The SIXAXIS motion controls in Rockstar Games' sublime opus Grand Theft Auto IV feels like a last minute appendage, and not a particularly useful one. It's like the game's third nipple, you know it's there, and maybe you can't resist a fiddle, but no good will come of it.
When Mike told me that he didn't like the SIXAXIS controls for the game, and wasn't even able to complete the tutorial, I chalked it up to some innate hatred of the PS3's motion controls on his part. In fact he did admit that he doesn't really like the PS3 games that use SIXAXIS motion sensing, but there are several that I quite like (Warhawk comes to mind), so I decided to give it a whirl.
After playing through GTA4 on the Xbox 360, I swapped seats with Mike and settled down to get to the bottom of his SIXAXIS hatred. A few minutes into the tutorial I figured out what the problem was. The special SIXAXIS controls for this particular game suck, they're absolutely abysmal.
I suppose with some time I could master using the bike, in fact it wasn't that hard, and maybe one day I would fly the helicopter, but that's not the point, the point is there's no benefit using the motion sensing in Grand Theft Auto IV.
The in-game tutorial for the controller, which is an annoyingly permanent option on your in-game mobile phone, walks you through the four ways you use the special controller in the game. Here's the break down and my thoughts:
Reload Weapon: Instead of having to mess around with, you know, pushing a button, the SIXAXIS lets you snap the controller back toward you to reload. Very easy to do, but absolutely no benefit.
Motorcycle: This was by far my favourite of the lot, allowing you to steer your bike by tilting side to side. Unfortunately, it also allows you to lean forward on the bike or do a wheelie by tilting the controller forward or backward. It's unfortunate because if you're leaning forward as you play, or sitting back in the chair, it forces you to hold the controller oddly.
Power Boat: The steering works quite well and while this also lets you tilt the controller forward and backwards to adjust the trim, its not as problematic because doing so really doesn't have much of an impact on the controls.
Helicopter: Whooo-boy, this is what prevented Mike from wrapping up his tutorial training. It took me a good three or four tries to pass it as well. Not only do you have to worry about the pitch problem seen with the motorcycles and boats, but the helicopter is much touchier than the other two vehicles. I also seemed to notice a lag issue with the controls that had me overcompensating and, twice, turning my copter so far sideways it would slam into the ground. It was an exercise in frustration and made me want to throw the controller across the room in frustration. Fortunately, you don't have to fly using it.
Final Thoughts: I'm not sure why Rockstar decided to include SIXAXIS motion controls in GTA IV, maybe they had to, but I'm sure happy they don't force you to use them. Not only can you override the motion controls at any time with the sticks and buttons, but you can turn them completely off preventing it from really flawing this fantastic title. Now if I could only remove the SIXAXIS tutorial option in the menu I might be able to stop fiddling.
Check here for a detailed comparison of the 360 versus PS3 versions of the game.
Ed's note: While the SIXAXIS does include the ability to use aftertouch, that function was not included in the tutorial written about above.