Left 4 Dead 2 Vs. The Motion Control Apocalypse

Having just played a custom build of Left 4 Dead 2 with a pair of Sixense TrueMotion wireless motion controllers, I’m glad to have access to a standard game pad.

But after decapitating two dozen zombies by katana, reloading, jumping, crouching and shoving back infected with nothing but gestures, I was more than impressed by Sixense’s implementation of the dual-wand, magnetic field motion control. Using a single transmitter with a six-foot radius range, Sixense TrueMotion can detect the position and gesture movement of controllers without a line-of-sight limitation. As long as the controllers are within the 12 foot diameter spherical magnetic field, it can detect their movement in space along six axes – a Sixense rep proved this by controlling a second tech demo with one hand behind his back.

It takes some getting used to the TrueMotion control scheme, using a large Wii Remote-like controller in each hand, each with its own analogue stick, trigger and face buttons. It’s not how I’d normally survive the zombie apocalypse, but seeing a lower latency – about 40 milliseconds in the dev kit version playable at CES, expected to improve with some of Razer’s own tech – one-to-one motion controlled sword spilling zombie guts on screen is still neat.

The control set up that Sixense had implemented at Razer’s CES booth used the left-handed TrueMotion controller for much of what the left-hand side of a keyboard or controller would do. Angling the controller downward crouched, a flick upward performed a jump, a push forward shoved. It was also used to toss grenades. A flick of the controller left or right cycled through weapons, and after choosing the grenade, an overhand toss motion tossed that equipped item, in my case Boomer Bile.

The right hand controller controlled firing, camera control and melee weapon swings. It was a bit awkward at first, particularly for camera control and aiming, as Left 4 Dead 2 wasn’t built with something like Sixense control in mind, but Valve has vowed support for TrueMotion controllers in games using its Source engine. Regardless of the learning curve, the motion control felt spot on, quick slices with the controller resulting in accurate slices on screen.

Sixense had an alternate Metroid Prime-like control scheme implemented, one that let the player control the camera by pushing the reticule against the edge of the screen. Of the two control options, it was the one I preferred, offering more tame camera manipulation, less random looking at the sky or ground.

While the technology is undeniably impressive, as is the aftermarket implementation of working first-person shooter controls with a gesture based scheme, it’s unlikely to be one’s default control scheme in a competitive game like Counter-Strike or something as frantic as Left 4 Dead 2. Future titles built with Sixense in mind are definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Sixense and Razer are working on finalising the design of the controller and hammering out pricing details, with TrueMotion expected to go to retail later this year.