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What’s the best VR headset for Half-Life: Alyx?

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Half-Life: Alyx might have been constructed from the bottom as much as help Valve’s tremendous costly Index headset, however as you will have seen from my Half-Life: Alyx PC requirements and VR headset specs article, you may really play it on any VR headset that helps SteamVR, together with the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift headsets and any Home windows Combined Actuality headset. Heck, you may even play Half-Life: Alyx on Oculus Quest in case you join it to your PC by way of Oculus’ Hyperlink software program and a high-speed USB cable. The important thing query, although, is what VR headset gives the perfect Half-Life: Alyx expertise?

To seek out out, I’ve examined the sport with each VR headset I’ve been capable of lay my arms on: the Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift S, the HTC Vive Cosmos, HTC Vive Cosmos Elite, and, after all, the Valve Index. Under, I’ve put all of them face to face (or ought to that be headset to headset?) to seek out out which one gives absolutely the bestest finest Half-Life: Alyx expertise, ranking all of them for consolation, visible constancy and the way simple they’re to make use of and play the sport with. Which VR headset will emerge triumphant? Let’s discover out.

As a quick reminder, listed below are Half-Life: Alyx’s minimal PC necessities, that are all above what it’s good to get every of the headsets I’ve examined working within the first place. As I discovered in my Half-Life: Alyx VR performance article, although, the minimal spec is absolutely solely finest fitted to enjoying the sport on Low to Medium high quality settings, particularly if you wish to benefit from your headset’s high refresh charge.

Half-Life: Alyx minimal PC necessities:
OS: Home windows 10
CPU: Intel Core i5-7500 / AMD Ryzen 5 1600
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB) / AMD Radeon RX 580 (8GB)

To ensure that PC efficiency isn’t a difficulty right here, I’ve used the next parts to maintain Half-Life: Alyx working good and easily: an Intel Core i5-8600Okay CPU working at inventory speeds, 16GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Tremendous graphics card (which is the minimal GPU I’d suggest for pushing into these greater high quality settings), together with all the newest Home windows 10 and graphics drivers put in. I additionally performed the sport on Prime quality when testing every headset, and I used a mix of its teleport and steady motion modes.

To set the baseline expertise, I began with my least expensive VR headset, the Oculus Quest, earlier than shifting up the VR meals chain based mostly on value. That method, we will see how the expertise evolves versus how a lot cash you’re spending, and whether or not shelling out the highest greenback for the Valve Index is absolutely value it. So, with out additional ado, let’s get these cybergoggles on.

Half-Life: Alyx on Oculus Quest

Half Life Alyx on Oculus Quest

When you’ve arrange the Oculus Quest to work along with your PC (observe my useful How to play Half-Life: Alyx on Oculus Quest information in case you haven’t already) and linked it by way of a high-speed USB-C to USB3 cable (obtainable from Amazon US or Amazon UK), this standalone VR headset makes for a surprisingly first rate Half-Life: Alyx expertise.

Regardless of having the bottom refresh charge of the 5 headsets on take a look at right here, I didn’t discover it overly nauseating and I used to be ready to make use of each the teleport and steady motion modes with out subject. The newly up to date Steady mode did make me really feel a bit of sick, admittedly, however the common motion choices labored simply superb.

Because of the Quest’s mixed decision of 2800×1600, the world of Half-Life: Alyx appeared beautiful and sharp contained in the headset, and its OLED panel meant that colors have been wealthy and vibrant. Most significantly, they didn’t look too oversaturated, both, which may generally occur with sure OLED shows. There was a slight port-hole impact across the edges of the Quest’s show, nevertheless, and I used to be continuously conscious that there was a whole lot of daylight creeping in from the underside of the headset.

Nonetheless, the Quest’s 6 levels of freedom (DOF) monitoring labored nicely, and standing subsequent to a selected vivid window didn’t impression its capacity to maintain observe of my physique actions (which may’t be stated for each headset on this checklist). The one slight draw back is that its two Contact controllers (that are the identical ones utilized by the Rift S) have been solely capable of map the motion of my thumbs and forefingers after I wasn’t urgent any buttons. To ensure that it to trace my different three fingers, I needed to press down on the controller’s rear set off. Not the top of the world, all informed, however you’ll quickly see that different headsets on this checklist are capable of observe all 5 fingers regardless of the place they’re resting on their respective controller.

