Half-Life: Alyx is a full-length Half-Life game built exclusively for virtual reality. While it works with most of the mainstream VR headsets available, it requires a VR-ready PC to run. These are already more barriers than your average game has–VR can be expensive, it can require a dedicated space to play in, and it can be a chore to set up if you’re new to it. But even outside of that, VR has an accessibility issue. It can be physically demanding to play and it still gives many people motion sickness.
There will be some people who can’t play Half-Life: Alyx at all due to some of the movement-based gameplay and more precise motor skills it requires. There are ways around some of its more complex gestures, but you’ll still need to be able to reach out with at least one hand, bring your arm back over your shoulder, hold and press buttons on a VR controller, and whip your arm back to use the gravity gloves. Luckily, Half-Life: Alyx does have a set of accessibility options designed to make it more playable for players with disabilities or who have other special needs that must be met to have a comfortable and fun experience.
Find an extensive breakdown of Half-Life: Alyx’s accessibility options below. We’ll expand this list out if we learn any more. If you’ve found your own workaround or see something we’re missing, let us know in the comments!
Half-Life: Alyx comes with four difficulty settings, which adjust combat to make it easier or harder.
- Story – The simplest of combat.
- Easy – Moderately challenging combat.
- Normal – Challenging combat.
- Hard – Very challenging combat.
For our Half-Life: Alyx review, our reviewer played on Normal difficulty. If you’re worried about combat or puzzle difficulty, check out our list of essential tips before playing. We also have a puzzle guide that helps walk you through some of the spatial puzzles Alyx must solve with her multitool.
Right And Left-Handed Modes
At the start of the game, you’ll be able to assign your weapon hand to your right or left hand.
To combat motion sickness and give players a more flexible range of options to suit their tastes, Half-Life: Alyx offers four different movement types. We’ve listed them below, along with the in-game descriptions.
- Blink (default) – Teleport to destinations with a brief screen fade. The most comfortable movement type.
- Shift – Teleport to destinations with a fast linear movement.
- Continuous – Move continuously based on your head orientation.
- Continuous Hand – Move continuously based on hand orientation.
Let’s dive into each one with a bit more detail.
The default Blink movement type is recommended for players who get motion sickness from VR. It works by having you use the controller to point at where you want to “teleport” to, and blinking you there with a brief, but not jarring fade-out and fade-in. The “blinking” is what reduces the motion sickness, by removing the element of “motion” from traversal. This is becoming standard in a lot of VR adventure games.
With the Blink movement option, you can also rotate your orientation before you skip to a new destination, meaning you can quickly warp behind an enemy and turn to face them in a single move that doesn’t actually simulate or depict the motion of turning. You can also make small adjustments to your position with the flick of a joystick, which you can customize via your in-game preferences. Scroll to the section after this one for more on snap turning.
Blink is the mode we recommend for the average player just starting out, those who are new to VR, and those who are prone to motion sickness.
Shift is similar to Blink, only instead of teleporting with a fade, it zooms you over to your destination. The rapid simulated motion may be jarring and create a sense of vertigo for inexperienced players or those with a sensitivity to it, so be careful.
Continuous and Continuous Hand are both the closest movement type to conventional first-person video games. Rather than a teleport, it’s a continuous motion. You push your controller’s joystick forward to move and turn your head in the direction you want to move. This might be the most jarring for players who are prone to motion sickness or not accustomed to VR, but experienced VR players sometimes refer to this type as the most “immersive.”
Like Continuous motion, Continuous Hand is a smooth, continuous motion controlled by one of your controller’s joysticks. What makes it different from the standard Continuous mode is you use your hand instead of your head to point in the direction you want to move. That means you can push forward on the joystick to move forward, and still look around without changing direction.
If you play around with controls, you can combine and use the Blink and Continuous movement styles at any time.
Controller Turning Options
A new Half-Life: Alyx update has added an additional controller turning option and renamed quick turn to snap turn. See more details about each option below.
Snap Turn (Previously Called Quick Turn)
Snap turn allows you to rotate the direction you’re facing in set angles, without a linear motion between the two points. You can modify the snap turn angle in the options menu in 15 degree increments:
- 15 degrees
- 30 degrees
- 45 degrees
- 60 degrees
- 75 degrees
- 90 degrees
Snap turning is great if you need to rotate just slightly and can’t or don’t want to physically do so.
Continuous turn lets you use the controller to rotate the direction you’re facing in a smooth, unbroken motion. If you select this option, you can adjust the turning speed from 1 to 100.
Half-Life: Alyx also has a set of accessibility options to account for disability and other impairments.
Using single controller mode maps all actions to a single controller, so you can play Half-Life: Alyx with one hand.
Certain segments of Half-Life: Alyx require you to duck behind cover, crouch to get through small passageways, and otherwise kneel or bend your body in ways that won’t be feasible for some players.
Height adjust mode lets you use the controller to toggle crouching or standing. There are a few hybrid options too that you can experiment with.
Here’s the full list, with in-game descriptions, below.
- Height Adjust: Crouch – Crouch action only. Stand is disabled. When the crouch action is enabled, toggle to quickly duck or adjust to a lowered position.
- Height Adjust: Stand – Stand action only. Crouch is disabled. When the stand action is enabled, toggle to raise your position to help with reach. Recommended during seated play.
- Height Adjust: Crouch And Stand – When the crouch and stand actions are enabled, use them to lower or to raise your position on two separate inputs.
- Height Adjust: Hybrid – Hybrid uses a single input for both crouch and stand actions. To crouch, click to lower your position. To stand, press and hold to raise your position.
All actions must be manually bound to inputs in SteamVR settings.
You can play Half-Life: Alyx seated, but you’ll want to adjust some options when setting up SteamVR to make sure it’s tuned correctly. Check out our full guide on how to play Half-Life: Alyx seated for more details.
Tip: Some players report feeling motion sickness when playing VR seated, but not standing. If you are able to play standing and motion sickness is your primary concern, try experimenting with the walk modes while sitting and standing up to see what works for you.
Weapon Select Orient
This option in the interface menu allows you to change the orientation type for selecting weapons from the in-game context menu. Find the available options below with our descriptions.
- Hand – Use your hand to point to the weapon you want to select.
- Head – Use your head to point to the weapon you want to select.
- Hybrid – Utilize both methods.
You can turn light sensitivity mode on to reduce the strength and flickering of lights in-game.
Subtitles and Closed Captions
Half-Life: Alyx offers subtitles and closed captions for dialogue and in-game sound effects. You can adjust the size and width of the text and reading speed.
Additional Accessibility Options
There are other ways to adjust the game to suit your specific needs, including reducing motion sickness.
If you’re prone to motion sickness, this is an easy one to overlook. Barnacles are those pesky ceiling-dwellers in Half-Life that will pull you up if you cross their path. If you turn Barnacle Lift off in preferences, they won’t be able to grab and pull you off the ground. You’ll still take damage, but at least you won’t get sick!
If there’s something we missed or more options you think Valve should add, let us know in the comments! For more, check out our review of Half-Life: Alyx, our weapons and upgrades guide, and our puzzle guide. We’ve also rounded up some neat details and Easter eggs you might miss while playing.
Half-Life: Alyx News
- Half-Life: Alyx Review – Full-Life Consequences
- Half-Life: Alyx – 10 Essential Tips Before Playing
- How Long Is Half-Life: Alyx?
- How To Play Half-Life: Alyx Seated
- Best VR Headsets For 2020: Half-Life: Alyx Compatibility And More
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