This Weird Thing Makes First-Person Shooters Playable In VR

Sony’s ‘PS VR Aim’ controller looks more like something you’d find in a low rent mo-cap studio.

Or a deranged, psychotic sex toy.

It’s bizarre. It screams gimmick. As someone who’s lived through light guns, power gloves, dance mats and Donkey Kong Bongos, I can’t say I was enthusiastic about trying to use one of these things. Couldn’t see the benefit.

The game was Farpoint; a PlayStation VR exclusive. A game about shooting aliens on far off planets. So far so humdrum. It’s being developed by a small San Francisco based team called Impulse Gear. Last I heard this ‘PS VR Aim’ thingy was their idea, developed in tandem with this very video game.

What the hell is this thing?

It looks like a Superscope. It looks like something EB Games might have sold for $10 during the Wii craze.

‘This thing won’t work.’

‘This thing is silly.’

That’s what I thought before I played Farpoint.

That opinion was about to change dramatically.


I’m quickly learning that my instincts about VR — about what works and doesn’t work – aren’t exactly reliable. I’m learning the same lesson over and over again: don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

Farpoint is a case in point.

Farpoint is really fucking cool.

And the PS VR Aim is actually amazing.

It’s actually way, way better than I could have possibly predicted. My experience with PlayStation VR and its move controllers has been mixed. It’s a decent, smart solution but it is temperamental.

PS VR Aim surprised me, not just in terms of whether it works (it works) but in how it provides decent solutions to problems we thought we’d struggle to solve this decade.

I mean, first and foremost, player movement. That’s the real issue with virtual reality, right? How can we play a first-person shooter without shattering the immersion of existing in this digital space? There are solutions, like the Virtuix Omni, but let’s be realistic: not everyone is installing a ludicrously expensive multi-directional treadmill in their living room to play Battlefield. That’s just not going to happen in the near future.

PS VR Aim is a perfectly serviceable answer to the movement question. It really is.

You grip the device with two hands. On your left hand is an analogue stick that allows you to move forward and strafe. You head in the direction you point your gun and your head does whatever your head is gonna do.

It’s difficult to explain. It sounds counter intuitive. I can tell you it’s not. It’s very fuctional, it’s simple. It makes complete sense. I’ve played first-person shooters in VR. I’ve suffered motion sickness as a result. I didn’t have those issues with Farpoint.


I actually felt comfortable, at complete ease with the immersion of being in this space. It didn’t matter that I was using an analogue stick to move forward or backwards. I was able to easily compartmentalise that concept and accept the new ruleset of this universe.

I was completely surprised by that.

Could I see myself playing other first person shooters using the PS VR Aim? Games like Call of Duty or Battlefield? Absolutely. The aiming is clean. It’s simple. It absolutely works and it’s super rewarding to use.

It’s absolutely one of the coolest, most functional devices I’ve used in VR so far and, for right now? It’s a pragmatic solution to one of virtual reality’s biggest obstacles to success.


Comments

    I was one of the very few people that seemed to pick up the Move Sharp Shooter for PS3 and it worked brilliantly IMO, especially for Killzone. Made the experience so much better.

      I did not have the sharpshooter, but the Move support was very good and accurate on Killzone. I actually was performing better with it than with the controller.

      The only thing was, I centred the thing with my hand in a resting position laying on the couch. When it asks you to point to the edges of its limits, I did not, just moved my hand slightly to configure it so that it made it super sensitive. Effectively worked like a mouse and was very good.

      Last edited 04/11/16 11:58 am

      Agreed. KillZone 3 to be specific.

    A significant problem is that the bobble has to be in view of the camera, which limits you to facing your TVish. The move controllers have already proven to be a bit of a problem when interacting outside of camera view.

    With that limitation it's very similar to the maligned wii zapper, but with slower and less accurate camera tracking.

    I always thought Nintendo missed a massive opportunity with the wii u zapper. Having the gamepad mounted on a zapper frees you from the TV, giving you great spatial awareness and intuitive aiming, but without any of the pitfalls of VR (motion sickness, wires, falling over things). And the onboard sensor array is good enough to keep things tracked crisply thanks to that high spec hall-effect sensor.

    I prototyped one which had a very similar button layout to the Aim controller, back in 2013, and it was amazing in the one game which supported it! It would've been baller for COD.

