When 3D cinema made its resurgence it took time for films in the format to feel like anything more than demos. The technology existed but wasn’t refined — it’s doubtful history will remember Robert Zemeckis’s 2007 film Beowulf. Then along came Avatar in 2009, harnessing 3D in a film that people actively wanted to experience.
Parallels can be drawn with virtual reality — the notion of VR has existed for decades but technology has only caught up recently. Sony’s PlayStation VR headset, which connects to the PS4, is the most affordable set-up of the current options, and though the likes of Job Simulator and Batman: Arkham VR were fun early titles, the kit lacks a killer flagship app. Until now.
First-person shooter Farpoint arrived on PSVR this week, alongside the PSVR Aim controller, a rectangular frame with two joysticks, a pink ping-pong ball and all the same buttons found on the usual Sony Dualshock.
It looks inoffensive and abstract (“I made the decision for the controller to not resemble an actual weapon,” says product designer Taichi Nokuo), but to all intents and purposes it’s a VR gun. Greg Koreman from Impulse Gear, which developed Farpoint and PSVR Aim, says: “You put the headset on and put the Aim controller in your hands, and you just know how to use it.”
While the cream of the PSVR crop has used the PlayStation Move controllers to simulate players’ hands in virtual space, Aim puts you in a stance seen in every first-person shooter since the Nineties — one hand held forward on the barrel, one on the trigger.
The new PlayStation Aim controller
When used in Farpoint, the game strands players in space, battling spiders on a Mars-like planet (shout to Bowie) where a variety of guns are strewn across the landscape. When you look at the Aim controller in your hands you see it mirrored by your in-game weapon. Wave it in front of your face and your character does the same.
PSVR Aim is the next logical step from point-and-shoot arcade hit TimeCrisis — and while there’s a simplicity to Farpoint’s intuitive gameplay, its selling point is its precision. Bring the controller right up to the PSVR headset and you can look down a laser scope, just like you would by holding L2 in Call of Duty. You can even hide behind rocky outcrops and physically tilt your head and weapon around the corner to get a shot from a covering position.
Farpoint works — it draws from our knowledge of how FPS games work and combines it with VR technology to create a game that you instinctively know how to play.
Holding a controller that accurately represents what you see in the headset adds a new level of immersion to VR. In a two-hour Farpoint session I felt connected to the increasingly frantic gameplay as alien arachnids flocked towards me. When you turn to find one jumping towards your head, it’s natural to lift Aim and shoot.
Virtual reality headsets – in pictures
There may be controversy ahead…