A new ‘NoVR’ mod from the GB_2 Development Team lets you play through Half-Life: Alyx without a VR headset… if you really want to.
Following previous attempts at No VR mods for Half-Life: Alyx, GB_2 Development Team’s free mod lets you complete the story without a VR headset. “This is our biggest update yet, and we have no plans of slowing down,” the team announced, after initially launching this mod last month. “The entire game can now be played from start to finish, with the Gravity Gloves fully implemented along with combine fabricators providing weapon upgrades.” However, GB_2 states “bugs may still be present but a save reload will fix that,” and 9 out of 42 Steam Achievements cannot currently be earned.
As you can see in the video below (which contains major spoilers from the end of the campaign), the mod appears to technically work, although the conversion of some VR-specific interactions leaves parts of the game feeling pretty lifeless.
Regular UploadVR readers don’t need to be told that Half-Life: Alyx is widely considered one of the best VR games of all-time, so news of a No VR mod may seem sacrilege. It cannot be understated how integral VR functionality is for Alyx, and many will understandably argue that removing VR dilutes the game. In our own Half-Life Alyx review back in 2020, we called it “a triumphant return; a stunningly produced, meticulously refined capping off of the past four years of VR learnings.”
Adapting Alyx into a more traditional FPS experience is a tricky ask, as the game is designed around the physicality and presence granted by playing with a headset. The enemy design and attack patterns, for example, were made for the slower pace of combat, manual reloading and aiming mechanics afforded by VR. Taken out of VR with automatic reloading and the precision of mouse aiming, Alyx’s combat would probably be quite boring.
It’s a sentiment shared by some of the development team too. In March 2020, Half-Life: Alyx project lead Robin Walker (via Polygon) said that while feelings varied across the team, he wasn’t personally worried about flatscreen mods:
“There are a set of people on the team that are concerned about that. Personally, I’m not concerned about it at all. The reason is pretty simple: The game just wouldn’t be much fun as a standard release. It will clearly demonstrate to people why we did this in VR … It will be a very crisp way of seeing all the stuff we got for the move into VR. If people play [a modded version on a standard display] and say this is just as good, that will teach me a lot. I will realize I’m wrong, and we didn’t get as much as we thought, and I love to know whenever I’m wrong.”
Beyond NoVR, there’s plenty of Half-Life: Alyx mods worth exploring. Between Monomyth, Return To Rapture, Half-Life: Incursion and more, Alyx’s modding community continues adding renewed longevity to Valve’s first-person shooter. To learn more, check out our full interview from last April with CoreyLaddo and ANB_Seth, where we discussed their respective Levitation (also supported in NoVR) and Gunman Contracts mods.