Half-Life: Alyx might have been constructed from the bottom as much as assist Valve’s tremendous costly Index headset, however as you’ll have seen from my Half-Life: Alyx PC necessities and VR headset specs article, you may really play it on any VR headset that helps SteamVR, together with the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift headsets and any Windows Mixed Reality headset. Heck, you may even play Half-Life: Alyx on Oculus Quest when you join it to your PC by way of Oculus’ Link software program and a high-speed USB cable. The key query, although, is what VR headset gives the perfect Half-Life: Alyx expertise?
To discover out, I’ve examined the sport with each VR headset I’ve been in a position to lay my arms on: the Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift S, the HTC Vive Cosmos, HTC Vive Cosmos Elite, and, in fact, the Valve Index. Below, I’ve put all of them face to face (or ought to that be headset to headset?) to seek out out which one gives absolutely the bestest greatest Half-Life: Alyx expertise, score all of them for consolation, visible constancy and the way simple they’re to make use of and play the sport with. Which VR headset will emerge triumphant? Let’s discover out.
As a quick reminder, listed below are Half-Life: Alyx’s minimal PC necessities, that are all above what it is advisable get every of the headsets I’ve examined working within the first place. As I came upon in my Half-Life: Alyx VR efficiency article, although, the minimal spec is absolutely solely greatest suited to taking part in the sport on Low to Medium high quality settings, particularly if you wish to take advantage of your headset’s prime refresh fee.
Half-Life: Alyx minimal PC necessities:
OS: Windows 10
CPU: Intel Core i5-7500 / AMD Ryzen 5 1600
RAM: 12GB RAM
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB) / AMD Radeon RX 580 (8GB)
To make it possible for PC efficiency isn’t a difficulty right here, I’ve used the next parts to maintain Half-Life: Alyx working good and easily: an Intel Core i5-8600Okay CPU working at inventory speeds, 16GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super graphics card (which is the minimal GPU I’d advocate for pushing into these larger high quality settings), together with all the most recent Windows 10 and graphics drivers put in. I additionally performed the sport on High high quality when testing every headset, and I used a combination of its teleport and steady motion modes.
To set the baseline expertise, I began with my least expensive VR headset, the Oculus Quest, earlier than shifting up the VR meals chain based mostly on worth. That means, we will see how the expertise evolves versus how a lot cash you’re spending, and whether or not shelling out the highest greenback for the Valve Index is absolutely value it. So, with out additional ado, let’s get these cybergoggles on.
Half-Life: Alyx on Oculus Quest
Once you’ve arrange the Oculus Quest to work together with your PC (comply with my useful How to play Half-Life: Alyx on Oculus Quest information when you haven’t already) and related it by way of a high-speed USB-C to USB3 cable (out there from Amazon US or Amazon UK), this standalone VR headset makes for a surprisingly first rate Half-Life: Alyx expertise.
Despite having the bottom refresh fee of the 5 headsets on check right here, I didn’t discover it overly nauseating and I used to be ready to make use of each the teleport and steady motion modes with out difficulty. The newly up to date Continuous mode did make me really feel a little bit sick, admittedly, however the common motion choices labored simply effective.
Thanks to the Quest’s mixed decision of 2800&instances;1600, the world of Half-Life: Alyx appeared beautiful and sharp contained in the headset, and its OLED panel meant that colors had been wealthy and vibrant. Most importantly, they didn’t look too oversaturated, both, which might typically occur with sure OLED shows. There was a slight port-hole impact across the edges of the Quest’s show, nonetheless, and I used to be continuously conscious that there was a variety of daylight creeping in from the underside of the headset.
Still, the Quest’s 6 levels of freedom (DOF) monitoring labored effectively, and standing subsequent to a specific vibrant window didn’t impression its potential to maintain observe of my physique actions (which might’t be mentioned for each headset on this checklist). The solely slight draw back is that its two Touch controllers (that are the identical ones utilized by the Rift S) had been solely in a position to map the motion of my thumbs and forefingers after I wasn’t urgent any buttons. In order for it to trace my different three fingers, I needed to press down on the controller’s rear set off. Not the top of the world, all instructed, however you’ll quickly see that different headsets on this checklist are in a position to observe all 5 fingers regardless of the place they’re resting on their respective controller.
