Why Half-Life: Alyx Is VR-Only

Valve's return to the Half-Life universe won't be playable any other way.

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Valve has announced Half-Life: Alyx, the first new Half-Life game in over a decade. However, what's most surprising is that it's made from the ground up for VR. This fact may shock fans who've eagerly awaited a more traditional experience from the beloved franchise. But there's a reason why its developers are strictly focusing on the platform.

In an interview with Valve conducted by games personality Geoff Keighley for his Final Hours series focused on Half-Life: Alyx's developement, it was asked whether the game would include traditional mouse-and-keyboard controls. Valve developer Dario Casali responded that the control style was outside the vision of the project.

"We would love to be delivering a version of this where you can play with a mouse and keyboard," said Casali. "But as we've said, [Half-Life: Alyx] began as an exploration of VR. The more we used the controllers and the headset--the amount of interactions and possibilities these things gave us-- and the more we explored it, the more we realized that there's so much opportunity that we can't translate back to the keyboard when you can track your hands separately from your head. They're all in 3D space--all simultaneously tracking and moving. And when you put that into game mechanics with the kinds of interactions you can do now, you couldn't possibly do that with a mouse and keyboard."

Based on Half-Life: Alyx's debut trailer, Casali's response seems to ring true. Keighley and other Valve developers Robin Walker and David Speyrer remarked upon the sophisticated tactics available to you. Actions, like cracking a door open and peaking through with your gun pointed or throwing a grenade and slamming the door shut, are a small sampling of what you can do. But they're actions that Valve believes can only be in VR and could never translate to mouse and keyboard.

"We would have to map an entire section of the keyboard just to interacting with doors if you wanted to have the functionality [we give you]," said Casali. "But the more we explored those mechanics, the more we realized that in order for us to deliver a keyboard-and-mouse experience, we'd have to ship a game that's missing those interactions, and they were playtesting so well, that we didn't feel like that was a good idea."

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Valve felt that by trying too hard to accommodate a more traditional audience and control scheme that the quality and ambition of the project would be compromised. "You'd end up watering down the VR experience to try to do both at the same time," said Speyrer. "And the process was what can we do with the controllers and the hmd, and so that as we explored that idea, it just drove us into this place where the game became essentially VR rather than superficially VR."

Half-Life: Alyx is scheduled for release on Steam in March 2020. The game will be playable on "all PC-based VR headsets" and is set between the events of Half-Life and Half-Life 2. For more, check out our roundup of everything we know about Half-Life: Alyx.

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