Hands-On: ‘Farpoint’ Restored My Faith in PlayStation VR

by Jamie Feltham • July 13th, 2016

If you’ve been reading my editorials or following my Twitter account over the past few weeks, you’ll know that I’ve been growing concerned about PlayStation VR of late. Sony’s headset is arguably the most important in year one of VR, and an E3 showing in which some of its games used stick-based locomotion and made people sick really started to worry me. Add to that the underwhelming PlayStation Move controller and I’d begun to wonder if PS VR might end up doing more harm than good.

But then I played Farpoint.

I was voicing many of my concerns to a friend as I queued up to try this upcoming PS VR exclusive first-person shooter at Develop: Brighton today. When I pulled off the headset about 10 minutes later, though, I had a big grin on my face, feeling a little embarrassed about my previous rant. Impulse Gear’s upcoming shooter showed so much promise that it restored my faith in the entire platform in the space of a few minutes.

If you didn’t already know, Farpoint is played with the Aim Controller, an impressive new gun-shaped device that looks a little like – but definitely isn’t really – the PlayStation Move Sharpshooter peripheral. You have that same glowing orb to be tracked, with two grips to hold like an assault rifle. The grips share the traditional PlayStation 4 buttons, with an analog stick on each and a trigger fitted onto the back one. Somewhat ironically the kit is better kitted out than a pair of Move controllers. That said, you use those sticks to actually walk in Farpoint, which means I faced one of my biggest pet peeves – artificial locomotion.

And, sure enough, I rolled my eyes in the opening few moments of the demo, where I trekked up a slope on a Mars-like alien planet. This type of movement doesn’t make me sick like it does for others, but I’m just not convinced by holding forward on a stick and watching the camera move forward anymore. It feels fake and, most importantly, unimmersive.

But where Farpoint really started to win me over was in its firefights. This new planet you’re discovering is plagued with a rather vicious group of insectoid aliens that could have marched straight out of a Starship Troopers movie. Some of them scatter around rocks before leaping at you, some of them spit yellow globs of acid that you can blast out of the air, and some burrow deep underground and carve a path towards you like some sort of terrifying land shark.

Farpoint 2

You’ll first be armed with a machine gun, fitted with a sight. It’s reassuringly chunky to fire, aided by the controller’s vibration. It’s tempting to simply hold out the controller in front of you and fire from the hip – that’s what most people in front of me did – but I actually found the best results came from really leaning into the sights, just like when you hold the aim button in any modern FPS. A reticule appears when you line up with an enemy, giving you a much better chance of hitting them.

The blend of realistic aiming and juggling enemy types was enough to distract me from the fact I was moving with the sticks. I’d naturally lean out of the way when one enemy sprayed a torrent of acid at me, not even knowing if it would actually help me avoid damage. In one area I balanced trading fire with a few ground-based bugs and trying to get the right trajectory to blast some enemies that were further away with a grenade. I was completely in the moment; desperately glancing from side to side for signs of threats, letting off short controlled bursts so as not to lose my cool, and steadily backing away to give myself some space.

It was some of the most compelling FPS gameplay I’ve yet experienced in VR.

In fact, I became so immersed in the game I kept wondering why I couldn’t feel the virtual butt of my rifle on my collar bone when I moved the controller up to take aim. Fully aware a lot of people were watching me, I would walk forward with a shotgun, holding it in cinematic poses that made me feel like a Colonial Marine. Later on, I would rejoice in the carnage as I blew a larger enemy to pieces with a well-aimed rocket, and his remains scattered about my feet. I even stopped to marvel at a pool of alien blood I had spilled that realistically trickled down a cliff face.

Farpoint 4

I want to discover a lot more about Farpoint. For starters, I want to know all about the design. It’s not an on-rails shooter, for example, but it certainly felt like it was taking its cues from one. I was walking in a straight line for the entirety of the demo, and the demo assistant even told me not to bother turning around to face enemies that slip past me as they’d circle back in front. That feels like an easy fix to keep the experience comfortable, but I’ll admit it has me concerned that Farpoint might never reach the frantic heights of The Brookhaven Experiment, in which you have to practically dare yourself to turn around and discover monsters swarming in from behind.

I’m also eager to learn more about Sony and Impulse Gear’s plans for distributing the gun controller. Ideally, I’d like to see it released with Farpoint, bundled at the price of a full retail game — the extra peripheral perhaps excusing a shorter campaign length. Sony really needs to get this thing into people’s hands, maybe even taking a loss on it to ensure it does, in order to open up the VR FPS genre to other developers.

Most of all, though, I just want Farpoint to prove me wrong about how capable a device PlayStation VR really is. 10 minutes were enough to convince me there might be a future for stick-based movement in VR.

Let’s see what a whole campaign can do.

