Developers Valve shocked the gaming industry by announcing the latest installment in the long-dormant Half-Life series. Half-Life: Alyx is set to be released in March 2020 and will be the series’ first virtual reality exclusive title. It will be released via Steam and will be compatible with all PC-Based VR headsets including the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Valve’s proprietary headset, Valve Index.
Half-Life: Alyx will be a full-length campaign taking place after the Combine invasion of Half-Life 1 and before the return of Gordon Freeman in Half-Life 2. Players will take control of Alyx Vance, the supporting character of Half-Life 2, as she and her father, Eli, mount up a resistance against the invading Combine forces and their brutal occupation of Earth.
VR was built for the kind of gameplay that sits at the heart of Half-Life, and Half-Life: Alyx was built from the ground up for VR. You'll be able to play it on any SteamVR compatible system.
— Valve (@valvesoftware) November 21, 2019
“Everyone at Valve is excited to be returning to the world of Half-Life”, says Valve founder Gabe Newell to The Verge. “VR has energized us. We’ve invested a lot of ourselves in the technology. But we’re also game developers at heart, and to be devoting ourselves to a VR game this ambitious is just as exciting. For that to come in the form of Half-Life feels like the culmination of a lot of things we care a lot about: truly great games, cutting edge technology, and open platforms. We can’t wait for people to experience this.”
Half-Life: Alyx will have the hallmarks of the classic Half-Life series that players fell in love with two decades ago: platforming, world exploration, visceral combat and a gripping narrative interwoven within the iconic Half-Life Universe. Alyx will also be armed with gravity gloves that will help grab things that would otherwise be out of reach. Half-Life: Alyx was built from the ground up for VR on Valve’s Source 2 engine. Players will be able to choose from three different types of setup, whether they want to move around the room, stand in one place or sit down.
Valve is better known these days as the titan retail platform as well as for its Esports titles such as Counter-Strike: GO and DOTA 2. Its initial rise to prominence was through the Half-Life series with the last game, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, released in 2007. Since then, there was constant speculation and anticipation of an installment that would pick up where Episode 2 left off. The idea of the release of Half-Life 3 had become a meme among hopeful fans. The final nail in the coffin was the leak of a script by former Valve writer, Marc Laidlaw, that may have been the planned plot for Half-Life 3. The release of Half-Life: Alyx has reignited the hopes of many fans to get proper closure for the series.
Half-Life: Alyx is currently available for pre-purchase on Steam for $59.99 and owners of the Valve Index VR headset will get it for free.
Gloomy Eyes Comes to Oculus Quest and Other Platforms This Valentine’s Day
Initially launching on Viveport, the award-winning 360-degree VR movie, Gloomy Eyes, will be coming to Oculus Quest and other PC VR platforms on Feb 14. Gloomy Eyes tells the story of a young zombie boy who ends up falling in love with a human girl. It is split into three-part episodic volumes.
The publisher ARTE were unable to confirm exactly which other PC VR platforms it will expand onto just yet (such as SteamVR), but said they will have more information ahead of the Feb 14 release.
A 360-degree video version will be available on the ARTE Cinema’s YouTube channel. While it is possible to watch the full experience there for free, you won’t have the benefit of 6DoF (Six Degrees of Freedom) that comes with VR headsets. The full VR experience will cost $14.99 on all platforms
Celebrity Collin Farell takes on the role of the Grave Keeper, narrating the VR diorama-esque experience. Released as part of HTC Vive’s Viveport Developer Stories series, a video shows Farrell playing his role in the Voice-Over booth and sharing his take on working on the experience.
“Because [it’s] a VR experience,” Farrell says, “they’ve been able to just keep it about the purity of the story in a way that sometimes in feature film gets compromised because of the scale, sometimes, of things or the amount of people involved.”
Gloomy Eyes was shown at a number of film festivals and events last year, including Annecy, South by Southwest, and Sundance Film Festival.
At the Raindance Immersive Award last year, hosted at the heart of London to celebrate the best of VR moviemaking and gaming, Gloomy Eyes won the award for Artistic Achievement and Audio Achievement.