The one main drawback with enjoying Half-Life: Alyx on the Oculus Quest is that darn cable. Whereas different headsets sensibly place their PC connector cables to run down the again of the headset behind you, the Quest has to make do with its front-facing cost port. This implies the cable connecting the headset to the PC is successfully popping out of your left temple, which may get in the way in which of shifting your left arm relying on the place you’re standing/seated and the way far-off you’re out of your PC. The Anker cables that Oculus recommends as an alternative choice to their tremendous costly (and at present out of inventory) fibre optic cable do, admittedly, have the drawback of sticking straight out of the headset, slightly than at a right-angle just like the official Oculus ones, however I’d think about that even the Oculus cables will often get in the way in which of your left arm actions relying on the place you’re in relation to your PC.

I additionally discovered the Oculus Quest to be the least snug of the 5 headsets, which meant I wasn’t capable of play Half-Life: Alyx for very lengthy earlier than I needed to take a break. Maybe it’s because of the truth that I’ve a tinier head than most, however I discovered that I needed to pull the straps fairly tight to make it really feel safe sufficient on my face so it didn’t fall ahead after I moved about, which in flip made it dig into my cheeks fairly a bit. I additionally needed to set the interpupillary distance to its smallest attainable setting to make every part look good and sharp, which ended up pinching my nostril after about half an hour or so.

Total, I’d give it three / 5 headcrabs.

Half-Life: Alyx on Oculus Rift S

Half Life Alyx on Oculus Rift S

Instantly, consolation ranges rise 487% switching over to the Rift S, thanks partly to its great light-weight headband. With adjustment managed solely by the round dial in the back of the headset, the Rift S isn’t simply simpler to suit than the Quest, but it surely additionally removes a whole lot of the stress from the highest of my head. The entrance nonetheless digs into my cheeks a bit after some time, however general it’s a far much less top-heavy headset than its standalone sibling, and I used to be capable of put on it for an extended time period. Not massively longer, all informed, as my cheeks did really feel fairly sore after some time, however the stress was nowhere close to as dangerous because it was on the Quest.

Unusually, regardless of having a decrease decision than the Quest, the Rift S seems to be noticeably sharper in-game. Maybe that is due to the Rift S’ superior match, making it simpler to place on my head with out endlessly faffing with interpupillary distance dials and the like, or perhaps it’s only a bizarre quirk of its LCD show. One factor’s for positive – the thicker padding across the Rift S’ lenses signifies that there’s far much less mild bleed than the Quest, making for a extra immersive expertise general.

The cable continues to be a little bit of a ache, admittedly. Right here, Oculus have fixed it to the aspect of the headset, but it surely doesn’t go way back to HTC or Valve’s respective headsets. Because of this, I nonetheless felt it curling spherical my shoulder at occasions, and it continued to be a nuisance after I began shifting my left arm lots – which you do repeatedly in Half-Life: Alyx each time you must attain into your backpack for extra ammo. It wasn’t fairly as troublesome because the Quest’s cable, but it surely was an annoyance all the identical.

Nonetheless, its monitoring felt simply as correct because the Quest, and I used to be capable of transfer round my play area simply with out it dropping observe of me. It does, admittedly, fall into the identical hand-tracking pitfalls because the Quest, because of the reality they’ve the identical Contact controllers, however as I stated above, it’s actually not that massive of a deal within the grand scheme of issues.

I wouldn’t say the Rift S’ built-in audio system have been any higher than the Quest’s both. Certainly, the audio might be fairly tinny at occasions and a whole lot of Half-Life: Alyx’s atmospheric music didn’t depart a lot of an impression because of this. The Rift S does, at the least, provide the possibility of attaching a devoted pair of headphones due to the three.5mm headphone jack on the left-hand aspect of the headset, however I wouldn’t suggest utilizing a full-blown gaming headset with it. This finally ends up feeling fairly cumbersome after some time, and have become more and more much less snug as time wore on. Choosing ear buds proved to be the higher possibility, as this didn’t apply any additional stress on the highest of my head, but it surely did imply having one other cable (albeit a skinny one) bashing in opposition to me whereas enjoying.

