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2020 looks to be an excellent year for virtual reality

Virtual reality

Virtual reality turned a bit of a corner in 2019. The rise of the Oculus Quest and the announcement of Half-Life: Alyx brought VR more into the mainstream and created a fair bit of buzz. 2020 looks to be another great year for VR, with added functionality for the Oculus Quest, the potential growth of wireless VR, and the release of one of the most anticipated games in VR’s history. Additionally, rumors circle a potential PSVR 2, and several other impressive-looking titles are on the way.

The announcement of Half-Life: Alyx was quite a surprise in the gaming industry. People have clamored for a sequel to the Half-Life series for 12 years, but most didn’t expect the sequel to come in the form of a VR title; in fact, some people are upset that the title is a VR-exclusive. But in mid-November, Valve shared the news that a Half-Life sequel was on the way.

Half-Life: Alyx looks to continue the feel of previous games, building a story around physics-based puzzles and dynamic shooting. The trailer below shows off some of the gameplay. Valve seems to have integrated the gameplay into VR in a meaningful way, including being able to grab headcrabs off your face and throwing them, as well as digging through shelves to find ammo and items.

One of the major criticisms of VR is that it doesn’t have a “flagship” game that’s a must-have title. While I disagree with that complaint, it’s made frequently, so the release of Half-Life: Alyx might change some people’s minds. The game’s listing is already up on Steam and is set to come out in March 2020.

Unfortunately for Playstation VR users, Half-Life: Alyx isn’t on the way to the platform yet, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t exciting things on the way for PSVR. Camouflaj announced in April 2019 that an Iron Man VR game is on the way. The game places you inside an Iron Man helmet and lets you fly through the sky. You navigate by pointing your controllers around as if they were the suit’s thrusters and can combat enemies and overcome obstacles.

Camoflaj shows off the game’s flying mechanics in the video above, which emphasizes that the game immerses you into an open sandbox that you can zoom through freely. The game comes out on February 28, 2020, and is exclusive to Playstation VR. You can preorder it now through the PlayStation Store.

In addition to waiting for Iron Man VR, PlayStation fans are on the lookout for the next evolution of the platform. While Sony hasn’t confirmed anything regarding a PSVR 2, unveiled patents show a potential wireless future for the device. The design shown off in the patent looks similar to the current PSVR but lacks any wires. If this device came to be, it would help the PSVR compete with the likes of the wireless Oculus Quest while also building off the impressive PSVR platform.

Speaking of the Oculus Quest, Facebook’s wireless VR headset is set to have an excellent 2020. The Oculus Quest gained preview support for Oculus Link and hand tracking earlier this year. Both of these should improve in 2020 and likely come out of beta and preview. These features greatly expand the library of games the Oculus Quest can play and the capabilities of the headset.

I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen a device improve this much through software updates, and it was already good to begin with.

Oculus Link allows you to connect your Oculus Quest to a PC to play PCVR games. While the hardware of the Oculus Quest differs from the Oculus Rift S, Oculus Link, in essence, converts your Oculus Quest into a PCVR headset. This blows the doors off the library of games available for Quest users and allows people with a Quest to play powerful PCVR games at home while still having the option to play dedicated Oculus Quest games anywhere. We went hands-on with Oculus Link months ago and followed its progress all the way through its beta release. It’s one of the most exciting aspects of the Oculus Quest right now.

Hand tracking is still in its early stages for the Oculus Quest, but it shows promise. The feature is currently limited, but by releasing it in preview, developers can find ways to integrate it into games. Several developers have already started playing with the feature and begun work to integrate it into games or to build games around the feature. We also went hands-on with hand tracking months ago, and have a summary on everything you can do with it right now.

While the internals of the Oculus Quest are a bit dated at this point, Facebook continues to improve the device. I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen a device improve this much through software updates, and it was already good to begin with.

Virtual reality is knocking on the door of becoming mainstream, and 2020 could be the year that it goes through that door. Playstation VR continues to provide a way for console gamers to immerse themselves while Oculus covers mobile and PC-powered VR through the Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S. The release of Half-Life: Alyx is a major boost to PCVR which needs a flagship title to stand out to more people. Toss in rumors of about a sequel to the PSVR, added functionality to the Oculus Quest, and a growing library of VR games, and you get a promising future for VR in 2020.

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