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Can Half-Life: Alyx make the case for consumer VR? (Edge Magazine Post Script)


As an Edge Magazine Subscriber I received my copy today and thought I would share some of the Post Script for what has to be the biggest VR release to date, Half-Life: Alyx. The game itself received 9 out of 10, but the Post Script shares some broader issues for VR in general.

"The odd thing about reviewing Half-Life: Alyx is that it isn't just a game. It isn't even a system seller, in the traditional sense of that term. It has been specifically designed to make the argument for an entire medium...

Alyx not only has to sell people on the dream of VR, it has to sell them to the tune of almost £1,000 (plus a sufficiently brawny PC to do it justice). This is admittedly only if you want the best possible experience. Valve is supporting every PC VR platform you could possibly name. We play Alyx on an Index, but also test it on the considerably cheaper Oculus Quest and HTC Vive. While the visual downgrade is noticeable, it doesn't hurt the game too much. The bigger constraint, for our money, isn't a technical one at all. It has to do with space.

Here's the ugly truth: your enjoyment of this game is going to be directly proportional to the amount of space you have to play it in. With VR, physical space becomes an extra system requirement to take into consideration - and even those of us who find the allure of Alyx enough to drop a grand on an Index are unlikely to also shell out for a new living room. And even that might not be enough. We play in optimal conditions - a spacious room, all but cleared of obstacles - and still frequently find ourselves brushing up against the translucent boundary wall in-game.

It's a problem we cant see a solution to, at least not from a technical perspective - and warehouse-sized VR arcades, much as we'd love to see them, don't feel like a realistic prospect.

Occasionally, even with the presence of that gridded wall, we manage to let go of that second layer. The game envelops us entirely, and its a magical moment - until we bump shin-first into a chair, or punch a wall. Honestly, the experience of playing Alyx is worth these minor battle scars, but VR more broadly? We're not sure whether it ever will be."
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