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Half-Life: Alyx review

Game released Mar 23, 2020

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94%
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Half-Life: Alyx

Jason reviews Stormland
Review by: Pedro
Posted on: 17-04-2020
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About Half-Life: Alyx

From the developers of Half-Life, Portal, Counter-strike, Pay for Defeat, Team Fortress, Dota and Left 4 Dead. Valve brings you Half-Life; Alyx, a stunning graphical VR masterpiece and highly immersive AAA FPS (First-person Shooter). Developed for windows-based computers and available for the Oculus Rift, Rift S, HTC Vive, Valve Index and Windows Mixed Reality headsets, such as the HP Reverb G2, it comes complete with a variety of play environments, locomotion methods, and input devices. The game is rated for players aged 16+

Game Languages: English, French, German, Korean, Spanish (Spain) and Japanese

Game duration: Expect about 12 - 15 hours of gameplay.

Synopsis

Set between the events of Half-Life and Half-Life 2, Alyx and her father Eli Vance initiate an early resistance to the Combine's brutal occupation of Earth.

The Seven-Hour War was a brief but decisive confrontation between the Combine and the governments of Earth. Although the war was lost, it is still fresh in the minds of the people who fought in it.  In the shadow of a rising Combine fortress known as the Citadel, residents of City 17 learn to live under the rule of their invaders, but among this scattered population are two of Earth's most resourceful scientists: Dr. Eli Vance and his daughter Alyx, the founders of a dawning resistance.

In the game you and your father were relocated to City 17. In the years since then you've continued your secret scientific activity - performing vital research, and building the necessary tools for the few humans brave enough to go up against the Combine.


Gameplay  |  Health  |  Batteries  |  Weapons  |  Enemies  |  Jeff  | Verdict  |  Game Tips



Russell

Every day you learn more about your enemy and work toward finding weaknesses within the Combine.

Lean around a broken wall and under a barnacle to make an impossible shot. Rummage through shelves and cabinets to find supplies - a healing syringe and some ammo for your weapons. Use powerful tools to hack alien interfaces, manipulate gravity, throw objects, explore strange and new environments, solve puzzles and engage in combat. Tear a Headcrab off your face and throw it into a trash can.

A VR masterpiece

Valve Corporation, AKA Valve Software, is well known by us retro gamers for one of the best game titles ever created, Half-life, way back in 1998. Half-Life was Valve's first game, a First-person Shooter (FPS) with elements of the horror genre. The game won over 50 Game of the Year awards and its gameplay influenced First-person shooter games/titles, setting the trend for years to come. Half-Life has since been regarded as one of the greatest games of all time, even above Valves other top selling titles - Portal, Counter-strike, Pay for Defeat, Team Fortress, Dota series and Left 4 Dead, another AAA title.

Before we get into the main review of Half-Life; Alyx, let me give you a quick overview and refresh your memory on the previous series of Half-Life titles and the character roles you play as. Alternatively you can skip directly to the main review by clicking here.

The Half-Life run-down

Half-Life: those familiar with the original Half-life and associated characters, may remember playing the role of Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist, after the Black Mesa Research Facility accidentally causes a dimensional rift which triggers an alien invasion.

Half-Life

Half-Life: Opposing Force - playing the role of Adrian Shephard, a U.S. Marine Corporal, initially assigned to cover up the events at Black Mesa, but soon left isolated to fight to survive against a new group of Xen alien invaders and black operation units.

Half-Life Opposing Force

Half-Life: Blue Shift - Half-Life's second expansion pack you play as the character Barney Calhoun, a security guard working at Black Mesa, where you attempt to escape the facility with a small group of scientists.

Half-Life Blue Shift

Half-Life: Decay - the third and final expansion pack for the series was Half-Life: Decay. Decay was unique within the Half-Life series as it was the only cooperative game.  It focused on two of Gordon Freeman's colleagues, Gina Cross and Colette Green, who work with other scientists to counter the effects of the dimensional rift and ultimately attempt to close it.

Half-Life Decay

Half-Life 2 - you return as the original player Gordon Freeman, set six years after the original game.  Earth has now been occupied by the Combine; a trans-dimensional race that exploited the events of the first game to invade. 

Half-Life: Lost Coast - yes, I thought I better mention it for all you Half-Life fanatics out there, although Coast was only a short, playable tech demo. Lost Coast only consisted of a single map and was based on a cut segment of Half-Life 2, where once again you play as Freeman - the primary objective being to climb a cliff to destroy a Combine artillery launcher in a monastery.

Half-Life Lost Coast

Half-Life 2: Episode One - you play as Freeman as he and Alyx escape City 17 before a dark energy reactor core destroys it. The story mainly focuses on Alyx.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two - episode two mainly focuses on expansive environments, travel, and less linear play. You play as Freeman traveling with Alyx into the surrounding countryside, pursued by Combine forces.

Half-Life: Alyx - the latest in the series, Half-Life: Alyx was announced by Valve in November 2019. Half-Life: Alyx is a virtual reality (VR) title, supporting all major VR headsets on Windows-based computers.  Half-Life; Alyx is a prequel to Half-Life 2, where you finally get to play the role of Alyx Vance as she and her father Eli establish the resistance against the Combine in City 17.

Half Life Alyx

Like me, and for those who played the original Half-Life and the subsequent series back then, I would never have imagined that we would one day be playing this game in VR... until now! Finally 22 years later, on the 23rd of March 2020, Valve officially released Half-Life; Alyx, their very first virtual reality (VR) first-person shooter, described by Valve as its "flagship" VR game. Damn right!

Graphics and Visuals

Let’s start off with graphics, or visuals if you prefer. I’ve played almost every VR game out there and to be honest many are pretty mediocre. To me, VR is all about realism, feeling like you’re really there. To develop top-notch titles like Half-Life: Alyx, is a big challenge, with several major variables that need to be considered.

