Field in View: Why The Aim Controller Is PSVR’s Secret Weapon

by Jamie Feltham • May 13th, 2017

For VR to be as immersive as possible, it needs to be accessorized. Position tracked controllers do a great job of simulating certain objects like pistols, swords, and sports rackets, but it only gets you so far. That’s why HTC is rolling out its Vive Tracker to turn real life objects into VR accessories, and Oculus and Harmonix stuck a Touch controller on a plastic guitar for Rock Band VR. When it comes to PlayStation VR (PSVR), Sony has something a little different in mind.

Sony is doubling down on the first-person shooter (FPS) genre with its first PSVR peripheral, the Aim Controller. This new device, shipping next week, is shaped like an assault rifle, and has you holding it with both hands. A PlayStation Move-like light at the front end tracks its position and a trigger lets you fire.

rsz_farpoint_aim_bundle (1)

Currently it’s best seen in Farpoint, which it will be bundled with, but it’s also coming to shooters both old and new like Dick Wilde, ROM: Extraction, The Brookhaven Experiment, and Arizona Sunshine.

Personally, we’re pretty excited for the Aim Controller. In fact, we think it could be PSVR’s secret weapon. Here’s why.

We Finally Have Analog Sticks

Aim Controll 3

Sony’s peripherals and spin-off devices have a strange tradition of missing out essential elements. The PSP, for example, was lacking a second analogue nub, and then the Vita needed extra shoulder buttons. The biggest offender, though, was the PlayStation Move controllers, which criminally lacked a pair of analog sticks, the essential ingredient for navigating virtual spaces.

On PS3, where Move started out, this wasn’t too much of a problem as you could use Move as a pointer to guide the way. That’s just not the case in VR, though, and many games suffer from Move’s lack of analog control. The Aim Controller finally fixes that with not one but two sticks, just like a DualShock 4. That allows you to smoothly move through Farpoint’s barren planet without awkward controls slowing you down. Granted, artificial locomotion doesn’t work for everyone, but hopefully it helps bring an end to the flood of static wave shooters and helps us get back to full FPS campaigns.

It Brings The FPS Back To Its Roots

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VR FPS games have taken an unusual twist, dictating that having two position-tracked controllers means you need two guns. Sure, it feels incredibly cool to fire off two pistols without a care in the world, but dual wielding has traditionally been a novelty for the FPS genre; most of the time we only use one gun. It’s easier to focus on one enemy with a more powerful weapon than it is two with weaker ones.

The Aim Controller recaptures that idea. In fact, I’m much more excited to go back and try games like Arizona Sunshine with just this one weapon than I ever was with two Touch controllers or Vive wands. There’s something very satisfying and heavy about holding the Aim Controller that makes it that bit more immersive than holding Touch and Vive controllers, and developers should be looking to capitalize on that.

It Opens The Door For More

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I’ve often wondered how shooters on Vive and Rift could make their way over to PSVR given the more limited control scheme. The Aim Controller removes those concerns. Granted occlusion is still an issue; if you were to turn your back on the camera you’d lose tracking in an instant, but the sticks mean you can more easily turn within VR.

I’m really hoping that the PSVR ports of Arizona Sunshine, ROM: Extraction, and Dicke Wilde are just the start. There’s an army of VR shooters I’d love to try with the Aim Controller, starting with the excellent military shooter sim, Onward. That’s a game that has people clumsily using two hands to simulate holding a rifle on PC while in VR; I really want to try it feeling like I’m holding the real thing with Aim.

It Doesn’t Have To Be A Gun, Does It?

Statik_05

As excited as I am about the Aim Controller, I’m actually not crazy about VR shooters. I just don’t think getting hung up on them is a great idea; there are better, more positive uses for this technology. And if there’s one thing developers excel at it’s picking something up and asking, “What can I do with this that’s new?”

When it comes to the Aim Controller that’s going to take some thought, but I really like the idea of a DLC expansion pack to Statik that uses the new controller, or perhaps something like a VR fire fighting experience. There’s a ton of potential applications for the kit that are waiting to be explored.

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  • It can be used for more, but it is essentially only a FPS controller. A super-cool FPS controller, but it has a very specific purpose. Now the question is: it is better a good-enough all-purpose controller, or many cool single-purpose controllers?

    • Caven

      The correct answer is “both”. If one could only have one or the other, the general-purpose controller makes more sense. But it’s nice to have purpose-built controllers for certain types of games. For instance, the Guitar Hero/Rock Band games would have been a lot less interesting if they could only be played with a standard controller.

  • rabs

    Well, VR FPS fans are building stocks at least since Onward was released. Usually it’s made to rest against the chest/shoulder (something missing on PS Aim) and hand distance is adjusted as preferred (or favorite weapon).

    They are often made with PVC pipes, so it looks quite like the PS Aim. Sony hardware must have a better finish, but users cannot detach a controller to throw a grenade, or everything to switch to dual wielding (a strap is used to carry the stock then, and a bit of training is required).

  • CodeMonkey432

    Umm…this is hardly a secret weapon or anything like that. I mean…seriously? I like the idea but it’s hardly some kind of game changer. It still uses the terrible sony move to track motion. I bought into that on the ps/3 and it….sucked. I’m sure it’s better now but I know there are still tracking issues. I imagine the cost will be on par with a tracking module for the Vive..which has way way way more flexibility.

    • I’m honestly not sure what the difference is tech-wise, but as a PSVR owner who hates the Move for being an unreliable jittery mess, the Aim controller is phenomenal. The tracking is great and it’s very ergonomic. I still wish that we had something with proper analog sticks that didn’t involve holding an assault rifle or Dualshock but the Aim is actually really good for what it is. I’m happier with it than I ever expected to be. Now we just need more games.

      • CodeMonkey432

        Interesting. I didn’t see where it was anything but a better mount. Is it adding a new camera? I must have missed something somewhere. It would need to be a tech change to make a diff .

      • Buddydudeguy

        Isn’t this just a peripheral with a Move controller stuck on the end? ( yes)

  • Duane Locsin

    FPS games, the horror genre and adult films will naturally excel in Virtual Reality, but I just hope that the whole medium will not end up being just synonymous with just those.

    so much more potential and discoveries.

    I am looking to use Google’s Tilt Brush when I get a Vive, though I would love to see it come to the PSVR.

    Virtual Office spaces would be incredible and maybe a novelty, it would be great to be doing some work on my computer while sitting in a space station and the occasional comet flies outsides my window.

  • Duane Locsin

    Virtual Reality is still in it’s infancy, so there is still so much potential and yes a gun peripheral is a very obvious and basic part of the vr experience, at least that is an feature that adds to the immersion that can be ticked off and not have to wait too long for.

    still very excited for a refined and physical locomotion treading device like from Virtuix and Cyberith.

    -haptic feedback vests
    -tactile gloves
    -placing objects in virtual space via trackers
    -eye tracking displays in VR
    -wireless headset upgrades

    Virtual Reality is definitely evolving hardware wise is evolving.

  • Derek Whitneck

    The Aim controller is amazing for Farpoint. Works like a charm, handles movement and shooting effortlessly. Keep it coming!