Half-Life: Alyx took the internet by storm when it came out last week. The VR game has deservedly managed to gain high praise from players and critics alike. So far, Alyx is sitting at a lofty score of 93 on Metacritic and the momentum for its success doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. It is, quite remarkably, the first Half-Life game to come out of the sacred development team at Valve since Half-Life 2: Episode 2, which came out almost 13 years ago.
Set 5 years prior to the events of Half-Life 2, Half-Life: Alyx follows the story of Alyx Vance as she embarks upon a quest to rescue her father, Eli Vance from occupying alien Combine.
Initially, when it was announced, Alyx was met with a lot of skepticism especially due to the fact that it was a VR game. The skepticism and resentment was somewhat fair though since most players have been asking for a new Half-Life game from Valve for over a decade now and them choosing VR is not exactly the most accessible choice. However, there’s a good reason for that.
Half-Life: Alyx is a massive leap towards making VR mainstream
Many people argue that Valve made Half-Life: Alyx just to sell more units of their Valve Index VR headset. And, although that may contain some degree of truth, the reality is far from being just that. It would be unfair to reduce it to that since Half-Life: Alyx is not only a great VR game but it is just an incredible game overall.
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Half-Life games have always been a tool for Valve to innovate and drive video game technology. With the original Half-Life, it was incorporating a compelling narrative within a first-person shooter game.
The second installment in the series, Half-Life 2 took things one step further pairing incredible graphical fidelity with a gripping narrative and, most importantly, a revolutionary gameplay design with the physics system of the Source engine being the star of the show.
Valve has stated time and time again that while making another traditional Half-Life game would be the easier choice, the franchise itself has always served a purpose that is far greater than most of us realise. It just would not be a Half-Life game if it didn’t innovate and push video game technology forward for the rest of the industry in some way.
Half-Life: Alyx is just another extension of that notion since it pushes the envelop further for finally turning VR into a mainstream platform. Way back in the 90s, VR headsets were the dominant force in most sci-fi movies about the future. However, in 2020, the reality of the medium has been far more underwhelming than we had anticipated and VR has failed to live up to its potential and expectations until now.
With Half-Life: Alyx, Valve has flipped that reputation and has made something that will go down in the history books as the turning point for virtual reality gaming. Yes, modders are already hard at work to turn Half-Life: Alyx into a traditional experience but there is no way that can come even close to the VR experience that Valve has created.
Half-Life: Alyx was always meant to be a VR game and it is best experienced as such. Valve has proven that VR can actually be a viable platform for incredible AAA games and now we can expect other game developers to learn and follow suit as well. It is a shame that VR is still so expensive and inaccessible for many people as a platform. However, with the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 coming out later this year, that could change very soon as well.
For instance, PlayStation VR is already a very affordable way to get into VR and while it is not exactly the most impressive VR headset out there, it is a great entry point for consumers. And, with the better hardware of PlayStation 5, we can only expect the PSVR platform to evolve into something much more impressive.
In addition to that, Valve has also stated that since gaming consoles are getting pretty close to being just normal gaming PCs, the possibility of console ports is not far fetched at all. So, we could see Half-Life: Alyx on whatever the updated PSVR would be for the PlayStation 5.
However, VR is not the only thing that is going to drastically change because of the success of Half-Life: Alyx.
The Source 2 engine could replicate the success of the original Source
When Half-Life 2 came out, way back in 2004, PC gaming was in a weird stagnant state. Apart from MMOs, the platform lacked good original games and was consistently being fed poorly optimized console ports. Half-Life 2 changed that. It ushered in a new era of PC gaming and made it a viable platform for developers once again with the addition of Steam.
However, the real game-changer was not Half-Life 2 itself, but the game engine that it was running on. The Source engine, which was developed by Valve, completely changed the video game landscape thanks to its incredible flexibility, modding capabilities and the innovative physics system.
It eventually gave birth to some of the best video game experiences of all time including the likes of Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead, Titanfall, Portal, Apex Legends, Garry’s Mod, CS Go and Dota among countless other incredible games. The developers thrived off the amount of freedom that Source provided for their creative expression and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that video games today wouldn’t be the same without it.
With Half-Life: Alyx, Valve has finally created the second installment of the Source engine, the Source 2. While we don’t have many other examples of Source 2 being utilized as of now (apart from Dota 2 being shifted to it), the new engine could prove to be instrumental in the long run if Alyx is anything to go by.
Source 2 does everything that the original Source engine did and then improves upon it. The sheer amount of work that Valve has put into it is remarkable and we’ll probably see the tremendous nature of the engine manifest itself in other games sooner rather than later. The creative prowess that Source 2 hands to the developers is impressive and it could prove to be the next big thing.
Valve is finally making games again yay!
Half-Life: Alyx is the first game to have come out of Valve (disregarding Artifact) for a very very long time. Some earlier reports suggested that the creative team at Valve was unhappy due to a lack of creative direction and projects. However, all of that seems to have been fixed now with the release of Alyx since those at Valve are now eager to work on more games and projects now.
In addition to that, the developer also didn’t rule out the possibility of a Half-Life 3 now that they’re finally jumping back into the franchise again. In an interview, Robin Walker who was a designer and programmer on Half-Life: Alyx, stated that he would love to make more Half-Life games in the immediate future and this is a sentiment that is shared throughout the company as well, including Gabe Newell.
So, we can expect Valve to make a big comeback into game development and continue bringing us more of these incredible experiences sooner rather than later.
Half-Life: Alyx will hopefully kick off a lot of big things elsewhere in the games industry with its release too. As with other Half-Life games before it, Alyx could prove to be the catalyst that alters the trajectory of the games industry upwards into a much more healthier environment full of innovation and creativity.
If you’d told me 5 years ago that Valve and Id Software, two of the most illustrious studios in video game history, would release a new Half-Life game and a new Doom game within the same week, I would have called you crazy. Truly a blessed timeline.