Release date May 17, coming to PS4 with PlayStation VR
When I first saw people playing Farpoint on the show floor at E3, I assumed the controller they were using was a piece of plastic with a Move controller shoved in the end of it. I thought it was an add-on that attached onto your controllers, like the add-on that Wii owners got for Link’s Crossbow training. After I discovered it was a bespoke controller, called PSVR Aim, I was sceptical, presuming it was just an excuse for a money grab from people already shelling out hundreds of pounds on new tech. However, having played the game for the first time, I now want all first-person shooters in VR to support the Aim controller. Farpoint is a pretty neat game, too.
The best way to describe Farpoint is if Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers movie was a walking simulator. While the details of plot, characters and where exactly we are in the universe aren’t explained in the demo, I do know that the game takes place in an environment that looks very similar to the depths of the Grand Canyon. Only this little slice of world is occupied by giant spiders.
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Starting off in the demo, I’m in a large, sand-kissed space. The giant rocks of the canyon surround me while boulders obscure the view ahead. You move using the analogue stick on the foregrip of the gun, and immediately it’s a little off-putting. The controls are fine, but the way the character moves in the game feels floaty and on rails. While I’m in control of the direction of the movement, there’s no weight, no sense of this person taking footsteps. It needs that gentle shoulder-dropping that Call of Duty, Killzone and Battlefront do so well. It’s weird not using a right analogue stick to turn, and I take a while to realise I simply need to turn my head to change where I’m going.
After about 20 yards I encounter my first enemy: a batch of four or five smaller spiders. It's at this point I realise I’m not the deadshot that video games have always made me I think I am. Much like a real gun, you hold the Aim Controller up to your eyes, aim and shoot. Also like a real gun, you need to ensure the whole length is facing the target, both the rear and front. My right hand is on point, aiming right down the fangs of these little fiends, however the left hand – at the barrel end of the gun – is off to the left. Luckily the in-game gun’s holographic sight does an excellent job of showing you when you’re firing straight, and when you’re not.
I even have to close one eye to aim, squinting to pick off the spiders in the distance. It feels amazing, tactile, like I'm actually pulling off these shots at vast distances. I start with an assault rifle which has infinite rounds but can overheat. I learn this after firing endlessly at the cluster of spiders and hearing the gaskets on the gun cooling, leaving me vulnerable as one of the larger-than-expected spiders leaps at my arachnophobic face. I duck, but have no idea if this will have any impact on my in-game avatar, before turning to shoot it in the backside. This is what VR is all about: shooting spiders in the ass.
After these spiders are taken care of, a voice plays into the headset, saying it's going to load a different scenario. The whole world around me turns into a series of black boxes with blue outlines, like I’m suddenly in Tron, before loading a different section of the canyon. It appears that Farpoint is a virtual reality game within a virtual reality game. How meta.
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I’m then plonked on a precipice, in which I must walk carefully along a cliff edge. Looking down and seeing nothing but sky is daunting, but the floaty movement of my character continues to break the immersion. I don’t feel like I'm tip-toeing along a cliff face, which is a shame.
After reaching the next cave I find a shotgun, which then becomes immensely satisfying when enemies get a little too close for comfort and I can now blast them literally to bits. Changing guns is done by tilting the Aim controller upright, which again feels very cool to do.
Naturally, a new enemy type appears, one that fits perfectly with my new weapon: a spider which at first appears in the distance, before burrowing underground and digging its way towards me. It jumps out of the ground at the last second, just as I switch from rifle to shotgun and paint the canyon with its insides.
In the next VR load I’m given grenades, which are used to takedown giant brute spiders whose front legs are used as shields. Everything in Farpoint thus far has been a bit tame. No amount of enemies has overwhelmed, and unless your aim is awful, you’ll get through it with no problems.
But then the next segment presents the first truly overwhelming prospect. Walking through a large open cavern I hear several roars. The surround sound headphones make this all the more immersive as I try to place the origins of the noise echoing around the rockfaces. Eventually, out of one of the larger caves comes the biggest spider I’ve ever seen – quite how it managed to roar I’m not sure – and it then begins to charge. Unfortunately this is where the demo ends, just as I reach the first seemingly insurmountable opponent.
I really like the potential of Farpoint, although I’m more in love with the Aim controller at this point. Farpoint needs to present a greater challenge or larger swarms of enemies for me to feel interested in what it can do. It also needs to add a greater sense of weight to movement, because it truly does break the immersion when I feel like a drone floating around the level.
If we see enemies more on the scale of the demo’s conclusion than its beginning, I’ll certainly be excited to play Farpoint again. But for right now, it's all about the Aim’s potential for VR shooters.