Half-Life: Alyx is one of the most anticipated VR games to date, with gaming behemoth Valve (Left for Dead, Dota 2) returning to one of its flagship franchises after so many years away.
But the Valve Index title – which no doubt has contributed to the difficulty of finding a Valve Index VR headset these days – seems to be the start of a wider refresh of the Half-Life series, 13 years after Half-Life 2: Episode 2 landed on PC and consoles.
Speaking to Game Informer, Valve developer Robin Walker spoke on behalf of a team who very much “hope it’s not the last” Half-Life game they get to develop in the studio. “Half-Life means a lot to us,” Walker said, “and it's been incredibly rewarding to refamiliarize ourselves with its characters, setting, and mechanics.”
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Walker added: “There are Half-Life: Alyx team members who have been at Valve since Half-Life 2, and quite a few who go back to the original Half-Life. There are also people on the team for whom Half-Life: Alyx is their first time working on this series at all – and many of them certainly hope it's not the last. We absolutely see Half-Life: Alyx as our return to this world, not the end of it."
The promise of VR
While Half-Life: Alyx doesn't release until March 23, it’s no exaggeration to say that it could be one of the biggest VR games of this decade – and could well be what turns the Valve Index into a mainstream consumer headset to compete with the Oculus Rift or Oculus Quest, if production of the headset can manage to meet demand.
As to what form future Half-Life games will take, it’s likely that any other instalments in the immediate future would continue to be planned for the Index, rather than more traditional home consoles – given the work that went into creating Half-Life’s world in VR in the first place (Alyx works with other VR headsets, but was specifically built for Valve's own hardware – existing owners get the game for free).
Walker also spoke about the demand for “full-scale triple-A experiences” in VR, and how well the Half-Life world worked within the medium from the outset: “Half-Life's set of mechanics was a surprisingly natural fit for VR, even before any of the necessary work was done to deeply integrate them into the medium. It was very clear from those first experiments that VR was going to be very fertile ground for Half-Life.”
Will we see more Half-Life games from Alyx’s viewpoint? We wouldn’t be against getting to wield Gordon Freeman’s crowbar with the Index’s touch controls – or, why not, a dedicated crowbar peripheral.
We’re not holding out for Half-Life 3 – we gave up hope on that game a long time ago – but for those of us who grew up with the original Half-Life, this certainly feels like the start of something bigger.
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