Farpoint and PlayStation VR Aim Controller Review: Game-Changers

All three of the high-profile consumer VR platforms support motion controllers, but only one of them now has an official accessory designed specifically for first-person gameplay and shooters. This is where Sony's big budget sci-fi shooter for PlayStation 4, Farpoint, comes into play, launching today in bundles and alongside the PlayStation VR Aim Controller.

Farpoint is the first PlayStation 4 game that uses the Aim Controller and it was built around it as the showcase experience. And what a showpiece it is! Playing through all of Farpoint using the PlayStation VR Aim Controller, we can say that it's the deepest and most satisfying sensory experience ever in a first person shooter. It's a game-changer for VR and a must-play for any PS VR owner looking for that new killer app.

In Farpoint, players see themselves stranded on an alien world after a cosmic anomaly goes haywire, trying to locate other survivors and uncover the mystery of what really happened. And of course, on that journey there are all sorts of aliens to blast away in the most immersive console shooter made to date.

Farpoint offers a full story campaign and supports two-player co-op online with a friend (so long as they have an account with PlayStation Plus) and requires the PlayStation VR system. It does not require the Aim Controller but you'd really be missing out without it.

Note the lack of the word "gun" in that peripheral's title, despite the device's basic weapon shape. That's likely as intentional as the simplistic design itself which is made to function effectively as any in-game weapon while at the same time not resembling an actual real-life weapon "so that anybody, from children to adults, feel comfortable playing with it," says Taichi Nokuo, a designer working out of Sony PlayStation's Tokyo offices.

The Aim Controller tracking in VR is incredibly accurate and we had no issues with lag or calibration. As intended, it worked well with all of the weapon types encountered while playing through Farpoint's campaign. The device finally delivers on what the Move controllers and gun attachments never could do in the PlayStation 3 era. More impressively however, and why we love Farpoint so much is how it addresses one of VR's most prominent challenges: movement. Not once did I get a feeling of nausea while playing Farpoint, something that's not uncommon in other movement-based games. I couldn't play PS VR's RIGS: Mechanized Combat League Game due to it as an example.

Farpoint Proves That Deep First-Person Shooters Can Work in VR

VR simply works best when the user is stationary which is why the focus on most games and experiences so far has been on standing, seated or in-cockpit experiences like space sims, flight games, roller coaster rides, and mech games. Even most shooters are done on rails, via a teleportation move mechanic, or with very simple or restricted movement. Anything mimicking traditional shooters, your Call of Dutys and Battlefields, otherwise can cause motion sickness because the human brain can’t reconcile the movement of turning not matching your physical movements, something Resident Evil 7 even had some trouble with.

Farpoint solves this through its linear but just-open-enough level design and the use of the Aim Controller that requires players to have both hands on the"weapon" which helps ground the user. The gun-like accessory itself has nearly every button and function as the standard PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 controller, including two movement sticks, so it bridges the gap between traditional shooters that work (i.e. seated games) and actual movement in a virtual space.

By default, Farpoint's control scheme sees players use the front stick (you can play left or right-handed using the gun) to move forward and back and strafe left or right with the nose of the gun being the center of direction. For players who are immune to VR motion sickness and want even more control or to try out full shooter movement with the Aim Controller, they can turn on full stick movement in the options and play with sensitivity options for turning.

"The deepest and most satisfying sensory experience ever in a first person shooter."

PlayStation VR of ourse supports 3D sound via a 3.5mm jack on the headset cord and so we highly recommend using the included 3D earbuds that come with PlayStation VR if you don’t have a high-end headset. PDP and Turtle Beach made headsets specifically designed for PS VR as an example which we played Farpoint with and it helps take the already impressive immersion to another level alongside the Aim Controller's vibration effects. Especially if one of those creepy little spidery aliens happens to jump past you and is scurrying back. Farpoint's path-like game design does its best to ensure enemies are always in front of the player to prevent users from needing to turn around.

As a sci-fi shooter, Farpoint has an interesting enough story that unfolds in some surprising ways. If it weren't built for VR however, it would come off as generic, especially in the basic gameplay. It does a commendable job of using story bits to pull players through the sections (shooting arenas) of the game and different environments but there's certainly wasted potential in the limited interactivity with these environments, which is especially strange given the scanning mechanic built into all of the game's weapons. This has no use outside of initiating little story holograms, and there aren't really many weapons or enemy types.

The game's environments are wonderfully rendered though for the 3D effect in VR. It successfully emulates the feeling of walking through ruins, canyons, or across bridges and along cliff edges - without physically having to move your feet. There’s nothing quite like holding up a weapon and looking down its optics or holding the weapon up to shoot over cover as if it were really in your hands… and it is. Or looking down a cliff edge or hole in the floor while crossing a high passing. These feelings and how well it all functions in Farpoint - and how smooth it flows while moving -  cannot be understated. There’s no VR game like this.

And Farpoint will surprise you. Every time you think you’ve gotten the hang of the rythym, the next chapter changes the environment and the enemies and the amount of effort you need to put in to succeed. Farpoint's difficulty ramps up significantly later in the the game and so moving constantly will be essential along with timing reloads and weapon swapping to counter each type of arachnid opponent.

Farpoint pushes the VR shooter genre where it needs to go and lays foundation for what these sorts of games can and should be going forward. We can only hope other publishers and developers are playing with the PlayStation VR Aim Controller technology for similar experiences. We can already picture a Call of Duty: WWII or Star Wars: Battlefront 2 mode built for the VR Aim Controller. After all, both franchises offered PS VR exclusive modes last year...

More: Sparc Proves vSports Are The Next Step in VR Gaming

Farpoint is a riveting VR space adventure set on a hostile alien planet. On a mission to pick up scientists studying an anomaly near Jupiter, a sudden rupture nearby sends you and their station crashing onto an unknown alien world.

Separated from your colleagues, you must use holographic logs scattered throughout the landscape to reunite with the scientists and escape the planet. Explore and discover the secrets of the planet, blasting your way through hordes of indigenous and alien life as you keep moving to survive.

Farpoint is now available exclusively on PlayStation 4.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5 (Very Good)
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