Nonetheless, general, a particular step up from the Quest on this case. I give it four exquisitely rendered bread rolls out of 5.

Half-Life: Alyx on HTC Vive Cosmos

Half Life Alyx on HTC Vive Cosmos

Transferring on to the Vive Cosmos, this concerned a teensy bit extra setup than the Rift S, if solely as a result of this explicit headset must be plugged into mains energy. It additionally wasn’t fairly as simple to get it snug on my head. Regardless of having the slightly nifty function of with the ability to carry the complete headband at a proper angle to the headset, permitting you to simply snap it over your head slightly than stretch it just like the Rift S, I needed to spend fairly a little bit of time faffing round with the rear dial and interpupillary distance stick on the entrance of the headset earlier than it was a) secure and b) produced a transparent sufficient picture.

That is partly as a result of the Vive Cosmos has the slight advantage of sitting simply that bit additional away out of your face, that means there’s much less stress in your cheeks as you play. Nonetheless, the draw back of that is that it made it tougher for me to get a pointy image. Certainly, the one method I managed to forestall the display from descending right into a blurry pixel fest was by tightening the scarf a lot that it ended up like some sort of medieval torture gadget. As a substitute of my cheeks getting sore, I now had full-blown headcrab on my face.

And but, even with this insanely tight headband in place, there have been nonetheless moments the place I felt like I wanted to push it nearer to my face to get rid of a number of the blur, and I needed to take a break after about half an hour as a result of the power in opposition to my head was simply an excessive amount of.

I additionally had issues with the Vive Cosmos’ monitoring. In vivid sunshine, the headset’s built-in sensors produced a message saying the setting was too vivid. Within the night with the lights switched on, it will generally warn me the setting was too darkish. There was merely no successful. My arms jittered all around the store, too, making it tough to make use of Alyx’s flash mild with any diploma of accuracy, and it was notably flaky after I used my left hand to help my proper whereas firing my gun.

I wasn’t a fan of the Cosmos’ controllers, both. Not solely did they’ve worse finger monitoring than the Rift S’ Contact controllers, however the set off buttons felt sticky and spongy as nicely. They required much more power to press down absolutely, leading to a whole lot of failed makes an attempt at grabbing ammo from behind my head – which actually isn’t helpful if you’re being preyed upon by a number of headcrabs and zombies at midnight.

The audio was a fraction higher, however I couldn’t say I observed its 3D spatial audio coming into impact in Half-Life: Alyx. Nonetheless, it’s undoubtedly a plus that they’re off your ear, just like the Valve Index, they usually’re simple to regulate, too.

Total, although, the Vive Cosmos undoubtedly didn’t dwell as much as the identical normal as the 2 Oculus headsets. I give this 2 / 5 barnacles.

Half-Life: Alyx on HTC Vive Cosmos Elite

Half Life Alyx on HTC Vive Cosmos Elite

Lastly, we’re into the realms of exterior monitoring headsets. Technically, the Vive Cosmos Elite is precisely the identical headset because the common Cosmos – it simply has a unique face plate attachment and comes with two old-school Vive wand controllers and two base stations – supposedly to reinforce its general monitoring capabilities.

However holey moley, observe pads are not the way in which to play Half-Life: Alyx – particularly after utilizing 4 headsets with correct analogue sticks. They’re simply not delicate, tactile or responsive sufficient for the quantity of motion you’ve received to do in Half-Life: Alyx. Whether or not it’s teleporting utilizing the bottom of the right-hand observe pad, or snap turning with the aspect of stated observe pad, I continuously felt like I used to be at a drawback with these outdated Vive controllers, and it shortly grew to become more and more irritating to hold on enjoying previous 30 minutes of cyber-goggling. Likewise, with so few buttons at its disposal, numerous beforehand intuitive controls on different headsets had now been assigned to totally different fingers or they’d been mashed into the observe pad by some means, successfully forcing me to utterly re-calibrate how I performed. You do adapt after some time, but it surely was nonetheless horrible, and for that reason alone I’m leaping straight to 1 / 5 man-hacks right here. Transferring on!

