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Bob Hoose

Game Review

The jury is seemingly still out on the idea of virtual reality in gaming. Current gen VR is pretty impressive. But while some gamers have gotten onboard with this immersive gaming experience, others are, uh, a bit queasy over this expensive and potentially vertigo-inducing tech.

Whichever camp you lean toward, though, the first-person sci-fi shooter Farpoint has garnered praise for being one of the better examples of a VR experience. And it is indeed the most immersive game of its type that I’ve played.

But is that a plus … or a minus?

Of Wormholes and Far Points

The game’s main campaign dresses players up as a pilot of the deep space shuttle Wanderer. It’s just another day on the job for this guy as he flies to the International Scientific Space Station, Pilgrim, to pick up research specialists. Dr. Moon and Dr. Tyson have been part of a team studying a mysterious wave of radiating energy that doesn’t seem to have any discernable source.

As that passenger transfer begins to take place, everything is hunky dory out there in the vastness of scenic, star-spackled space. Until, that is, that picturesque, flower-like energy source suddenly blossoms into a giant wormhole that sucks the Pilgrim, space-walking scientists and our pilot into it. It shoots everything and everybody several hundred million lightyears away, where they crash-land on an alien planet.

From there, it’s up to us to grab our assault rifle and follow the trail of the good doctors, who somehow seem perpetually just a few (or few hundred) steps ahead of us. As we traverse the planet and battle with its myriad multi-limbed monsters, we also scan and reconstruct holographic records of everything Moon and Tyson have discovered before us.

And we soon begin to realize that the strange celestial event that hurtled us into another universe may have affected our perception of time, as well.

Take Aim, Shoot and …

The story itself has some compelling twists and turns, and we come to care for the two researchers we’re trying to track down. But the majority of the action is simply aiming and shooting at wave after wave of large, spider-like creatures, along with a number of Halo-ish robotic aliens that we eventually encounter.

Farpoint would have been a fairly pedestrian shooter if simply played sitting in front of a TV with an average game controller in your mitts. It’s pretty standard point-and-shoot stuff. But when you’re tossed into the action via Sony’s snazzy new VR Aim Controller and headset, it becomes a different experience altogether.

First a few words about that controller.

In the real world, this plastic parallelogram tube of a two-handed “gun” is very comfortable ergonomically. It doesn’t even look like a gun at all. All the controls of a regular DualShock 4 controller are remapped onto this lightweight device and allow you to move around the environment and do everything with a curl of a finger or flip of a thumbstick. (There are even different styles of movement assigned to the buttons to help cut down on some of the vertigo effects of a typical VR game.)

In the virtual game world, though, this controller instantly transforms into any of five perfectly balanced weapons—an assault rifle, a shotgun, a sniper rifle, a plasma rifle and a spike gun. Each has a sight that you can look down as well as grenade and rocket side weapons. It truly makes you feel as if you’ve got a very real gun in your sweaty, deep-space palms.

… Check Your Heart Rate

That realism carries over into every aspect of the battles you’re fighting, too. The first time a dog-sized spider leapt into my face I nearly dove out of my chair. (And don’t be surprised if you let out a yelp when someone outside the game touches you on the shoulder during the heat of such beasty battles.) There is definitely a pulse-quickening, there-are-too-many-and-they’re-much-too-close effect that you cannot escape here.

The game tries to keep most of the action in front of you so that you’re not constantly whipping your head around. But with the VR headset and headphones in place, you are completely engulfed by this planetful of skittering spider legs. You’re immersed in a world of leaping, slashing, screeching and acid-spitting monsters that can come from anywhere at any time.

That makes the mess more impactful, too. When you blast something out of the air in front of you, the resulting goopy blowback really seems as if it’s splashing on your spacesuit. Alien viscera disappears after sloshing to the ground at your feet, but the gunk and chunks of dismembered spider meat will still elicit an eww or two.

So here’s the bottom line: When VR does its job well, it intensifies everything. On a two-dimensional TV screen, the gratuitous goop and creature carnage in this title might have earned it a T-rating. But throw it into a realistic VR setting—and sprinkle in a few f- and s-words, too—and you’ve got a game that earns its M rating in spades and fundamentally multiplies the worries Mom and Dad might have about their kids pulling those virtual triggers.

Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.