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.
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
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
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
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?
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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