At some point, when playing Farpoint on PlayStation VR, you’ll experience the moment.
It could be the first time an alien spider-thing flings itself at your face, or when you’re cowering behind rocks while hostile flying robots fire missiles at you, or simply when you emerge from a dusty tunnel into a graveyard of rusted star cruisers.
But one way or another, it’ll definitely happen: you’ll forget you’re standing in your living room and truly believe, for a second, that you’re on an alien world surrounded by things that want to kill you.
That’s how powerful VR can be, and it’s how good Farpoint can be at times. It’s just a shame that there’s not more to it.
Aim to please
There are two reasons why Farpoint is so immersive. One is obviously that it’s in VR. The other is that you can play it using the new Sony Aim Controller.
The difference the latter makes can’t be overestimated. It’s not cheap, adding another £25 on to the game price (the package price is a mildly staggering £75), but it is nigh-on essential.
Although it doesn’t look particularly gun-like in reality, once you’re holding it in the game it feels remarkably authentic. Not that I’ve ever held an actual assault rifle, of course. You get all of the usual PS4 controls – two thumbsticks etc – but most importantly you get a proper trigger and a two-handed grip that means the VR representations of your hands and arms are mapped to where your actual hands and arms are.
You can hold it up to eye level and aim through the holographic sight, you can swing it around one-handed to blast a nasty alien thing just behind you, you can hold it by your side as you sprint through collapsing space debris… in short, you use it exactly as you would do in reality, and this helps keep you grounded in your virtual world, rather than reminding you that you’re not actually there.
Indeed, I tried playing with the standard PS4 Dual Shock controller for a while, and although it works perfectly well, the disconnect between what I was seeing and what my hands were doing was enough to constantly remind me that I was ‘just’ playing an FPS game.
Whichever method you use, be prepared for a bit of VR-induced nausea though. You’ll want to use the left stick to move and the right stick to turn just as in any other FPS, but the fact you can also turn your body whichever way you like can lead to odd situations where you move one way while turning the other and end up feeling like you’re on a ferry in a class-5 hurricane.
Yes, you can turn off the right stick and just turn physically, but if you do that you’ll likely end up getting tangled in the VR headset’s wires. So just be prepared to take a break every half hour or so until you’re used to the experience.
It’s full of stars…
The other element that helps you suspend your disbelief is the environment around you. Farpoint looks fantastic. No, PSVR isn’t as high-def as Vive or Oculus, but developer Impulse Gear has done a great job of making the levels look realistic, insomuch as an alien planet filled with the hulks of starships and inhabited by deadly spiders can ever be realistic.
There are neat touches to the surroundings, such as the way bioluminescent plants emit spores as you traipse through caverns, or water ripples as some unknown danger moves underneath. You can easily spend a few minutes just gazing around at your surroundings and looking up at the stars.
Sound is fantastic, too. With your headphones in you get proper 360-audio, so that scuttling sound you hear behind you is probably a reason to turn around and that thud in the distance is almost certainly a reason to ready your weapon.
A story as old as time
Outside of the way in which you control it, there’s nothing remotely original about Farpoint. This is a space-based first-person-shooter that’s seemingly been crafted from bits of other space-based FPS games and sci-fi movies to make an all-too-familiar whole.
Without giving too much away, there’s a wormhole, there’s a crash landing and there’s a need to find a way off the alien planet upon which you now find yourself marooned. And – guess what – you’re not the only lifeform around.
While not breaking any boundaries, Farpoint‘s story does the two things you need it to do pretty well. Firstly, it gives the game a bit of structure and pacing, so you’re not just wandering around shooting anything that moves. There are regular cutscenes which move the action on neatly and give you at least some explanation for your predicament, and there are also little segments in which you use your gun to scan the area, bringing holograms of your shipmates to life for further detail.
Secondly, the story gives you at least some reason to care about the characters involved. No, we’re not in The Martian territory, but it’s a darn sight more nuanced than Destiny.
Kill or be killed
While the story side of it is reasonably well crafted, it’s not deep enough to hold your attention on its own. Fortunately, the combat side of it works brilliantly.