If it feels to you like there’s a crucial element missing when you play virtual reality shooters with a traditional gamepad, Sony’s PlayStation VR Aim Controller could quickly become your new favorite accessory.
The Aim Controller comes in bundles with the new PSVR game Farpoint, but it’s also being sold separately for $59.99. Though Farpoint is the only game currently supported, other games including ROM: Extraction, The Brookhaven Experiment and Dick Wilde will also support it in the future. Naturally, all these games involve shooting, and the PSVR Aim Controller makes one heck of a gun.
The controller itself is sleek and futuristic, much unlike the dated-looking Sharp Shooter accessory Sony released in the PS3 era. Also unlike the Sharp Shooter, the Aim Controller doesn’t require a PS Move wand to be slotted into it; all the buttons and the signature light-orb are part and parcel with the controller itself, giving the whole thing a complete, finished vibe instead of feeling like a cheap add-on.
The Aim Controller features all the buttons of a DualShock controller. The rear/main trigger is R2, while a second trigger on the front grip acts as L2. One thumb rests on the nicely textured analog stick on the inside of the front grip, where the D-pad and share/options buttons are easily accessible. Meanwhile, your other thumb covers another control stick on the grip closest to your body, where it’s surrounded by the cross, square, circle, and triangle buttons in a large array around the stick. These buttons are huge and clicky, and their positioning around the stick ensures you won’t press the wrong button by accident.
Finally, the clickable touchpad button (which is not actually a touchpad here) and circular PlayStation button are situated on top, just above the main trigger. The one button that doesn’t feel convenient to press is R1, which on the Aim Controller is a weirdly small strip on either side above the trigger. Placing it on both sides ensured that both right- and left-handed users can hit it, but the button is too small and you have to take your index finger off the trigger, or use your middle finger on the trigger and rest your index finger on R1, to reach it.
Besides that, every button feels like it’s in the right place, and each has been designed anew for its specific location on the controller. The R2 trigger has a nice amount of pull, while the share and options buttons are raised just a little higher than the other buttons so they line up with the nearby analog stick. The main face buttons are especially good, designed with small indents in between them so you always know where one ends and the next begins. The analog sticks themselves are convex, more like the DualShock 3 controller’s sticks than the DualShock 4’s, but with their sticky matte texture there’s minimal slipping, even during sweaty VR sessions.
Button placement and responsiveness, although crucial, are hardly the only factors when it comes to a controller you’re going to heft around like a rifle or a crossbow. The Aim Controller is surprisingly light, given its solid form. Your arms will probably still get tired from swinging it to and fro playing a game like Farpoint, but the controller’s weight feels ideal; any lighter and it might have felt cheap, while heavier would have been cumbersome.
In Farpoint, at least, moving the Aim Controller around and bringing it up to your face to look down your weapon’s sights feels like second nature after a few minutes of playing. Thanks to the colorful Move bauble topping the controller, tracking from the PlayStation camera is 1:1, and it feels totally responsive. Simply twisting the controller this way and that to examine the tiny details on your in-game gun feels smart, and even larger gestures like tipping it back toward your shoulder to switch weapons in Farpoint can be accomplished quickly and with mercenary efficiency. The Aim Controller also has its own built-in rumble, creating satisfying vibrations when you fire your weapon.
The controller charges via the standard micro USB charging cable (just like the DualShock 4) through a jack located on the bottom, toward the front grip. Its battery life is surprisingly good, lasting through multiple hours-long sessions of Farpoint without needing to be recharged. Even when it does need charging, if you have a long cable you can simply plug it in and keep playing with minimal interference from the cord. Finally, there’s a spot to connect a lanyard or wrist strap on the rear grip, though there isn’t one included with the controller.
The PSVR Aim Controller is currently compatible only with the sci-fi shooter Farpoint, but if its excellent integration with that game is any indication, the controller is going to be a must-have for VR shooter fans on PlayStation. It provides a much-needed layer direct contact between you and the virtual world, and smartly placed and well-designed buttons, lightweight design, rumble feedback, and 1:1 tracking with the PlayStation camera make it feel responsive and a joy to use. This is one of the missing pieces that can take VR to the next level, so here’s hoping more developers choose to support it.