Mon. Sep 26th, 2022

Helaas is <em>Half-Life: Alyx</em> not compatible with real crowbars.  But what about your other VR options?  Let’s dig.”/><figcaption class=

enlarge Unfortunately, Half-life: Alyx is not compatible with real crowbars. But what about your other VR options? Let’s dig.

Sam Machkovech / Aurich Lawson

Half-life: AlyxValve’s first single player game since 2012 Portal 2, is now available for virtual reality platforms. That has led me to write two separate articles. The first, a comprehensive review, talks about the very, very good game in a vacuum; it assumes you have access to a relatively powerful gaming PC and compatible PC VR system.

However, this article does not make that assumption.

What does it take to run? half-life‘s VR-exclusive entry in March 2020? Which VR systems are the best? What’s the best cheap way to dive in without spoiling the gameplay experience? And is HL:A reason enough to buy into the PC VR space right now? Let’s dive in.

A refresh of the requirements

Let’s start with the absolute requirements to play HL:A: A Windows 10 PC (sorry, Windows 7 holdouts) and a SteamVR compatible PC VR system. The first has a minimal level of system specs, which I’ll get to later. The latter includes nearly every VR system on the market, with the obvious exceptions of PlayStation VR (which requires a PS4 console) and smartphone shell solutions like Google Cardboard and Samsung GearVR. If a list helps, these headsets all work with the SteamVR software base:

Although Varjo’s line of professional VR headsets are advertised with SteamVR compatibility, we didn’t use one for testing HL:A† I’ll update this guide every time I do (and Varjo has started sending a loaner headset to my side for temporary testing).

Since many of you will be testing with Quest, here’s some nitty gritty

The Oculus Quest listing has an asterisk because it’s the only compatible headset that requires extra hoops to get started. Both cost extra money. One additionally takes time and VR performance. As such, it is the only hardware with a dedicated “how to get started” section.

The easiest way to play HL:A with the “wireless” $400 Oculus Quest is to take advantage of the wired Oculus Link feature. (If you’ve never heard of Oculus Link, read my November 2019 explanation, then check back.)

The Oculus Link feature requires a USB 3.1-rated cable with a Type-C connector. The Type-C charging cable that comes in the Quest box is: not suitable for this speed (sigh). The cheapest I’ve tested and confirmed to work, a 10-foot cable from Anker, costs less than $20 and is in stock as of this writing, while Oculus’ own version is currently sold out. The best thing about the Oculus version is the L-shaped connector, and while you can find similar 3.1-rated L-shaped cables on Amazon, I can’t confirm their compatibility or performance.

Whatever cable you use, you’ll want to come up with a creative way to attach it to your headset or belt. Even with an L-shaped connector, its placement ideally pulls on one side of your head. Double wrapped duct tape on the top of your headband is a bit clunky, but at least it moves the cable to a more balanced position.

Your other quest option is to enable wireless VR mode. Before I explain how, I urge you to not trust this method† I tested HL:A through the Quest’s wireless pipeline with an unobstructed 5GHz signal between my headset and my router, but this introduced consistent, unpleasant visual vibrations into the game’s virtual world. Whether you’re lining up a gun’s shot, spinning the spherical base of a puzzle, or simply trying not to puke for more than five minutes, this thrill will spoil your experience more than any dangling cable from the back of your head.

If that’s out of the way, you’ll need to purchase the $14 version of the Virtual Desktop app from the Oculus Store, then download and install two apps: the Virtual Desktop Streamer app on Windows 10 and the “side-loaded” Virtual Desktop app for Oculus Quest. The latter is more complicated. The Oculus Quest operating system runs on a fork of Android, which means you can download and install “unconfirmed” apps. While Oculus doesn’t block this completely, users must register their Oculus accounts as “developer” accounts.

SideQuest, an unofficial side-loading resource for Oculus Quest, has a helpful tutorial for changing the developer mode for your Quest. As part of this process, you can install SideQuest’s Windows app and use it to install the Quest’s custom Virtual Desktop app, or you can ignore the SideQuest app, follow steps 2-5 of the manual, and install the VD- load the app itself with the APK file found here.