  • Graphics and visual clarity - this provides the atmosphere, adding to the immersion.
  • Game mechanics - the movement and the interaction with objects and characters, not to mention an intuitive user interface (UI).
  • Stability - a game that doesn’t crash, takes too long to load, or requires massive processing power to run, or constant patches (typical of early or untested releases).
  • Playability - after all, there's no fun in playing a game that’s too difficult or mundane. The gamer needs to feel they are engaged (belong) and in control. It's their world and everything should be smooth and run like clockwork. The last thing you want to do is break that immersion.

Surely that’s what virtual reality is all about right?

Graphically and playability-wise. The games that catch my eye are titles created by leading game developers, such as Sanzaru, Vertigo Games, Drifter, 4A Games, Insomniac Games, and of course Valve, to mention a few.  Favourites being Asgard’s Wrath, Arizona Sunshine, Gunheart, Arktika.1 and Stormland VR, all of which are considered as AAA titles (top rated games). Now, there’s Half-Life; Alyx, Valves stunning VR shooter adventure, an exhilarating, creative, interactive, mind-blowing masterpiece.

Don’t miss out on these top titles. Check out these AAA games.

AAA games

Half-Life: Alyx was experienced with the following setup: Oculus Rift S. PC Specification: Intel Core i7 9700K 3.6GHz CPU -  MSI MEG Z390 Ace motherboard - Nvidia GTX 1070Ti GPU - 32GB DDR4 RAM (3200 MHz). The game ran adequately well with no major performance issues whatsoever. For the best experience try Half-Life; Alyx on the Valve Index in conjunction with the Asus ROG Strix RTX 2080 Ti.

GO TO: Half-Life Alyx - Game tips



Gameplay Review

Configuration 

Like many games, you start off by configuring your controllers, setting your player height, room layout, boundaries and other common UI tweaks (optional). To be honest, I didn't change anything. I left everything as the system defaults. The game auto-detects your computer specs, so I wouldn't recommend messing around with any settings that you’re unsure of, certainly the ‘Performance’ option, which sets the capabilities of the graphics processing unit (GPU). My ‘Performance’ was already set by default to ‘High Fidelity’. You can still change these. Available options are; Low, medium and ‘Ultra Fidelity’, for those with super powerful GPU’s. Another thing I found handy (if you pardon the pun) was that the right-handed option was preselected. I don’t know whether the game proactively knew about this, from my Oculus profile, but I guess it’s something you should check in case you’re left-handed.

configuring controllers

Reconnaissance

The game opens with you placed on the top balcony of your hideout, where you’re immediately presented with spectacular, awe inspiring visuals overlooking the rooftops of City 17, where towering, long-legged robots stride effortlessly through the streets and flying space vehicles zip through the sky. There's also the odd pigeon thrown in for aesthetics, further adding to the immersion.

The short Reconnaissance mission primarily kicks off the story, but more importantly it's a way to introduce and demonstrate to you some of the game mechanics by exploring and interacting with the objects around you, some of which are non essential, but fun anyway, like mucking around with the radio and scaring pigeons. Fun aside, it's about getting used to using your controllers, exploring the surrounding area and your apartment hideout, and eventually finding your way out into the back alleys of City 17.

Reconnaissance mission

It’s all in the hands

What’s really impressive about Half-Life: Alyx is how your fingers on your virtual hands adapt to what you touch and interact with, such as when you tune a radio or pick up a marker pen to write on glass. Even when you push a button in a lift, your finger will automatically point to press the button, just how you’d react in the real world. You’ll notice this feature throughout the game. You can literally interact with almost every object in the game. It’s just so damn clever. In fact, who needs expensive controllers or gloves that mimic finger movements, Half-Life: Alyx almost appears to have finger tracking built-in to game mechanics and almost every hand and finger action is responsive to your thinking and actions.

If you own Index controllers, you'll only experience a few things not possible with other controllers - such as being able to crush a can by squeezing the controller, or relax your hands without dropping it. Cosmetically Valve Index's advanced hand recognition may make Alyx's hands look more realistic because of the finger tracking, aside from that, there’s not much difference, as all VR controllers work adequately well and you won’t miss out on anything.

Write on glass

Gravity and haptic vibration

Sticking with the controllers here - when you pick up an object, like an unopened tin of food or a similar solid object, you almost feel it’s weight somehow. I know it sounds strange, we’re in a virtual world right, so how’s it even possible! I agree - you don’t actually feel the object's weight. Example; as you grasp to remove the tin from the shelf it doesn’t float as such (as you’d expect) when it reaches thin air, where gravity would normally kick-in. You’ll see the object drop down along with your virtual hand, just slightly, but enough to trick your brain momentarily, giving you the perception that the object has weight. It's mind-bending stuff!

Gravity and finger mechanics

Okay, still on the controllers here. Many of the items you interact with using your hands, or controllers to be more precise, vibrate. There’re many scenarios where this happens. The first real experience is when you’re tasered with a cattle prod in the lift, whilst trying to escape your apartment. There’re many ways controller vibration is used throughout the game. It's great fun and kind of rewarding to a certain degree. The healing bay for example:  When you place your hand into the device a series of needles probe and bombard your fingers and hand whilst injecting with health serum. It’s at this point the controller vibrates to simulate what you're seeing to closely resemble what you’d expect to experience. It's a pretty strange sensation but adds to the immersion.

Half-Life: Alyx - Vibrating controllers

Gravity Gloves (Russells)

Acquired early on in the level Entanglement, Gravity gloves are probably the most important gadget in Half-Life; Alyx. These things are absolutely fantastic. I could do with a pair of these for picking up items around the home, like the TV remote!

The Gravity Gloves, AKA “Russells”, appropriately named after Russell who invented them, are acquired shortly after meeting Russell in his secret hideaway. The gravity gloves take some getting used to, but given that you’ve plenty of time to practice out in the backyard, just outside Russell’s back window, there’s no excuse.

