Half-Life: Alyx mod Return to Rapture turns BioShock into a whole new VR campaign

I imagine it would be a hell of a challenge to recreate 2007 classic FPS BioShock in the Half-Life Alyx engine, but this mod does something even more impressive. Return to Rapture is an eight-episode mash-up of Half-Life: Alyx and BioShock, but with an entirely new campaign. It imports many of BioShock's environments and objects into the VR game, but with enemies from Half-Life and its own story, distinct from Valve's or the original BioShock's. I'm stunned that a mod of this scope could be completed in just the year that's passed since Alyx came out last March.

You can get the whole thing from the Steam Workshop for free right now if you own Half-Life: Alyx, which—I have to say—is a real circus of value.

The premise, described by modder wim.buytaert.1988, is that the Combine have found their way to Rapture in search of Andrew Ryan's missing suitcase, which hides the secret of ADAM. "The quest for this artefact is not archeology," he writes. "It's a race against evil. If it is captured by the Combine the armies of darkness will march all over the face of the earth." Pretty high stakes, then.

Return to Rapture uses environments straight from BioShock, but includes some reworked objects to make them interactive, like the vending and Little Sister machines. Alyx can use plasmid powers and will have to deal with some familiar BioShock threats, like security drones. As with BioShock, you end up at Rapture after surviving a plane crash, and you're going to listen to the famous Andrew Ryan voiceover as you descend to the ruined city. Beyond that the story takes its own path.

The gameplay is more Half-Life than BioShock here, so expect familiar enemies like headcrabs and barnacles alongside the Combine. Videos of Return to Rapture definitely have the mashup feel of a mod, with Half-Life weapons sitting around on tables and the occasional too-clean text instructions written on a clipboard, but a lot of it gels surprisingly well. Half-Life's zombies fit perfectly in Rapture, as does walking down eerily dark hallways with a shaky VR flashlight's movement tethered to your shaky physical hand. I love BioShock and imagine it could be a lot of fun in VR, but this might be better—you get BioShock's tone and environments in a game engine purpose built for virtual reality.

Most impressive with this mod's presentation is that wim.buytaert.1988 hired a voice actor to serve as an alternate Atlas. He guides Alyx by name through Return to Rapture's new story, and the delivery seems dead-on for BioShock's setting. There's also a new score, rather than recycled music from the games. It's a hell of an undertaking.

We wrote about an early version of Return to Rapture in October, and it's impressive to see how dramatically it's grown in the last six months. The environments might be pulled from BioShock, but there's a whole lot more going on here. Wim.buytaert.1988 estimates it'll take you about seven hours to complete if you aren't in a hurry.

Thanks, UploadVR

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).