This year was mostly bad for everyone — and that’s a thing that’s usually said very hyperbolically because a couple celebrities died or whatever, but in 2020 it feels appropriate for once — but it wasn’t without its silver linings. We got a new Half-Life game! If you’re not fortunate enough to have a relatively high-end PC and a virtual reality setup, this silver lining does not apply to you. What a brutal year.
For those lucky few though, Half-Life: Alyx was worth the wait. (And that itself might be hyperbolic because 13 years is a very long time to wait for a video game.) It’s a high-profile showcase of the best VR has to offer. It’s also a stunningly good Half-Life game. Swapping protagonists and strapping on a headset didn’t force Valve to make any concessions with regard to quality. It only amplified things.
Yes, Alyx gives us a continuation of that sweet sweet Half-Life lore, but its legacy is in how effectively it transports players into City 17. The uneasy trepidation of meeting a Vortigaunt for the first time. The tense and tactile way that you reload Alyx’s humble arsenal of guns. Squishing an Antlion Grub canister in a health station and then watching as the pins prick your hands to instantly nurse you back from the brink of death.
You feel as though you’re in Alyx’s shoes, and that’s exactly what Valve set out to accomplish. Half-Life‘s world is more magical the more immersed you are. VR makes it all possible by really making you feel the whole game. It also helps that Half-Life: Alyx basically came with assurances that we’re getting a Half-Life 3 at some point… if you trust that Valve wouldn’t leave us dangling from an unbearable cliffhanger again.
If you know, you know. If you don’t, I’m so sorry. That’s the gift and the curse of VR. You need to see it to believe it. But if you know, then you understand why Half-Life: Alyx is our 2020 PC Game of the Year.