Since the moment Half-Life: Alyx launched in VR, folks have been trying to detach it from its headset requirements. To be fair, I get it - that the first Half-Life game in a decade would be restricted to expensive tech felt a little demoralising. But this weekend, one modder brought that dream closer to reality by quietly releasing Pancake Base, a mod that aims to make Alyx play just like its older siblings by giving our leading lady the sturdy, first-person arms of Half-Life 2's Gordon Freeman.
Goutrial (the indie developer and YouTuber who purportedly put the whole thing together) posted a brief clip of Half-Life: Alyx that looked a little closer to its older predecessors - an alternate world where Half-Life's long-awaited return didn't require shelling out for expensive plastic headsets.
Unlike an earlier attempt at VR-free Alyx, this mod doesn't try to simulate floating virtual hands on a keyboard and mouse. Instead, the developer has traded them out for Gordon Freeman's sturdier, time-tested first-person arms. Using prettied-up viewmodels from artist Jun Choi and animations ported over from Half-Life 2's MMod, Pancake Base lets you play Alyx like it were any other Half-Life.
(Pancake, as I understand, is a term VR spaces have come up with to describe non-VR gaming. Sounds tasty.)
A few UI effects are missing, sure, and there are some strange visual artefacts - but it works. That's Half-Life: Alyx as an old-fashioned run n' gun. Thing is, Alyx wasn't built as a traditional shooter. Hallways and corridors are tighter, built for the slower, stumbling pace of a real human moving their real human body through them. Tense firefights with a handful of Combine goons become trivial when you can just point n' click your way through like any past Half-Life.
What's really exciting is the momentum something like this could inject into the Half-Life modding scene. Released earlier this month, Half-Life: Alyx's modding tools look proper impressive, with this Twitter rundown from indie developer Joe Wintergreen showing some shockingly thoughtful touches for oft-neglected level designers. Opening that kit up to modders who can't access VR could bring about some brilliant, headset-free stuff.
The Half-Life 2 modding scene opened the floodgates to phenomenal singleplayer mods like Minerva: Metastasis, Research And Development and half of the then-emergent "walking simulator" genre. Naturally, there's already an attempt to bring the entirety of Half-Life 2 into the Half-Life: Alyx engine. Let's hope it doesn't take Black Mesa's 15 entire years to come to completion, eh?
If you want to give the mod a shot yourself, it can be downloaded from GitHub. Pop those folders into your Half-Life Alyx game directory, enable "-novr" in the console, and you should be good to go.