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Why the real star of Half-Life: Alyx is a grumpy monster named Jeff

VIDEO: 34 things I love about Jeff, also available on YouTube

Half-Life: Alyx isn't just an excellent VR game, it's an excellent Half-Life game, and no section better illustrates that than the Jeff chapter in which Alyx makes her way through an abandoned vodka bottling warehouse while harassed by a blind, unkillable horror named, as you'd expect, Jeff. 

Jeff can't see, but Jeff can hear, even though he doesn't seem to like that particular sense. Any loud noise sets the guy off—he'll puke acid onto anything that makes a peep. How unfortunate for Jeff that he's stuck in a vodka factory, where I can toss around glass bottles to send Jeff running wherever I please. If only I weren't so clumsy.

It's everything I love about Valve's clever design that invisibly teaches and tests without compromising the inherent drama of what's happening in front of you. Jeff steps things up beyond the usual benchmark for smart design too, imbuing Half-Life's world with a deft balance of horror and hope, all while cracking implicit, explicit—if you're clumsy—and emergent slapstick jokes.

This is accessible horror and it's still super scary despite how clear and fair and fun each scenario is. There's so much I like about this section that I could spend hours breaking down each scene, picking apart the jokes and scares and clever design. But we don't have that time, so here's 34 things I love about Jeff in under six minutes. 

James is PC Gamer’s bad boy, staying up late to cover Fortnite while cooking up radical ideas for the weekly livestream. He can still kickflip and swears a lot. You’ll find him somewhere in the west growing mushrooms and playing Dark Souls.