The gloves allow Alyx (you) to pull distant objects closer to you then catch them in mid-air. You point your hand at the object whilst squeezing the trigger. You’ll know when it's targeted as the outer edge of the object will glow orange. Then it’s just a case of flicking your hand back towards you to bring it in, catching it mid-flight by making a grip. The “Russells” do have some limitations, in that you can only pull objects light enough to be easily carried in a single hand; so don’t expect them to pull large oil barrels or anything like that.

Gravity Gloves (Russells)

The gravity gloves do more than just pull to catch objects, they also act as a UI for displaying vital information and stats. At any time you can check the back of your glove on your non-dominant hand to see a display that shows your health (in hearts) as well as the amount of ammo you're carrying for your current weapon (weapon you’re holding). If you’re not equipped with a weapon, the display will list your resin count and health.

Watch the Trailer



Storage

Store items you pick up in your backpack. It’s quick and easy. You simply raise your hand over your shoulder and let the item go, however, it’s only possible to store ammo and resin in your backpack. Items such as health syringes and battery packs must be stored in your wrist pockets.




Health

During combat it’s inevitable that your health will gradually reduce over time. It’s at this point you’ll probably need to consider healing yourself. There are two options to rejuvenate your health in Half Life: Alyx. These are:

Syringes

Syringes are scattered throughout the city, so you’re highly likely to come across one on your travels. Don’t worry though, these discarded syringes aren't the leftovers from drug addicts - you will get a quick fix, but won’t catch hepatitis or anything like that. The syringes are conveniently full, so haven't been used. They contain the glowing life-blood from the Antlion grub, handy because they're nice and easy to spot.

The syringe can be stored in either of your wrist pockets for use later on, or used immediately by injecting it into your torso, hand or leg. In controller terms, injection is achieved by pressing the action button (usually the top button).

Healing bays 

Medical stations or Healing bays (being their correct name), can be found throughout the city. Healing bays are mainly used by the Combine, but are safe to use for anyone with human DNA. These healing bay contraptions are a godsend, especially when you're low on health.

The primary part of the Healing bay is the glass canister which houses the Antlion, a special grub that is almost transparent containing a bioluminescent green liquid known for its extraordinary healing properties. Most Healing bays don’t contain canisters, so you’ll need to have a poke around to find one. You shouldn’t have to go far, there’s usually one nearby.

Antlion Healing bay 

The Health station is a doddle to use. It’s activated by pulling back on the red lever, which in turn forces a piston into the canister, compressing and squashing the grub to extract its juices, in tandem with the opening of the hand plate. The healing process begins when you place your hand on the plate. The machine then gets to work by injecting the green liquid into your fingers and various parts of your gravity glove via multiple needles. It’s great, you’ll get a good buzz from it… quite literally, because your controller vibrates.




Batteries/Power cells

Batteries are used as a means of supplying power to devices, such as the various Combine machines, scattered throughout the various levels. They also act as keycards, providing the main source of power to run the automatic doors throughout City 17.

Electric orbs, known as ‘Revivers’ can also be used as power devices. These ‘Revivers’ aren’t lying around waiting to be picked up; obtaining one is far more challenging than that. These orbs are obtained when you kill a Lightning Dog. You won’t come across a Lightning Dog until you reach Chapter 5: The Northern Star, when the power orb is required to complete the level.

Like batteries, ‘Revivers’ are also stored in your left and right wrist pouches.

Power cell and Reviver

Multi-tool

Your character, Alyx, comes equipped with a tool of her own. She refers to it as the Multi-tool. It’s fairly easy to use and has multiple uses, hence the name ‘multi-tool’. It can act as a scanner to locate wiring hidden within walls and reroute the power source at junctions in order to solve various puzzles, such as opening doors and turning off force fields. The multi tool is also used to solve various holographic puzzles and activate the Combine Fabricator.

Half Life Alyx Multi-tool

Resin blocks

Be sure to collect as many resin blocks as you can. They’re fairly plentiful, with many scattered around the various levels, amid floor debris, in filing cabinets and clothing lockers etc. Although they are small, they do emit a small glow, so keep your eyes peeled. The more you collect the better you’ll be able to upgrade your weapons firepower later on. Oh, and remember, resin blocks can only be stored in your backpack.

Resin blocks

Combine Fabricator

The Combine Fabricator is a sophisticated piece of hi-tech machinery that allows you to upgrade your weapons. The Fabricator is a secure piece of hardware - it requires hacking in order to get in - so you’ll need to plug your hand-held scanner into the access port on the lower front panel, followed by solving a holographic puzzle, in order to gain full access to the control console. It's then a case of inserting the gun you want upgrading into the weapon conversion cradle and selecting an upgrade option from the touch screen display. On doing so the primary resin chamber opens. Reach over your shoulder to grab resin from your backpack and place it into the resin chambers, repeating the process until the primary resin chamber closes. Your weapon will then get upgraded and the weapon conversion cradle will reopen, exposing your upgraded weapon… Enjoy!

Combine Fabricator

Flashlight

The flashlight is acquired in the level “IS Or Will Be”. It’s easy to find as it’s shining away in the left breast pocket of a hanging corpse. Curiosity leads you to it. The flashlight is small but pretty powerful. Once extracted from the corpse you attach it to your gravity glove. Be warned though, as soon as it’s attached the tension builds up in the game's background music, dare I say what happens next. Just make sure you have your shotgun drawn, grab the wrist of your dominant arm to concentrate and focus the beam on an imminent attack! Here come the Toxic Headcrabs!

Flashlight




Half-Life: Alyx Weapons

For a more detailed overview of the firearms, mods and tips: weapons and upgrade features

Guns 

There are only three guns you’ll come across in Half-Life; Alyx, the Pistol, Shotgun and Sub Machine Gun (SMG), all of which can be upgraded at the Combine Fabricator. There are also two types of grenades at your disposal - the standard grenade used by the Combine soldiers and the Xen grenade.

