PlayStation VR2 is going to be big. Its predecessor was already the biggest mainstream headset out there before the Oculus Quest 2 launched, offering a chunky but affordable way to dive into a new reality with a healthy collection of games.
Blood & Truth, Farpoint, Moss, Beat Saber, and Wipeout are all certified bangers, offering experiences that perform incredibly well despite the flimsy console required to bring them to life. Sony would be silly not to build on that momentum with its successor, especially given that Meta is increasing the price of its standalone device a few years after its debut.
The field is wide open, and with the knowledge that PlayStation VR2 will come with inside-out tracking, improved motion controllers, and several other enhancements, I can only think of one game that can truly sell its brilliance to a massive console audience – Half-Life: Alyx, a modern masterpiece that I still think about almost every day.
Valve changed everything with Half-Life: Alyx, producing what many believe to be the first true blockbuster VR has ever seen. Not hampered by technical limitations or having to scale back its initial ambitions to fit into the virtual reality realm, it was built from the ground up and attempted to advance the series as a consequence. It was bold, unexpected, and full of brilliant ideas that most games could only dream of.
Set before the events of Half-Life 2, we play as the younger version of Alyx Vance, tasked with rescuing her father and investigating a Combine menace that inevitably confronts her with threats that will forever change the very fabric of this universe . I won’t spoil the narrative because it’s fantastic and worth watching, but never has a game in this medium pulled me in so effectively and almost made me forget that I’ve been slammed in the face with a giant lump of plastic.
The opening is a perfect distillation of his flawless world-building. You won’t be given pretentious tutorials or asked to complete simple tasks to learn the controls and move around the world. Everything feels intuitive, whether you’re picking up random objects scattered around the environment or using marker pens to draw rough scribbles on nearby windows. It’s pristine, and newcomers can spend hours in the opening levels alone messing around with random contraptions and coming to terms with just how tight this iteration of City 17 really is. Your hands are visible in the game itself, becoming a natural extension of your body as they reach out to satisfy the curiosity that comes with existing in a new world.
You’ll be slowly introduced to larger and more intricate environments, a voiced protagonist, and multiple supporting characters, offering a level of choice that underscores just how important the narrative to come will be. Every dialogue counts, whether it’s throwaway jokes, astute observations, or small moments of exposure whose reference events future hardcore fans will be well aware of. Rhys Darby’s role as Russell is masterful, while Deathloop’s Ozioma Akagha brings a depth to the heroine she’s never had before.
Once you get the Gravity Gloves, the interactivity comes alive like never before. Objects in the environment can be pulled into your hands with a flick of the wrist. In a firefight, Alyx could get stuck behind a bulky concrete pillar and run out of ammo as a horde of soldiers rush towards their position. Suddenly you look up at the ceiling and see a stray magazine lingering in the rafters. By utilizing the game’s physics, you can drag it down, reload, and unleash all hell.
They can also cause distractions and solve puzzles. Alyx takes the groundbreaking physics systems first introduced in Half-Life 2 and pushes similar boundaries in an entirely new medium. I’d always said that if the series was ever going to make a comeback outside of the elusive third entry, it had to be in VR, but I never expected Valve to actually come out and pull it off, let alone produce a masterpiece. To this day there is nothing comparable.
Because of this, Sony would be missing out on a potential system vendor if it hadn’t already been in talks with Valve to bring Alyx to its new platform. Make it a flagship launch title alongside Horizon: Call of the Mountain, which seems to offer a surprising amount of versatile freedom even to games often maligned as linear. I still don’t think virtual reality is the future, but it can do so much and I’d love to see its brightest sparks reach a larger audience if possible. It all starts with Half-Life: Alyx.
Next: Sunset Overdrive hasn’t aged well, but it’s still pretty damn fun