    Last edited 04/11/16 11:30 am

      The camera tracking for PS-Move/PS-VR does have some pretty big advantages over the Wii's camera tracking.

      With the wiimote camera, you've effectively got a field-of-view cone radiating out from the front of the controller, and you need to make sure the sensor bar is visible within that cone. So the controller needs to be facing in the general direction of the TV.

      With the PS-Move system, you've got a cone radiating from the camera sitting on top of the TV, and the glowing ball of the controller must be visible within that zone. Given the way the controller is designed, the ball is going to be visible in almost every orientation (although not if it is obscured by your body). So you can have accurate position tracking even when it is pointed away from the TV. Combine this with the digital compass and gyros that track what direction the controller is facing, and you've got a lot more freedom of movement.

      Moving to VR, this seems like a pretty big advantage. Since you're no longer staring at a fixed TV set, the extra freedom of movement seems quite important. The PS4's higher res camera should also give more accurate tracking with the same controllers, compared to the PS3 camera. In particular, it should give better accuracy for determining the distance from the camera, which is determined from the size of the ball in the captured image.

      Some have mounted the PS camera up high, looking down at a 45 degree angle, and been able to play a shooter with 360 movement (Brookhaven Experiment). So, turning your back is sort of do-able with PSVR.

        Second this. Ignore the manual when you set up. Having the camera above the TV (with an eBay extension cable) looking down on the room has much better results and tracking than at knees looking up.
        All light for VR are on your head, that's what the camera is looking for!

    So good to hear that the peripherals that are coming for the PS VR are worth it. I am loving mine so far and have friends that have been converted since trying it (fear the coming Valkyrie squad... I am loving that game even though I am still useless at it).
    As far as being limited to the TV FoV, that seems to be a design aspect of many PS VR games. Sony are not expecting you to have a dedicated room for VR and the experiences are different, yet familiar. Probably a safe choice at the moment... Valkyrie already makes my brain explode with visual information (in a good way).

      Eve is fun!

      One thing I found out is Coop against AI gives you XP. That's where you should practice.

      Also, Dominator for Fighters and Rhino for Heavy. Both are the second unlocks for each class. The ships don't get progressively better, they just get more specialised. So just unlock the upgrades on those ships and you're good to go.

      The one thing that sucks about Eve though is no Australian servers.

        Yes, I found that out the other night and am running coop vs AI full time for now, just more fun while I learn. The Dominator is good, I was trying to master the wraith, but am enjoying this ship.
        Quick question; the other night I was flying right up another ships exhaust and seemed to be doing no damage. My shots were flying right at the target... does lag make your shots miss? In the chronicle missions I am accurate as can be, as soon as I go online the same motions and shots seem to miss... along with scenery jumping every minute or so.

          Hmm. I think I get that sometimes, but it's hard to know? If you were trying out a new ship, I sometimes thought the same thing until I realised I was attacking a hull with a weapon really only meant for a shield. Then there's the fact the targeting reticule isn't entirely accurate. Oh and the fact the different ships have radically different armour and shield strenghts, meaning if you didn't use the right ship it can often feel like it's not damaging them.

          I'd really recommend reading the ships section of this as it will tell you a lot about what everything should be doing. https://www.gamefaqs.com/pc/728014-eve-valkyrie/faqs/73394?page=0#Ships

          I hate this new website layout. I have no idea to tell if someone responds to me.

          Edit: I do get the scenery shake sometimes, particularly at the start. But I get that rubber banding too on Battlefield/front. Also, if you want to squad up, I'm the same username on PSN. Just send msg with Kotaku in it.

          Last edited 04/11/16 5:05 pm

    I recommend anyone who is interested in these type of controller/game mechanics to look at some youtube videos of game Onward. Over the last week I have spend over 25 hours. Altho its early access it has killer app potential.

    Did he just use the words 'Donkey Kong Bongos' and 'gimmick' in the same paragraph?!
    Blasphemy!

    Wow this looks really cool, might be the kind of thing that final gets me to buy a PS$

    *giant spider in VR*

    Nope.

    I tried Farpoint at PAX West this year and was very impressed with it too. The controller worked far better than I expected and the demo pretty much sold me on PS VR as well.

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