The Big Question: What Are Valve’s Three VR Games?

by Jamie Feltham • February 10th, 2017

It’s an urban myth that Valve hates 3’s. The beloved studio has taken us up to Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Portal 2, Left4Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, and DOTA2, but it can can never quite bring itself to complete a trilogy. This week, though, the company announced that it’s breaking that curse in a way; it’s currently working on three VR games.

That’s enough to get anyone that’s been playing games over the last five to 20 years very excited. Over that period, this developer has released some of the most celebrated and popular games of all time, including pretty much all of the above. More recently, it’s turned its attention to VR and built the SteamVR system seen in the HTC Vive, as well as The Lab and Destinations. We’ve long wondered when Valve would combine its brilliant new hardware with its famed game making skills for a more robust experience, and now we know it’s really happening. One of these three could be Valve’s killer app.

portal-lab

But what is Valve actually making?

That’s the real question here, and one that we’ll go mad thinking over in the coming weeks and months. We’re expecting at least one of these games to be revealed this year but, until it is, we’re all going to be guessing as to what the studio is working on. Let’s get our thoughts in order.

New IP

This is probably the safest bet for at least one or two of these games. VR gives developers a whole new set of tools to play with and, while we desperately want to see some Valve franchises in VR, it makes more sense to build a universe from the ground up, or at least a new property in the existing Half-Life/Portal-verse. You shouldn’t turn your nose up at that thought; all of Valve’s celebrated series had to start somewhere. Think about how incredible the first Portal was, and then imagine if they could pull that off again in VR.

Team Fortress 3/Counter-Strike VR

At first we thought these were the least likely sequel options out of Valve’s stable of IP, but then we recalled the early days of the Oculus Rift, when development kit owners tried TF2 running on the headset. I also remembered that Valve recently invited the developer of one of VR’s most popular online FPSs, Onward, to work at their studio over January, seemingly legitimizing their belief in the genre. Could TF3 really be in the works?

dota 2 vr spectator mode screenshot 3

DOTA Spin-off

DOTA2 already has some basic VR integration, but it doesn’t allow you to actually play the game. While we’d love for DOTA3 to fully support headsets, there’s no reason for Valve to make the sequel while this MOBA remains so popular, and certainly not restrict its popularity. But it could still put the series’ colorful cast of characters to work in VR with a spin-off adventure. There’s a lot of potential there we hope they’ll explore.

Left4Dead 3

It’s been a long time since we had a new entry in the Left4Dead series, unless you count the arcade installment that hit Japan a few years back. VR is the perfect venue for its return although, frankly, we’ve seen a lot of shooters that try to distill the series’ intense combat into a stationary experience. If Valve is making L4D3 in VR, we’d want it to be the full experience with full locomotion. How could they possibly pull that off? That’s up to Valve to solve.

the lab orb interface

The Lab 2

Valve assures us that these new games will be full experiences, but that doesn’t mean one couldn’t build on the world(s) it established in its free minigame compilation. The Lab still features some of the most compelling mechanics in VR and, if the company were to build some of these into full games, they could definitely create something compelling.

Portal 3

Personally, I’d bet that this is one of the three games; a trailer for the HTC Vive last year seemed to drop a pretty big hint that a Portal VR game was in the works. We’ve had a glimpse into what the mind-bending world of Portal can look like in mixed reality, but the potential for an amazing VR experience is almost too good to pass up. Imagine more intricate puzzles that have you sticking arms and heads through multiple portals to solve challenges. There’s a lot of great opportunity here. There is a solid but short VR mod for Portal 2 to tide you over in the meantime.

gordon-freeman-half-life

Half-Life 3

There, we said it. Don’t shoot the messenger.

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