PlayStation VR Aim is a new Move-like gun peripheral employed by the newly announced PSVR title Farpoint. Sony quietly revealed the PSVR Aim controller during their E3 2016 PlayStation VR event. We went hands-on with both the game and the controller.
Farpoint is a sci-fi FPS for PlayStation VR which sets players on a foreign planet filled with hostile alien creatures. It’s the first PSVR game to be shown with the new PlayStation VR Aim controller which is a standalone Move device with integrated buttons, two thumbsticks, and tracking via the glowing ball on the front and an inbuilt IMU. The release date and price of PSVR Aim hasn’t been revealed. We’re told that Farpoint can also be played with a PS4 controller, but it’s of course designed around the peripheral, which developer Impulse Gear says they co-developed with Sony.
With the PSVR Aim controller in your hands, the weapons you wield in Farpoint feel much more tangible. As you spin the peripheral around, the motion is mimicked in your virtual view, allowing you to inspect your virtual weapons up close as well as looking down the sights with ease. The developers have also smartly animated the in-game arms so that when you rotate the weapon in such a way that you are unlikely to be holding it with two hands, your secondary virtual hand will pull away from the weapon. Not only does this better approximate what your real hands are doing, but it also prevents any awkward clipping or contortions of your virtual arms as you spin the weapon around.
While it’s great to have the feeling of both of your hands wielding a single object (instead of mock-holding a two handed gun when in reality your real hands are not linked together), the PSVR Aim’s lack of shoulder stock felt somewhat odd, as with most real two-handed guns you use the stock as a way of steadying your view down the sights. Without the stock the gun feels awkward to hold at eye-level, so many players ended up holding it somewhat lazily, almost as if firing from the hip.
Not ideal, but easy to get over, especially considering that your virtual gun lacks real recoil, so there’s technically little need to steady the weapon against your shoulder. Speaking of recoil, I didn’t feel any haptics from the controller at all, not even simple rumble which would be a shame if it was overlooked. Beyond this, the controller works well, allowing me to easily point the weapon, look down the sights, and blast my alien enemies.
Farpoint is one of the few PSVR titles that’s using thumbstick-based movement. The PlayStation VR Aim controller has two thumbsticks, and the stick on the foregrip is used to move yourself forward and backward in the game, while the direction of your gun determines your walking direction.
This was awkward at first, but as I got used to it I noticed a major benefit—it was incredibly easy to walk in one direction while looking in another. This sounds trivial, but in VR it’s actually a problem that’s often not handled very well. For instance, at one point in my time with Farpoint, I was crossing a narrow land bridge spanning the width of a large cavern. As I walked carefully forward to avoid falling off either side, I was able to look to the left and right to see the impressive environment around me while continuing to fine-tune my walking direction using the angle of the gun.
While I’m one of the folks who is normally susceptible to thumbstick-driven VR locomotion, I was surprised that I didn’t experience any nausea when moving in Farpoint. The key seems to be moderate player speed (your pace is more of a stroll than a sprint) and lack of any means of rotating except by rotating your own real body. The developers tell me the final game will include the option to rotate with the stick for more experienced players, but the game is designed to minimize the need.
In the Farpoint PSVR demo I started my journey in a dusty desert environment that was anything but deserted. With rifle in hand, I quickly came upon small spider-like aliens that sprung from their burrows in the ground and leap at my face. These critters appeared in groups and could do significant damage if ignored.
Looking down the scope of my rifle, I could see a red sight projected onto the small glass prism over the barrel. If you don’t align the gun correctly with your head, the reticle can’t be seen. It’s a nice touch that makes the gun feel more authentic, like it’s got a cool futuristic holographic scope attached.
The rifle’s high rate-of-fire made it an effective weapon against the leaping spiders. There were also larger beasts which catapulted toxic green baubles at me. These organic mortars did significant damage and managed to kill me a few times while I was distracted by the jumping spiders. The rifle’s long range worked well to take them out from afar.
Quite luckily, I managed to find a shotgun just before I entered into some close-quarters combat (who would have guessed!) on the edge of a very steep cliff. After finding the shotgun, a simple gesture is used to switch between weapons: using both hands, you point the PSVR Aim controller upward and back, as if to toss it over your shoulder. With a satisfying coking sound, this summons whichever weapon you aren’t currently holding. It’s quick, effective, and more immersive than simply pressing a button.
The shotgun of course behaves differently from the rifle, and allowed me to get up close and personal to those lethal-if-underestimated leaping spiders. With a single satisfying blast turning the spiders into a cloud of smoke and guts, it was pretty clear that this shotgun was purpose made for the job.
Along my way I spotted a larger and rather armored multi-legged alien which (spoiler alert) also wanted me dead. Using the forward trigger on the PlayStation VR Aim controller, I was able to fire grenades from my rifle which I’d gathered earlier. After a few explosives to the face, the alien finally succumb and I cautiously approached its husk to see its full scale. Before I could do much analysis of its alien anatomy, the green glob launchers we after me again.
After moving through a few more encounters, the demo ended with a gigantic alien monster emerging from its cave dwelling, with the scene fading from view just in time to tease that I wouldn’t actually get to fight the thing (despite certainly being excited to).
As Impulse Gear’s first title, Farpoint is an impressive starting point for the studio, bringing what feels at this stage like solid FPS action to PlayStation VR. Founder Randy Nolta told me that they’re aiming for a multi-hour narrative driven experience.
Given the use of the PSVR Aim controller, I hope to see Farpoint emphasize interesting futuristic weaponry beyond the staple assault rifle and shotgun categories that I saw initially. I would also like to see them build visual representations of the controller’s many buttons onto the VR weapons so that it’s easier to remember what buttons are at your disposal.