Last week we were invited to a showcase of games for the PlayStation VR, the centrepiece of which was Impulse Gear's Farpoint. Whereas in our previous preview we sampled the single-player, with the core concept being the focus, now the game is more fleshed out ahead of its launch on May 16. The demo we more recently played was co-op as well, which is another aspect that Impulse Gear is keen to show.
We won't give any premise in terms of narrative here, as the co-operative exists outside of the single-player experience, but the basis of the game is that you're on an alien planet shooting hostiles, with the PSVR working in combination with the accompanying PSVR Aim Controller (which is shaped like a gun). You and a friend, therefore, take to the surface of this alien planet, and the objective is as simple as surviving the attacks aimed your way as you progress.
Again, we've touched upon controls before, but to briefly outline them again (because they haven't changed in essence), to use the example of someone right-handed. You hold the front of the gun with your left hand, and use an analogue stick with your left thumb to move, with other buttons like options, and two triggers on the front for grenades and so on, and with your right hand you hold the back of the gun, like an assault rifle, with a trigger to shoot, and a button on the side to reload certain guns. There are two movement options which were outlined to us as well. For beginners, i.e. the one we used, the rotation of your character is achieved through physical movement only, whereas our experienced partner guiding us through the experience used a combination of this and buttons on the controller, more like a traditional FPS game.
As we put our headset on, we were placed in a hub room where missions could be launched from, and our guide (as the experienced player showing us the game shall henceforth be known) told us that this was meant to be a sort of fun break from the action, as there are plenty of objects to just knock over, fun items for you to look at, and generally just mess about with.
We then went into a mission, and the enemies we saw were much more varied than what we'd previously seen. There were the usual spiders, as expected, but there were also big, exploding spiders, robots with a variety of guns, flying drones, huge hulking robots, and more, each needing a different tactic to take out.
In terms of weapons, there are five in the game - a long-range precision rifle (for sniping), an assault rifle, a plasma rifle, a needle gun, and a shotgun. These are complemented by grenades you can launch, obviously delivering a lot more damage, and each weapon has different strengths and weaknesses. The precision rifle, for instance, needs manual reloading via a button on the side of the controller, unlike the assault rifle.
While we're on the topic of the reload button, the placement felt pretty unnatural and quickly got on our nerves. Whereas your index finger rests on the trigger (again, if you're right-handed), the reload button is above and on the right side, so it was awkward to press and we found ourselves just not using the gun that required manual reloading - that's how much of a pain it was. It's just so out of the way and, although it's meant to be less convenient as it's a drawback of using the sniper, it's more out of the way than we felt necessary.
All of the weapons feel satisfying to use, however, and you do get these moments where, like if you were firing a gun in paintball or something, you close one eye to look down the scope, your tongue poking out of your mouth in concentration as you try and line up the perfect shot. That's just a testament to the immersion created by the Aim Controller, which behaves just as if it were a real gun in-game, which is even more impressive when you consider how accurate a gun controller has to be in a VR FPS game.
Movement does take a while to get used to, though, but don't think this is a criticism of the game, instead it's a compliment. Because players have been so used to using a controller for everything like aiming and moving, a lot of these things have to be relearnt when playing Farpoint, as we were scrambling for a crouch button when getting shot in the face at times, before we realised - we just have to crouch. As in, crouch in real life. It's something that definitely takes time to adjust to, as is the turning in real life, but it's immersive (immersive enough, in fact, that we actually tried walking off at one point).
As with our previous preview, technically the game works amazingly well, and shots feel satisfying to pull off. The guns also feel smooth to use as well, which is more about the controller than anything, and there's nothing cooler than being in a game with your teammate and actually seeing their head move like they are there in real life. The only thing that's a bit weird here is that, since they're moving with an analogue stick, players can often look a bit weird as they move, as if their top half is separate from their bottom (which it effectively is).
In short, Farpoint is a hell of a lot of fun, and is probably the best experience coming to PSVR, and the achievement of smooth VR FPS gunplay was key to this, and that's something that has been nailed perfectly. It has always been a fantasy to have a shooter where you can fire actual high power guns in VR, rather than the less-satisfying paintball/laser alternative, and Farpoint has hit that, and we don't doubt the co-op will be an incredibly popular side of the game for that reason. A few more guns wouldn't hurt, but once you get in your stride and learn how to move and shoot, there's incredible potential for immersive fun here.