Half-Life: Alyx – Tips and Tricks

More Half-Life: Alyx Guides:


Half-Life: Alyx lets you do most of the things you’re used to doing on a good old keyboard and mouse. VR controls don’t work exactly the same, however, so it’s worth explaining how some of the core mechanics of Half-Life: Alyx actually work with the VR control scheme.

There are also some difficult puzzles in Half-Life: Alyx, and it isn’t immediately clear how to solve them. This page is here to explain those basic gameplay mechanics in Half-Life: Alyx that might not come so intuitively.

How to Move

You can select your style of movement from the main menu by navigating to Options, then Preferences, and choosing between one of four different styles of movement:

  • Blink – Teleport to a location quickly.
  • Shift – Shift over to a location in a linear direction.
  • Continuous – Slide around on the ground in the direction your head is facing.
  • Continuous Hand – Slide around on the ground in the direction your dominant hand is facing.

Depending on what type of controller you’re using, you can move around by flicking the analog stick or tapping the thumbpad of your non-dominant controller. You can also teleport at any point by flicking the analog stick or tapping the thumbpad of your dominant controller. For example, if you’re right-handed, then your left hand will control the direction that you’ll move in normally. You can also teleport with your dominant (right) hand.

How to Reload

Reloading is as simple as tapping the bottom-facing (“A” button) on your dominant controller. If you’re holding the pistol, you’ll drop your clip. If you’re holding your shotgun or SMG, this will open its chamber to receive new ammunition. You can produce clips, shotgun shells, and SMG mags from your inventory by reaching around behind your back and ‘gripping’ with your VR controller.

Here’s how to reload each weapon:


Drop the existing held clip by pressing “A”, reach behind your back for a new clip, insert the new clip, then charge the pistol with the slider. You don’t need to charge again if at least one round is still in the chamber.


Open the chamber by pressing “A”, reach behind your back for new shells, insert the shells into the chamber, then charge the shotgun with the charging handle. You don’t need to charge again if at least one shell is still in the chamber.


Open the magazine holster by pressing “A”, reach behind your back for a new magazine, tap the magazine to the holster. It will fill and charge on its own. Throw the magazine away.

How to Grab and Store Items

Grabbing and storing items is easier than it first seems. You do need to know which items can be stored in which places.

  • Backpack: Resins, Ammo
  • Wrist Pouches: Healing items, Grenades, Keycards/Batteries, Miscellaneous Items

It’s unclear how much storage space you have in your pack, but you can only fill up to two wrist slots at once.

How to Put Away / Switch Weapons

Putting away and switching weapons is as simple as holding down the analog stick or thumbpad of your dominant controller, then selecting the option you want from the menu wheel. Quickly tapping the analog stick or thumbpad of your dominant controller will instantly put the weapon away, giving you a second free hand.

How to Get Past Boarded Doors

Any boarded door you encounter can be stopped with a few rounds from your weapon, or you can pry them off the door with your hands.

How to Climb Up Ladders / Over Obstacles

Climbing up ladders is as easy as grabbing a rung of the ladder you’d like to climb up or down. You can also set an option in Options, then Preferences, which allows you to physically climb ladders if that’s something you’d like.

Climbing over obstacles, otherwise called ‘mantling’ in Half-Life: Alyx, is something that you can achieve either by pointing and teleporting to your destination, or moving up next to the object you’d like to mantle and holding the analog stick or thumbpad of your dominant controller in the direction you’d like to climb.

How to Break Open Ammo Boxes

You can break open any ammo box in Half-Life: Alyx by grabbing it and throwing it to the ground, physically punching it with your fists, or shooting it with your weapon.

How to Solve Container Puzzles

Each time you attempt to unlock a container, you’ll need to solve a puzzle with your Multi-Tool on a holographic sphere. To solve the puzzle, manipulate the two blue points to connect at the same spot. You’ll fail (I.E. reset) the puzzle if you touch a blue point with a red point while manipulating the blue point, but you can let the red points pass on their own without failing the puzzle.

How to Solve Short Circuit Puzzles

At various points throughout Half-Life: Alyx, you’ll need to manipulate power circuits to make machines and doors do what you want them to do in the world. You can solve these puzzles with your Multi-Tool, with which you can scan live power circuits and trace them through walls and other surfaces. To solve short circuit puzzles, you’ll need to complete circuits by redirecting power junctions in the wall. You can do this by pushing the “trigger” button with your dominant hand when holding the Multi-Tool over a junction. Each short circuit puzzle is different, so pay close attention to where power circuits are leading you.

How to Solve Door Puzzles

Certain locked doors require you to first solve a puzzle in which you have to match up the colors of different nodes around a holographic sphere. Connecting two nodes is as simple as tapping one with your Multi-Tool and pressing the “trigger” button, then doing the same on a different node. You can also move the sphere around with your free hand. These puzzles are randomized each time, but you’re shown which nodes are assigned to which color before you begin linking them together. Just memorize the colors before you begin, or use the process of elimination to do your best guesswork.

You Can Use Physical Objects Like Shields

Every physical object in Half-Life: Alyx that can be picked up is a shield between you and potential doom. Whether you’re fighting off a swarm of headcrabs or evading gunfire, putting something like a trashcan or even an office chair between yourself and your opponent can mean the difference between life or death.

