Ahead of Half-Life: Alyx’s long-long-awaited launch later this month, Valve has released around ten minutes of new gameplay footage – split across three separate videos – highlighting the kind of unique VR interactions, including three different forms of locomotion, that players can expect from the first-person shooter come 23rd March.
Video number one is mainly focussed on exploration, starting and ending within the cramped confines of a subway train. There are headcrabs and headcrab zombies galore, with plenty of moody ambience as Alyx prowls the shadowy underground station to pick off opponents one by one. It’s also a bit of a showcase for the game’s physics-based interactions – we see the player prising away planks with their hands and even, hilariously, plopping a hardhat onto their heads at one point – and it’s all demoed using stomach-friendly teleportation movement.
Valve’s second video is for those made of slightly stronger VR stuff, showing off continuous locomotion – a particularly nail-biting proposition given the impressive sense of verticality during the sequence. The bulk of this video takes place within the squalid interior of a crumbling building – although the sun-dappled snatches of City 17 outside look absolutely gorgeous – and there are some nifty hands-on interactions to be found.
Things open with a hacking mini-game, requiring players to spin a holographic globe with one hand while manipulating nodes with the other, and we later see the player shaking an explosive to start its detonation sequence, even snatching an object from a recoiling tentacle using co-ordination and speed. These kinds of small tactile moments are dotted throughout the videos, suggesting Valve’s put plenty of thought into creating a world that feels tangible and malleable.
Finally, then, is shift locomotion, which functions similarly to teleportation, except that it enables players to sort of slide over to their chosen location, as a kind of compromise between the two previous options – slightly less nauseating for those unfamiliar with continuous motion, but considerably less immersion breaking than teleportation.
This particular video, the shortest of the three, demonstrates all-out action as Alyx is caught in a firefight in the shadow of a derelict warehouse. Unsurprisingly, the pace here is considerably faster, with the player dodging rapidly between cover, leaning out to nail the perfect shot, and then, eventually, scrambling inside a nearby building for better shelter. It’s tense stuff, and I’m definitely looking forward to feeling like a badass by catching a grenade in midair with my own hand and then sling it back.
There’s probably plenty more to find in Valve’s three gameplay videos for those with particularly sharp eyes, but all will be revealed in full when Half-Life: Alyx, which will be compatible with all PC-based VR headsets, comes to Steam on 23rd March.