Since PlayStation VR’s launch in October last year, headset owners have had very little to get excited about. Granted, there were some interesting launch titles and experiences, ones that could be shown off to friends and family, along with a few major titles with VR compatibility over the last six months, but nothing we could truly call our own. Farpoint, a story-driven sci-fi action shooter from San Francisco-based studio Impulse Gear, and the first title to utilise PlayStation’s new Aim peripheral could be set to change all that.
Farpoint is set in the distant future, and casts the player as a space pilot on a self-imposed search and rescue mission for two research scientists, Dr Eva Tyson and Dr Grant Moon, who’ve crash landed on a remote alien planet following a catastrophic implosion from within the deep-space anomaly they were studying aboard the nearby space station The Pilgrim. The planet you find yourself on is populated by a range of hostile, arachnoid-like creatures which instantly draws comparisons to 1997’s cult sci-fi movie Starship Troopers. In fact, the terrain and the inhabitants are so similar they could be summed up by the nameless news reporter who buys the farm in the opening scene of the movie: “It’s an ugly planet, a BUG planet. A planet hostile to life”.
The game begins with a long opening cutscene, introducing the plot and the characters. Control is finally handed over to the player after crash landing on the planet after being sucked into the anomaly whilst trying to pick up the doctors for their return journey back to Earth. From the get go, the planet is unforgiving, although this is due to a savage sandstorm, which obscures your vision any further than a few metres in front of you. Before leaving the confines of your own downed craft, you’re prompted to pick up an assault rifle, which acts as your standard firearm. You then embark on a relatively safe stroll through some burning debris. The storm clears as you attempt to make radio contact with Tyson and Moon; your telecom link to your ship advises there’s an issue with transmissions, leaving you to track them the old-fashioned way.
Navigating the environment is straightforward, using the left thumbstick (located toward the front of the PS Aim controller) to move forward, backwards and to strafe left and right; walking speed is comparable to other FPSs such as CoD and the Rainbow Six series. Rotating your point of view is achieved by moving your head. Looking down at the ground, you’ll find your silhouette moving along the ground, which I found to be a neat touch. You’re able to negotiate undulating ground without any issue, though you’ll need to go around anything above knee height. There is an advantage of these larger rocks and boulders, as they can provide cover later in the game.
The first contact with the alien populous is made following a holographic log of Tyson and Moon as they try to find a safe haven, as you’re forced into a rather obvious bottleneck in the rock face. There’s a brief tutorial for the assault rifle you’re carrying prior to the attack, which explains that it quickly overheats, forcing you to use short, controlled bursts as the firearm takes a little while to cool down. You’ll have to deal with a few waves of Jumpers – small dog-sized multi-limbed beings that can climb walls and overhangs, and fling themselves at you Facehugger-style when they get within striking distance.
This first encounter really shows off just how precise the Aim controller is, as the rifle’s sight can be used to hit enemies with pinpoint accuracy; as in real life, you need to physically close one eye whilst bringing the controller to bear, which then allows you to sight the enemy. A rumble pack located at the rear of the controller vibrates softly as you rattle off the rounds to simulate recoil, with stronger vibrations signalling that the rifle has overheated. Other firearms, such as shotguns and the awesome spike gun can be found further into the game, which deals greater damage to larger enemies. Swapping one weapon for another is as simple as swinging the Aim up to your shoulder and back again. All of this seems natural and intuitive and really does add to the sense of immersion. I’d highly recommend that you consider buying the Aim bundled version of Farpoint rather than playing with the Dualshock controller, as by comparison, the whole experience is awkward and clunky.
Farpoint’s plot, which clocks in at around five hours, is progressed in chapters as you uncover further hologram and video logs from the doctors. During one of the earlier logs, Dr Tyson utters a throwaway line that oddly enough sums up one of the game’s issues “Survivors always move forwards”. There aren’t any off-shoots to explore, just a continual trudge forwards. Constant forward progression does have its advantages as attacks always come from an 180° arc in front of you, so not only is there no need to constantly watch your six, but you can also retreat from the rampaging attacks of some of the larger foes you’ll face.
The world has a decidedly Mars-like feel to it, with red rocky outcrops devoid of any vegetation, a huge smoking volcano bubbling over with glowing, fluorescent blue coloured lava and luminescent underground caverns. Debris from the Pilgrim can be found scattered across the planet, including handy ammo or weapon caches just before larger scale wave attacks (which usually bookend each chapter). I struggled to find any issues in terms of freezing or mapping issues, and despite always being on the move there’s no sense of nausea that I’ve had with other VR games.
Overall Farpoint is an enjoyable, immersive experience; one that absorbs players into its world (assisted by the addition of the PS Aim controller). Despite its linearity, the game shows what VR is capable of and spaces fast, frantic action sequences with decent lengths of downtime, giving you time to take in the breath-taking scenery before the next wave of aliens attacks. I feel the price I paid for the Farpoint + PS Aim controller bundle was definitely money well spent, as the game will appeal regardless of whether you’re a fan of non-VR FPSs or not. PlayStation VR owners finally have a bonafide title to call their own. Just remember, as a nameless citizen from Starship Troopers said: “The only good bug is a DEAD bug”.