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  • Mane Fit

    “games used stick-based locomotion and made people sick really started to worry me” this is getting annoying it’s like if a game doesn’t use the motion control because you guys decided that is best you have to point this out everytime and in a way that is false it makes SOME people sick and not even most people yet on here it written as if everyone gets sick. this shows a bias if you are going to point this out all the time at lease don’t do it in a way that is untrue. it’s not helpful to VR and it create the believe in the public that vr makes people sick so then why should they buy it. and for those of us who don’t get sick we get game using locomotion which annoys us so if most are like me will feel why should I buy these game they suck. and before long vr in gaming will be dead.

  • I loved how he explained how a reticule appeared when he pressed the aim button or in this case leaned in….

  • Gary Moran

    Yes the VR Aim Controller is a clever bit of kit.

    As soon as I saw it in the first E3 videos showing it my feeling was that we may have the peripheral that makes traditional style FPs’s work for home VR without having to invest in an omni-directional treadmill: that the mechanics of handling a one to one mapped gun that you can properly aim with two hands would allow for deep FPS shooting play and that locomotion could still be accommodated without too much compromise.

    Good to hear, especially from a sceptic.

  • IamTylerDurden1

    Farpoint will be the best VR FPS to date.

    • Sebastien Mathieu

      wich one you tried??

      • IamTylerDurden1

        All of them. Farpoint is the best and PSVR is my favorite VR. It has the least screen door effect, a great feild of view, and a better framerate. It’s the most comfortable and glasses friendly as well.

      • Sebastien Mathieu

        all of them???? Raw data was out yesterday, you mus be well connected… (btw) the game is awesome…. and 60 frames per second reprojected to 120 is not better framerate than native 90…. it’ s just a clever way to get around a more limited harware… as for the screendoor effect i cannot say since i own the vive and the rift and the sde is comparable..

        • Jayquan Phifer

          People who played with reprojection on said the framte rate was good.

  • I’ll be buying Farpoint on day 1, no doubt about it.
    …and I totally agree with “Mane Vr” ; The way that some reviewers talk about VR sickness gives the impression that its inescapable, which is far from the truth and highly counterproductive.

    I’ll be totally honest… I don’t get any motion sickness at all from VR gaming, and the options that several VR games have included to dampen the VR-sickness effect for those that *are sensitive* are *really annoying*. Luckily, Resident Evil 7 lets you disable the VR-dampening functions to make it play more naturally –which is my preferred way to play it, with the VR-Goggle effect disabled, and cam-speed and acceleration maxed out. Granted, this setting made my wife lose her lunch in seconds, but for me, it feels natural. If it were up to me, this would be the way of all future-released VR games, that each one would include the ability to turn off any *protective measures* or VR comfort settings to allow the player to unleash the game at it’s fullest potential.

    I look at it this way… some people can get dizzy just walking across a flat floor, while some people love the rush of skydiving. I think VR gaming tends to follow the same rules of balance & body-mechanics, and sense of personal equilibrium as what one goes through to train for skydiving, flying a jet, or just about anything that requires the mind to override more base functions of the body. None of these things are natural places for a human to find themselves, and no one is simply born with the ability to handle those sorts of sensations. These are body-skills that must be learned in order to overcome reactions that might otherwise be disturbing to an untrained mind. It’s no different than driving a car for the first time. When you get behind the wheel that first time, you have yet to build up a resistance to the sensations of motion relative to other drivers, which is often why it feels like your stomach just went out your nose when you’re braking and someone comes in for a stop just a little bit faster than your own vehicle.

    Anyways… 5 years or so out, reports of people getting VR sickness will likely be rare, not because of technical improvements to the hardware, but because the primary users of such technology will have slowly gained more and more resistance to any negative effects induced by a lack of VR-Orientation. The first time I played a VR game back in the early 1990s, back when they were rough and ugly, the VR sickness effect was *much* stronger because the graphics were so much simpler and game makers at the time didn’t have any data whatsoever on the effects of being out of sync with your eyes and ears in relation to the gaming environment. Even then though, I didn’t get ill… though I’ll admit, it *did* feel like I had “sea legs”, about like the sensation of stepping off of a boat onto dry land after being on the boat long enough to get used to its motion. The first time I put on my PSVR and played for about an hour, I came out with that sea-legs feeling again, but within a week of getting the system that sensation was getting to be less and less with each session. Now, after having owned my PSVR hardware for about 2 months, I can barely discern a difference. I’ve been playing a wide range of games on it too, and at this point, PSVR is my favorite way to game.

  • Nate

    Hey Jamie – have you played any recent builds of Farpoint lately (other than the one from the date of this post)? Do you think the bundle is fairly priced at $79.99 (or around $63 if one preorders it through Amazon)? Thanks.