Image Source: Steam
At the end of June this year, Valve released its big leap into virtual reality gaming with its premium product, the Valve Index VR kit. However, upon its release, many outlets noted that even though the kit was the best of its class, it wasn’t being bolstered by a strong line of games.
There are some very intriguing titles which have been built with native Valve Index support, including the likes of Arizona Sunshine, Shadow Legend, Skyworld, Space Junkies, and there’s also support for No Man’s Sky on the platform. Without a big-name title to draw in the masses, though, there hasn’t been a huge amount of appeal to fork out £919 ($999) other than it being the next generation of virtual reality hardware.
That has all changed now, with the announcement of Half-Life: Alyx.
At long last, the Half-Life series continues
What started with physicist Gordon Freeman going up against an alien invasion in 1998 led to a sequel in 2004 with two episodic editions, Half-Life 2: Episode One and Two in 2006 and 2007 to forge the Half-Life series. The Portal series is also set in the universe established by Half-Life, but it has been 15 years since Valve pumped out a proper edition to the much-loved series.
Now comes Half-Life: Alyx, the third full-length game, and it’s going to be the major selling point of the Valve Index. According to The Verge, Half-Life: Alyx will be exclusive to the SteamVR platform – which is owned by Valve – but as SteamVR supports the majority of virtual reality headsets based on PCs, it won’t be a Valve Index exclusive.
That said, Half-Life: Alyx will be free to play via the Valve Index VR kit when it launches in March 2020. Making use of virtual reality isn’t a mere sales gimmick, however, with Dario Casali of Valve explaining to Eurogamer that the game demanded the new technology. In the interview, Casali explains that the kind of in-depth interactions and exploration of the 3D space simply couldn’t come with the rigidity of mouse and keyboard controls.
Virtual reality gaming being given tremendous support
Half-Life: Alyx might be Valve Index’s, or rather SteamVR’s, first proper flagship title, but other major virtual reality platforms have been seen giving VR a huge push with big-name software releases and announcements this year.
Entering the market as a kind of alternate or perhaps a gateway to VR gaming, the Nintendo Labo VR Kit launched with compatibility on two of the consoles biggest and most praised titles: Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The platform also continues to release free mini-games for its audience.
Quite possibly the biggest mainline gaming brand that has been bolstering its virtual reality library is Sony’s PlayStation-compatible PSVR. Already available are the likes of L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files, Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot, Creed: Rise to Glory, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Doom VFR, but there’s even more on the way.
Two huge brands are coming to the PlayStation in the form of virtual reality games. Expected to hit the PSVR shelves on 28 February 2020, players will get to put on the famous Iron Man suit in the Marvel-licensed title Iron Man VR. Also coming to the platform next year is the action-horror game from AMC’s long-running series, The Walking Dead: Onslaught.
Combining the appeal and range being put on show from PSVR, Nintendo Labo, Valve Index, and the likes of Oculus and HTC, 2019 may prove to be the year that virtual reality finally takes root. With Iron Man VR and Half-Life: Alyx on the horizon, the presently niche gaming platform is certainly looking much more appealing.
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