Alyx's Pistol

The pistol  - your very first weapon; a modified M1911 with the default clip storing a maximum of 10 bullets, with room for an additional one stored in the chamber - it’s the standard weapon. You acquire the pistol in the chapter ‘Entanglement’, shortly after you obtain the gravity gloves (‘Russells’). Alyx (you) are given the pistol by Russell... well, thrown to you from the top window of his secret hideout. The pistol is automatic, so fires rapidly, ideal for taking out Zombies, Headcrabs, and Combine soldiers from almost any distance. The pistol isn’t as powerful as the shotgun by any means, but holds more bullets and is more manageable - in that it’s quicker to load.

Loading the pistol

Reloading the pistol is a doddle. Gun in hand, retrieve a new magazine by reaching and grabbing over your shoulder with your non-dominant hand. Then physically load it into the butt of the gun... then, you need to press the top button on your controller (B) to engage the magazine, which chambers the entire clip. To eject an empty magazine press the opposite button (bottom button 'A').

As with all guns, the pistol can be upgraded. Upgrades vary and are dependent on how much resin you’ve collected. The charts below show the various costs in ‘resin currency’ and what each upgrade provides.

Note: You'll need to locate a Combine Fabricator to upgrade your weapons.

Half Life Alyx Pistol upgrade

Reflex sight: Enemies weak spots are highlighted when you look down through the sight. This feature is especially useful in the dark.

Burst Fire: Activated by double-tapping the 'B' button. Pull the trigger, to automatically fire off 3 bullets in quick succession, as opposed to a single shot. Just make sure you’re on target or you’ll be wasting 3 bullets!

Bullet Reservoir: Tired of running out of bullets and fumbling around reloading? The Bullet Reservoir allows you to store a second clip of 10 bullets inside your pistol without having to reload. Simply load 2 magazines as opposed to one, remembering to engage the first clip before you load in the second.

Laser Sight: The laser sight increases accuracy, helping you track enemy targets without having to focus too much on manually aiming. It’s especially useful for taking out confined groups of enemies quickly.

Tip: I wouldn't upgrade to the Reflex Sight straight away, although this will probably be the only upgrade you can afford at the time. The Reflex Sight doesn't give you much more of an advantage - the only benefit is that it highlights enemies in the dark and their weak spots, a nice touch, but not essential. You’re better off just aiming down the normal barrel sight and wait until you have enough resin for the Laser Sight or Bullet Reservoir. It's a tough decision - The Laser Sight is great for accurately targeting the enemy and definitely assists in saving ammo, however, the Bullet Reservoir allows you to store more ammo, so less fumbling around when loading. The Bullet Reservoir was my choice.

Shotgun

You acquire the shotgun in the third chapter ‘Is Or Will Be’. The shotgun stores a maximum of 7 cartridges by default. This includes the cartridge in the chamber. It’s the most powerful weapon in Half-Life: Alyx. It packs some punch and - as you’d expect - is deadly at close range, ideal for taking out those tougher adversaries like the Lightning Dog Zombie or the Combine Heavy. Later on, if you’ve collected enough resin to qualify for an upgrade, snap on the grenade launcher for the ultimate firepower!

Loading the shotgun

The only drawback with the shotgun is that it’s slower and more cumbersome to load than the pistol - so make sure you’re somewhere safe when loading. To load - crack the shotgun open by pressing the bottom button (A) on your controller. The barrel will drop down exposing the cartridge bays ready for loading. Reach over your shoulder to grab the cartridges, loading them into the chamber - repeating the process until it’s fully loaded. You can only load cartridges and you can only add a few cartridges at a time...two if it's empty. To close the shotgun, manually push the barrel up. Alternatively, the snazzy way to close it, is to flip the gun upwards. Finally, pulling the lever on the front side of the barrel to engage the cartridges ready for firing. Don't forget to do this as soon as you've loaded those cartridges, as its so easy to forget.


Shotgun upgrade

Tip: When you first upgrade the shotgun, go for the Laser Sight. Later on if you have enough resin, upgrade to the Autoloader first. Double shot is a nice to have but remember you can fire off two shots quick enough anyway. The Grenade Launcher should be your next upgrade, followed by the Double Shot, the last of the shotgun upgrades.

Laser Sight: The laser sight increases accuracy, helping you track enemy targets without having to focus too much on manually aiming. It’s especially useful for taking out large groups of enemies from the hip at close range.

Double Shot: Allows you to fire off two shots in quick succession, as opposed to a single shot. Just make sure you’re on target or you’ll be wasting 2 very valuable cartridges!

Autoloader: With the autoloader strapped on, loading the shotgun is a thing of the past.  No more fumbling around reloading here – well, until you run out of cartridges again that is. Essentially the autoloader automatically inserts a new cartridge from a secondary chamber as you fire, making it less stressful and more advantageous in tight combat situations where stopping to reload isn’t an option.

Grenade Launcher: One of my favourites. The grenade launcher attaches to the front end of your shotgun. It allows you to store a grenade there at all times should the muck ever hit the fan. You arm the launch mode by pushing the slide grip forward on the bottom of the barrel of the shotgun with your non-dominant hand. Readying a grenade for firing will change the laser sight to show the arc of the grenades trajectory. Handy!...

SMG (Small Machine Gun)

Cattle prod aside, the SMG is the favourite weapon of the Combine soldiers. It’s not the average SMG you’d find on the shelf at any Walmart store, the SMG is genetically bonded to its owner, rendering it useless to anyone else, unless of course you happen to stumble upon one that’s un-bonded.

This SMG uses power cells. It’s a high-tech, rapid-fire weapon with a default storage capacity of 30 rounds per cell. This provides you with more than enough ammo to allow you to spray (or “spray and pray” being the latter term) bullets towards an entire group of enemy targets, such as an army of Headcrabs. The SMG isn’t the most powerful weapon of the bunch either. It only provides about half the killing power of the pistol, however it fires far more bullets, increasing your chances of hitting something. Most of your shots will probably miss their intended targets anyway, as it’s not a steady shooter by any means. In case you’re wondering when you come across this gun, it’s acquired in The Northern Star. It's located in a somewhat scary place. Check the game tips at the bottom of this page.

