Want to play Half-Life: Alyx? Here's the best VR gear for the game

How to play Valve's newest, VR-only Half-Life game.

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Half-Life: Alyx, Valve's new long-awaited Half-Life game, is a first-person shooter set in the period before Half-Life 2, and you control the character of Alyx Vance as she and her father fight an alien empire. This virtual reality game is really something, but to play it you need a VR headset. Valve's own headset, the Index, is a fantastic way to play the game, but it's expensive. The good news is that there are many other compatible VR headset options for playing the VR game. 

Half-Life: Alyx works with various Windows-based Steam VR-compatible headsets, and even with Facebook's standalone Oculus Quest. I've played the virtual reality video game on both the Index and Quest so far.

Here are some of the best gear options to consider for your Half-Life: Alyx playing experience. (And keep in mind you need a gaming PC with certain specs, too.)

Read more: Playing the dystopian Half-Life: Alyx in a real-life dystopia

Now playing: Watch this: The cheapest VR gear for playing Half-Life: Alyx

Best compatibility 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Valve's expensive VR setup has its own unique motion controllers that measure finger motion, and Half-Life: Alyx is designed to make the most of those controllers. If you have a Vive VR, you can get Valve's new controllers separately and add them on for less money than a whole new headset would cost. Valve is including Half-Life: Alyx for free with purchases of its Index bundles. 

The Index provides a great display and audio experience but requires installed Lighthouse light-emitting tracking sensor boxes in your room, instead of using in-headset self-contained motion tracking. The Index is a pain to set up because of its cables and lighthouse boxes, but it's excellent for an immersive experience. It's hard to find in stock, however. Read our Valve Index review.

Angela Lang/CNET

The years-old Vive still works and is often on sale. It doesn't have the best display resolution any more, but it'll do. You can get this and add on Valve Index controllers separately if you want. The Valve Index and its new controllers are cross-compatible with Vive's hardware, which also runs off SteamVR. If you want to upgrade to pieces of the Index later (I'd recommend the controllers, at least), you can.

The Vive comes in the original version and a higher-res Vive Pro model. Shop around and see what deals you can get. Read our HTC Vive review.

Read our HTC Vive review.



Microsoft's line of third-party VR headsets are inexpensive and work with built-in headset tracking. Many of these Windows Mixed Reality headsets are affordable and work with Steam. The Odyssey, often on sale, has a high-quality display and build. It's the best of the now nearly forgotten headsets that Dell, HP and Acer put out a few years ago. I haven't tried it out yet with Half-Life: Alyx. 


Oculus' PC-connected VR headset doesn't require external cameras, doing all motion tracking through the cameras on the headset. The Rift S is a great headset, and it's SteamVR compatible. It's also relatively affordable at $399. I'm not sure it's the best Half-Life: Alyx option for your gameplay experience, but it should work. The Rift S is hard to find in stock lately too. Read more about the Oculus Rift S.

Read more: The best VR headsets for 2020

Wild-card option

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Oculus Quest is a standalone VR headset. Technically, it could work with Half-Life: Alyx when using the right USB-C cable to connect to a PC. It wouldn't be the best option for gameplay, but could be a fascinating choice for someone who already has a Quest.

Read more: