All things considered, Farpoint is a bit of mixed bag. Its implementation of virtual reality and the AIM Controller are brilliant, providing for one of the most polished experiences in the medium of VR, but the game on its own is a dull and lifeless first-person shooter that is outclassed by every other title in its genre, only getting by on the novelty of its VR aspect.
Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first. Farpoint is a sci-fi first person shooter where you play a stereotypical soldier protagonist escorting a couple of scientists to an uncharted location in space. Our faithful protagonists discover something unusual in this location and before too long things go to hell and they crash land on this desert planet inhabited by space alien spider monsters. Creativity at its finest. To be fair, the premise is slightly intriguing but really it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. The narrative, themes, writing, enemy and environmental design seem like they all sprung from an old textbook called ‘101 Sci-Fi Tropes’, with all its ideas having been done to death over the last two to three decades. It is only the fact that it can be played in VR that really elevates it above the hopelessly mundane. It bears mentioning that the voice acting is actually quite good, but the substance of what they’re saying is unfortunately as lifeless as the planet you traverse.
Is Farpoint just another space shooter?
Despite a flat and uninspired narrative, the excellent implementation of virtual reality and the AIM controller do a lot of heavy lifting and manage to drag the experience out of mediocrity. From a sheer mechanical viewpoint, Farpoint is spot-on for VR FPS. Impulse Gear have done an outstanding job of taking advantage of virtual reality and scale in certain sections of the game, which help to create some of Farpoint’s most memorable moments. Experiences like your first descent into the planet’s atmosphere where you crash land are incredible and viewing scenery such as rocky mountains and multiple moons in the distance constantly had me stopping in my tracks for a few seconds at a time to take in the surroundings.
But the star of the show is most certainly the AIM controller. Developed as a partnership between Sony and Impulse Gear, the AIM controller is a godsend for the PlayStation VR headset. It takes the best of the Dualshock 4 and Move controllers and combines them in a way that is perfectly suited to shooters. Gun controllers have been done many times before, with the last examples that spring to mind being the Wii Zapper and the PlayStation 3 Move Sharpshooter. However, the biggest limitation up until now has been the implementation of turning your character using motion controls on a 2D screen, which was both slow and cumbersome and actually made the experience even less immersive. By contrast, Farpoint offers a three-dimensional space for you to turn in, and there are in fact quite a number of turning options to cater to each player’s needs. This level of control over movement is one aspect I appreciate in most virtual reality titles, but Farpoint goes above and beyond in offering such fine control for maximum player comfort and immersion. Possibly the greatest boon is the AIM controller’s dual analogue sticks allowing for more or less traditional traversing and turning, which is far superior to the Move’s sometimes unnatural feel.
The AIM controller creates incredible immersion
The controller is incredibly well designed; it’s light enough that I never felt my arms get tired, but it still feels like it’s got a decent amount of heft and presence. The game also allows you to hold the controller how you want and it looks badass when you hold the gun up with arm as it’s displayed in the game world. Its built-in haptic feedback creates an extra level of immersion and dedicated reload and alternate fire button creates a surreal, yet authentic experience. The controller also has options depending on whether the player is left or right handed. However, I do note as a lefty I had to play around with the grip for it to feel right. I also found the tracking on the AIM to be more accurate than the Move controllers, which is of obvious importance in an FPS. Aiming and firing is more or less 1:1 as I was popping alien body parts in the air. Impulse Gear have also implemented AIM-specific mechanics like physically aiming down the sights and swapping weapons by throwing your weapon over your head. It’s these little touches that truly make you feel like an action hero, and I even naturally closed one eye as I was taking aim through the reticles to fire on enemies. I’d be lying if I said that the sensation of actually shooting spider aliens in the face didn’t put a smirk on my face.
I want to also note that I played the game sitting down. This was mostly due to the fact that I’m lazy but I also find it weird standing up and walking when your physical feet aren’t moving. Having said that, I did not experience any motion sickness but I cannot say for certain that others will not experience any degree of locomotion. The movement speed is a tad bit slow for my liking and the sprint button doesn’t help much. It also felt like my character was on wheels rather than physical walking. Moving forward just felt too smooth to make me believe I was on a rocky planet. I will say it’s slightly faster than most VR games that offer traversal like Robinson: The Journey.
Farpoint’s central issue is that as good as the virtual reality implementation is, and as superb and promising as the AIM controller is, the rest of the game feels like an afterthought
In terms of visuals, Farpoint is probably one of the best looking virtual reality titles to date, easily standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Resident Evil 7: biohazard and Robinson: The Journey. Running on the PS4 Pro, the environments, character animations, facial animations and models look fantastic. There are understandably limitations to the degree of aliasing of things in the distance, but the open spaces and defined objects were beautifully crisp, with some of the highest fidelity I have seen in virtual reality to date.
However, the solid mechanics and nifty controller are still not enough to make you ignore the fact that Farpoint’s world is for the most part a bland and uninteresting one. Environments and enemies are not overly varied either, and you’ll find yourself fighting the same insectoid and robot enemies throughout the entirety of the game. The dusty Mars-like environments that dominate the game do sometimes give way to beautiful tunnels illuminated by crystal-like objects and towering volcanos in the background, but it just isn’t enough to fully break up the monotony.
The game’s co-op mode can be heaps of fun
Farpoint’s central issue is that as good as the virtual reality implementation is, and as superb and promising as the AIM controller is, the rest of the game feels like an afterthought. As I trudged through samey environments killing samey enemies, I found my mind wondering how amazing a Halo, Killzone or DOOM would be in virtual reality, and how little Farpoint represented that dream. Some credit must go to Farpoint as a distinct show of promise for the FPS genre in VR, but promise alone can’t carry it, especially at the AAA price point.
Farpoint does offer some form of replayability after you beat the very short campaign (4-6 hours depending on skill). You can replay sections of the campaign which remixes enemies and adds a scoring system, as well indulge in some co-op action in some arcade-type wave mode situations. The co-op mode is quite a nice addition, despite being bare-bones and not very replayable unless you’re a high-score chaser. It shouldn’t be understated how much fun it is to shoot things with a friend (including indulging in some friendly fire, which never fails to grow old). One other point I’ll bring up is that the co-op mode is a lot more fast-paced compared to the campaign, which for me did result in a little queasiness. Maybe chug some ginger beer and have a fan blowing on your face before taking on this mode.
The VR aspect and the AIM are the stars of the show
Farpoint is a difficult game to recommend as must-buy VR experience. On one hand it has incredible presentation values that really gives PlayStation VR the AAA first-person shooter it has so sorely craved, but on the other it is full to the brim with predictable tropes and features a relentlessly bland story in a forgettable setting with lifeless characters. The short campaign is also fairly lean at the asking price. The co-op mode is a welcome addition but doesn’t feel fully fledged. The greatest thing by far to come out of Farpoint is the excellent AIM controller, and with one of these in your hands it’s almost possible to forget that in essence what you’re playing is a highly derivative and lifeless sci-fi shooter. Almost.
Reviewed on PSVR using the PS4 Pro