The rise of virtual reality has been a long time coming. From the early experimental days of Sega VR and Nintendo’s Virtual Boy to the extreme immersion seen within the upcoming Half-Life: Alyx, it has never been a better time to get into the space.
But, as good as Valve’s upcoming title looks (and it looks good), you’d be doing yourself a disservice to only pick up that game. A VR headset is worth your investment for a variety of other reasons as well – and that was the case before we knew of this latest Half-Life.
2017 was a notable year for virtual reality software. In May, we saw the release of arguably my favorite VR title to this day: Superhot VR.
Essentially a sequel to the original breakout experience, Superhot VR, brings with a whole set of new levels. Only, instead of time moving when you walk, the virtual reality version limits you to your hands. You still have to dodge gunfire and melee attacks, but you do so by literally ducking and twirling your body around.
Later in the year was the release of DOOM, Fallout 4, and Skyrim VR. While these weren’t massive reinventions by any means, the latter two, especially Skyrim, were incredibly immersive with a headset on .
And that’s not to mention the Resident Evil 7 VR feature for PSVR – the cheapest headset available at the time. A fantastic game in its own right, the virtual reality edition caused most players to take frequent breaks due to fear .
While 2017 showed what virtual reality could do to alter traditional games, it was until 2018 where we got the platform’s real original killer application: Beat Saber.
Capable only in virtual reality, Beat Saber blends the appeal of Guitar Hero with swinging a lightsaber. That’s right: you swing along to the beat of a song, cutting up notes with a laser sword. If that doesn’t sell on you on virtual reality, there’s very little that will.
Beat Saber has gone on to be the only VR title ever to hit the Steam top 100 sales list for a whole year – a feat that will likely be matched by Half-Life: Alyx next month. That’s not to mention the fact that Beat Saber is also on PlayStation 4 and the Oculus Store.
Since then, we’ve gotten Tetris Effect, Blade and Sorcery, Boneworks, Robo Recall, No Man’s Sky VR, Minecraft VR, Astro Bot, Pistol Whip, Pavlov VR, and so many other titles that make a headset worth the price of admission. There’s also Tilt Brush for those more creatively-minded, and that experiment released in 2016.
While Half-Life: Alyx is undoubtedly an IP that will bring thousands of gamers over to this new plane , it’s safe to say that the industry was performing quite alright without it. Plus, VR is more accessible than ever with the $400 Oculus Rift S or the $200 Oculus Go, the latter being as cheap or even cheaper than the three main gaming consoles.
Virtual reality is prepping to enter its prime. Half-Life: Alyx may serve as a starting point, but curious players will find dozens of titles to build their library long after Valve’s game hits the market.