The solely main drawback with taking part in Half-Life: Alyx on the Oculus Quest is that darn cable. Whereas different headsets sensibly place their PC connector cables to run down the again of the headset behind you, the Quest has to make do with its front-facing cost port. This means the cable connecting the headset to the PC is successfully popping out of your left temple, which might get in the way in which of shifting your left arm relying on the place you’re standing/seated and the way far-off you might be out of your PC. The Anker cables that Oculus recommends as a substitute for their tremendous costly (and presently out of inventory) fibre optic cable do, admittedly, have the drawback of sticking straight out of the headset, somewhat than at a right-angle just like the official Oculus ones, however I’d think about that even the Oculus cables will often get in the way in which of your left arm actions relying on the place you might be in relation to your PC.
I additionally discovered the Oculus Quest to be the least snug of the 5 headsets, which meant I wasn’t in a position to play Half-Life: Alyx for very lengthy earlier than I needed to take a break. Perhaps it’s because of the truth that I’ve a tinier head than most, however I discovered that I needed to pull the straps fairly tight to make it really feel safe sufficient on my face so it didn’t fall ahead after I moved about, which in flip made it dig into my cheeks fairly a bit. I additionally needed to set the interpupillary distance to its smallest doable setting to make all the things look good and sharp, which ended up pinching my nostril after about half an hour or so.
Overall, I’d give it 3 / 5 headcrabs.
Half-Life: Alyx on Oculus Rift S
Immediately, consolation ranges rise 487% switching over to the Rift S, thanks partly to its fantastic light-weight headband. With adjustment managed solely by the round dial behind the headset, the Rift S isn’t simply simpler to suit than the Quest, however it additionally removes a variety of the strain from the highest of my head. The entrance nonetheless digs into my cheeks a bit after some time, however general it’s a far much less top-heavy headset than its standalone sibling, and I used to be in a position to put on it for an extended time period. Not massively longer, all instructed, as my cheeks did really feel fairly sore after some time, however the strain was nowhere close to as dangerous because it was on the Quest.
Strangely, regardless of having a decrease decision than the Quest, the Rift S seems noticeably sharper in-game. Perhaps that is due to the Rift S’ superior match, making it simpler to place on my head with out endlessly faffing with interpupillary distance dials and the like, or possibly it’s only a bizarre quirk of its LCD show. One factor’s for certain – the thicker padding across the Rift S’ lenses implies that there’s far much less mild bleed than the Quest, making for a extra immersive expertise general.
The cable continues to be a little bit of a ache, admittedly. Here, Oculus have mounted it to the facet of the headset, however it doesn’t go way back to HTC or Valve’s respective headsets. As a consequence, I nonetheless felt it curling spherical my shoulder at instances, and it continued to be a nuisance after I began shifting my left arm loads – which you do repeatedly in Half-Life: Alyx at any time when it’s a must to attain into your backpack for extra ammo. It wasn’t fairly as troublesome because the Quest’s cable, however it was an annoyance all the identical.
Still, its monitoring felt simply as correct because the Quest, and I used to be in a position to transfer round my play house simply with out it dropping observe of me. It does, admittedly, fall into the identical hand-tracking pitfalls because the Quest, because of the reality they’ve the identical Touch controllers, however as I mentioned above, it’s actually not that massive of a deal within the grand scheme of issues.
I wouldn’t say the Rift S’ built-in audio system had been any higher than the Quest’s both. Indeed, the audio might be fairly tinny at instances and a variety of Half-Life: Alyx’s atmospheric music didn’t go away a lot of an impression in consequence. The Rift S does, at the least, provide the possibility of attaching a devoted pair of headphones because of the three.5mm headphone jack on the left-hand facet of the headset, however I wouldn’t advocate utilizing a full-blown gaming headset with it. This finally ends up feeling fairly cumbersome after some time, and have become more and more much less snug as time wore on. Opting for ear buds proved to be the higher possibility, as this didn’t apply any further strain on the highest of my head, however it did imply having one other cable (albeit a skinny one) bashing towards me whereas taking part in.
