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Oculus Rift + Razer Hydra + Half-Life 2 = Gaming Nirvana

By: Anthony Garreffa | VR in Displays & Projectors | Posted: Dec 18, 2014 4:00 pm

Did I Just Step Into The Matrix?


Disclaimer: I have been playing games for such a long time, and I know that if you've read any of my articles here on TweakTown, or if you're on my Facebook friends list or if you know me in person, you'll know that I'm a huge advocate of high-resolution displays, high-refresh rates, and deliciously fast hardware. I'm so heavily disappointed (but expected it) in the "next-gen" consoles rendering $60-$100 games at ~1280x720 when I was playing games at 1600x1200 at 85-100Hz over ten years ago now. Between then and now, I've played on 120Hz LCDs, massive 30-inch 2560x1600 displays the day they came out, 4K displays, G-SYNC monitors - I've tried them all. The experience I had with VR and the Hydra motion controllers in Half-Life 2 is a massive step in a truly new direction. Something I'm truly glowing about, and I'm excited to dive into it.




After getting used to the controllers and world of VR within Half-Life 2, I began getting more and more used to the movement within the world. After nearly two decades of using a keyboard and mouse for my first-person shooter skills, adjusting to the world of virtual reality and motion controllers that require my full, physical, close-to-reality movements is quite a shock to the senses.


I was walking down the hallway about 20-30 minutes into Half-Life 2, dodging Combine soldiers left and right and taking far more hits and dying much more than I do when gaming with a traditional mouse and keyboard when I had my 'moment.' This moment, changed the way that I saw the future of VR and motion controllers.


Walking down a hallway shooting a Combine solder in the chest three times, I remember feeling every thud hit his chest as I was holding the Hydra in front of me pulling the trigger precisely into his chest, watching his lifeless body hit the ground in glorious ragdoll physics. As the bullets took the life from him, I could hear the footsteps to my right, and above me. I knew there was around 15 or so stairs up to that point, so I aimed my Hydra controller at a 45-degree angle.


With my right hand pointed to my right and at a 45-degree angle, I turned my head to look up and catch the face of the Combine solder that was hunting me down. I remember instinctively pulling the trigger in utter fear and amazement, getting hit by his stray bullets in the meantime, and then watching his body stumble down the stairs and land at my feet.


It was then and there, that I realized I had been standing up the entire time in my office, shouting expletives in amazement. I had never felt anything so raw and real, so right there and then, in my entire life of gaming. Every single moment I had on my SEGA, PlayStation, Nintendo 64, ColecoVision, Atari 500, 486 DX2-66, and everything up until now, had boiled to that moment taking down those two Combine soldiers in a game that is over ten years old now.


It took a few seconds to realize that I had much more fun standing up with the Rift and Hydra controllers, than I did sitting down. When I was aiming up at a soldier, or looking down my iron sights and closing one eye to get a better shot - it felt more real than the light being beamed to my retinas from my monitor. Better yet, the reloading action within HLVR is second-to-none (for now). In order to reload, you press a button on your right controller which ejects the spent magazine, and then physically moving the left Hydra into the bottom (but not into it) to simulate reloading the gun with a fresh, fully-filled magazine. There's absolutely nothing like that out right now.


In normal firefights with a controller or mouse and keyboard, you quickly press a button to reload your gun, but not with HLVR. You're disorientated, but amazed by the world of VR, and then you're having to run around a corner or duck behind cover to eject your magazine, and reload your pistol before you can breach cover and start laying down fire at your enemy. It's simply breathtaking.


Moving your Hydra, and thus gun, in the world of HLVR to the right will display a HUD on your gun (on the left side of the gun). It will show you the amount of bullets remaining in your clip, and the amount of bullets you have left in total. Flicking your hand to the right, and so the right of the gun, will display your current health and remaining amount of HEV armor you have left. It is very intuitive, as you can quickly check your vitals and ammo count in a firefight quite easily by looking down at your right hand.


I thought it couldn't get better, but then I picked up some new weapons: the MP7 machine gun, and the .357 Magnum. I don't know which one I liked better, but I think I would have to put my bet on the Magnum, which I'm going to explain about now.



Reloading the Magnum Is So Much Fun


The Magnum is one of the best weapons to use in HLVR, purely for the way you reload the gun using the Razer Hydra. After you've shot all six of your bullets, the chamber is empty and needs reloading - so you will press your button to release the chamber, flick the Hydra to the left which sees the chamber come out, use the left Hydra to simulate the insertion of bullets, flick the right Hydra to the right which has the chamber go back into the revolver, and away you go.


This process is something that simply has to be experienced in person, as it really helps with the immersion within the game. I had so much more fun with the Magnum in Half-Life 2 through HLVR with the Rift and Hydra than I ever, ever did with the mouse and keyboard. To be brutally honest, I barely used the Magnum when I first played the game when it came out, but it quickly became a favorite of mine because of the Hydra.



Now I Have a Machine Gun. Ho, Ho, Ho.


Once I had reached far enough through the game that I got my hands-on the machine gun, I continued to play Half-Life 2 far different than I normally did. Just as I enjoyed playing the game much more with the pistol and the Magnum, the machine gun was amazingly fun, too. I found that using the machine gun in HLVR had me panic firing much more, because I had an automatic machine gun, versus a pistol or Magnum that required me to pull the trigger to fire each bullet.


Holding down the trigger on the Hydra lets out a stream of bullets, which feels world's more realistic than holding down the left mouse button. During a heavy firefight in some tunnels, I found myself nearly huffing and puffing in excitement, as I had so much fun using different elements of the environment during my gunfights. I was hiding behind cover much more, using it to my advantage, or running behind a crate for some quick cover so that I could reload. It was funny to have to reload mid-battle, as half the time it meant that I was going to die quickly. It all adds to the fun of the game in VR.

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