal with in the same way. Also, this headcrab’s really cute. It clearly hasn’t seen sunlight in a long time. And I hope I’m not the only one who can’t wait to stick my hand into this zombie’s chest cavity and to wiggle it about! The future of gaming is here.
This is the same gun the Australian guy almost killed you with earlier in the trailer, but it now has some new side-attachment. Will this be a jump-scare near the end of the contamination episode of the game? Whatever this dude is, he’s wearing the same stuff as the enemy in the NEXT clip, who can seem to summon lightning and send it travelling along the ground towards you. I really respect the new antlion models. I thought they were one of the best looking creatures in Half-Life 2, but now they have glowing, translucent limbs that can be shot off and stray hairs sticking out everywhere- like everything else in this game it seems. Also, they recommend you play Half-Life 2 Episode 2 first before playing this one, for reasons that will become apparent later. It’s hard to do this without spoiling anything,
but in Episode 2 there’s one bit where Eli shouts this: …and in the trailer for Half-Life Alyx there’s this. Which hints that it may… conclude whatever started in Episode 2. Even though that wasset after Half-Life 2. They can’t just have thrown that into the trailer to troll people. Not after keeping their fanbase waiting for 12 years…
And then a look at the floating ship, which I am sure must be this game’s equivalent of the citadel, and where the Alyx’s mission must eventually lead. …and there’s Gman. Here he is in Half-Life 2. This is how they compare. The new one has nice fuzzy hair. To save you some time I watched the 22-minute interview. This is how I interpreted what they said, but it might not be how they wanted to convey it. I think the past decade has been used to develop Source 2 and to figure out how to use VR. It seems like they’ve spent the last 4 and a half years on Half-life: Alyx, and that the VR came first, with Half-Life being chosen because they decided its theme and gameplay worked best with it. What’s been going on at Valve for the last 10 years will be revealed in the ‘FINAL HOURS’ released next year, where they talk about their tests with VR, the Lab and all of the cancelled games which served as stepping stones ultimately leading to Half-Life: Alyx. With this game, they started by making a 15-minute demo using Half-Life 2 tech and people ended up spending 45 minutes in it. From this they saw that VR could be so much more immersive
and it led to player behaviours they hadn’t seen before. From this small test, they learned what was important in VR, and what wasn’t- notably being graphics. And from their testing and experimentation, it naturally grew into a bigger game and is now roughly the same length as Half-Life 2. More than 50 people have been working full-time in secrecy on it. I got the impression that calling it ‘Half Life 3’ was too much pressure, but they hinted that they liked the idea of producing more stuff for the Half-Life series, depending on how this game was received.
They say mouse and keyboard would lose so much of what makes this project special, as it has been built from the ground up to be for VR. Trying it on mouse and keyboard would almost be like watching a movie… on a radio. As an example, they say there is so much you can do with doors in this game and it would take up a portion of your keyboard to get the same functionality from traditional mouse and keyboard gameplay. As an example, using VR you can open a door slightly, peer in, chuck a grenade through and then close it again. You can duck behind cover, dodge enemy attacks and so on. No doubt this game will be modded to support mouse and keyboard later on and people will be like ‘ah yeah it is better with VR’. After Half-Life Alyx is released, I reckon progress will pick up and we’ll begin to
see more games from Valve again. Just like the old days! Because VR is a new technology with a limited audience, they said that multiplayer isn’t ideal for now, but that once VR is established, I’m hoping for Half-Life VR Deathmatch and Left 4 Dead VR! They said that they considered Portal, but that it would make people feel too sick. So that’s all the stuff I picked up on from it. It seems like Valve are heavily invested in VR and that there’s a lot riding on Half-Life Alyx. I’ve seen a lot of comments from people who are disappointed that the next Half-Life game is limited to VR only… and I think Valve were expecting this kind of response.
VR has failed to gain mainstream traction until now. And while Valve are taking a huge gamble by putting so much time and money into it… I really do think that if VR succeeds, gaming will never be the same again. And if Valve can’t get it right with Half-Life Alyx… I don’t know who can.