A feat of virtual reality.
The PlayStation VR (PSVR) made its debut in October of 2016 to critical success and decent profits. To date, the PSVR sports a number of excellent titles (Resident Evil VII or RIGS, for example) released steadily since its inception. Outside of Resident Evil, however, not many triple A titles made it to VR, particularly in the 2017 release window. At the end of May, developer Impulse Gear and publisher Sony released the first person shooter Farpoint, a space thriller that features the new PlayStation Aim controller. Together, Farpoint and the PlayStation Aim prove just how fantastic the PSVR and its potential can be.
Farpoint is the story of you, the protagonist, who, after attempting to board Dr. Tyson and Dr. Moon – two scientists on the space station you were to dock at – was sent crash landing on a desert planet after a strange mid-space phenomenon disrupted your mission. With the entirety of the space station and your ship scattered throughout the planet, you are able to find traces of doctors Tyson and Moon, sending you on a journey of discovery and, hopefully, rescue. You learn more about the planet, the crash, and the doctors as you progress through the story and try to piece together exactly what took place in space.
The biggest concern I and most gamers had in regards to Farpoint was whether a first person shooter in VR would cause heavy motion sickness. Early reports of the demo at various conventions confirmed some VR sickness, too, so the outlook wasn’t terribly bright. After playing through Farpoint and having a few buddies take turns, as well, I can report that the three of us experienced no significant bouts of motion sickness. This may be due to the fact that Farpoint more-or-less requires the user to stand during gameplay, which perhaps dulls the idea of motion sickness (that is, from my understanding, that the screen around you is moving, but your body isn’t, throwing off your equilibrium and causing nausea). Either way, having full range of your body during Farpoint is almost required to battle the arachnid beasts plaguing your adventure.
As far as gameplay goes, Farpoint pretty much achieves everything one could hope for in the first true FPS of the PSVR. Paired with the PlayStation Aim wireless controller, Farpoint provides the closest thing to realism that I’ve ever experienced in gaming (outside of Dave & Buster’s MechWarrior Alienware pods) – which is a feat of virtual reality. Wielding the Aim controller gives the player free range of motion to aim at anything and anywhere; if a mini-spider flung itself over your head, and you needed to pop it over your shoulder, you could. Having this freedom allows you to purely strategize your approach to each large combat scenario. Farpoint is far too difficult to simply run and gun your way through each level (especially since you only wield the assault rifle and shotgun through the first two lengthy stages, each with limited ammo or heat expenditure). I often found myself re-considering strategies in order to properly disperse the enemy – and combating the various enormous bosses required patience and skill all of its own. Still, the intuitive design of the PlayStation Aim is used to maximize efficiency in Farpoint, and each button is mapped to perfection. Oh, and let’s not forget that Farpoint features a co-op mode that allows you to venture through the desert wasteland blowing aliens up together – and it works pretty well.
But on the note of gameplay, I do have one major concern. In Farpoint, there isn’t a method to manually save. Normally, auto-saves are cool and work well. Even traditional games that force gamers through lengthy periods of gameplay before saving is workable for numerous reasons. Farpoint, however, cannot successfully spread out its auto-save feature for one reason: VR fatigue. Often, I found myself fairly tired by the end of a level in Farpoint, especially because each stage could take upwards of an hour – if not more. I’m not sure exactly when the game auto-saves (at least at the beginning and/or end of each level), but it’s spaced far apart. After 45 minutes of bouncing around on your feet inside of the VR while holding up a faux gun and pressing against a fairly resistant trigger, your body grows tired (at least mine does, and I’m only freshly 29). This isn’t a game killer, but it certainly hurts the excellent gameplay and overall experience.
Visuals in Farpoint are spectacular. The world of your sand strewn planet is brought to life with whipping winds, dust storms, ashen ship debris, and the clicking and cluttering of the arachnid alien lifeforms just out of your sight. Character faces provide excellent details, and it was always interesting to watch Dr. Moon and Dr. Tyson communicate with each other as one searched for the space station crew and the other maintained a livable space. The biggest downside to the visuals in Farpoint was that the scenery, while apt for setting, can grow rather dull when spending a lot of time out of the neat and colorful caves or cliffs, or if you happen to die often (sometimes the checkpoints send your progress quite a distance back, and those checkpoints aren’t even auto-saves). Overall, however, the scenery was beautiful in a dry and eerie fashion, particularly for a game that seemed to feature gameplay and the PlayStation Aim over anything else.
Sound in Farpoint was memorable, as well. The voice acting present – even though limited to just a few characters – was believable and maintained a tone of desperation despite the brave facades each character wore. The music was reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (the adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and BioWare’s Mass Effect; that is to say the music hit that sci-fi sweet spot. Additionally, the sounds of the world and the creatures haunting it worked well, and the immersion of the PSVR combined with that sound direction actually caused a few jump scares.
If you’re one of the brave consumers who bought a PSVR on or around its launch and have been waiting for another great game to show off, Farpoint is the perfect addition to your collection. While its story isn’t overly memorable, the integration of the new PlayStation Aim controller makes Farpoint an experience worth partaking in. Bundled together, the game and the controller cost $80.00 (mid 60’s if you’re a Best Buy gamers club or Amazon Prime member), so the value is certainly there. Farpoint is poised to set the VR FPS world into motion, and it certainly raises my hopes of being able to experience more VR.