Peripherals are mostly a thing of the past. It’s been more than a decade since Nintendo launched the original Wii and, looking back, I dread to think how many disfigured lumps of glossy white plastic lay strewn about the world’s landfills. Did we honestly need to slap our controller into a racket-shaped piece of tat just to play Wii Tennis? No, no we didn’t. Now, in 2017, such throwaway accessories are thankfully few and far between – then again, Nintendo have released little wheels for the Switch Joy-Con and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – and so it struck me as odd, then, to see Sony announce the PlayStation VR Aim Controller.
Sporting a decidedly minimalist look, it doesn’t quite match the badassery of Sony’s Sharpshooter for the PlayStation Move. Instead it rocks a nondescript tubular design – a conscious choice by its creators to allow for something lighter and more versatile. In truth, the Aim Controller’s appearance doesn’t matter one bit, especially when transported to the realms of virtual reality.
The first game to demonstrate this latest piece of motion control tech is Farpoint from Impulse Gear. Very much in the vanguard, it’s also one of the few VR titles looking to emulate conventional first person shooters in a single player setting and get away from the on-rails action we’re so used to seeing.
As stated in our review of Farpoint, the Aim Controller elevates an otherwise passable shooter with its fluid responsiveness and subtle feedback. Surprisingly, you’ll find every button from the standard DualShock 4 pad positioned around its loop-like form. The simplest way to describe button placement is to imagine holding half a DualShock in either hand, one several inches in front of the other. It feels both foreign yet familiar with auxiliary buttons, such as shoulder buttons and even a touchpad, placed within easy reach.
Before reading more about the Aim Controller and trying one for myself, I had always assumed it would act as a shell much like the aforementioned Sharpshooter. However, for better or for worse, no additional PlayStation Move controllers are needed – the rubbery orb or “muzzle” is actually part of the controller itself. The Aim also has its own battery and, like your standard DualShock, charges via micro-USB. While we’ve yet to pin down the exact battery life, after a dozen or so hours playing Farpoint, it hadn’t even gone down to one bar.
It certainly helps in making players feel more connected with the games they are playing, but it adds to the already sizeable investment you’ve made for PlayStation VR, to say the least. On top of the £350 many paid for the PlayStation VR headset, the buy-in for Farpoint and a Aim Controller is roughly £75 – a touch cheaper if you’re lucky.
Take away Farpoint and we could put a pricetag of around £35-45 on just the controller itself. In fairness, that’s what most of us are used to paying for a DualShock 4, but the Aim is currently targeted at a very small selection of titles. Beyond Farpoint these include Dick Wilde, Arizona Sunshine, and The Brookhaven Experiment, though hopefully more developers will step up.
While the fit and finish of a bespoke controller is better than the PlayStation Move Sharpshooter, it also wouldn’t be necessary had Sony made different choices when creating the Move and the discontinued Navi controller. The Move has no analogue stick, while the Navi had no LED orb, meaning that even when combined they can’t match the potential inputs of the Aim controller. The Aim comes out of necessity then, to make up for the failings of 2010, adding another peripheral to your PSVR collection, albeit in a much nicer form.
With the Aim Controller, Sony is making PlayStation VR a great go-to platform for virtual reality shooters and it will be interesting to see how the new peripheral will factor into future games from both smaller studios and the publisher itself.