Half-Life 2’s Excellent PC VR Mod Is Almost Too Good To Be True

Gif: Valve / Source VR Mod Team / Kotaku

As of final week, a long-held dream of taking part in Valve’s landmark 2004 shooter Half-Life 2 in digital actuality has lastly come to fruition. The journey started almost 10 years in the past, when a person named Nathan Andrews managed to hack collectively a functioning model of the all-time traditional in VR. This was earlier than any Vives, Indexes, Quests, or Oculi. With a primitive Sony HMZ-T1 and specialised motion-tracking gear, Andrews risked a resonance cascade state of affairs to splice collectively a working basis for a full Half-Life 2 VR mod. Over the subsequent decade, dozens of volunteers would contribute to the off-then-on-again mission, all in hopes of in the future bashing enemies with a crowbar in semi-lifelike digital actuality.

And now Half Life 2: VR Mod is able to play, due to the arduous work of the Source VR Mod Team and their free, open beta obtainable on Steam. There’s extra work to be carried out for certain—a public roadmap reveals what’s to come back—however your complete predominant marketing campaign is already up and operating, and fairly surreal to expertise. Sharp corners and all, Half-Life 2: VR Mod is nicely price trying out proper now should you can.

The variations are fairly speedy. The G-Man’s opening scene grants an entire different sense of scale since you’ve gotten energetic depth notion. Images flash and seem inside him as absolutely realized 3D areas, which you’ll be able to truly peer inside and see with larger depth and dimension. This new presentation grants extra weight to the entire scene.

Gif: Valve / Source VR Mod Team / Kotaku

As a online game graphics expertise in VR, it’s tremendous cool. Your eyes can observe flying particles and exploding barrels with the benefit and pace of simply turning your head. The violence and sensible physics of Half-Life 2 are not simply simulations showing on a display screen in entrance of you; they’re occurring in a 3D area you are feeling a way of presence and dimension in. It all feels so pure that it’s straightforward to neglect that is the tip results of a decade of hacked tech created by enthusiastic followers.

And whereas there’s nonetheless extra work to be carried out on the weapons, it’s a thrill to have the ability to just about maintain, study, and battle with these traditional online game armaments. Smashing the aggressive, flying manhacks with a crowbar in VR is so obscenely enjoyable that I need a mini spin-off mod of this alone. And my Fitbit tells me I’m incomes “Zone Minutes” by whacking these items. The 9mm pistol feels enjoyable to purpose and shoot (and sure, I’m solely aiming with one hand). More fashionable VR video games are inclined to have smoother reload mechanics, so this mod’s really feel a bit clunky typically, however the motion stays simply as hectic and enjoyable.

Half-Life 2 VR Mod Brings City 17 To Life

In a method it looks like Half-Life 2 was at all times speculated to be this fashion. It may be very straightforward to lose your self on this mod, each as a VR expertise and a Half-Life one. It simply pushes previous the standing of “tech demo” or “mod,” feeling prefer it’s shaping as much as be a strong VR sport in its personal proper.

The Half-Life 2: VR Mod mission is at the moment being labored on by customers from the Flatscreen to VR Discord server, led by WormSlayer, whose involvement goes again to the earliest days of the mission. Back then, WormSlayer caught sight of Andrews’ early prototypes and provided his skills, beginning with work on the gun fashions.

WormSlayer’s description of the mod’s early days seems like one thing you’d have to slap collectively to outlive City 17 itself. The assemblage of tech included a “Sony head-mounted TV, a gun controller for a console, and a professional 3D tracking system [Andrews] had access to,” WormSlayer advised Kotaku. That headset in query was the Sony HMZ-T1, which sported “an eye-watering resolution of 640×720 per eye, and a 45-degree field of view,” WormSlayer stated. That headset could be left behind in favor of the Oculus DK1, the primary {hardware} the just-incorporated Oculus (now Meta) ever launched. You can see footage from these early days in a 2013 YouTube video.

