Virtual reality (VR) games have long promised to be the next big thing in gaming, but technical limitations have kept that from happening until the past year.
Farpoint, the latest VR game for the PlayStation VR, marks the best application of the technology so far, as it combines a vivid VR world with solid mechanical gameplay.
The first-person VR shooter answers the one question gamers have been asking since the technology was on the horizon: How can we shoot virtual enemies with a gun-shaped controller so we can pretend to be right there in the thick of action?
Farpoint, developed by American indie-game firm Impulse Gear, is designed to be played with the newly launched Aim Controller, a plastic gun-contraption that simulates a virtual rifle.
And this gun controller is a game changer for VR gaming, as it adds a whole level of immersion and physicality to the experience of gaming.
A joystick on the front handle moves your character, while direction is determined by where you are looking with the headset. The controls are quite intuitive once you are familiar with the button layout of the Aim Controller, and the game makes clever use of the motion sensor by letting you swop weapons by swinging the controller over the shoulder.
Farpoint's storyline is a bit generic: After an explosion causes a spaceship near Jupiter to go kaboom and sends its crew hurtling through a wormhole into an unknown alien planet, you find yourself as one of the survivors tracking down the other crew members.
PRICE:$64.90 (disc); $60.70 (digital); $129 (PS VR Aim Controller bundle)
CONSOLE: PlayStation 4, PS VR required
GENRE: Virtual reality first-person shooter
Along the way, you piece together what caused the explosion and battle mutated alien baddies whose home you have invaded.
The novelty of having an immersive, responsive VR headset and controller elevates Farpoint's gaming experience and excuses the slightly tired storyline and linear gameplay.
Its graphics are quite stunning in VR, as players find themselves in a Mars-like alien world awash with red rock, canyons and caverns filled with shiny, radioactive material.
It doesn't look photo-realistic - you know you're looking at a slightly blocky game engine - but it certainly is immersive. And performance is very smooth, with minimal stutter and lag, which makes the entire experience not as disorientating as it could be.
The alien enemies you encounter along the way like to lunge directly at you, or hurl projectiles from afar, which provides a thrilling experience of shooting them down before they get to you.
From a design perspective, these movements show off the possibilities of VR, and does it incredibly well as the action is thick and relentless, although punctuated by some monotony when you wander from one fight zone to another.
There is no point playing Farpoint without the Aim Controller, as that is the real standout feature of the game.
But the game bundle with the controller costs $129, which can be a bit too pricey to justify, given that we don't know what the line-up of games compatible with the Aim Controller will be like.
As with most VR games, I could not play it straight for more than an hour, as it gets quite tiring swinging my head around with the headset on, and also because of the general eye fatigue from staring at a screen near my eyeballs.
Another thing to consider is the local weather: my VR headset was practically dripping with sweat after an hour on the game, as I was playing in a living room with no air-conditioning.
• Verdict: Farpoint is the most promising VR game that combines the headset with an external aim controller, and marks a good start to what the future of VR can hold for other games in the FPS genre.