Loading the SMG

Loading and Reloading the SMG is just as easy as loading the pistol, easier actually! Gun in hand, retrieve a new power cell by reaching and grabbing over your shoulder with your non-dominant hand and physically clip it onto the front-side of the gun. The SMG will automatically absorb the rounds, ejecting the empty power-cell case. Nice and quick to load.

SMG upgrade

Reflex sight: Enemies are highlighted when you look down through the sight. This feature is especially useful in the dark.

Laser Sight: The laser sight increases accuracy, helping you track enemy targets without having to focus too much on manually aiming. It’s especially useful for taking out confined groups of enemies quickly.

Extended Mag: You’ll whip through bullets in no time with the SMG, so it’s essential you upgrade. The SMG allows you to stow up to three additional power cells, that's 120 rounds! 

Grenades

Standard grenade

You’ll encounter two types of grenades during your adventure, the Combine grenade and the Xen grenade. They are activated with the push of a button (A) and are good for clearing out groups of enemies.

A tip: Carefully open all doors, you shouldn't be barging in any room, it's damn-right rude! Anyway, open doors ajar first, take a peek. If there's a bunch of Headcrabs in the room use the grenade to clear the path.Standard grenade

Xen Grenade 

Xen grenades are unlike the standard grenade, these are organic explosives! They are obtained from the Xen grenade creature. It's a cute and somewhat chirpy, eel-like plant which slightly resembles a long bendy arm which protrudes from the ground. This useful plant actually makes organic grenades, passes them through its body and regurgitates them into a hand-like clasp, which is essentially its head. To obtain one of these Xen grenades you need to be quick, snatching it from its grasp before it grips and locks onto it. If successful and you manage to grab one, the plant will regurgitate another, acting like a dispenser, providing you with an endless supply of Xen grenades. 

Just like the standard grenade, these Xen grenades can be thrown or fired from your shotgun. Essentially the Xen grenade works in the same way as a standard grenade, but isn't quite as powerful. They can be found wherever a Xen grenade plant is located. Technically you can take as many as you want, but you can only carry up to two at a time. This is because they are stored within your wrist pockets… and you’ve only got one pair of hands!Xen Grenade

Vodka Bottles

Finally… not really a weapon as such, but a tool used for distraction. In chapter 7 ‘Jeff’, you start off in the distillery, where you come across hundreds of Vodka bottles. Bottles are scattered throughout the level, purposely placed in order for you to distract Jeff. They serve one purpose; to be thrown!. There's a plentiful amount of bottles around and can easily be snatched up using the gravity gloves. You can even store bottles in your wrist pockets and use one when you feel it’s necessary.


Want more information on the guns, features and mods... CLICK HERE: weapons and upgrade features



Enemies

As in the original Half-life, Xen aliens are no longer killed with a simple clout using a crowbar, but fight tooth and nail with proper weapons in a battle of proximity accompanied by fumbled and rushed reloads.

Barnacle

Barnacles are best described as giant, upside-down sea urchins, with a 20 foot protruding tongue (tendril). Barnacles hang from ceilings, dangling their long tendrils and awaiting naive passers-by who get a little too close, in order to drag them into their octopus-like mouth and tear their face off, errr! And rob their victim of any items they happen to be carrying, such as grenades and pistol clips.

Half Life Barnacle

It takes 3 - 4 clean shots from the pistol to kill a Barnacle. Most Barnacles are easy to avoid, whistling as you casually walk by (cautiously avoiding the tentacles), but wait! Leave no stone unturned; sometimes it’s beneficial to kill Barnacles, as they often drop goodies from the last victim they sucked up, so killing one may reward you with much needed ammo or resin.

Tip: You can kill a cluster of Barnacles by throwing any sort of explosive towards them, like a gas cylinder, and shooting it.

Headcrabs

Headcrab

Half-Life: Alyx would not be a Half-life without the Headcrabs. These crawly, giant alien-like spider crabs are quite common enemies throughout the game. The Headcrab isn’t much of a challenge, generally three to four pistol shots does the trick.  A word of caution, however - take too long fannying about and they'll lunge towards you dishing out a fair bit of damage. “But it’s a crab for Christ’s sake!”  Yes, a three foot one! If you're out of ammo you can protect yourself by swatting them with an object, such as a bucket, to lessen the damage while you pick them off.

Headcrab

Tip: Wait for the Headcrab to rise back on its hind legs, exposing its tender underside, namely its mouth. Then aim and shoot there for a quick kill.

Headcrab Zombie

A Headcrab Zombie is a corpse that has been taken over by a Headcrab. The Headcrab Zombie is particularly challenging when in a group. They are fairly easy to kill with your pistol by shooting the green pustules on its body.

Tip: The quickest way to kill the Headcrab Zombie is to aim for the head, basically shooting at the Headcrab. Three headshots using the pistol, or a single blast from the shotgun.

Armored Headcrab

These are really nasty pieces of work...Nasty! Somewhat similar in size to the Headcrab, but covered in a hard, nubbled, bubble-like armoured shell, so much more difficult to kill. Just like the Headcrab they lunge towards you, so keep sharp. As with the Headcrab their vulnerable part is their underside, so if you have the opportunity (patience is key here), wait for them to rear back on their hind legs and shoot them in the mouth.

Armored Headcrab

Armored Headcrab Zombie

Armored Headcrab Zombie, again, similar to the Headcrab Zombie, in that a corpse has been taken over, but this time an armoured Headcrab is at the helm. It’s far more difficult to kill - headshots are useless because of the armour, so bullets will simply ricochet off. The best way to kill the Armored Headcrab Zombie is with the shotgun or explosives.