Half-Life: Alyx on Valve Index

Half Life Alyx on Valve Index

Right here we’re, the large kahuna of VR headsets. The Valve Index is the most costly VR headset on this checklist, however man alive are you able to see and really feel the place all that cash’s gone. Not solely is it essentially the most snug VR headset of the large 5, thanks in no small half to its copious material padding across the lenses and the rear portion of the scarf, but it surely’s additionally the perfect sounding, as Valve’s built-in, off-the-ear headphones ship a wealthy, full-bodied audio expertise that makes every part from intense Mix fights to squelching barnacle tongues sound unbelievable.

I had no hassle getting the Index to sit down comfortably on my face, as its rear dial provided loads of adjustment with out making it really feel like I used to be subjecting myself to a medieval head vice. Its interpupillary distance dial additionally goes lots additional than different headsets on this checklist, and you’ll deliver the lenses nearer or additional away out of your face as nicely, supplying you with loads of choices for locating the suitable match and getting the sharpest attainable picture.

The Index’s monitoring is second to none, too. I put its two SteamVR 2.zero base stations in precisely the identical location as I did the Vive Cosmos Elite’s base stations (which, I ought to word, are solely the 1.zero model, slightly than the two.zero mannequin you get with the Index), and I didn’t have a single technical hitch all through my complete play session. No jittery arms, nothing.

The Valve Index’s controllers’ finger monitoring is the perfect of the bunch as nicely. Because of its mild, outer monitoring band, the Index controllers can precisely map the place of every finger, even once they’re not urgent down on the rear grip and set off buttons. As I stated earlier, it doesn’t make an enormous quantity of distinction to your moment-to-moment gameplay, however it’s a fraction extra immersive to see your in-game fingers mimicking the actions of your precise fingers. Plus, the additional material band that slides throughout the again of your hand means you don’t all the time must be gripping the controller for it to remain in your hand, too, which eases the strain a bit when your fingers want a little bit of a relaxation.

The buttons themselves additionally supply loads of tactile suggestions, and really feel a lot lighter and extra responsive than the spongy triggers on the Vive Cosmos and Cosmos Elite. Because of this, pulling stuff towards you with the gravity gloves feels lots smoother and fewer irritating, and I by no means missed any essential ammo grabs from my backpack after I wanted to reload.

I discovered the Index’s cable was the least intrusive of the lot as nicely. Valve have sensibly fixed it virtually all the way in which to the very again of the headset so it correctly trails down your again slightly than falling away in entrance of your shoulder, and it undoubtedly didn’t get in the way in which of my arms as a lot as the opposite headsets on this checklist. There have been nonetheless odd moments after I felt it tangling spherical my legs a bit, however that’s a hazard of any PC-tethered headset.

Total, then, it actually is difficult to seek out fault the Index, and for that reason I give it 5 bug-crushing Russells out of 5.

So, what it the perfect VR headset for Half-Life: Alyx?

Unsurprisingly, the Valve Index actually is absolutely the cream of the crop with regards to enjoying Half-Life: Alyx in VR, however it is usually madly costly. For these of you who’d slightly not spend virtually a grand on a VR headset, the Oculus Rift S is by far the subsequent most suitable choice for would-be Alyx-ers. At £399, it’s nonetheless a sizeable chunk of change, however its inside-out monitoring is great, it’s simple to setup and its consolation ranges are fairly good as nicely.

Because of this, go for the Index in case you’ve received the money, however for everybody else, the perfect VR headset for Half-Life: Alyx is sort of actually going to be the Oculus Rift S.

Phew! Glad we received that sorted. Nonetheless, whereas we might have settled the argument over the perfect VR headset for Half-Life: Alyx, that doesn’t essentially imply we’ve sussed out the perfect VR headset general. Certainly, I’ll be taking a fair nearer take a look at every of the headsets I’ve talked about right here over the approaching weeks, writing up particular person opinions of what they’re like to make use of extra typically, in addition to how their respective retailer fronts maintain up by way of unique video games and VR experiences. Will the Oculus Rift S and Valve Index have the ability to maintain onto their respective crowns? Solely time will inform.

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