Nathan Andrews

As such an early shopper VR experiment, the mission was destined for some roadbumps as new tech hit the scene, rapidly growing older out current requirements. “Valve and Oculus both abandoned the idea of treating a VR headset as just another monitor,” WormSlayer stated. “This was a sound idea for many reasons, but it effectively broke VR support in Half-Life 2.”

After that change up, the staff gave up for some time. Andrews retired from the mission fully. Eager VR neighborhood members, nonetheless, persuaded WormSlayer to rethink dropping all of it collectively. “[They] were confident they could hack OpenVR support into the old project,” WormSlayer stated. And so the mission sparked to life once more, making nice progress earlier than as soon as once more resuming its slumber as important contributors moved on.

Thankfully, the nascent Half-Life 2: VR Mod would certainly see a second resurgence when the Flatscreen to VR neighborhood mustered up a brand new staff. Now that the general public beta is out and playable, they’re focusing their efforts on bringing the mission to a completely polished and finalized state.

As playable and enjoyable as it’s proper now, Half-Life 2: VR Mod nonetheless has some points, primarily concerning efficiency. “The old engine is very single-threaded and only supports DirectX 9, so even with our hacked-together DXVK implementation, we’ve been fighting to hit FPS targets in some places,” WormSlayer stated. While I’ve but to get to a number of the extra chaotic scenes of the sport’s latter half, I’ve discovered efficiency to date to be fairly good. Given that there’s no teleport-style motion choice, nonetheless, this mod could be powerful on the abdomen should you’re new to VR.

Ultimately, the physics and tech of Half-Life 2 are nonetheless a pleasure to play with 18 years later. VR solely amplifies the physicality of its world, with the flexibility to just about choose up and manipulate objects. Half-Life 2: VR Mod isn’t any Half-Life: Alyx when it comes to the sheer quantity of interactable objects, nevertheless it matches in nicely as a VR-worthy prequel. And with the addition of the crowbar and a head-mounted flashlight, it has quite a lot of options and comforts of its personal. Being in a position to just about manipulate objects on this planet is a refreshing method to revisit lots of the sport’s puzzles.

The most shocking factor for me, nonetheless, was how this expertise is affecting my notion of the sport’s characters, particularly the silent protagonist himself.

Gif: Valve / Source VR Mod Team / Kotaku

Gordon Freeman is a quiet man even when he’s frantically destroying shit. But even simply having the ability to nod at an NPC marks a 100% improve in inter-character interplay. Playing Half-Life 2 and having the ability to wave at Dr. Kleiner as he shouts with pleasure upon seeing you makes me marvel: Is Gordon Freeman even a waver? Does he give a thumbs as much as point out he understands? Does he shake or nod his head when individuals discuss to him? How have I by no means thought of this for all these years?

NPCs additionally have a look at you at eye degree in a really eerie method. This feeling exists in different, extra fashionable VR video games, nevertheless it’s shocking to search out it so current in a sport from 2004. The simplicity of the fashions, with mild head animations and eyes that give a touch of persona and consciousness, simply barely inches the sport out of the uncanny valley into one thing that begins to really feel sensible.

I’m not saying nodding, gesturing, and looking out individuals within the eyes are the new options you record on the again of the field (that’s saved for viciously beating the shit out of metallic manhacks with a crowbar and seeing this traditional sport in true 3D), nevertheless it certain does change the tone of Half-Life 2. One nitpick right here: It’s a disgrace you possibly can’t see your arms whereas piloting the airboat. Not solely did my eyes by no means depart the G-Man as I blazed previous him in my escape from the Combine, I’d’ve beloved to stare and level lifeless at him, as if to say “I see you motherfucker. I see you.”

I’m wanting ahead to taking part in by way of the remainder of Half-Life 2: VR Mod, recognizing the distinctive modifications the brand new format provides and evokes. There’s nonetheless work to be carried out by WormSlayer and the staff, together with extra enhancements to the weapons, tweaks to make the sport a bit simpler for folk susceptible to movement illness, and even some AI-upscaled textures to offer the extra aged features of the graphics a little bit of a facelift. Those modifications might be very welcome, however for now this primary playable model makes for a good way to leap again into this traditional sport. If you want Half-Life and personal a PCVR headset, you must obtain this yesterday.

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