Toxic Headcrab

The Toxic Headcrab is equally as dangerous as the Armored Headcrab. These don’t have armour but are distinguishable by their spiny hairy legs. They generally appear in dark places so make sure you have the flashlight in order to spot them lurking in shadows. Their kill method is to spray neurotoxic liquid over you. Not only rapidly sapping the health from you, but also temporarily blinding you, making it more difficult to locate them. To make things worse they attack in numbers, making them even more dangerous and harder to kill. Like its foes, the same rule applies - Hind legs - underbelly shot - dead! 

Toxic Headcrab

Tip: The shotgun is an excellent weapon for killing the Toxic Headcrab, in fact any Headcrab. The gun is powerful and has a wide shot spread, handy for when you’re shooting blindly in the dark.

Toxic Headcrab Zombie

The Toxic Headcrab Zombie makes its first appearance in the Chapter ‘Is Or Will Be’. These are much like the other types of Headcrab Zombies, in that they've taken over a corpse, except you have the Toxic Headcrab to contend with.

The Toxic Headcrab Zombie is fairly slow and easy to deal with, providing you’re at a safe distance. Just aim for the Headcrab (head). Be cautious though, as it appears that now they occupy a corpse their health appears to have increased along with their toxicity, so keep your distance and don’t let them get close. 

Lightning Dog

Not resembling a dog in any way apart from it being on all fours. This vicious alien is probably one of the cleverest and fastest movers of the Headcrab species. They scurry around emitting jolts of lightning from their body in almost every direction.

Lightning Dog

What really makes the Lightning Dog stand-out from its foes is that it has a unique defence system and when threatened, which doesn't take much, it will cloak, surrounding itself within a haze of electrical fog. So invisible right?  Not quite… they can still be spotted. As it passes nearby objects it creates a loud and bright electrical discharge, giving away it’s location.

Lightning Dogs are very tough and take a lot to kill. They can cause a lot of damage with electrical attacks, so be prepared! Just make sure your guns are fully loaded and you have a grenade ready to go. It will take five shots from the shotgun to kill a Lightning Dog. Once killed and as a reward, the lightning dog will drop a ‘Reviver’, an organic battery cell which operates the same way as a regular Combine battery and even fits into the same battery slots.

Lightning Dog Zombie

Technically a Lightning Dog Zombie is a Lightning Dog that has occupied a corpse. It’s a fairly challenging enemy, in that you need to kill both the Zombie and the Lightning Dog whilst avoiding the deadly electrical attacks.

Lightning Dog Zombie

Tip: The best way to kill the Lightning Dog Zombie is by shooting the blue glowing areas within its body, which will eventually explode, forcing the Lightning Dog off its host. Then it’s just a case of popping it off with the shotgun.


Blob

Bloater

Bloater, what the hell is a Bloater?  Well, let me explain. A Bloater doesn’t have legs, so won’t be running or jumping at you. They are green pustule-like creatures, about three to four feet in diameter, and remain completely static - nice to know. As innocent as they appear they will explode if you stand next to them for too long. They can absorb bullets and regenerate quickly, so if you’re going to shoot them make sure you shoot them constantly until they explode.

Tip: The best way to kill Bloaters is from a distance. Any weapon will kill one. For a quick kill, toss in a grenade, use a single shot from your shotgun or shoot at it several times with the pistol.

Spinners

Manhack

Manhacks are flying drones that carry a spinning laser blade, much like a chainsaw. These will fly towards you with great speed and force. Even a single Manhack can rip a fair chunk of health from you, especially if you’re not paying attention to your surroundings and one happens to zip-up behind you. However, they do emit a whirring noise, making you aware of their presence. You can take them down with your pistol, though it can be a bit of a challenge, after all, you’re shooting a moving target, so use caution. Two to three shots from the pistol are enough to take one out or, if you prefer, try the shotgun for a single shot take down.

Manhack


Soldiers

Combine Soldier

The standard Combine Soldier utilses automatic weapons. They often fire at you while taking cover and throwing grenades at you to force you out of cover. The best strategy to kill these is to try and take them down one-by-one. The choice of weapon is down to you.

Combine Soldier

Tip: The Combine Soldier has backpacks that contain a flammable liquid. Yes, you got it! Shoot the backpack to quickly kill the enemy and others in the vicinity. It’s also a great way to split up soldiers if they are part of a squad. 

Combine Heavy

The Combine Heavy is a formidable soldier - pretty scary looking to be honest. They are extremely dangerous, especially at close range and are difficult to kill especially once they’ve deployed their forcefield. You’ll need to utilise your full arsenal of weapons to take out one of these. They can take a lot of abuse and barely flinch, even when struck by multiple grenades, and as far as the pistol goes, you may as well be using a potato gun! The best way to take out the Heavy is with repetitive headshots or unloading a few magazines using the SMG. 

Combine Heavy

A word of advice here: Steer clear of their guns and their forcefield. They can deploy a blinding attack at short distance, although just for a few seconds, but highly damaging to your health. 

Tip: Although the Combine Heavy is a formidable enemy, armoured to the hilt and brandishing a forcefield, it does have a weakness... it’s slow and not very agile! Take advantage of this flaw and try to flank it. The Combine Heavy turns around very slowly, so as he turns, move quickly to a good position, taking aim and shooting at the exposed areas, especially the head.

Combine Minigunner

The Combine Minigunner is one big soldier! It's very similar to the Combine Heavy in that its body armour is basically the same and it also takes a lot of shots to kill, however, it doesn’t wield a shield and instead of the standard issue automatic weapon, it wields a high-powered mini chaingun. This rapid firing weapon is exceptionally accurate and deadly. It goes with saying, planning and strategy are key here, should you want to take it out quickly.




Jeff

Jeff! What kind of a name is that - and who is Jeff? Yes I agree, it’s a strange name for a zombie, however, someone had to name it - Larry the techno geek to be precise, a member of the resistance.

Jeff

You stumble upon Jeff in Chapter 7 ‘Jeff’. He’s a formidable enemy and although completely blind, has super hearing and his sense of smell is pretty good too. You’ll first encounter Jeff when you enter the distillery, where Jeff roams free to cause havoc. You’ll know once you meet him, the first introduction being almost certain death! Let me remind you - Jeff can hear a pin drop, so you need to be super quiet. Not only can he detect you walking, he can even hear you breathe! Hearing aside, Jeff also spurts out Xen spores from four large growths on his back, so make sure you cover your mouth when near him. 