While this unofficial wireless quest mode is a fun party trick, it’s not a great way to play HL:A† Other dedicated wireless VR adapters are more expensive for a reason.

More controller flexibility than we expected, honestly

Now that Quest’s mumbo-jumbo is out of the way, I’ve got some good news. If you own it each from the above compatible VR headsets, you can expect a useful method to play HL:A

Do you still have the HTC Vive wands from the 2016 era?  Then you're in solid hands (pun intended) with <em>Half Life: Alyx.</em>” src=”https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/vive-wand.jpg” width=”916″ height=”666″/><figcaption class=

Do you still have the HTC Vive wands from the 2016 era? Then you are in firm hands (pun intended) with Half-life: Alyx.

Kyle Orlando

This is mainly because Valve has reduced the game’s controls to its lowest common denominator: the four-year-old HTC Vive wands. You don’t need a discrete joystick to play the game comfortably. You don’t need any finger tracking or grip sensor gimmicks from the Valve Index Controllers. You just need a touchpad, a single trigger and a single “menu” button on each controller to recreate the sensation of your real hands in VR. (You can play the entire game with just one Vive staff, thanks to the game’s welcome accessibility features.)

If your system of choice includes joysticks, the game’s “smooth motion” movement option works better. As my review points out, Valve gives players two types of control: teleportation and fluid motion. The first is the default, and my preference. The latter resembles the kind of joystick controls you’d find in a standard FPS video game, which some people might prefer, damn motion sickness. HTC’s Vive wands also support this method, but you can’t anchor your real thumb to a handy joystick when you do this. It is therefore somewhat inconvenient and not recommended.

Oculus Touch: the second-generation model (left) and the first-generation model (right).  Both work with Half-Life Alyx, and the second-generation model comes with every Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest.
enlarge Oculus Touch: the second-generation model (left) and the first-generation model (right). Both work with Half-Life Alyx, and the second-generation model comes with every Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest.

Sam Machkovech

In terms of comfort and button spacing, the Oculus Touch, Windows Mixed Reality controller and Valve Index Controller all get the job done, and they’re also all shaped to fit comfortably in your hand, which is usually worth using when using the game’s “cock to reload” mechanic for guns. This description also applies to the Vive Cosmos controllers, which launched in late 2019 with the Vive Cosmos headset, but these are my least favorite controllers on the list. For starters, they’re 63.5% heavier than Oculus Touch, at 211g with two AA batteries versus Oculus’ 129g with one AA battery, and this difference is tricky after a few hours of play. Worse, they rely on tracking light through RGB sensors, unlike the infrared detection of most VR controllers, which means the Cosmos pads always track a little slower and less accurately.

Even Windows Mixed Reality, whose headsets vary in terms of hand-tracked accuracy, is a better option across the board than the standard Vive Cosmos option. You can also choose to buy the Vive Cosmos Elite, which is compatible with the HTC Vive wands and Valve’s Index controllers, but I’m struggling to recommend Cosmos Elite at $900 for a full set (headset, HTC Vive wands, tracking boxes). The Oculus Rift has a slightly lower resolution, but costs a whopping $500 less, while $100 more gives you everything superior to the $1,000 Valve Index.

As I mentioned before, the Valve Index Controllers are my current favorites on the market. Just know that their benefits inside HL:A are about immersion, not control. They sell the sense of physically interacting with so many objects, either by letting you open your hands to “touch” a cabinet handle or by reducing the requirement to physically hold a controller for so many hours (because they’re neat to the touch). your knuckles are stuck).

I get the feeling HL:A could have provided more interesting controls or systems if Valve had made this game exclusive to Index, and Valve developers confirmed in an interview with Ars Technica that at least one potential weapon upgrade had been nixed for that reason. For now it’s game better with Index Controllers, but not enough that users of other systems would feel the need to inflate hundreds of dollars. (Index controllers cost $280 as a standalone purchase, but they also require SteamVR tracking boxes and a SteamVR box compatible headset. This means that they are not necessarily a cheap add-on for most users.)

By akfire1

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