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This VR-free Half-Life: Alyx mod is shaping up nicely

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Half-Life: Alyx wasn't built to be played without a big plastic headset. But if you absolutely must play the Half-Life prequel on a flat screen (and who'd blame you), this VR-free mod increasingly seems like it might the best way to do so.

Several creators have taken their shot at providing a more traditional FPS experience in Alyx. YouTuber Goutrial did so by importing Half-Life 2's weapons and character controls into the new game, letting you sprint around City 17 like it's 2004.

Developer SoMNst, meanwhile, has been slowly "flattening" Alyx's VR toolset into something that controls like a regular flatscreen FPS. Their first video, posted almost a year ago, looks perfectly serviceable—but since then, everything from animations and viewmodels to camera movements have been tightened up to make No-VR Alyx not only playable, but enjoyable.

It's very impressive, too. But the closer Alyx gets to becoming a more familiar FPS, the more convinced I am that it's probably not a very good one. In VR, Alyx is terrifying, heart-pumping, where even a single headcrab could become the scariest thing you've ever seen. On a flat screen, it's a surprisingly slow and boring Half-Life game.

But even if Alyx itself isn't a great non-VR game, more flatscreen developments open the doors for using the game's toolset to create brand new mods—and give me a chance to try that impressive custom Bioshock campaign without having to go borrow an Index again.

SoMNst isn't quite ready to release the mod to the public, and is currently floating the idea of a limited alpha for Patreon backers. In the meantime, you can keep up with regular progress updates over on their YouTube channel.

Natalie Clayton

20 years ago, Nat played Jet Set Radio Future for the first time—and she's not stopped thinking about games since. Joining PC Gamer in 2020, she comes from three years of freelance reporting at Rock Paper Shotgun, Waypoint, VG247 and more. Embedded in the European indie scene and having herself developed critically acclaimed small games like Can Androids Pray, Nat is always looking for a new curiosity to scream about—whether it's the next best indie darling, or simply someone modding a Scotmid into Black Mesa. She's also played for a competitive Splatoon team, and unofficially appears in Apex Legends under the pseudonym Horizon.