For any of you who has ever played on a PC before, the name Half-Life should ring a lot of bells for you folk. It was the pioneering fps title that skyrocketed Valve’s recognition as a renowned developer within the games industry. Way back during the bygone days where these guys actually delivered entertaining games that millions of people enjoyed. Games with innovative mechanics and immersive worlds that really pushed the boundaries of their respective genres. Nowadays though, Valve seems to be focused more on “important” matters like pampering to their digital store: Steam, making apps for their expensive VR sets as well as selling & marketing a glorified Hearthstone clone. The public’s view towards Valve in recent years was you could say less than favourable. That was until the recent announcement of their next game in the Half-Life franchise, Half-Life: Alyx.
The game’s set before the events of Half-Life 2, serving as a prequel of sorts with players filling the shoes of fan favourite character Alyx Vance. The overall graphical quality displayed in the official trailer honestly looks pretty damn sweet. With a myriad of visual improvements that look to have been made into the game’s modified rendition of the Source 2 engine, including real time lighting, high resolution shadows and volumetric fog. Coupled with the amount of detail that has gone into the environments, the animations and (seemingly) even to the gameplay, Half-Life: Alyx looks to be more than just Valve’s own personal/glorified VR tech demo.
That being said, it’s common knowledge that VR sets aren’t the most accessible or the most preferred platform for gaming, as of right now. It’s a platform that’s at its most infantile stage currently, and the small library of games currently available only help to support the claim. Additionally, games available on VR seem to struggle to break into the mainstream market. This can be due to a number of factors, such as the game’s lack of any substantial amount content, the core gameplay loop being too stale or perhaps due to the platform’s own hardware limitations. I’ve seen myself how VR sets are set up beforehand and trust me, they can take up quite a lot of space. Imagine having to play a VR title in a room that’s less than 7.0 square meters. Have fun paying for your next ceiling light after you smacked it by accident. It’s not a secret then why people would look at VR as nothing but a waste of space. And hell I haven’t even touched on the risks of getting motion sickness. In its current state, VR doesn’t quite justify its asking price when there are other alternate platforms like PC that acquire less physical spacing, can run a wider variety of games and include controls that feel much more comfortable for the player.
It’s certainly too early to tell whether if Half-Life: Alyx will actually be good and can be the tipping point to finally bring VR into the interest of more consumers. It certainly has the polish though, thanks to the graphical upgrade the series has received since 2007. Its gameplay meanwhile, while not a lot has been shown seems to be following the same path. Due to the overwhelming reception the trailer has gotten in the past 6 days, perhaps it is the first sign that Valve will revitalise the Half-Life series, maybe even continue this revival by releasing a proper sequel??
Eh, maybe not. I mean they made a Hearthstone knockoff for fuck’s sake.