A new Half-Life game came out on Monday – and I didn't realize it until Tuesday. I'm not sure which part of that sentence would have been harder for me to believe just a few months ago.
A decade and a half later, Half-Life 2 remains my favorite game of all time. Its predecessor is one of the first FPS titles I ever played (alongside the original Doom). This franchise has been a major reason why I fell in love with this art medium. While I haven't gamed on PC in many years, I probably would have bit the bullet and ordered a pre-built rig in order to play a new Half-Life game... if it wasn't a VR exclusive.
I know there's plenty of folks who like VR, and I'm sure there will be plenty of converts to the peripheral in response to the newly released Half-Life: Alyx. I am never going to be one of those people. The idea of holding motion controllers in my hands and using gestures instead of pressing buttons has never been something I've enjoyed. I've also got no desire to strap a device to my head so I can intentionally not use the 55" 4K HDR TV that I own. And this is before I get into what a competent VR headset or motion controller would run me, on top of a VR-ready rig that'll cost more given the performance overhead of the platform.
I've got no interest in VR and was perfectly content with never playing a VR game – until Alyx got announced. It felt like a sick joke when it was revealed, like if Nintendo put out Federation Force but canned plans for Samus Returns and Prime 4. The worst part? The realization that Alyx never gets built if not for Valve wanting to sell VR headsets and games through Steam. If it failed, Valve goes dark as a developer again. If it's a success, it paves the way for other franchises like Portal or Left 4 Dead to return in VR-only forms. As a fan and a consumer, the situation was unwinnable.
Fast forward to Tuesday night as I began watching a no commentary Let's Play of the game. Much to my surprise, this is making me... really happy? Sure, I'd love to be shooting head crabs and exploring City 17 myself – but it's more Half-Life! And the writing is actually good! And there's funny vortiguants! And WTF if that the green alien thing that kills Eli at the end of Episode 2?!?
As I sit in my apartment, working from home and quarantining from the coronavirus, this let's play is letting me escape back to middle school and the first time I played Half-Life 2. Yea, it definitely sucks that I can't actually play it myself, but I'm still getting something enjoyable out of Gaben's masterful trolling. Something I genuinely didn't expect and wouldn't have gotten at all, otherwise.
And on some level, I guess I'm okay with that.