The PlayStation VR is in a bit of a weird place right now. It’s not exactly in a position where it’s likely die off, but it seems to be getting rather lacklustre support in terms of full games/experiences. While the incredible VR support on Resident Evil is a standout, and multiplayer shooter RIGs is also solid (albeit with a waning player population), the main complaint that I hear is that a majority of the titles available feel more like little experiences or tech demos rather than fully fleshed-out games. Farpoint then, is poised to challenge that idea of the depth and longevity that players expect. When it was shown during Sony’s E3 press conference, I couldn’t help but feel like this would be one of the titles to help the system flourish and sell. It’s a well known fact that shooters in general sell well, there’s no argument to that. Combine it with VR then and you might be capturing lightning in a bottle.
After making the trek out to where SIE Australia were holding a preview event, I’ll admit I was a bit nervous. Being my first actual VR experience in a long time (and actually my first experience with the PSVR) I was more or less treading in unfamiliar territory. My fears were quickly assuaged though, and after slipping on the comfortable headset and warming up on some smaller VR experiences, I was shuffled along and stood in front of a PS4 Pro with Farpoint loaded up. It was at this point that I was instructed to reach out and grab the novel Aim controller, a long-awaited gun peripheral built specifically for PSVR.
The Aim controller is incredibly comfortable and well designed, and I have to say I was kind of surprised given that it’s essentially a plastic tube bent in the shape of a trapezium. Its sleek nature and ergonomic design means that it doesn’t feel cumbersome, and the intuitive button layout is also a huge plus. The best way to describe the Aim controller is like a Dualshock 4 but the left side of the controller is placed further forward instead of parallel to the other side. The right analogue stick is on the back of the controller, as are the main buttons (X, circle, triangle, square). These buttons are places in their respective positions but around the analogue stick as opposed to separated from it. The left analogue stick is the one that’s placed closer towards the front of the controller and you use this one to move. The options button was to the right of this analogue stick and holding down this button allows for the user to realign themselves to the camera. Something which should be noted is that the Aim controller can quite easily be used by both left-handed users and right-handed users alike. The main trigger where your dexterous hand goes is used to fire, while on the front end of the controller where your weaker hand goes there is another trigger and a button, so southpaws can also benefit from the Aim.
As for the game itself there were two modes that were available for me to play, the first being the single-player story mode. In the campaign you will play the role of a soldier aboard a ship called the Wanderer. The game opens with you assisting with the pickup of some scientists investigating an anomaly near Jupiter. As anomalies near Jupiter go, a rupture in space/time transports the ship and its crew to an alien world. Your job is to rally the crew, recover the lost scientists and survive the hostile alien environment with only your wits and a trapezoidal bit of tubing for a weapon.
Farpoint promises to be a narrative-based experience but it also has an impressive focus on immersion and gameplay. With the Aim controller you are given the freedom to move our weapon freely, and you can choose to fire from the hip or aim down sights for increased accuracy. While this concept is nothing new to the FPS genre, the use of the Aim controller to pull this off and the physical sensation of actually aiming a gun is eerily realistic; if you’re going to use the Dualshock 4 instead of the Aim controller when playing Farpoint, well… you’re doing it wrong.
As you walk across the hostile planet you encounter various disgruntled lifeforms that want to kill you. You have your garden variety enemy is a crawling spider-type enemy which is redolent of the poison head crabs in Half-Life 2. Flying drones, big mech-like creatures and humanoid aliens also make an appearance, and none of them like the cut of your jib. The actual shooting side of things is phenomenal and feels incredibly responsive. The standard-issue assault rifle with infinite ammo that is regulated in the form of weapon overheating is your go-to weapon, but my favourite weapon was the sniper rifle. This thing packs a serious punch and, like most of the guns in this game, is relatively easy to use. In terms of mechanics I will say that movement felt a little stilted, like it was slightly too slow. Perhaps this is due to the threat of inducing motion sickness at higher speeds, and this is probably also why movement feels like your sliding rather than walking (I don’t imagine bobbing up and down while walking would do wonders for the stomach). It doesn’t really take away from anything though, and when you’re laying waste to aliens it’s not something you’ll notice.
As well as taking the campaign for a whirl, the Sony PR rep also donned a headset to showcase the co-operative mode. The game is fun on its own, but throwing a buddy into the action with co-op really takes things up a notch. The cooperative mode is separate from the campaign and plays almost like an arcade shooter whereby you and your co-operator progress through areas and clear out any hostile forces you encounter on the way. Kills reward you with points and chaining multi-kills awards multipliers. Points are an aggregate between the two players and are tallied up and ranked on a leaderboard at the end of the game. I personally think this is a brilliant move as it lets players go for a competitive score or just play to have fun with their mates.
In terms of visuals, they were definitely better than I expected. It’s not that I was expecting them to be awful, and perhaps they were better because I was using the PS4 Pro, but the image was clear with next to no issues. Aiming down sights and trying to focus on enemies at a distance can be a little blurry and indistinct, but you become so immersed in the action overall that the issues tend to just fade away as you work with what you’ve got. The sound design was impressive as well; the guns feel meaty and satisfying in terms of audio feedback, and the sound of the wind whistling by your ears helps keep you immersed in a world that seems custom designed to make sure you cease to exist.
With Farpoint, I would definitely say that people have something to look forward to. When asked about the impact that the narrative focus had on the development of the game, Founder & Developer of Impulse Gear said, “We initially prototyped the core combat and movement first, but we looked at the narrative and how we could integrate it. After looking at the core mechanics of the game, we saw that we really wanted to bring a narrative into the world while still allowing for fun addictive gameplay.” I think that Farpoint’s primary directive is to nail the FPS mechanics in VR (which they seem to have achieved thus far), but having a decent story would certainly be a boon though.
Overall, the experience was phenomenal. I can see Farpoint being a massive game for the PSVR and perhaps even a unit seller. If you’re looking at getting Farpoint, I’d definitely encourage you to get it with the Aim controller as the experience really is something else with the extra peripheral. I understand that the price point of the Aim Controller could be a deterrent, but you are really only experiencing half the game without it.
Farpoint is set to release for the PlayStation VR system on May 17th. It can be bought in a bundle with the Aim Controller for $129 at both EB Games and JB Hi-Fi.