Half-Life: Alyx is coming and she wants to single-handedly save PC VR gaming. Given the fact that the merest announcement Valve was gearing up to ship a new Half-Life game based entirely in virtual reality meant the world ran out of Valve Index headsets should tell you that she might just do it.
But if you’re not already rocking a PC that can match the Half-Life: Alyx system requirements then we’ve put together a handy guide to the PC specs that will make your immersive Combine killfest complete with the best gaming PC for Half-Life: Alyx. And it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune either – we’ve managed to build a machine that’s even a little above the Half-Life: Alyx minimum spec, including VR system, for around $1,200.
So, forget pancake gaming* and get yourself onto the VR gravy train because this time it’s going to stick. This time virtual reality is really, honestly going to take off and everyone’s going to want to get in on the VR action. Probably. And once you’ve nailed Half-Life: Alyx there’s only one place to go… Derail Valley. Trains mothershunters. Yasssss.
The minimum specs for Half-Life: Alyx are entirely reasonable, and that means the barriers to entry aren’t as prohibitively expensive as you might expect from one of the biggest games ever to be launched in VR.
In fact if you’re running a gaming PC today then chances are that you’ll already have most of the silicon chops to run it. You may just need a GPU upgrade, or a little extra RAM, to hit the spec, but if you do need a whole new rig then we’ve got you covered…
*pancake gaming is how boomers play games. On flat screens. Like suckers.
|Half-Life: Alyx minimum PC specs
|Intel Core i5 7500 | AMD Ryzen 5 1600
|GTX 1060 6GB | RX 580 8GB
Total price – $1,200 | £1,000
We’ve gone for the AMD CPU option from the minimum spec, and opted for a more modern version of the from the second-gen Ryzen processors: the AMD Ryzen 5 2600. It’s a great processor in its own right, and still stands up today, even with the Ryzen 5 3600 sitting atop our list of the best CPUs for gaming.
The Gigabyte motherboard is a very affordable one, using the B450 chipset and a smaller form factor board, it still has a wealth of USB ports for you to kit out your virtual reality setup. Given the number of things you’ll need to plug in, having more than the usual six USB ports on the backplate is vital.
The minimum spec for Half-Life: Alyx says 12GB in terms of system memory, but that would either lead to some weird asymmetrical 8GB / 4GB stick combo, or three 4GB sticks filling out your motherboard’s DIMM slots. Be safe and opt for a decent 16GB kit split across two sticks for dual-channel goodness.
The speedy Addlink S70 is as affordable as decent half terabyte SSDs go, and will be perfect for storing both Windows and your soon-to-be-stuffed virtual reality gaming library.
When it comes to the actual VR headset itself… well, even if Valve is able to ramp up production to ensure that there are enough Index headsets around when the game launches, they’ll still be hugely expensive units. But Half-Life: Alyx isn’t locked to Valve’s own VR ecosystem – though it will likely play best on the excellent Index Knuckles controllers – so the Oculus Rift S would be a great alternative at a great price.
|Half-Life: Alyx recommended PC spec
|Intel Core i7 9700K | AMD Ryzen 5 3600
|RTX 2070 Super | AMD RX 5700 XT
HMD – Valve Index VR kit – $999 | £919
TOTAL PRICE – $2,200 | £2,100
Our own recommended spec still sticks with a six-core, 12-thread AMD processor, but we’ve opted for the Ryzen 5 3600 from the latest generation to give you as much single core processing power as the red team can muster right now without breaking the bank. The motherboard is still a last-gen, second-tier chipset, but you don’t need the X570’s PCIe 4.0 support and we really want that mini ITX form factor. Because without it you can’t get your Half-Life: Alyx rig to fit into something that looks like it was engineered by GLadOS herself.
We’ve gone rather bigger when it comes to the GPU, because you are going to need some graphical grunt to run Half-Life: Alyx at the sort of frame rates and resolution that really makes the Valve Index headset sing. The Nvidia RTX 2070 Super is a great card for this, offering essentially an RTX 2080 Lite experience for a lot less cash.
On the SSD front we’ve opted for the full 1TB version of the Addlink S70 drive – it’s still an impressively affordable option, and still delivers a huge amount of solid state storage performance for the money. All of that is neatly wrapped up in the gorgeous Bitfenix Portal chassis – that incredibly Valve-esque mini ITX case which we just had to use for this build.
Though there are valid reasons for making your VR rig as small as possible – portability. There’s a good chance your desktop rig and the space you want to game in for VR don’t necessarily always reside in the same place, so being able to move the machine around might be well worth the effort.
Of course, for the ultimate Half-Life: Alyx experience you are going to need the Valve Index virtual reality kit. The base stations are accurate, the headset comfortable and with the clearest optics we’ve used, but it’s the Knuckles controllers which will likely make the experience unforgettable. They’re pressure sensitive and track the individual digits of your hand, making interaction with the game world a far more immersive thing.
But a hulking gaming desktop is not necessarily the best machine to use as a base for your virtual reality setup. I’m of the opinion that VR gaming is best done on a high-end gaming laptop. The specs we’ve put together above are all simply including the base PC and the VR headset, not the keyboard, mouse, and monitor that you’re also going to need to go alongside it.
That all comes part and parcel with a gaming laptop, and if you are going to be doing your VR dance away from the place your standard desktop rig would live then only having to take a laptop around the house with you is far easier. Lugging around a monitor, mouse, and keyboard with everything else is an absolute nightmare.
So we’ve picked a selection of quality gaming laptops that can also absolutely deliver on the vital specs of Half-Life: Alyx.
But whichever gaming PC – whether desktop or laptop – you end up playing Half-Life: Alyx on, there’s a good chance it could become the gateway drug to virtual reality for a whole lot of gamers.