2020 was not a bad year for VR games. Let’s just put that out there front and center. We saw new and innovative technology this year and plenty of titles in the VR space that were head-turners. That said, when it came to the best of the best in VR in 2020, there was a single game that stood head and shoulders above every other title in terms of visual spectacle, interactivity, proficiency, accessibility, and more. We’re talking, of course, about Half-Life: Alyx.
Half-Life: Alyx was a bombshell rocking the foundation of the gaming community in 2020 - a new Half-Life game in a new gaming space. “Wild” would be a complete and utter understatement. Where VR gaming has been a space filled to the brim with short term experiences and gimmicky arcade-style opportunities, Half-Life: Alyx brought something exceedingly rare to the VR space. It’s a full-fledged game. And what’s more, it’s not only competent, but quite arguably transcendent. Its environments are vast, its narrative is gripping and intense, and its puzzles and interactivity are smart and engaging throughout.
Part puzzle, part action, part horror, Half-Life: Alyx is simply incredible in its array of experiences and gameplay as well. Running into a head crab for the first time was horribly intense. The sound design makes you feel that moment all the more, making the entire experience an absolutely terrifying one. Meanwhile, tools like the gravity gloves, hacking tool, and environmental machinery created fantastic moments of creative problem solving in order to move forward. It was never just about putting a square block in a square peg in VR here. It’s literally exploring the environment carefully, using your gravity gloves to pull resources from hard-to-reach places, operating machinery to the best of your logic, and manipulating technology with Alyx’s savvy gadgets and know-how.
Alyx wasn’t alone in the field of competent VR in 2020. The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners was truly a standout as well - another rare instance of a fully fleshed-out adventure. The visceral nature of engaging zombies with melee weapons, managing your limited resources, and getting moving when the threat became too much to handle was absolutely awesome in Saints & Sinners. It created a true-to-form Walking Dead experience where we found ourselves looking over our shoulders at every sound and avoiding Walkers as best we could. Star Wars: Squadrons was also a standout in 2020. Though the game can be played without VR, the sheer depth of being able to put on a headset and climb into the cockpit of iconic ships like X-Wings or TIE Fighters was undeniably charming and riveting to say the least.
That said, Half-Life: Alyx was more than any novelty in 2020 and it didn’t seem to feature the limitations we’ve often seen in full-fledged VR games. It was a benchmark, a gold standard… It showed what VR could truly be with amazing resources and technical minds behind it, even going so far as to provide a superior class of accessibility in terms of comfort options for physical limitations of all type and adaptability to lower end tech (This game can run proficiently on an Oculus Quest 2 for crying out loud!). With all of that in mind, there can be no doubt.
It’s hard to imagine a VR game that will advance development in this field as well as Half-Life: Alyx did, and yet we found ourselves hoping that this is just a sign of truly great VR games to come as other developers look to this game as a truly incredible reference point.
Check out the other winners from The Shacknews Awards 2020 in our Year of the Games: 2020 article.
TJ Denzer posted a new article, Shacknews Best VR Game of 2020 - Half-Life: Alyx