Still, general, a particular step up from the Quest on this case. I give it 4 exquisitely rendered bread rolls out of 5.
Half-Life: Alyx on HTC Vive Cosmos
Moving on to the Vive Cosmos, this concerned a teensy bit extra setup than the Rift S, if solely as a result of this explicit headset must be plugged into mains energy. It additionally wasn’t fairly as simple to get it snug on my head. Despite having the somewhat nifty function of with the ability to elevate all the headband at a proper angle to the headset, permitting you to simply snap it over your head somewhat than stretch it just like the Rift S, I needed to spend fairly a little bit of time faffing round with the rear dial and interpupillary distance stick on the entrance of the headset earlier than it was a) secure and b) produced a transparent sufficient picture.
This is partly as a result of the Vive Cosmos has the slight advantage of sitting simply that bit additional away out of your face, which means there’s much less strain in your cheeks as you play. However, the draw back of that is that it made it more durable for me to get a pointy image. Indeed, the one means I managed to forestall the display screen from descending right into a blurry pixel fest was by tightening the scarf a lot that it ended up like some sort of medieval torture gadget. Instead of my cheeks getting sore, I now had full-blown headcrab on my face.
And but, even with this insanely tight headband in place, there have been nonetheless moments the place I felt like I wanted to push it nearer to my face to get rid of among the blur, and I needed to take a break after about half an hour as a result of the drive towards my head was simply an excessive amount of.
I additionally had issues with the Vive Cosmos’ monitoring. In vibrant sunshine, the headset’s built-in sensors produced a message saying the surroundings was too vibrant. In the night with the lights switched on, it will typically warn me the surroundings was too darkish. There was merely no profitable. My arms jittered everywhere in the store, too, making it tough to make use of Alyx’s flash mild with any diploma of accuracy, and it was notably flaky after I used my left hand to assist my proper whereas firing my gun.
I wasn’t a fan of the Cosmos’ controllers, both. Not solely did they’ve worse finger monitoring than the Rift S’ Touch controllers, however the set off buttons felt sticky and spongy as effectively. They required much more drive to press down totally, leading to a variety of failed makes an attempt at grabbing ammo from behind my head – which actually isn’t helpful whenever you’re being preyed upon by a number of headcrabs and zombies at midnight.
The audio was a fraction higher, however I couldn’t say I observed its 3D spatial audio coming into impact in Half-Life: Alyx. Still, it’s undoubtedly a plus that they’re off your ear, just like the Valve Index, they usually’re simple to regulate, too.
Overall, although, the Vive Cosmos undoubtedly didn’t stay as much as the identical customary as the 2 Oculus headsets. I give this 2 / 5 barnacles.
Half-Life: Alyx on HTC Vive Cosmos Elite
Finally, we’re into the realms of exterior monitoring headsets. Technically, the Vive Cosmos Elite is strictly the identical headset because the common Cosmos – it simply has a distinct face plate attachment and comes with two old-school Vive wand controllers and two base stations – supposedly to reinforce its general monitoring capabilities.
But holey moley, observe pads are not the way in which to play Half-Life: Alyx – particularly after utilizing 4 headsets with correct analogue sticks. They’re simply not delicate, tactile or responsive sufficient for the quantity of motion you’ve bought to do in Half-Life: Alyx. Whether it’s teleporting utilizing the bottom of the right-hand observe pad, or snap turning with the facet of mentioned observe pad, I continuously felt like I used to be at an obstacle with these outdated Vive controllers, and it shortly grew to become more and more irritating to hold on taking part in previous 30 minutes of cyber-goggling. Likewise, with so few buttons at its disposal, a lot of beforehand intuitive controls on different headsets had now been assigned to totally different fingers or they’d been mashed into the observe pad in some way, successfully forcing me to utterly re-calibrate how I performed. You do adapt after some time, however it was nonetheless horrible, and for that reason alone I’m leaping straight to 1 / 5 man-hacks right here. Moving on!
