Farpoint is as close as the PlayStation has come to a triple A game on its virtual reality platform so far. Whilst on its own the 5 hour campaign is a pretty but ‘play it safe’ corridor shooter, Sony’s Virtual Reality headset and the new Aim controller make it a gripping and immersive experience. Farpoint’s story is predictable, but well written, and delivered with some respectable performances.
You play a bland every man shuttle pilot sent to retrieve two scientists from a research space station. After a wormhole opens up and subsequently devours the station and its inhabitants, some Interstellar shit happens and you find yourself stranded on a beautiful rocky planet *Cough* Geonosis *Cough*.
On said planet there are bugs, there are robots, and there’s a thin but relatively compelling narrative to unravel in the form of scannable holographic memories. Whilst this may all sound very done before, what makes Farpoint so good is its polish, slick gun play and comfort-ability in VR.
Graphically the game is very nice to look at. Texture detail isn’t anything to shout about but a gorgeous pallet on top of intelligent lighting and shading makes Farpoint the PSVR’s prettiest game to date. In particular I was impressed with the character models – the two scientists; Tyson and Moon (yes, Dr Moon) are voiced expertly, solid mo cap performances and surprisingly good facial animation add a lot of weight and emotional depth to their story.
As is usually the case in virtual reality, Farpoint does a great job of conveying scale. Vast rock formations tower above you and giant enemy drop ships swoop in overhead to unload new batches of cannon fodder. The vibrant tone means that the detail manages to push through the pixelation of the PSVR’s OLED display. Games on the PSVR have a tendency to look dull, muddy and blurry, but Farpoint is built from the ground up with the hardware limitations in mind and it excels visually as a result.
Impulse Gear tackle the famed nausea associated with VR here in some interesting ways. There are a handful of comfort settings and design choices that make it an immersive and enjoyable experience, even for extended periods of play. I use the term “Corridor shooter” loosely as the areas you play in are usually very spacious, occasionally you stumble upon stunning vistas looking out on to vast debris fields. The reason it can feel a little directed is that Farpoint always has you facing forward. Rarely are you required to turn around or change direction (although there is a setting which allows you to turn your character with small to large increments). You will more or less find yourself moving in the same direction. On top of this, enemies will mostly attack from the front which again means no unnecessary turning. These design choices have the potential to make the combat feel a little simplistic to more tenured VR users but it no doubt makes the game more accessible to new adopters.
“These design choices have the potential to make the combat feel a little simplistic to more tenured VR users but it no doubt makes the game more accessible to new adopters.”
The Aim controller itself is light and ergonomically designed. All the features of the Dualshock 4 (minus the touchpad) are present. Smart button placement means that you never have to stretch too far or adjust your grip to reach them. The tracking is occasionally a little off which can take you out of the experience and you won’t always feel like the position and direction of the controller is accurately represented by the in-game firearm. I did however find that I could fix this with a quick pause and un-pause to re-calibrate, but in general the tracking is much more accurate in a dark room.
Another gripe is that the ‘raise to shoulder’ gun switch mechanic is not always as responsive as I’d like. This had me regularly bringing a Precision Rifle to a shotgun fight, subsequently resulting in a gruesome death. I also found that raising the Aim controller to hit airborne enemies regularly meant obstructing the PSVR’s front LEDs which caused some frustrating head tracking issues. Again, gruesome death. Farpoint has an occasionally brutal checkpoint system which will often punish death by sending you 3 or 4 encounters back. The odd thing is that you will spawn with the same load-out as when you perished, leaving you ill-equipped for certain scuffles.
Holding the Aim controller and seeing it in-game is a surreal experience and I found that the novelty of it never really wore off. It’s impressive just how intuitive it feels raising the gun to your shoulder to look through the scope. There is some amazing attention to detail on the weapons which had me closely inspecting Farpoint’s limited arsenal, in particular I had something of a fascination with the reload animations. I found myself taking short pauses from all the shooty shooty to watch my shotgun hoover up energy from the vents on the sides.
You collect secondary ammo in the world but your primary ammo is unlimited which allows ample experimentation with load-outs. Some of the secondary fire types are reasonably inventive, from laser guided rockets to deploy-able shields. I found that my standard load-out was the Precision Rifle and the Shotgun which I liked to keep handy for close encounters.
Farpoint has a nice variety of enemy types, ranging from small suicide spiders to big hulking Robocop Enforcement Droids. Shooting enemies is fun and responsive as the aim controller produces a good amount of tactile feedback. The combat really shines when you take on the game’s humanoid scavenger grunts as the gun-play feels its most visceral when you are being forced to take cover from enemy fire. I found myself physically ducking in and out from behind boulders or wreckage. The whole experience feels like paintball on LSD and had me channelling my inner ultimate Badass! “Oh you want some too?!” ( R.I.P Bill Paxton ).
“The whole experience feels like paintball on LSD and had me channelling my inner ultimate Badass!”
As well as a short but solid campaign, Farpoint has a small multiplayer offering in the form of short cooperative/wave based missions that are somewhat reminiscent of Destiny’s ‘Strikes’. Individual scoring and a revive system help create a balance between camaraderie and healthy competition – although there is a lack of any real objective other than to escape. Generally multiplayer in VR makes the experience feel a little less solitary and will undoubtedly add replay value. I found that this is where I had the most fun with the game and hope that Impulse Gear continue to add content in the future.
Farpoint is a mediocre shooter made great by PSVR and the Aim controller. It’s refreshing to have a title built specifically for the platform that doesn’t feel like a 69p App store game and it’s nice to see Sony supporting the hardware in such a big way. The narrative is a little flimsy but what is there is well written and delivered in a compelling way. The game is let down by regular head/controller tracking issues but the excellent gun-play more than makes up for this. Hopefully other VR developers will learn from Farpoint’s successes and will continue to hone shooters in virtual reality. As I dropped £70 on the Aim controller, it would also be nice to see more games utilising the hardware. Impulse Gear have been smart about overcoming VR motion sickness and it proves that VR is not only best suited for slow, atmospheric walking simulators but for fast paced shoot-em-ups as well