How do I defeat Jeff?

I’m not going to tell you that now. I don’t want to add spoilers here, however, there is a dedicated page ‘How to beat Jeff’, which provides some great tips and all the necessary steps to avoid detection. Smart planning and quick thinking is key to beating Jeff. You’ll probably die several times before you get past the first part. (2 parts in total).

Tip: Have a good look around your environment. There are tasks you need to complete. Save your ammo, you can’t kill Jeff with any weapon.

Large Bugs

Antlions

The Antlion (scientific name Myrmeleontidae) doesn’t appear until the later levels, chapter 8 to be precise. The Antlion is a bulbous, oversized insect with scary flesh ripping mandibles. It’s not a fast mover, by any means. It only has two front legs to walk with. The Antlion is fairly easy to kill in a one-off battle, but far more challenging when there’s a group of them. Take it out with the weapon of your choice.

Antlions

Tip: The best way to kill the Antlion is to shoot its two front legs, finishing it off with shots to the body. They can also fly into the air, exploding, so anything nearby will take some collateral damage.

Blue Antlion

The Blue Antlion is as easy to kill as its relative, however, these blue-coloured critters can eject a toxic substance in ranged attacks. Be warned! These attacks are deadly. In fact so deadly that just one attack could strip your health down to next to nothing, even if in a one-on-one battle. The advice is obvious. Be wary of their ranged attacks and block or dodge them whenever you see them advancing.




Verdict

Half-Life; Alyx is by far the best first-person shooter we’ve ever played in VR to date. The team of developers at Valve have done an absolutely fantastic job in what only can only be described as a masterpiece.

The game settings were simple and not overly complicated in any way and didn't require any input from me to get the game started, other than browsing through the various options, mainly to ensure my right controller was set as my dominant hand - and it was. The controller buttons are perfectly laid out, very intuitive, and were a doddle to get used to. I quickly became a master of the gravity gloves and the loading and unloading of the pistol. The shotgun took a little more getting used to, as you tend to forget exactly how each weapon loads.

I loved the variety of weaponry and how each gun had their own characteristics, such as how they're loaded, what firepower they offered, and where and when and what type of gun to use on which type of enemy. 

The interaction with the Combine Fabricator for weapon upgrades was also a nice touch.  It’s a shame there wasn't more resin around so I could upgrade my guns quicker. The grenades were my favourite and very easy to throw unlike Arizona Sunshine, where throwing items any great distance was a very poor experience in my opinion.

Half-Life: Alyx Is not an all-out shooter like my other VR favourite, Gunheart. Shootouts need to be more strategic and a little planning may be necessary. There’re no endless bullets in this game; when you run out, you need to find more.

The puzzles were really enjoyable.  A little challenging at the beginning, but once I did a few, I quickly understood what I needed to do in order to get the job done. The puzzles are great fun and you get a good sense of achievement and self-satisfaction on completion.

I simply loved the revamped Half-Life enemies. Valve did an excellent job ensuring that the enemies correlated perfectly with the previous versions from the Half-Life series of games and without any notable loss of their behaviours and mannerisms. 

The attention to detail is astounding, so much so I spent at least 20 minutes gazing at inanimate objects admiring their lifelike textures. Almost every object you look at and interact with is a graphical masterpiece in its own right. Even simple things, such as discovering I could use a marker pen to write something on the dirty windowpane and shortly afterwards realising I could use the nearby eraser to wipe it off, was downright awesome! I couldn’t help but touch and pick up everything I encountered, just to see what it would do or how far I could interact with it. Even the light switches could be toggled on or off! This is attention to detail that is generally overlooked and often not appreciated by some. A game like this certainly deserves the best graphics cards available.

To sum it up - the storyline in Half Life Alyx is superb and gameplay-wise, delivered unparalleled immersion, the ability to let us perceive the many virtual, atmospheric environments and the freedom to touch and interact with objects as if they were present in the real world was simply mind-blowing and not far short of spectacular, delivering an expertly crafted immersive adventure inside a unsurpassed VR experience.

Disc Space.

On a final note, I was amazed that Half-Life Alyx only takes up 66 gigabytes (GB) of disc space, compared to that of Asgard's Wrath which uses a whopping 132GB - It's no wonder why larger disc drives are becoming so popular. Thankfully, due to the super-fast read/write speeds of today's SSDs, games load faster than ever before. You also may be interested to know - we recently did a little research to find out how much disc space games used to take up back in 1996, compared to the present day. The results were pretty shocking! We also did a lengthy review on the best SSD for gaming. Check it out, it could save you some money.




Half-Life: Alyx - tips


Don't Forget To Save

Although Half Life Alyx has an auto-save feature, it's still a good idea to save your own progress, especially in those areas where your about to confront the Zombie Dog or a nest of Headcrabs.

Resin - find as much as you can

Probably one of the most important items in Half-Life: Alyx is resin. Resin is more abundant than you think, you just have to look, even areas that appear to be a dead-end you'll probably find a slice or two. Check on shelves, in cupboards, cabinets, behind boxes, under desks, pipes and even in sewer drains... yuck! 

Ammo Is Crucial

Need more ammo? Just like resin, if you look there's plenty around on shelves, lying around on floors and on dead bodies - to mention a few. Other places to look - open any large yellow cooler boxes you come across, throw down to smash wooden boxes. Sometimes shooting Barnacles will also reward you with ammo or sometimes a grenade.

Reserve Your Ammo

Find alternative kill methods: Shoot at the dark orange gas canisters to take out multiple enemies. Gas canisters can also be picked up and thrown into the vicinity of the enemy, then shot at when the timing's right. Sometimes if there's a Barnacle nearby and an the enemy walks near it, the Barnacle will suck it up for lunch, saving you ammo. Also, use the standard grenades or Xen grenades where you can.

