There aren’t many PSVR games that have been built exclusively with Move controllers in mind – which isn’t a bad thing considering they’re an additional cost. But there’s no denying that the traditional PS4 controller can often remove the player from any truly immersive experience – especially for any sort of first-person shooter.
Now Sony have introduced a new peripheral called the Aim Controller. Those who adopted the Move controllers back in 2011 may remember the Sharp Shooter accessory which allowed two wands to be inserted to form a two-handed gun. The Aim Controller is the same idea, except the Move controllers are now built into a D-shaped white tube.
While a bit stark looking (it almost looks like a prototype of what they were going to make), the minimal design of the Aim Controller does fit perfectly alongside the PSVR headset – and once in the game, it doesn’t matter what it looks like anyway as you can’t see it with your headset on. Instead what you’re holding is transformed into a weapon on-screen, and the one-to-one interaction means you can turn the gun over in your hands in the real world and see your virtual avatar do the same.
This does create one major challenge for the Aim Controller, as opposed to the previous Sharp Shooter peripheral. Because of the fact that you can’t see it anymore, all of the buttons and analogue sticks have to be within logical reach, so that you don’t need to keep lifting up your visor just to see what you’re doing.
It’s solved by some clever design that not only makes the Aim Controller look stylish, but is also intuitive and quick to come to terms with – offering a comfortable two handed grip with analogue sticks for each hand. The right shoulder buttons (often used for reloading or secondary fire) are located on both sides to allow for left or right handed play, and the four face buttons have a tactile feel to allow for blind interactivity.
So the Aim Controller is a solid piece of kit - but what about the game that comes with it? Farpoint is what I would call a derivative shooter. There’s not much that’s original about it, from the mundane plot of crash-landing on an alien planet through to shooting your way past waves of massive killer bugs that look like they’ve been lifted from film Starship Troopers. Even the branding of Farpoint bears an uncanny resemblance to Destiny, complete with the triangular logo and thin sci-fi typography.
But originality isn’t all that important thanks to the VR environment. Farpoint does an amazing job of packaging up the opportunity to just shoot at stuff (and there is a lot of stuff to shoot at) using your new Aim Controller. As mentioned before, the controller feels comfortable and being able to look down at it, and see it move in real-time with your actions as you twist your wrist or change grip, creates a very immersive experience. Shooting from the hip feels accurate, and you can even raise your weapon up toward your eye and look through the virtual sights on the top of your weapon for long-distance shots.
Throughout the game you’ll get to try out a variety of different guns and switching between them is done intuitively by raising your Aim Controller up to your shoulder, and bringing it back down – upon which you’ll see a different gun in your hand. It mimics the idea that you’re carrying multiple weapons on your back, so each time you’re reaching back to swap it.
Some of these weapons will have secondary fire such as grenades, and the multiple (well-placed) triggers and buttons on the Aim Controller make reloading and shooting, simple. The on-screen tutorial overlay of your actual Aim Controller over the top of your in-game weapon is also a clever way to help teach players the basics in the first few stages.
The gunplay in Farpoint is a lot of fun, but of course with the current limitations of PSVR, the commuting aspect still doesn’t feel right. Walking around is achieved by the analogue stick located conveniently on the Aim Controller, which allows you to move forward or back, or strafe left or right. You walk in the direction you’re looking at, so it’s an awkward mix of turning your head (or whole body, but being careful you don’t strangle yourself with the cables) and then pushing forward on the stick. To counter this, Farpoint is not a free-roaming game, and players will get funneled through a linear map to help limit movement.
It doesn’t break the game at all, but getting from place to place is definitely a chore at times. It’s a better solution than a shooter-on-rails, but perhaps giving players a wheel-based rover may have helped with a more intuitive analogue stick control setup? The fact that the game doesn’t include any head bobbing to represent real-life walking just makes walking around feel uncanny. I can see why they didn’t do this for motion-sickness purposes, but looking at your shadow cast on the ground makes it feel like you’re just gliding around unrealistically.
Farpoint shines in combat though, and it is a great example of how good a PSVR shooter can be. Without the Aim Controller, it’s still very playable (the movement problems aside) and even with the frantic action I didn’t feel any adverse effects from motion sickness. The enemies you’ll encounter in the game come in all shapes and sizes, delivering their own threats and surprises.
Small, fast moving spider-like creatures will scamper across walls and on ceilings, before dropping near you and pouncing at your face with fangs out-stretched. Larger bugs will shoot explosive projectiles at you from a distance, requiring you to dodge or deflect them with a well placed shot. Other boss-like creatures will dwarf you with their presence, able to crush you with a single strike.
The single player campaign is a decent five to six hour haul, and considering most PSVR players will struggle to play solidly for more than a couple of hours, it feels longer than that overall. It’s well balanced too with moments of intense, nail-biting shooting, broken up with quiet sections where you can just survey your alien environment. Farpoint does an admirable job of delivering a sense of scale, and character models and animations are some of the better I’ve seen in the PSVR space to date. The game also includes some co-op levels where you can team up with another player online to wipe out waves of aliens together (thankfully there is friendly fire).
For those who aren’t sure about which version of Farpoint to buy, I would strongly suggest you get the Aim Controller bundle. There’s around a $50 price difference, but I can’t help but feel that Farpoint is saved by the use of a proper gun controller. Also Sony are promising to release more PSVR titles that use the Aim Controller, so it’s more of an investment to add to your PSVR setup. Personally I think future games could make better use of it, but nothing has been announced just yet. We’ll keep an eye on that and update you when we know more.
Angus received a copy of Farpoint and the Aim Controller from PlayStation NZ for review.