Half-Life: Alyx on Valve Index
Here we’re, the massive kahuna of VR headsets. The Valve Index is the costliest VR headset on this checklist, however man alive are you able to see and really feel the place all that cash’s gone. Not solely is it essentially the most snug VR headset of the massive 5, thanks in no small half to its copious material padding across the lenses and the rear portion of the scarf, however it’s additionally the perfect sounding, as Valve’s built-in, off-the-ear headphones ship a wealthy, full-bodied audio expertise that makes all the things from intense Combine fights to squelching barnacle tongues sound implausible.
I had no bother getting the Index to sit down comfortably on my face, as its rear dial provided loads of adjustment with out making it really feel like I used to be subjecting myself to a medieval head vice. Its interpupillary distance dial additionally goes loads additional than different headsets on this checklist, and you may deliver the lenses nearer or additional away out of your face as effectively, providing you with loads of choices for locating the fitting match and getting the sharpest doable picture.
The Index’s monitoring is second to none, too. I put its two SteamVR 2.zero base stations in precisely the identical location as I did the Vive Cosmos Elite’s base stations (which, I ought to word, are solely the 1.zero model, somewhat than the two.zero mannequin you get with the Index), and I didn’t have a single technical hitch all through my total play session. No jittery arms, nothing.
The Valve Index’s controllers’ finger monitoring is the perfect of the bunch as effectively. Thanks to its mild, outer monitoring band, the Index controllers can precisely map the place of every finger, even after they’re not urgent down on the rear grip and set off buttons. As I mentioned earlier, it doesn’t make an enormous quantity of distinction to your moment-to-moment gameplay, however it’s a fraction extra immersive to see your in-game fingers mimicking the actions of your precise fingers. Plus, the additional material band that slides throughout the again of your hand means you don’t all the time need to be gripping the controller for it to remain in your hand, too, which eases the strain a bit when your fingers want a little bit of a relaxation.
The buttons themselves additionally provide loads of tactile suggestions, and really feel a lot lighter and extra responsive than the spongy triggers on the Vive Cosmos and Cosmos Elite. As a consequence, pulling stuff towards you with the gravity gloves feels loads smoother and fewer irritating, and I by no means missed any necessary ammo grabs from my backpack after I wanted to reload.
I discovered the Index’s cable was the least intrusive of the lot as effectively. Valve have sensibly mounted it nearly all the way in which to the very again of the headset so it correctly trails down your again somewhat than falling away in entrance of your shoulder, and it undoubtedly didn’t get in the way in which of my arms as a lot as the opposite headsets on this checklist. There had been nonetheless odd moments after I felt it tangling spherical my legs a bit, however that’s a hazard of any PC-tethered headset.
Overall, then, it actually is tough to seek out fault the Index, and for that reason I give it 5 bug-crushing Russells out of 5.
So, what it the perfect VR headset for Half-Life: Alyx?
Unsurprisingly, the Valve Index actually is absolutely the cream of the crop on the subject of taking part in Half-Life: Alyx in VR, however additionally it is madly costly. For these of you who’d somewhat not spend nearly a grand on a VR headset, the Oculus Rift S is by far the following best choice for would-be Alyx-ers. At £399, it’s nonetheless a sizeable chunk of change, however its inside-out monitoring is great, it’s simple to setup and its consolation ranges are fairly good as effectively.
As a consequence, go for the Index when you’ve bought the money, however for everybody else, the perfect VR headset for Half-Life: Alyx is nearly actually going to be the Oculus Rift S.
Phew! Glad we bought that sorted. However, whereas we might have settled the argument over the perfect VR headset for Half-Life: Alyx, that doesn’t essentially imply we’ve sussed out the perfect VR headset general. Indeed, I’ll be taking a good nearer take a look at every of the headsets I’ve talked about right here over the approaching weeks, writing up particular person opinions of what they’re like to make use of extra typically, in addition to how their respective retailer fronts maintain up when it comes to unique video games and VR experiences. Will the Oculus Rift S and Valve Index be capable of maintain onto their respective crowns? Only time will inform.