Be Tactical When Using Grenades

Carefully open doors, just ajar, take a peek. If there's a bunch of Headcrabs or Zombies in the room use the grenade to clear the path. It will save you a lot of ammo. Although you can only store two grenades in your wrist pockets, you can still carry one in each hand, giving you a total of four at you disposal!

Take Cover and Hide

Use the environment for cover. Hide behind objects and peek around corners before you go all guns blazing. When in deep trouble run to a safe distance and re-approach with caution, pecking out our enemies with head-shots.

Pistol Upgrades: Choosing The Right One

I wouldn't upgrade to the Reflex Sight straight away, although this will probably be the only upgrade you can afford at the time. The Reflex Sight doesn't give you much more of an advantage - the only benefit is that it highlights enemies in the dark and their weak spots, a nice touch, but not essential. You’re better off just aiming down the normal barrel sight and wait until you have enough resin for the Laser Sight or Bullet Reservoir. It's a tough decision - The Laser Sight is great for targeting the enemy and definitely assists in saving ammo, however, the Bullet Reservoir allows you to store more ammo, so less fumbling around when loading. The Bullet Reservoir should be your first choice, then the Reflex Sight followed by the Laser Sight. The Burst Fire is a nice to have later on and should be the last of your upgrades.

Shotgun Upgrades

When you first upgrade the shotgun go for the Laser Sight. Later on when you have enough resin, upgrade to the Autoloader. Double shot is a nice to have but remember you can fire off two shots quick enough anyway, so not that important. The Grenade Launcher should be your next upgrade, followed by the Double Shot, the last of the shotgun upgrades... although you're probably better off saving those 25 resin blocks for upgrading the SMG.

SMG Upgrades

Upgrade to the Laser Sight first, then the Extended Mag. You would've already saved 30 resin blocks from not upgrading to the Reflex Sight and Burst Fire on the pistol and a further 25 from opting out of the Double Shot, shotgun upgrade, a saving of 55 resin blocks!

Barnacles: Alternative Ways to Kill

Barnacles are pretty stupid really, best of all they're greedy and will eat almost anything thrown at them. With that in mind - toss an active grenade into the vicinity of its tentacles or a gas cylinder. It will soon gulp it up and explode on doing so.

Headcrabs - Shoot At The Mouth 

The best method for killing all Headcrabs is to wait for the Headcrab to rise back on its hind legs, exposing its tender underside, namely its mouth. Then aim and shoot there for a quick kill. This tactic certainly needs to be applied when tackling the Armored Headcrab.

Headcrab Zombie

The quickest way to kill the Headcrab Zombie is to aim for the head, basically shooting at the Headcrab. Three headshots using the pistol, or a single blast from the shotgun is usually enough.

Toxic Headcrab Pit

In chapter 5: The Northern Star (where you find the SMG), you will come across what seems to be a dirty, broken-up basement infested with Toxic Headcrabs. Don't waste your ammo shooting these, they will just keep coming. Use the Xen grenade's nearby to clear the path enough to get into the room below - taking a spare Xen grenade with you. When you've acquired the SMG, throw the Xen out the window to clear your path, then run straight towards the elevator shaft, climbing the ladder to safety.

Lightning Dog Zombie

The best way to kill the Lightning Dog Zombie is by shooting the blue glowing areas within its body (corpse), which will eventually explode, forcing the Lightning Dog off its host. Then it’s just a case of popping it off - if you can locate it that is.

Bloaters: Keep Your Distance

The best way to kill Bloaters is from a distance. Any weapon will kill one. For a quick kill, toss in a Xen grenade, use a single shot from your shotgun or shoot at it several times with the pistol. For the more adventurous - if you're very careful and time it right, you can approach a Bloater and back away just before it reaches critical mass and it will explode on it's own.

Shoot Flammable Barrels

Just like the orange gas cylinders, you'll also come across large oil-type looking barrels. They're easy to spot, they're white with a red bands. Wait until the Combine gets close to one and shoot the barrel, killing the enemy outright.

Combine Soldier: Aim For The Backpack

Some Combine Soldiers have backpacks that contain a flammable liquid. Yes, you got it! Shoot the backpack to quickly kill the enemy and others in the vicinity. It’s also a great way to split up soldiers if they are part of a squad.

Manhack Soldiers: Some Combine Soldiers can deploy Manhack's, you'll see a perfect example of how troublesome this can be near the end of the level 5 'The Northern Star', where you're constantly bombarded with these flying menesses. Take out the soldier that's releasing the Manhack's before you do anything else.

Combine Machine Gunner.

Watch and listen. Wait until the gunner stops firing then peek around from cover and shoot for the head if you can. You may have to repeat the process several times, but it's the safest way to kill them.

Combine Heavy.

Although the Combine Heavy is a formidable enemy, armored to the hilt and brandishing a force-field, it does have a weakness... it’s slow and not very agile! Take advantage of this flaw and try to flank it. The Combine Heavy turns around very slowly, so as he turns, move quickly to a good position, taking aim and shooting at the exposed areas, especially the head. Another tactic is timing, shooting it just after its stopped firing. Grenade ready - if the Heavy drops its shields at any point, be quick and toss a grenade at it.

Antlion - Take out The Legs

The Antlion is pretty easy to kill. You simply shoot the orange parts on their body. Dismember it first by shooting its two front legs, this will limit their mobility, then finish it off with shots to their orange glowing abdomen. A word of caution though... if they're weak they sometimes tend to fly into the air, exploding, so anything nearby will take some collateral damage, so be warned.

Advice - Background Processes

If you experience issues with Half-Life: Alyx, try rebooting your PC and updating your graphic card drivers. Check and turn off any unnecessary background processes that could interfere with game performance, such as a DTP program.

What was your experience playing Half-Life; Alyx?

Do you know of any tips we should know about? Hey! Why not just share your thoughts with me using the comment box below.

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