For a long time, I’ve had deep misgivings about first person motion in VR. Put a player in a virtual car or space ship and things are usually fine, but a first person shooter is often a recipe for nausea. It’s a very real problem for PlayStation VR and its competitors, but Farpoint goes quite some way to showing how first person shooters and VR can work well.
This might be a first person shooter, putting a gun in your hand and giving you a pat on the bum as you head off to go shoot some alien bugs on the surface of a mysterious alien world, but this isn’t a fast paced action romp like Call of Duty or Battlefield. Instead, it’s a much slower game, which really helps it work in VR.
You’re effectively on rails as you walk through the reddish brown plains, canyons and caves. You can look around you in every direction, aim and shoot where you please, and you’re even granted a lot of autonomy by being able to move with an analogue stick on the Aim Controller, but you cannot actually turn your character in game. If you walk to the right, you’re actually strafing as far as the game is concerned, with your character locked facing one direction.
As far as my brain was concerned, as well. This was a game where standing up to match my position in game really helped to deal with the mismatch between real and virtual motion. The focus, instead, was on the gun in my hands, with the Aim Controller superseding the Move’s Sharp Shooter attachment.
The Aim Controller is a dedicated controller, with a glowing Move ball on the business end, two analogue sticks, and almost all the buttons that you’d expect to see on a DualShock 4. As it’s very much a single purpose controller, it might be an extravagance for many, but it’s a well built and well designed piece of kit.
In game, it’s all very intuitive. You only have to worry about the one analogue stick for movement, and beyond that you’re effectively just using the gun-like trigger to shoot and a DS4-like trigger on the front for secondary fire. Switching weapons is done by physically moving the controller up to your shoulder, as though holstering it.
What works really well is aiming down the sights. Bringing the assault rifle up into your line of sight sees holographic crosshairs projected in your view, but where first person shooters have always made it seem like a holographic sight is locked to the centre of the little sheet of glass, here you have to line it up and actually aim the gun. It’s a pleasing and intuitive feeling, but it does take a few moments to get used to if you’ve held the gun at slightly the wrong angle.
Either way, as alien bugs swarm towards you, it’s easy to gun them down, possibly while backing away from them slightly. That changes with a shotgun in hand, and when dealing with larger, acid spitting bugs, where you might want to get closer and fire from the hip a bit more. Oh, and then there’s the laser guided rockets, which are a lot of fun to lead to a target (even if I did accidentally blow myself up once or twice).
The demo I played was a series of short computer generated recreations, taking me from one moment to the next. A wave of bugs cleared and it would swiftly load up the next area, the world around me fading out as a new wireframe comes in and the alien world is projected onto it.
The moments of combat were often juxtaposed with simple progression through the world, though it twice tried to pull a trick with vertigo inducing heights across a precarious rock bridge and clinging to a cliff face while walking along a small ledge. Those points didn’t quite hit home for me, but if you’re afraid of heights and sufficiently absorbed by the VR world, it might do better for you.
There is a story to Farpoint, as a small group of spacefaring humans are dragged through a space anomaly to a distant, Mars-like world. Another short segment has two holographic projections (within this holographic projection) talking about what they’re discovering and the wonders that the planet might hold.
The focus really was all on the gunplay, and Impulse Gear simply had to pull the classic trick of showing a huge monster coming out of a cave and roaring as the screen fades to black and the demo ends. I still managed to shot a rocket into its mouth though.
Farpoint might look like a fairly standard shooter, but it’s more important than that. Compared to the hyperactive movement systems in Call of Duty or Titanfall, as you flit from wall run to double jump and back again, this is a positively pedestrian shooter, but it’s also a proof that first person shooters and VR can work well together.