The standard to which all VR should be judged.
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If you have been following me on Twitter, you may have seen me voice my displeasure at some Game of the Year awards completely omitting Half-Life: Alyx from their considerations. I'm looking at you, The Game Awards hosted by Geoff Keighley. It matters not though, because in my mind, 2020 delivered no single better gaming experience than Half-Life: Alyx. It is not only the best VR game I played this year, it is the best VR game I have ever played and is also the best game I played this year period.

Half-Life: Alyx left an impression on me that very few games in my life have managed to do. I grew up playing the Half-Life titles. I spent countless hours with the first Half-Life and its expansions. I even re-purchased the original disc based versions of the game after I let my friend borrow my first copy and subsequently get banned from a number of WON servers for cheating. I played the multiplayer components to no end. Team Fortress Classic, Deathmatch, and yes, Counter-Strike. Without Half-Life, I wouldn't be typing these words right here and now because Counter-Strike may never have existed.

I remember waiting for Half-Life 2 to unlock on the then brand new Steam platform. I did the same for Episode 1 and Counter-Strike: Source.

I fondly remember my trip out to Valve prior to the launch of The Orange Box. I played through most of Episode 2 and witnessed the ending before most everyone else in the world. I remember playing through all of Portal prior to launch and then remarking to the creators, Jeep Barnett and Kim Swift, that so many people are going to love the game and especially the song that plays during the credits. I remember when Chet Faliszek stopped in to the room I was playing these games in and asked me if I wanted to try out a new game they were working on called Left 4 Dead. I knew nearly nothing about Left 4 Dead at the time but came away a fan. CS-Nation was also the first website to host a screenshot of the Witch, as she had never before been seen publicly beforehand. Sadly, that article as well as the other articles from that trip, have been scrubbed over the course of many database woes we've had. I still posses the content locally somewhere.

What's the point in all of this? Well, it's just to give a little background information about how I grew up loving the Half-Life franchise and these worlds that Valve have created over the years. Fast-forward back to 2020 and we suddenly have a virtual reality experience that focuses on one of my all-time favorite franchises. It's hard to describe the leap from a more traditional "flat" experience of Half-Life to that where you are actually suddenly inside the world that you grew up playing through.

You are there. You are really there in this world, this City 17. Everything seems larger than life. You see this world before your eyes that you are now in instead of being a mere bystander. A new appreciation for the grand scale of Combine tech is displayed before you as massive wires crisscross over and through the city to an imposing Citadel. You crane your neck skyward to see the top of the Citadel extending beyond the clouds. Striders are now these massive behemoths that are simultaneously awe-inspiring as they are frightening. Their booming steps and dagger like feet landing a couple of virtual meters away from you are memories that will really stick with you.

Being up close and personal with headcrab zombies is also another thing that players on flat monitors take for granted. To most people, these creatures are maybe a few inches in size on their screens as they pan their crosshairs over them. In VR, they are as tall as you and become that much more frightening when you also take into account how you need to handle a virtual weapon and reload with full movement instead of a simple button press. And then there is the scene with Jeff on the elevator. I don't think I've ever been more terrified in a game than at that moment. If you played it, then you know.

I could go on and on gushing about Half-Life: Alyx and everything it does right, but that's why we have a full review for Alyx waiting for you to check out. It's just... so incredibly good in every possible way. The sights, the gameplay, the sounds, all of it. I've already played through the game twice and loved it more the second time around. I even started it a third time with the developer commentary enabled that provides a wealth of additional insight into the creative process behind the game.

Half-Life: Alyx is one of those games that will stick with you for a long, long time. I eagerly await whatever is next in the Half-Life universe. I hope that it's another VR title, but I know I'm certainly in the minority on that wish.

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There were several other great games that came out in 2020. Some of the games that I enjoyed this year, that weren't Half-Life: Alyx, include (in no particular order):"But where's Hades? Where's DOOM Eternal? Where's x, y, and z?"

Well, I didn't play Hades but I understand that it's a great game. It's just not my type of game is all. I haven't played it and probably won't play it because of that. I also didn't much care for DOOM Eternal when compared to the 2016 DOOM release. It's just my opinion that its predecessor was a much better overall experience. As for other games that may have missed the cut, I probably did not play them this year or I did not think they were all that hot if I did play them. Therein lies the beauty of a personal GOTY list like this.

What were some of your favorite titles of 2020? Feel free to comment below.