The ultimate Half-Life VR hardware guide, from frugal to fantastic
Half-Life: Alyx, Valve’s first single-player game since 2012’s Portal 2, is out now for virtual reality platforms. That has led me to write two separate articles. The first, a feature-length review, talks about the very, very good game in a vacuum; it assumes you have access to a relatively powerful gaming PC and a compatible PC-VR system.
What does it take to run Half-Life‘s VR-exclusive entry in March 2020? Which VR systems are the best? What’s the best cheap way to dive in without spoiling the gameplay experience? And is HL:A reason enough to buy into the PC-VR space at this point? Let’s dive in.
A refresher on the requirements
Let’s begin with the bare requirements to play HL:A: a Windows 10 PC (sorry, Windows 7 holdouts) and a SteamVR-compatible PC-VR system. The former has a minimum level of system specs, which I’ll get to later. The latter includes nearly every VR system on the market, with the obvious exceptions of PlayStation VR (which requires a PS4 console) and smartphone-shell solutions like Google Cardboard and Samsung GearVR. If a list helps, these headsets all work with the SteamVR software base:
- the full HTC Vive line (Vive, Vive Pro, Vive Eye, Vive Cosmos, etc.)
- Valve Index
- the full Oculus line (Rift, Rift S, Quest*)
- all Windows Mixed Reality-branded headsets (Samsung’s HMD Odyssey+, etc.)
While Varjo’s line of professional-grade VR headsets are advertised with SteamVR compatibility, we have not used any of them to test HL:A. I’ll update this guide whenever I do (and Varjo has begun the process of shipping a loaner headset my way for temporary testing).
oculus quest’s list has an asterisk as it’s the only well suited headset to require extra hoops to get working. each fee extra money. one additionally costs time and vr overall performance. as such, it’s the handiest hardware to get a special “how to get operating” phase.
the only way to play hl:a with the “wi-fi” $four hundred oculus quest is to take benefit of its stressed out oculus link feature. (if you’ve never heard of oculus link, examine my november 2019 explainer, then come again.)
the oculus hyperlink characteristic requires a cable with a usb 3.1 rating and a kind-c connector. the kind-c charging cable that comes inside the quest box isn’t rated for this velocity (sigh). the cheapest one i have tested and showed running, a 10ft cable from anker, is beneath $20 and in inventory as of press time, while oculus’ very own version is presently offered out. the great component about oculus’ model is its l-shaped connector, and while you can find comparable 3.1-rated l-shape cables on amazon, i can’t attest to their compatibility or performance.
regardless of which cable you use, you will want to come up with a creative manner to cozy it on your headset or strap. despite an l-formed connector, its placement tugs on one facet of your head in unideal style. double-wrapped duct tape on the top of your headstrap is a bit clunky however at the least moves the cable to a greater balanced role.
your different quest alternative is to enable its wireless-vr mode. before i give an explanation for how, i strongly urge you to now not rely upon this technique. i tested hl:a thru the search’s wireless pipeline with an unobstructed 5ghz signal between my headset and my router, but this introduced consistent, obnoxious visual judder in the game’s virtual global. whether or not you are lining up a pistol’s shot, spinning a puzzle’s spherical base, or just attempting not to puke after extra than five minutes, this judder will destroy your experience greater than any dangling cable off the lower back of your head.
with that out of the way, you’ll need to purchase the oculus shop’s $14 model of the virtual computing device app, then down load and install two apps: the virtual computer streamer app on home windows 10 and the “aspect-loaded” digital laptop app for oculus quest. the latter is more complex. oculus quest’s os runs on a fork of android, because of this you could download and installation “unconfirmed” apps. whilst oculus does not block this completely, it calls for that users sign up their oculus debts as “developer” bills.
sidequest, an unofficial side-loading aid for oculus quest, has a available academic for toggling developer mode on your quest. as part of this method, you can either installation and use sidequest’s home windows app to install the quest’s custom virtual desktop app, or you can ignore sidequest’s app, observe steps 2-five of its manual, and aspect-load the vd app yourself the usage of the apk document discovered here.
while this unofficial wireless quest mode is a fun birthday party trick, it is not a first rate way to play hl:a. different devoted wireless-vr adapters are greater highly-priced for a motive.