Look around your world, pretty baby… And shoot some bugs.
Developer: SIEA/Impulse Gear
Reviewed on: (Review copy and PSVR Aim Controller provided)
After a strong start, PSVR has had something of a tricky past few months. Job Simulator and Batman put the device firmly on the map, whilst Resident Evil 7 came out and scared the pants off anyone who dared put on Sony’s blue LED-infused facial furniture. Aside from the initial glut and the terrifying glimpse into the Baker household, though, there hasn’t been much in the way of “big” titles for the fledgling hardware. Farpoint is looking to fill that void of concerned PSVR owners, and manages to do an admirable job… For the most part.
The story starts off as a relatively typical sci-fi romp, with your crew being tasked to find the source of a mysterious energy field in the depths of space, before being sucked into a void and onto a mysterious planet within the very early going. It’s here that you start to suspect not everything is as it seems, and that you are really are trapped on this planet with very little hope of survival. In fact, the first time you notice something scuttle off in the corner of your eye, you’ll find yourself tensing up and grasping the PSVR Aim controller that little bit more tightly.
Yep, with this title, Sony are releasing a new controller with it. It’s not, as most people thought, a simple holder for your Move controllers, but a fully fledged device in its own right, with all the bells and whistles needed to essentially class itself as a Dual Shock 4. Dual analogue sticks perform admirably and feel extremely comfortable in useful positions on the front and rear grips, whilst the face buttons are arranged in a circle around the rear stick. Triggers are placed in… Well, the trigger spots (with one on the front grip for secondary fire), and the other shoulder buttons are placed either side of the barrel and at the end of the grip. It all feels incredibly natural, and really helps add to the immersion of picking up a weapon in the game. Even though it’s pretty much the same tech, it feels much more solid, with much better tracking than the Move controllers. If you’re considering playing Farpoint, I’d heartily recommend the Aim controller for an extra £30 or so. It’s an excellent string to the PSVR’s bow, and has the potential to add so much more to so many games.
Back onto the game then, and it was in the fairly early going that I noticed my first problem with it. The enemy spawns are a little too gratuitous at times, occasionally interfering with boss fights to the point of it becoming tedious. During one fight in particular, I was trying to time perfect shots with my rockets, whilst at the same time fighting off hoards of dinner-plate-sized bugs, which reminded me of tiny versions of Klendathlu’s very own insects in Starship Troopers. In fact, the more I went through the game, the more I wished Farpoint had turned into the skid a bit more and embraced the somewhat silly nature of its premise, much like the mid-90’s B-Movie did. Instead, it takes itself incredibly seriously for the most part, and comes across a little worse for it.
The second issue that I have is mainly to do with checkpointing. On a fair few occasions, I found myself having to venture back about 5 minutes or so because I’d died in an area that was swarming with bugs. While there were clearly points I found in there that would have been easy spots to checkpoint back to, it would throw me to the beginning of the section. This game took a while to move through at times!
On to more positive things now, and any frustrations that are there will be pushed out and replaced by some of the most intense gameplay available on PSVR. Farpoint uses some of the most basic tricks in the book when it comes to VR horror, but it uses them so well that even after the hundredth time one of the smaller aliens was leaping DIRECTLY AT MY FACE, I was flinching and feeling my heart race. The sense of immersion in Farpoint is second to none, enhanced tenfold by the Aim controller. Coupled with the impressive scale that’s on display with some of the more imposing enemies and you’ve got a game that does what VR does best, and transports you to another world. It imparts a sense of dread on you that Peep Show’s Super Hans would be proud of, and at times has had me shouting obscenities more than Resident Evil 7 did!
Technically, the game runs extremely well. There are the occasional issues with texture pop-in and streaming, but nothing that will break the game. Tracking on both the headset and Aim controller are excellent, with very little of the “pulsing” that was prevalent with a number of launch games. Motion Sickness wasn’t an issue for me, given that there was consistently something to keep my eyes focused on in the shape of my gun, and I even found myself closing one eye to get a better look down the funky holographic sights at some points! Environments look smart enough, and although the game does delve into “generic VR Shooting gallery number 928” at times, it manages to pull it round with some genuinely tense moments.
There is also a surprisingly great co-op mode as well, with waves of enemies of varying difficulty coming at you head on. There are points where the difficulty spikes dramatically, but it’s a great deal of fun, even if it’s just waving in the air at your partner like a distant relative at a train station during the holidays.
In some ways, Farpoint is the title that PSVR owners have been waiting for. A built-from-scratch shooter with a new immersion-enhancing peripheral, it deserves to be played if you’ve got a headset. Issues with checkpoints and over-zealous spawning of cannon fodder enemies will frustrate at times, but for the most part it’s an incredibly immersive, superbly tense sci-fi story, even if it does take itself a little too seriously at times.
Oh, and I was almost tempted to knock a point off for getting Del Amitri stuck in my head, but I decided that would be too harsh.