Farpoint isn’t a shooter that you can play in VR, it’s a VR shooter.
Stevivor spent thirty minutes with the title today, testing out both story and co-op modes. We entered story mode right from the start, slowly getting used to its controls and sci-fi setting. As the pilot of a shuttlecraft, you’re en route to pick up two scientists from a remote research station. Your mission? Take the scientists home to Earth. Partway through the pick up, the phenomenon the scientists are studying shows its true nature as a wormhole. You, your passengers and everyone else on the station (assumedly) is flung to (perhaps) the far reaches of the galaxy — developer Impulse Gear is keeping pretty quiet about story specifics. Regardless, it’s your job, gun in hand, to find the scientists and (most likely) save the day.
Your hero — from what we’ve seen, already less of a silent protagonist than Halo‘s Master Chief –starts off with a standard assault rifle as the story unfolds. Farpoint is designed with Sony’s VR Aim controller in mind, mimicking that weapon and several others you’ll encounter on your journey (we also got to use a shotgun and sniper rifle in co-op). The controller itself is heavy enough to feel like a weapon. not a toy, yet light enough to allow for quick, fluid movement as you’re playing. Farpoint wants you to get up off the couch. As you’re facing fire, you’re told to crouch behind rocks, or lean left or right against larger structures to avoid a quick death. To switch between weapons, you throw the controller over your shoulder, mimicking the movements of someone reaching to their back in order to grab a different gun.
The controller has a joystick and a series of buttons at its front and back. The front controls are used for forward movement (like a DualShock’s left stick), scanning of holologs and secondary fire of your weapon. The rear controls let you fire and reload your weapon, and, if you’re so inclined, use the right joystick for camera control. I found the two-thumbed approach the most intuitive, along with head and body movement, though Sony recommends the front stick only. Veterans will do best to avoid that advice, for fear of looking like your Grandparents when they play games — moving forward, making jarring 90 degree turns and then moving forward rather than just strafing.
As good as the VR Aim controller is, I’d imagine controlling the game with a DualShock could be just as rewarding, and potentially more comfortable for hardcore types. It’s pretty easy to map the VR Aim’s controls to that of a DualShock, and unlike in Robinson: The Journey, movement is fluid and didn’t leave me feeling ill. Some weapons require you to bring the VR Aim controller to your face to look down sights — if you don’t line it up properly, your shot misses. I’m left wondering how that will translate to a standard controller.
At the event, we heard murmurings of a six hour campaign. That’s not overly long, nor is that anything to sneeze at. That amount of time is equivalent to the campaign inside Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare or Battlefield 4, though we’re sure most players will stick around for Farpoint‘s co-op campaign.
While the single-player story mode wasn’t too challenging — it was the game’s opening minutes, after all — co-op was another beast altogether. In it, two friends pair up and take on a series of open-air dungeons. Enemies range from space spiders (big and small), soldiers and snipers. If you do well, larger boss-type enemies emerge, including ridiculously large spiders, flying robots with rockets and large mechs. I died a lot. I died when my partner shot me in the back by accident. I “accidentally” shot him in the back one time too, then was forced to dodge enemy fire as a struggled to revive him — the scanning button used in single-player also doubles as a healing beam of sorts in co-op. It was great fun.
If you’re not in cover, you will be picked off — if not by snipers, telltale red lasers searching through the air, then by a barrage of rockets or, embarrassingly, a tiny spider that manages to get the drop on you. Dungeons are spacious, full of places to take cover… but also corners for your enemies to hide behind. You need to be constantly looking around you to identify threats, or grouped with your partner to ensure survival. I liken it to Halo‘s Firefight, though more immersive as you’re quite literally in the middle of the action.
Farpoint surprised me today — I didn’t like the look of the VR Aim controller and I thought this was going to turn out to be nothing more than another VR gimmick. From what I’ve seen so far, Impulse Gear has succeeded in its mission to make a VR title for hardcore gamers — though it’s unclear if the DualShock will work just as good (if not better) than its special controller. Time will tell when Farpoint heads to PlayStation VR on 17 May.