The full list of winners at the Raindance Immersive Awards 2019 were:
- BEST IMMERSIVE GAME: The Curious Tale of The Stolen Pets
- BEST INTERACTIVE NARRATIVE EXPERIENCE: A Box In The Desert
- BEST CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE: Afterlife
- BEST DOCUMENTARY EXPERIENCE: Ayahuasca
- BEST ANIMATED EXPERIENCE: Battlescar
- ARTISTIC ACHIEVEMENT: Gloomy Eyes
- BRITISH AWARD: BEST UK EXPERIENCE: Glimpse
- DISCOVERY AWARD: BEST DEBUT EXPERIENCE: Afterlife
- SPIRIT OF RAINDANCE: BEST IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE OF THE FESTIVAL: Cosmos Within Us
Most Anticipated VR Games of 2020
Every year with the VR platform evolving, we are seeing more studios join the community to launch their new IPs. There was a stellar collection of VR games in 2019 and it seems as though 2020 is already shaping up to be a pretty significant year in VR gaming too. We put together the top titles that have been confirmed for release in 2020, which includes everything from indies to ‘AAA’ titles coming to the VR platforms.
To say that Half-Life: Alyx has been widely anticipated would be an understatement. It is directly responsible for massive selling out of Valve’s proprietor VR hardware, Valve Index. Half-Life: Alyx puts players in the shoes of Alyx Vance, a supporting character to series protagonist Gordon Freeman. Set before the events of Half-Life 2, Players will have to lead a revolution against the invading Combine forces. This will be the first game in Half-Life series in decades and Valve sets to make its mark in VR gaming.
Half-Life: Alyx releases on March 2020 for SteamVR
Lone Echo II
Initially announced for a 2019 release, developers Ready at Dawn had confirmed the sequel to the 2017 smash hit Lone Echo for Q1 2020. Players will be able to embark on another gripping narrative with Captain Olivia and her robot companion Jack. The original, an Oculus Rift exclusive, had set a benchmark on the gameplay design and visuals of VR experience. The sequel is said to be 50% larger in scale than its predecessor, promising new improvements to the original games already stellar zero-g locomotion, combat, and VR interactions.
Lone Echo II releases on Q1 2020 for Oculus Rift/RiftS
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners
AMC’s The Walking Dead has become a modern-day cultural phenomenon. Based on the TV series, Skybound Interactive’s new survival VR RPG takes place three years after the initial outbreak. It is set to be an open-world environment with a backdrop of a post-apocalyptic New Orleans, where players will have to fight threats from humans and undead alike. Skybound stated to implement a VR system that will make for visceral and brutal combat in the player’s bid for survival. The game will have a choose-your-own-adventure campaign with a complex dialogue system and reputation system that will result in a branching narrative.
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners releases on January 23rd, 2020 for Oculus Rift/RiftS/Quest and SteamVR
Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond
This will be Respawn Entertainment’s first attempt at a VR title. Their recent success with the critically acclaimed Titanfall 2, Apex: Legends and Star Wars: The Fallen Order has put high expectations on the new installment in Medal of Honor franchise. Players will be transported to Europe amidst World War II where they will take control of an Allied OSS agent assisting the French Resistance. Across a wartorn landscape, they will be sabotaging Nazi bases, subverting enemy plans and much more in a deep single-player campaign taking place on land, sea, and air. Respawn has also mentioned the implementation of a multiplayer mode where players will be able to duke it out with historically accurate weaponry.
Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond releases in 2020 for Oculus Rift/RiftS.
Iron Man VR
Marvel’s Iron Man VR will have players take up the mantle of fan-favorite Tony Stark and his iconic Iron Man suit. As the Armored Avenger, players will fly across the sky using two PS Move controllers acting as Iron Man’s Repulsor Jets and face off foes using the wide array of Iron Man’s arsenal. This was first shown in the SIE State of Play and is set to be one of PSVR’s biggest exclusives. The trailer, shown from POV of Stark, had introduced us to Stark’s trusted AI companion, Friday and a masked villain. There may be a chance that players will get to meet other familiar characters of the Marvel Universe.
Iron Man VR releases on Feb 28th, 2020 for PSVR
LOW-FI takes players in a Cyberpunk VR open-world where they take the role of a police officer recently transferred into crime-infested City Block 303. They will have the choice of upholding law and order by patrolling the streets, solving crimes and keeping the peace or succumb to the dark side of the city by giving into corruption, taking bribes and framing citizens. Developers IRIS VR, responsible for indie title Technolust, had announced LOW-FI via its Kickstarter page requesting a $60,000 CAD fund goal. The campaign had raised over $100,000 CAD within 4 days.
LOW-FI releases in Q4 2020 on SteamVR, Oculus Rift/RiftS, Windows MR
Top 10 VR Games That Will Impress You
Throughout the year VR consoles have shown, with increasing regularity, the potential they wield. Here is our list of top 10 VR games that have impressed us and set a high benchmark for all future titles.
