Virtual reality is at its mind-blowing best when it’s representing physical objects in 3D space. Wield two PlayStation Move controllers in the excellent Job Simulator, for example, and you can practically juggle with digital objects such is the accuracy with which the wands are replicated within the title’s cartoon world. The newly released PlayStation VR Aim Controller, ahem, aims to take this immersion to the next level, placing a plastic firearm in your hands and leveraging it in conjunction with the PlayStation VR headset to transform you into a super soldier.
How Does the PlayStation VR Aim Controller Look and Feel?
In terms of aesthetics, the simple, pipe-like design of the peripheral is unremarkable. The grey plastic matches that of the PlayStation VR headset itself, but the shape doesn’t exactly resemble a real-world firearm. This is intentional, because within virtual reality, developers are able to transform the unexceptional object in your hands into an assault rifle, shotgun, plasma rifle, or whatever suits their game’s needs.
The most important part is that the PlayStation VR Aim Controller feels good, and it does. It’s surprisingly light-weight, which is important when you consider that you’re going to be holding it up for potentially hours at a time. The shell is smooth, while the trigger puts up a little resistance when being pulled, making gunplay much more satisfying when compared to the PlayStation Move’s incredibly spongy T button.
Does the PlayStation VR Aim Controller Work Well?
Much like the PlayStation Move controller, the PlayStation VR Aim Controller uses a combination of motion sensors and a coloured bulb located on the front of the unit to track its position in 3D space. While the technology does have limitations and you will still encounter some drift and jitter, our experience thus far is that it’s marginally more accurate than Sony’s motion wands, perhaps owing to more gyroscopes being included within the chassis.
The effect in games like Farpoint and Dick Wilde is impressive. Because the faux firearm is being tracked 1:1 within your hands, you’re able to examine the virtual weapons you're equipped with via the PlayStation VR headset as though they’re really there. This means that you can look at the weapons models in intricate detail, and it also means that targeting enemies becomes much more intuitive. For example, in Farpoint you’re able to physically look down the barrel of your gun to line up shots; aiming down sights no longer requires a button press with the PlayStation VR Aim Controller.
But it’s more than just a light-gun. Unlike the ill-fated PlayStation 3 Sharpshooter, the platform holder has added the full suite of DualShock 4 controls around the chassis. The PlayStation VR Aim Controller is designed to be held with two hands, and so the left analogue stick is positioned to the front of the unit alongside the L1 and L2 buttons, which can both be comfortably accessed by your index and middle finger. In the same vicinity is the d-pad, and share and options buttons.
Meanwhile, the right analogue stick is located at the rear of the unit behind the trigger, and is surrounded by a wheel of clickable buttons, each representing one of the DualShock’s famous shapes. On the top of the unit is the PlayStation button and the touchpad, while the R1 button is duplicated on both sides of the trigger to account for left and right handed people. The latter three inputs are perhaps the most difficult to reach when the accessory is being held like a weapon, but it’s not the end of the world.
Are There Any Problems with the PlayStation VR Aim Controller?
Perhaps the biggest problem with the PlayStation VR Aim Controller can be attributed to a flaw with PlayStation VR itself: the peripheral can’t be tracked if you turn 180-degrees. Farpoint works around this by bringing up an in-game grid when you pivot on the spot, revealing the areas that the PlayStation Camera can’t see. Of course, having access to a full suite of DualShock 4 controls on the device itself means that a combination of traditional analogue stick control and physical aiming can be used to give you full 360-degree control.
The battery life is very good, though, lasting comfortably beyond 10 hours on a full charge. You simply plug it in using the same Micro USB adapter that the DualShock 4 uses, which makes things pretty hassle-free. It’s worth mentioning that the PlayStation 4 detects the controller as a PlayStation VR Aim Controller, so it’s baked into the firmware itself, and you can of course use the buttons and analogue sticks on the unit to navigate the user interface exactly the same as you would with a DualShock 4, which is very nice.
What Games Support the PlayStation VR Aim Controller?
Currently there are five games confirmed to be compatible with the PlayStation VR Aim Controller: Arizona Sunshine, Dick Wilde, Farpoint, ROM: Extraction, and The Brookhaven Experiment. The device obviously comes bundled with Farpoint, and that’s the standout title to take advantage of the unit thus far. We’ll be maintaining a list of all software that supports the peripheral, so check out our all PlayStation VR Aim Controller compatible games guide for that.
Should You Buy the PlayStation VR Aim Controller?
The question of support is an important one, because there are no shortage of neat peripherals that Sony’s released only to forget their existence. The platform holder promises that more PlayStation VR Aim Controller content is in the pipeline, and if that turns out to be true, then we reckon that the peripheral could eventually become essential for PlayStation VR owners.
In the case of Farpoint, the device transforms a somewhat shallow first-person shooter into a novel and unique experience. Until you’ve experienced it for yourself, it’s difficult to truly communicate the difference that holding a physical weapon in your hands has during gameplay, but the ability to aim with ease is a true difference maker here, and being able to hold and inspect virtual weapons within your hands adds to the immersion.
The tracking is still not perfect, and limitations like not being able to aim behind you carry over from the PlayStation Move – but the motion detection is slightly more accurate than the wands, and having access to a full suite of DualShock 4 controls makes a difference for the complexity of games that developers can make.
All in all, this is an ergonomic peripheral that feels sturdy in the hands and works well. The only question mark that can be levelled at the device is whether it will truly get the support that it deserves. We enjoy using the unit so much that we hope Sony will continue to develop games that take advantage of it, but it doesn’t have the best track-record in this department, so we’ll need to wait and see.