Image: Valve/GB_2 Development Team
Half-Life: Alyx embodies almost everything I love about virtual reality. Without VR, however, almost all the magic is lost.
Recently, a non-VR mod for Half-Life: Alyx appeared. The mod, which includes adapted mechanics, makes playing through the entire story mode without VR headsets easier. “Half-Life: Alyx NoVR” by the “GB_2 Development Team” is noticeably better done than previous mods that required driver installations or even commands in the console.
Simply copy a folder downloaded from GitHub into the game directory, enter two startup options via Steam and you’re ready to go with a new game state. My respect to the developers of this free mod. All of this worked smoothly for me right away! Still, it was a depressing sight to click through the levels with a mouse and keyboard.
No fun without VR in Half-Life: Alyx?
Without virtual reality, the experience resembles a faded memory of an old hobby I lost interest in long ago. Sure, I sometimes feel a similar sensation with ordinary flat games, but here it’s even more sad because the original VR version is so incredible.
With a mouse and keyboard, on the other hand, the enchanting exploration degenerates into a trivial “walking simulator”. The childlike amazement at Alyx’s powerful, detailed gravity gloves? There’s none of that here.
Instead, I start almost every interaction with the “E” key. Open doors? E! Pick up explosive barrels? E! Use a health station? E! Throwing the barrel into the greedy maw of a barnacle is a simple mouse click again.
The once cautious advance between creeps and explosions from my memory becomes a mere rattling off of stations. Even the gunfights are way too easyalmost like a child’s haunted house with occasional harmless jump-scares.
Some elements that embody spatial immersion have even been removed completely, as they are difficult to implement on the flat screen. These include the spatial puzzles in front of the upgrade stations of the Combine, where glowing wires are moved through the room. Or the already mentioned many cool gravity tricks with your hands, which don’t even exist here anymore.
A mod as a destination
So many things made the original such a defining experience because I could personally immerse myself in the Half-Life universe. In the flat mod, I have to awkwardly hit a few matching pixels with a yellow crosshair. Even the casual quips of my sidekick Russell could only elicit a weary smile from me in the face of the dreariness.
If you still have this classic VR game in front of you, you should definitely not spoil the experience with a slimmed-down flat mod!
However, there is one scenario for which it is perfectly suited. If you ever get stuck, you can use the Noclip “V” key to free yourself from the scenery. I flew through the levels to do a little sightseeing and take a closer look at all of the nooks and crannies of the bizarre architecture.
Diving under the map also creates surreal glimpses of the detailed city in front of Alyx’s balcony, the train station, and much more. If you’ve already enjoyed the developer comments or the interactive documentary The Final Hours of Half-Life: Alyxyou’ll get another view of the game world from the outside.
Click here for the download and instructions on Moddb.com. The hardworking team has some more updates planned. As a basis, the original game has to be in your SteamVR library.