Many expected that the next Half-Life game would not live up to expectations, not because it would be a bad game, but because the expectations for the next game in this legendary franchise had become impossibly high. With the stagnating development time eroding the talents within Valve, the chance for any upcoming game meeting expectations has become smaller with each passing day.
Half-Life: Alyx, however, was released to critical acclaim, and can boast a staggering 98% positive review score on Steam. Valve has managed to retain the atmosphere and inspired storytelling of Half-Life, despite the completely new play style, coming from the VR platform. So with such an amazing reception from critics and fans alike, what effect could Half-Life: Alyx have on the overall gaming industry?
Starting with the main reason why this game even exists, the VR market, HLA is definitely having a very positive effect. The weeks before the game's release, Valve's own VR system, the Valve Index, was constantly out of stock, with orders being delayed by weeks. Even the Oculus and HTC VIVE systems also found massive spikes in sales leading up to release date.
In addition to the growth of desktops with linked VR hardware, the game also manages to set an outstanding precedent for many gamers entering the VR realm, since few of the actions you perform are finicky or take away from the fun of the game.
As an example, reloading still needs you to take a clip with one hand, and put it into the gun, however, you don't need perfect precision to reload the gun, just shove that clip vaguely around where it should go and the game will handle the rest of it for you. While things zipping around isn't exactly realistic, gameplay is king, and Valve chose to not make it frustrating. HLA has managed to achieve such a balance with all of its systems and we can be sure that any future VR games will be imitating and improving on what Valve has achieved here.
As for the effect on the overall gaming industry. While it is still early to see the plans of other big companies, I doubt Half-Life: Alyx has managed to convince any big publisher to start making big budget titles for the VR market, not because of the game's quality, but because even with the spike in demand, the number of people who actually own VR goggles is still relatively small. However, we will see more companies start to experiment with smaller games, as some have already been doing.
Valve have confirmed that they are making even more games, and it is likely that these will benon-VR games in order to show off the full potential of their Source 2 engine, which while managing impressive visuals with HLA, still had to sacrifice a lot of "bling" in the game in order to keep it playable on the much more demanding VR platform. A possible outcome of a non-VR Source 2 game, utilizing the full power of the engine, is an adoption of the engine into the wider industry.
Finally, for the fans of the franchise, while it is not the long-awaited Half-Life 3, and it is a prequel instead of a continuation of the story. Half-Life: Alyx manages to provide a proper Half-Life experience and story, with quite a long campaign to keep us occupied. In addition, without any spoilers, the ending managed to excite a lot of people about the future of the franchise.
To conclude, overall, while it is not perfect, and many still want a proper continuation of the story, last visited 13 years ago, in 2007; Half-Life: Alyx is an all-round positive for the gaming industry, Valve and Half-Life fans. Whilst other companies keep pushing for more and more casual public inclusion in their games, it is doubtful we will ever see VR as anything more than a niche market, but, this niche market just got a very good game and template to work from. And of course, even niche markets are still markets.
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