There are few innovations in game design that stay constant and don’t fall into the realm of washed up gimmicks like motion controls or gripping plastic musical instruments. VR is the latest of these innovations that has yet to really grab a foothold in the industry, and while it is too soon to know the lasting appeal that VR will have past its initial and costly allure, I know this; Farpoint is everything I wanted from VR.
While my claim may be a bit bold, it’s not without merit, and there is one very important reason for it; The Aim Controller. While you can play the game with a Dual Shock 4 controller, the game does lose a lot of its charm doing so. The Aim Controller, unlike most peripherals added to a particular gaming genre, adds more realism to the game and makes the gameplay itself far more immersive. The Aim Controller is incredibly precise, feels good in your hands, and works so well that I imagine every VR shooter developer for PlayStation VR is scrambling to patch in support, and as of this writing, several already have.
You play as a character who is a survivor of an accident that is attempting to catch up to his companions, piecing together what has occurred with the odd scrap of the breadcrumb trail that has been unintentionally left for you. You’ll encounter scannable moments that require you to press a button and move the Aim Controller around to scan the entire image, with it usually being one of the two characters the story is built around. Your exposure to these characters and what they are going through are through wonderfully acted moments aboard their makeshift home on the planet. These moments start off innocent with the pair full of hope, but this quickly goes away the longer they remain on the planet, slowly realizing they may never get home.
As you follow the trail you will encounter a variety of creatures that seem lifted out of Starship Troopers and other alien based sci-fi. The creatures are not original in any real way but nonetheless are really fun to shoot at. Taking down one of the giant crab-like creatures when it is just a few feet from you is a nerve-wracking experience, as is the first time one of the small fast moving critters leaps as your face. You’ll encounter more types of threats as you progress that start to offer more challenge, everything from giant mechs, to lizard looking scavengers. The Aim gun makes short work of them with just how amazingly precise the gun allows you to be. There are various creatures that will shoot acid blasts at you and will explode when destroyed, so don’t get too close. The first boss in the game is a giant creature that comes off as wildly intimidating, mainly because in VR you can get a much better look at the scale of the beast.
You’ll explore this alien world via rocky cliffs, or caves that have alien vegetation glowing to create some nice looking environments. There is plenty of areas where pieces of the space station you were aboard are littered around, and much of it can be used for cover when needed. The large open skies are better appreciated in VR as, much like the boss I just mentioned, have a grander sense of scale in VR. When you turn the corner to a wide open area, you are gripping the gun tighter in the case of an ambush.
To ensure that you won’t need to spin around and constantly look behind you, the game was designed so that everything you need to attack or pay attention to is directly in front of you. While it is possible that you’ll move around the environment and something will get behind you, the AI is designed to retreat to an area in front of you, apart from things that are on cliffs or not in your immediate area. This linear way of creating the game is done to prevent as much motion sickness as it can cause, and it’s a design that works well.
Farpoint does have some decent visuals for a VR game and is leagues above what is currently offered for the headset on the PSN store. The creatures all look fantastic and feature some pretty decent detail. There is a nice effect given to the blood and acid when it pools up and starts dripping off rocks, even if it is stretched and comes off as one single texture, the way it moves is nonetheless well done. Sky boxes are wonderful with some of the best clouds I’ve seen in games and given you actually have to tilt your head up to see them, makes them feel a bit more real than something simply viewed on a TV screen.
You have an assault rifle, plasma rifle, shotgun, precision rifle, and a spike launcher to fend off the various bugs, robots, and scavengers that will get in your way as you attempt to piece together what is going on. The assault rifle doesn’t need to be reloaded but it does heat up and will prevent the gun from firing until it cools down, which isn’t a long wait. The shotgun and other weapons require a quick tap of the reload button to get back in the game. I didn’t care much for the precision rifle, at first, but once I found that I shouldn’t treat it like a sniper rifle, it became something I came to depend on. Each of the weapons also has an alternative fire, from rockets to grenades, to a holographic shield, all of which increase your odds of survival.
I had a minor issue with the game that may sound a bit odd to explain. When you pick up a weapon to swap out something you carry, like seeing a plasma rifle on a container and you swap it out with your shotgun, it will likely save the checkpoint. If you die, you’ll still be holding the plasma rifle, but the shotgun will be gone. It doesn’t even matter if you were to switch back to the shotgun and then die, the moment you grabbed the plasma rifle in the first place, is the current checkpoint, and the shotgun is gone until you find another one.
Farpoint benefits greatly from the Aim Controller, so much so that I would greatly lower the score I’ve given had this plastic gun just not existed. The gun works extremely well with aiming, switching weapons with a simple lift to your shoulder and even bringing the gun up to your headset will give you a scope to get some pin-point accuracy. You can also move the gun around to direct your character left and right as you run, something that made sprinting more enjoyable. I would say that there is only one issue I had with the Aim Controller for Farpoint and that is the placement of the alternate fire button next to the scanning button, which caused a few mixup’s that resulted in a few accidental deaths.
While I had a few moments of being light headed, it was mostly due to pushing myself a bit too much because of how much fun I was actually having. Given some proper pacing and having a bit more control on how I was playing, I am sure I wouldn’t have had times where I had to take a break. The game does cause some VR sweats as during some moments in the game I had to pause it to wipe away the sweat from my forehead. There are tons of settings to allow you to get the most out of the five-hour campaign and thankfully, the click turning I loved in Resident Evil 7 is present here and worked extremely well, which I believe the label for that setting was called “Big Step”.
Farpoint, when paired with the Aim Controller is the best example I’ve seen for VR and is without question the PSVR’s killer app. While the co-op mode is a bit lacking, it can still be rather fun to shoot a few dozen creatures with another player watching your back. The game is available without the plastic gun, but I would strongly suggest tracking down the bundle or finding a retailer that carries the Aim Controller separately. Farpoint is a fantastic example of VR done right and may very well be the title that kickstarts a strong wave of solid full-length VR experiences.
Farpoint was played and reviewed via a purchased retail copy of the Farpoint Bundle pack on a PlayStation 4 Pro with PlayStation VR.