Half-Life 2: VR Mod is worth the ten-year wait it took to get it to beta

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 3,667   +1,129
Staff member
Highly anticipated: Half-Life 2 celebrates its 18th birthday next month. Can you believe it's been that long? I can't. Even more astonishing is that a significant portion of the HL fan base is still holding their breath for a Half-Life 3. Please come up for air — if only to play this very cool VR version.

The Half-Life 2: VR Mod entered its beta phase a couple of weeks ago and is already getting good reviews, even though there is still much work to be done. Kotaku says it's "almost too good to be true."

Even though it is technically a mod, I'm inclined to call it a new version of Half-Life 2. While it uses the Source engine and has not changed anything script-wise, it was built from the ground up for VR, which requires much more work than just making it run through a headset. Plus, it's been a decade in the making. That's considerable dedication considering fan hobbyists built it in their spare time. I feel it's worthy of the designation.

Sure there were hiccups and periods of dormancy, particularly as hardware and VR tech have changed and required the team to take ten steps back. At one point, Nathan Andrews, the mod's initial creator, quit the project entirely out of frustration from continually having to redo things.

Keep in mind this ambitious undertaking started in 2012 when VR headsets weren't really the beast that they are today. The initial prototype (above) was a Frankenstein's monster combining a console gun controller, early specialized tacking equipment that Andrews had access to, and a Sony HMZ-T1, which was essentially just a head-mounted video display.

While the current beta's primary campaign is fully playable, quite a bit of it is a work in progress. Weapons still need to incorporate smooth gestures for manually reloading. The team is working on a teleport movement system to reduce motion sickness — VR veterans should be able to handle the current version's hectic movement with little discomfort.

The mod is also due for a graphical upgrade. After all, the game came out in 2004. The Source VR Mod Team wants to add higher resolution maps, assets, and textures at some point, but that's lower on the list of priorities. At the top of the roadmap are making Episodes 1 and 2 playable. The developers say most of that content is fully functioning, but a few "major issues" still need to be fixed before it's ready for a public beta.

That said, the nearly completed core game plays from beginning to end and is something to behold. Half-Life 2 in VR is nothing short of a completely different game. The sense of depth is what you would expect from any VR title, but the HL2 world is so familiar to fans that stepping into it in 3D is almost surreal. Examining the guns in your hands or watching the pieces of a manhack fly by you after giving one a good whack with your trusty crowbar is highly satisfying.

The "rise and shine, Mr. Freeman" scene in the game's opening is particularly stunning. The G-Man is talking to you (Gordon Freemen) as scenes from the original Half-Life play out on him. It's surreal enough that the environments dance across the G-Man like a screen in a movie theater, but seeing depth inside that suit takes it to a whole other level.

Half-Life 2: VR Mod is a free download on Steam. Remember that you will have to own Half-Life 2 ($10) on Steam since it is technically a mod, despite my insistence that it's a version. The devs also recommend an 8th-gen Intel or AMD Ryzen 3000 series or better processor, 16 GB RAM, and a GTX 1080 or Radeon RX 5700 graphics card. You'll also obviously need a VR headset, but any model compatible with SteamVR will work.

Don't worry if you can't get to it right away or don't currently have a headset. Valve is not going to pull a Nintendo DMCA takedown on the project. The company okayed its development in 2017, so it's not going anywhere.

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Tinckerbel

Posts: 16   +23
Just played it for the first time this afternoon. It was really nice to experience HL2 again in VR after all those years, it is really well done. Standing on the rooftop in the beginning and overlooking the city brought me some true HL Alyx vibes, it truly is a great experience. The only thing missing for me is the 'blink' navigation which I do find a lot more comfortable.
 

passwordistaco

Posts: 413   +951
I played around a bit with HL2 VR on the Oculus DK2, and was surprised it had disappeared when I got a current headset. Looks like this mod will be with the wait, with VR controller support. This is the kind of thing Valve would be doing if they gave a damn about making games anymore.

But hey, why pay a team of developers when the community will do it for free? Is Valve learning from Bethesda, or vice versa?
 

Lionvibez

Posts: 2,736   +2,582
"The devs also recommend an 8th-gen Intel or AMD Ryzen 300 series or better processor, 16 GB RAM, and a GTX 1080 or Radeon RX 5700 graphics card."

Missing a zero there should be Ryzen 3000
 

Lounds

Posts: 1,225   +1,132
I've really been enjoying playing through HL2 again, the game translates so well into VR and the Devs have done a great job of making fully 3D weapons with manual reloading. I can't believe this is a free mod, I'm definitely going to donate to the team. As for the hardware requirements I think lower specs are definitely doable as the game doesn't use a lot of VRAM even in VR and the game is single thread bound. I wouldn't be surprised if the game is able to run on a GTX 970 with a 2/3rd gen i5.
 

MakeMSGreatAgain

Posts: 53   +49
I downloaded this and am playing it on my 1st gen Oculus Rift and its pretty damn awesome! They did a hell of a job and it runs smooth of course. The lifting and moving of large objects is limited to one handed and a bit weird, and still the same old glitchy HL2 physics but it does work.

I agree it would probably run fine on older graphics cards, I'd bet even my old 780 GTX could handle it. I now run a 2060 Super only because a damn driver update killed the 780 but I still have an old Intel i7 4770K from like 10 years ago and most new games still run good - HL2 obviously runs perfect.