To say that Sony were pushing VR at their EB Expo booth would be an understatement on the level of saying that EB Games were selling a few things. VR is already big, the next something special to come to games since 3D displays and motion controls. That might seem like a little bit of snark (and maybe it is), but rather than being dead-ends, those are just some of the steps that have led us to here.
Oculus Rift has been making slow-day headlines for a long while (some stories more recent and less relevant than others), the HTC Vive has brought space to the equation, Hololens added reality to the virtual, and even Google Cardboard has made a limited take on VR accessible to those that mightn’t have the right rigs for its more expensive brethren.
Playstation VR is another VR implementation, one that Sony is banking on through a pairing with its Playstation 4.
There are already over 100 games in-development for Playstation VR, some of which will tie into existing franchises, such as Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X HD, Star Wars Battlefront: X-Wing VR, and Batman: Arkham VR. Only a handful of games were shown at EB Expo, with the most prominent set up belonging to DriveClub VR. An assortment of other VR games were also available at the booth, and the one I went with was Farpoint, recommended by Alayna.
As a severe arachnophobe, the premise that was offered to me didn’t sell it, but when the available games came down to hurtling down a street (VR Luge), sitting in the dark with sharks (Into the Deep), or shooting spiders? With incredible optimism, I went with the latter.
A better way to explain Farpoint is that you’re an astronaut on an alien world, one that’s both majestic and harrowing. As you explore the environment, thankfully armed, you discover that the world has a native lifeform that has a lot of hostility and a lot of legs. And they jump. They bloody jump right at your face. Aaahhh!
When Farpoint opens, you’re there on a dusty planet, gun in hand. There’s a thumbstick for movement, a button for lobbing grenades, and of course – a trigger to shoot things. The detail of the environment was good – to the point that a cliffside crawl mid-way through the play session also nudged at my acrophobia (leaving only my glossophobia untouched).
Soon after you begin exploring, a wave of small spiders start scurrying toward you, easily dispatched with a few bursts from your rifle. As you continue to move through the landscape, the area shifts ahead, giving access to grenades and later a shotgun, but also bringing larger and more dangerous spiders in.
There’s one in particular that shouldn’t trigger your spidey sense, with a large bulbous back that fires a projectile along an arc – reminiscent of a bug from Starship Troopers.
The sequence ended with an approach to a cave, where an enormous spider crept out of the shadows and into my nightmares.
You can stop to look at the environment along the way – the different surfaces and distant mountains all have a good quality, without the “blurry in the distance” issues I’ve noticed with some other VR. The whole slate of what is there in Farpoint also meant I got as close as I could to living out my space-adventure fantasies as I’m as likely to any time soon, though I’d still much rather it be without spiders. I’d much rather everything be without spiders.
As far as VR implementations go, the Playstation VR had the best experience I’ve had at a show so far. That’s not to say that PSVR is better than the rest as I think that’s still something subjective, but it was the first time where I felt a game put me into their world – as a real 3D inhabitant of it myself, rather than a floating pair of eyes looking around.
Being able to look down at your in-game body, and see your hands holding the gun exactly where you expect them to be gives an extraordinary boost to the immersive qualities of Farpoint. It throws you right into the game when you see the tattered edges of your spacesuit, or look down to see on your shotgun exactly how many shells you’ve got loaded – especially if you’re expecting that spider who just burrowed down to pop up in a moment.
It did glitch once while playing, losing track of where my weapon was until the booth attendee helped set it right, but other than that it was good. Placement of the headset was also not-quite-right, which meant it felt as though it was touching my eyes at times, but a rapid booth setup can’t be compared to adjusting the headset for yourself at home.
Considering that it’s just over a week until Playstation VR is released, it’s all about to get very real. If Farpoint is an indicator for the type of games we can expect to see with Playstation VR once it moves past the experimental demos and gimmicks, this thing may just have legs.
Hopefully it won’t be eight of them.