In case you hadn’t heard, we’ve got confirmation from multiple sources that not only is Valve working on its very own VR headset, but the headset is also expected to come bundled with a Half-Life VR game. Reportedly, this game will be a prequel story either before or immediately after Half-Life 2.
Today, November 19th, is the 20th anniversary of the original Half-Life. Around the world, Half-Life is widely regarded as one of the greatest games of all-time. Back when it first released in 1998 on PC, it set a new precedent for first-person shooters and narrative-driven games as a whole. Before then, the likes of DOOM and Quake had popularized corridor shooters overflowing with gore and enemies with little to no story, but after Half-Life everything changed.
In the above video, YouTuber Ahoy breaks down exactly what made the original game so revolutionary for its time. Furthermore, if you want to see someone play it with a fresh perspective (that’s right, I’ve never finished a single Half-Life game) you can join me for my planned Let’s Play series over on my personal YouTube and Twitch as well.
And finally, popular gaming documentary company, NoClip, is planning a new entry focused on the franchise as well — so that’s definitely worth a look.
But now let’s go to it! These are the main five reasons that we think Half-Life is a perfect fit for VR and why we can’t wait to learn more about this new game.
Focus On Atmosphere
In an uncharacteristic move for the time, the original Half-Life opened with a scripted trolly ride in which you stand there, watch environments pass by, and listen to voiceovers as you saw the opening credits on your screen, a lot like you’d see in a movie. It was slow-paced and deliberately atmospheric. VR games are always at their best when they’re designed with those sorts of themes in mind.
Without much surprise, Half-Life feels like the kind of series that would transition over to VR incredibly naturally. Whereas some games like Skyrim VR and Fallout 4 VR feel a little hamfisted, a Half-Life adaptation could feel incredibly bespoke and organic, especially if it’s being designed with VR in mind first and foremost.
If you take a look at many of the top-selling and best-performing VR games over the last two and a half years of consumer VR, you can clearly see that familiar IPs tend to do well. That’s why Bethesda adapted the worlds of Skyrim, Fallout, and DOOM instead of crafting brand new experiences and investing tons of extra capital.
Similarly, Half-Life’s world is regarded as one of the most treasured and well-known in PC gaming. Not only for the main series, but even branching out into the Portal universe as well. I’d be willing to bet that a Half-Life VR game would be a persuasive argument in favor of buying a VR headset, especially if it came directly from Valve.
Agency in the Experience
Gordon Freeman might be a well-known and recognizable protagonist now, 20 years after Half-Life first came out, but back then he was anything but iconic. Other than the main menu and box art, you never really see his face and he never once speaks. But instead of just being a vessel for destruction like in most other shooters, he still feels like a real character.
Half-Life did a great job of transferring that agency onto the player directly. When you interact with scientists, swing your crowbar, and gun down security guards it feels like a world that you are really exploring.
There are no cutscenes in Half-Life, at least not in the traditional sense. This goes back to the point about player agency, as you are always in control. But with that being said, it’s a strictly linear game with a curated story that’s meant to be experiences beat for beat the same way every time. And it’s fantastic.
Things start out slowly, but it’s a real roller coaster ride. And while it looks extremely dated by today’s standards, Half-Life and its sequel really did set the bar for storytelling in first-person action games. Its influences can still be seen today.
Finally, this reason is less tangible in the game itself, but it would be a massive oversight to not mention the modding community that surrounds the various Half-Life releases. From official spin-offs like Counter-Strike, to popular user-made mods and endless iterations on the games, the Half-Life series attracts serious talent from the player base.
While a handful of VR titles have embraced the modding community, such as Pavlov VR, Beat Saber, and Skyrim VR, it’s not as common as early 2000s PC gaming modders. With a new Half-Life title focused squarely on VR, that could usher in a new era of excited modding talent.