No Man’s Sky: Beyond
We will kick it right off with a new update to No Man’s Sky, which finally transported the game into virtual reality. As the generated universe is seamlessly neverending, you have plenty of opportunities for adventure. Alternatively, you can sit back and soak in the beautiful graphics and vastness of space. Unfortunately, this graphic experience doesn’t really translate to the PS VR, where it looks a bit blurry. The gaming interface has been diligently remade to accommodate VR, which was a successful step in creating an immersive experience. Save some incompatibility issues, No Man’s Sky still remains one of the best VR titles. We cannot wait to find out where Hello Games will take it next.
Available On: HTC Vive, PS VR, Oculus Rift
The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim VR
As you begin swinging your sword in a hectic battle against the Falmers, you will be wondering how you ever played Skyrim any other way. The movements needed for blocking and attacking are pretty realistic, and immediately transport us to the magical and inhospitable world of the Old Kingdom. Although original is nearly a decade old, this is still one of our favorite VR games.
Skyrim VR also includes every DLC expansion, such as Heartfire and Dawnguard.
Available On: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PS VR
What a better way to introduce your friends with the magic of VR than to jump into the Rec Room? It can be described as a VR hang out spot, where you can interact with people around the world and participate in various minigames like disc golf and paintball. The world looks warm and inviting, and although you can experience some bizarre situations it’s always very fun. Strap on, turn on your mic, and prepare to meet some lifelong friends. Did we mention it is also completely free?
Available On: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PS VR
Batman: Arkham VR
Who didn’t want to be a Batman as a child? Arkham VR focuses on Batman’s detective work, so while the game is a bit slower in pace, it more than compensates by capturing the atmosphere of Arkham City. It’s important to note that this is a spinoff in vein of murder mysteries and as such stands separate from other Arkham lore.
Available On: HTC Vive, PS VR, Oculus Rift
Fallout 4 VR
Guys from Bethesda also decided to bring a post-apocalyptic world of Fallout one step closer. This is a full adaptation, so rather than just teleporting, you are also able to roam the wastelands freely on a room-scale level. The goriness of the game has become more extreme, as bodyparts are flying directly in your face. You will need quite a powerful PC to run it in all its glory, but it more than pays off.
Available On: HTC Vive
Doom VFR is an adaptation of 2016’s release but has a different campaign and significantly changed combat dynamics. It is best played standing up, as you will frequently be pressed to stand up or crouch while dealing with various incarnations of bloodthirsty demons. Although the game originally used teleportation, you also have the option to move with your controller. Doom VFR will keep you occupied until Doom Eternal hits the screen.
Available On: PS VR, HTC Vive
Polybius might be the weirdest game on this list. It is a retro shoot-em-up game reminiscent of Space Invaders, albeit in 3-D. The game offers 50 levels in which you will need to kill everything that moves while also avoiding a potential collision. Be careful though, some people might experience motion sickness.
Available On: PS VR
Stormland is a VR first-person shooter that feels like a sci-fi version of Far Cry. What really shines through is an impressive implementation of combat and movement that challenges the way we think about FPS games set in virtual space. In Stormland, you will do acrobatic 100 feet jumps that feel badass and climb on top of various buildings, and these skills are scalable as well. Combine all of this with a vast open-ended world and you quickly realize why this is one of the best VR games around.
Available On: Oculus VR, Oculus Studios
From SuperhotTeam comes this wildly original combat/puzzle game. Your main goal is to clear every enemy in the room, simple right? But the key is this; time stands still until you move. You will be given a lot of time to think, but be careful of making sudden moves. The weapons can be acquired from enemies, and you can even shoot the bullets to keep them from hitting you. All this in an unforgettable visual style that might make you think: “What did Susan put in my drink?”.
Available On: PS VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive
Lastly, we have a fast-paced block-slashing game that will test how well you can follow the rhythm of the music. Think of it as a spiritual successor to the Guitar Hero series. Instead of plastic Guitar, you are using your 2 motion controllers to slice through the air, either horizontally or vertically. The game comes with 10 songs, but the real fun really starts when you import your own songs and slash through. In no time, you will become a musical samurai. Thanks to it success, Beat Saber has recently been awarded the Playstation VR award.
Available On: Oculus Rift, PS VR, HTC Vive
What are your favorite VR games? Leave the comment below.