A Grub Is Placed Next to (Almost) Every Medical Station

If you find an empty medical station, don’t worry! There’s almost always a grub nearby, except for the very last health station you find around the end of the game, spoiler alert. Simply go poking through nearby drawers and you’ll find a new grub in no time. Also, don’t use up a wrist slot to carry a grub with you! You’ll never find one far away from the next medical station.

You Can Teleport, Even With Continuous Movement Toggled

No matter which movement option you select in the Options menu, you can still teleport around Half-Life: Alyx whenever you like. The best movement scheme to quickly change movement styles between ‘smooth movement’ and teleportation is with either the ‘Continuous’, or ‘Continuous Hand’ movement options.

If You Can Physically Pick It Up, You Can Take It With You

If you don’t have any room in your wrist pouches for a syringe or a grenade, or if you want to move an oil canister with you to the next section of a level, don’t fear. If you can hold it in a free hand, you can take it with you to the next area or place it strategically for the next battle. You can even physically carry items with you through loading screens.

Ammo And Resin Are Hidden Everywhere

Half-Life: Alyx is cleverly dotted with tons of hidden nooks and crannies. There’s even a reason to kill most enemies you find, as many of them will drop valuable ammo and resin pickups. If you think you’ve seen everything in a level, check again, and make sure to look at the same area from multiple angles. You never know where useful items could be hiding.

There Are a Boatload of Options to Customize

If you haven’t swung by the Options menu, make sure to do that! You can change everything from what type of movement you prefer, to whether or not barnacles physically lift you up when you’re caught in their tendrils, to what type of spectator camera you’d like to show off your sweet VR moves with. There are also a ton of accessibility options, including a one-handed mode.

Don’t Fire That Last Round!

As long as one bullet is chambered in your gun, you can simply throw a new clip into it and keep firing without needing to pull the slide again. This is true of each gun in the game, and it’s a super convenient little trick that makes playing Half-Life: Alyx a total treat.

The Shotgun Can Hold Up to Seven Shells

It isn’t super clear at first, but you can load up to seven shells into the shotgun at once. Between battles, you should make sure that your shotgun is fully loaded, then unleash it once you find yourself stuck in a tight corner.

Useful Options

Before you get started on your Half-Life: Alyx adventure, you should absolutely go to your Options menu and get things configured the right way. Here are the most useful options to check out first:


  • Difficulty: Select your difficulty level.
  • Movement: Switch between the different styles of VR locomotion. No matter which one you choose, you can always teleport with your dominant hand.
  • Hand-Climbing Ladders: Decide whether or not you’re able to physically climb ladders by pulling yourself up each rung. Whether or not this is enabled, you can still insta-climb ladders by placing your hand on the bottom rung and letting go.
  • Barnacle Lift: Choose whether barnacles can move you or not. Turning this off might help mitigate motion sickness caused by involuntary camera movement.
  • Quick Turn: Toggle this on or off to decide whether you’re able to flick your analog sticks (or thumbpads) to the left and right to make snap-turns.
  • Quick Turn Angle: Choose the amount of which each snap-turn rotates your camera.


  • Single Controller: Toggle between one-handed mode.
  • Height Adjust: Toggle between various modes for seated play and/or automatic crouching.
  • Light Sensitivity: Toggle this on to reduce light intensity and flickering.


  • Weapon Hand: Select your dominant hand.
  • Pause Menu Distance: Select how far away your pause menu appears when you bring it up.
  • Pause Menu Height: Select the default height at which your pause menu appears when you bring it up.


  • Fidelity: Turn your visual settings up and down. A lower fidelity will give you a higher framerate, which may potentially mitigate motion sickness. Likewise, lower or inconsistent framerates (caused by higher fidelity than your PC can handle) may cause motion sickness for some players.

Clear Your Play Area

Half-Life: Alyx is a VR game, which means that it’s far more physical than other games you may be used to playing on your standard keyboard and mouse or gamepad. In other words: Alyx only moves when you move.

Picking up crates and throwing them across a room at a headcrab, turning a tight corner at the perfect moment to take a precision shot, and literally leaping out of harm’s way are all great ways to play Half-Life: Alyx, but they’re also physically involved and potentially dangerous.

Make sure that the area you choose to play Half-Life: Alyx in is clear of obstructions, pets, and/or loose furniture that you could trip over or break during your time in City 17.

The recommended minimum size for a VR play area is one that is at least 6.5 x 6.5 feet, or 2 x 2 meters.

Take Regular Breaks & Keep Motion Sickness Remedies Nearby

As with any other VR game that you play for extended periods of time, Half-Life: Alyx will burn you out far quicker than you might be used to. That’s okay! You should take a break at least once per hour to avoid making yourself sick.

If you do get motion sickness, however, you might want to have some remedies around to help you deal with the symptoms. Ginger root, peppermint, and plenty of water will help make motion sickness more bearable. However, it’s important to note that you should never push past your limits in VR. If you get sick, give Half-Life: Alyx a rest and return later.

Volodymyr Azimoff
About Volodymyr Azimoff 13365 Articles
I love games and I live games. Video games are my passion, my hobby and my job. My experience with games started back in 1994 with the Metal Mutant game on ZX Spectrum computer. And since then, I’ve been playing on anything from consoles, to mobile devices. My first official job in the game industry started back in 2005, and I'm still doing what I love to do.

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