Virtual reality has the power to take you to almost anywhere, be it the depths of the ocean in The Deep or into the inky blackness of space with Elite Dangerous. Sony and Impulse Gear, however, want to use VR to take you to a desolate alien world, where you never quite know what to expect next.
Casting you in the role of one of two scientists left stranded on an alien world, after being pulled through a rip in space near Jupiter, Farpoint revels in using VR to really make you feel totally lost within the world you’re in.
Unlike early PlayStation VR titles such as EVE: Valkyrie or Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, Farpoint is a fully fledged game that just so happens to be entirely within VR. Following two years of development, it sits in the same camp as Resident Evil 7: Biohazard in terms of sheer scale and complexity. Not only is it a tale of survival and discovery, it’s a game equipped with a beefy single-player adventure as well as an online co-op campaign and multiplayer modes.
Ahead of Farpoint’s 16 May release date, I had the opportunity to play through a small section of its co-op campaign mode and go hands-on with the PlayStation VR Aim Controller – which, by the way, is a thing of beauty.
Stepping into another world
Donning the PlayStation VR, I found myself stood behind a desk on a space station, floating on the outer rim of a mysterious alien planet. From here my comrade-in-spacesuit-arms joined me. In reality, this person would be someone on the other side of the world, but for the purposes of my preview session, it happened to be someone only a few metres away from me.
Nevertheless, the experience of actually seeing another person immersed in VR within the same space as you is hard to put into words. Having already experienced something similar in Hello VR’s Metaworld, Farpoint’s use of full-body avatars, along with PlayStation VR’s built-in microphone, suddenly make the virtual simulation you’re experiencing feel far more real than it should.
Sony’s PlayStation VR Aim Controller also helps heighten the immersion. Built from the same sturdy plastic as the PlayStation VR, with the same high-quality feel as the PS4 DualShock 4 pads, this rhomboid two-handed controller feels perfect in-hand. While it’s bigger than you may expect it to be – it’s designed to mimic the size of your average rifle – it’s light and feels wonderfully precise thanks to the glowing PlayStation Move orb at its muzzle.
It’s no surprise that Farpoint works so well with the Aim Controller, seeing as Farpoint developer Impulse Gear also helped Sony develop the new peripheral. It’s unclear what future titles will make use of the VR rifle, but in Farpoint it feels excellent to play with – although I was told that a standard DualShock 4 also works perfectly fine.
During the co-op mission, the Aim Controller makes a world of difference. Looking down at your virtual body and seeing it cradling a life-size assault rifle is an odd feeling – especially when the Aim Controller really feels like you’re carrying a sizeable weapon in your arms. Lifting it up to your face and peering down the iron sights feels like second nature – I even closed one eye to hone my shots.
Instead of playing out like a light gun game, or adopting the more popular method found in VR games of location warping, Farpoint maps its movement to the thumbstick mounted on the front arm of the Aim Controller. Moving in such a free manner initially feels a little weird, but it doesn’t take long for it to become normal, with all sense of nausea being quashed thanks to your rifle acting as a fixed point in your vision at all times.
Thanks to this freedom of movement around Farpoint’s levels, the world does feel truly immersive. Enemies feel big and dangerous, and rushing in to blindly take down a foe is a recipe for disaster. It became so immersive that I ended up doing everything I told myself I wouldn’t. I’d crouch down in real-life, poking my head up over rocks, or blind-firing with my rifle held up in the air. I’d shout to my comrade for assistance, covering fire or revives; I generally just made a spectacle of myself in a room full of strangers. And you know what? Not one iota of me cared, because I was having fun like I’ve never had before.
I can’t speak for Farpoint’s single-player campaign, which comes complete with voice and motion-captured actors as well as a sizeable run-time. What I can say, however, is from what I’ve experienced of Farpoint so far, there isn't a finer VR title coming out this year.
Those may sound like bold words, especially considering how fantastic the likes of Lone Echo and many upcoming VR games are – but I stand by them. Impulse Gear has crafted an engaging VR shooter that isn't only just slick, but creates a truly tactile world thanks to the PlayStation VR Aim Controller. I, for one, can’t wait to play some more.
Farpoint is out on PlayStation VR from 16 May 2017.