By all accounts, Half Life: Alyx is a phenomenal game. But because it’s VR-only, large swathes of gamers simply cannot play it due to the high costs of VR hardware and the computers to support it. To remedy this, modders have been working on No VR mods for Alyx, with varying levels of success.
Recently SoMNst, a modder from Argentina, posted a video on YouTube highlighting the progress of their own No VR mod.
It’s looking good so far. The camera doesn’t judder with every movement like we’ve seen in other mods, and Alyx’s hands are controlled with a mouse and keyboard. Her fingers move as one instead of with the disjointed single-finger movements associated with a player’s hand on a VR controller. The almost nine-minute video shows mostly combat, while other videos on SoMNst’s channel show Alyx working with her omni-tool, which moves more naturally now that it’s controlled with a mouse and keyboard instead of someone’s hands.
SoMNst’s goal is to make the mod play as closely to Half-Life 2 as possible. By the looks of it, no-VR Half Life: Alyx looks like a typical Source engine first-person shooter.
While players who don’t own VR might be eager for these mods, others say they pervert the original vision of the game’s developers. SoMNst is keenly aware that a no-VR mod dilutes some of what Half Life: Alyx special.
“I played the game in VR and I think that the game is a masterpiece. Valve did an awesome job,” SoMNst told Kotaku via email. But the high cost of VR hardware has created such a barrier for entry, that most people will not be able to experience that magic. SoMNst wants to lower that barrier.
“In the current situation of my country (Argentina) it’s almost impossible to get a VR Headset, even if you try to get the cheapest one,” SoMNst wrote. “So I’m developing this mod because of that and because I think that it’s a nice challenge to get working HLA without VR.”
Currently, only two of the game’s 11 chapters are able to be played with the mod. SoMNst and two other modders, Optimus97 and Nicklaus, are working together to create no-VR friendly versions of the game’s core functions like crafting and main menu navigation. SoMNst says they’re prioritizing that before working on making the rest of the game playable.
A no-VR mod is precisely what I’m personally waiting for to experience Half-Life: Alyx. I love the Half-Life games and was excited to see Valve had stealthily revived the series. But my enthusiasm withered greatly knowing the game was VR-only. VR games interest me, but I can’t justify the purchase of an expensive headset that will no doubt end up mouldering in my closet for use with one or two games. (Even though the Oculus Quest is much more reasonably priced, I cannot stomach the idea of its mandatory Facebook integration.) SoMNst’s Half Life: Alyx no-VR mod isn’t yet available, but when it is, I’ll be first in line to try.
(Updated 3/3/22 with new details)