Farpoint Is A Reason To Dust Off Your VR Headset

Farpoint Is A Reason To Dust Off Your VR Headset
May 18, 2017
(Courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment)


Developed by: Impulse Gear
Published by: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Available on: PlayStation VR


I was tracking a volley of neon-bright projectiles arching out of the sky toward me when I scooted under the steel-ribbing of a collapsed structure. As I craned my neck upward, I listened for the sound of lasers crashing into the beams above. Then I inched out of cover, raised the PlayStation VR aim controller shoulder high, shot a few enemies out of the air and finished off the mechs responsible for the worst of the bombardment. It was a thrilling moment, one of several I had while playing “Farpoint,” the PlayStation VR exclusive. Although I’ve performed similar duck-and-retaliate actions countless times in other games, doing so in a VR environment lent an added dimension to the routine. It’s one thing to move the camera skyward on a television screen to avoid incoming fire and quite another to knock your head back and experience the visceral relief of standing beneath a structure which keeps you from harm.


In “Farpoint,” players step into the role of a pilot charged with bringing astronauts Eva Tyson and Grant Moon back to Earth. After a landing gear mishap prevents your ship from docking at their space station, Eva and Grant go for a spacewalk to try to manually pave the way for your approach. During their attempt, a wormhole opens behind them that sucks the astronauts and your ship into its vortex before depositing you on an alien planet, billions of years from earth. On the planet, your task is straightforward: follow the digital signatures left behind by Eva and Grant while fending off dangerous aliens.

(Courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment)


“Farpoint,” is available as a standalone game or in a bundled edition that comes packaged with the PlayStation VR aim controller. In real life, the rhomboid-shaped controller looks like a two-handled, plastic light gun. In the game, it appears metallic and takes on the shape of a variety of two-handed guns. An analog stick is placed on the back of the aim controller behind the trigger. Another one is on the inside grip near the front of the gun, above the d-pad, beneath the flanking Share and Options buttons. On the other side of the front grip are two trigger buttons. One allows you to fire secondary weapons, like rockets. The other deploys a scanner so that you can look for traces of your colleagues. Switching between guns requires you to thrust the controller over your shoulder, as if you were reaching to pluck an arrow from a quiver. Movement in the game is facilitated by using the analog stick near the front of the gun to walk around, while the stick in the back can be used to quickly situate your body left or right.


If you look down while moving, you can see your avatar’s shadow striding alongside you; in actuality, moving in the game feels like gliding across a surface. I was able to acclimate to the artificiality of the movement but I fear that people who are disposed to motion sickness might have a tough time playing the game for lengthy stretches.

(Courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment)


The PlayStation aim controller feels like an improvement over the Playstation Move wands, which have served as motion controllers in other games like “Until Dawn: Rush of Blood.” Still, on more than a few occasions, the controller in my hands fell out of sync with the image in the VR headset, necessitating numerous recalibrations. This leads me to wonder if the PlayStation camera can keep up with a body that’s not seated in one position.


As everyone in or close to the VR business will tell you, the technology is in its infancy so I took the occasional loss of sync, or the pixel crawl that I spotted on some in-game objects, in stride. And I forgave the awkward positions I sometimes found myself in during the game’s cutscenes. Holding the aim controller in my living room while, in the game, I assumed the body of a different character as two phantom arms sprung from my shoulders and typed away at a computer made for a distinctly odd sensation. I felt like a nerdy fly.


Even with its technical imperfections, “Farpoint” is the game that PlayStation VR needs right now. For players like me who have let their VR headsets languish in a box since the holidays, it provides a reason to fish them out. Not since I played through “Superhot VR” on Oculus Rift have I felt as compelled to see a VR campaign all the way through, and “Farpoint” offers a substantially longer campaign. As much as I enjoyed the simulated physicality of popping in and out of cover, and blind firing over and around boulders, one of my favorite moments in the game is on the quiet side — and speaks to one of VR’s greatest strengths — the ability to render things at believable scale.


From the inside of a station on the planet, Grant is talking to a hologram of Eva who is outside, in her spacesuit, looking for survivors. She has been walking for a long time and is at a low ebb when Grant tells her to look up at the sky. Standing in my living room, I was also an invisible camera in that room with Grant. Tilting my head back and seeing stars shoot over the roof of the building felt positively otherworldly.

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