I recently asked the creative director of Red Steel 2 what the required MotionPlus attachment adds to his Wii game. He asked me if I wanted the marketing answer or the technological answer.
I wanted the technical answer, of course.
But first Jason VandenBerghe, a man who was soon to impress me with the fact that he lead the team that developed my favourite post-GoldenEye James Bond game, Everything or Nothing, gave me the marketing answer.
He adopted his marketing voice, which was higher than his normal tone, and accompanied by waving of arms and the wobbly body language of a dishonest man. The marketing answer was that it would make the game more amazing, more terrific, more awesome.
He straightened himself out and took the Wii Remote from my hand. I was about to get the technological answer.
This was all happening in the basement floor of a downtown hotel in New York, last week during a rainstorm that stabbed the sky with lightning and flipped my umbrella inside out. In from the storm and amid the Ubisoft holiday line-up, I was playing the early portion of Red Steel 2. It's a cartoon-shaded first-person-shooter/sword-fighter. The opening bit had my character being dragged on his belly by a guy on a motorcycle. I shot free and was in a gunfight, pointing the MotionPlus at the TV running the game, feeling my hand movements match the arm and gun movements of the character in the first-person game.
"Without MotionPlus, I couldn't do this," he said with the Remote now in his hand and me stepped off to the side to observe. He pointed the Remote at the screen as if to shoot. Then he moved his arm, pointing the Remote toward the left side of the screen... then he turned it more until it wasn't pointing at the TV any more.
Wii first-person-shooter owners know what VandenBerghe's gesture would normally cause. The Wii sensor bar would lose track of the Wii Remote's pointer, causing the game's first-person camera to either keep turning uncontrollably, or the camera would stop. This would be a frustration for players who were just trying to turn and had turned a tad too much. Either way, the gamer would then have to point back at the screen to get the Remote noticed again.
When VandenBerghe moved his Remote away from the TV something different happened. The camera in the game did keep turning. But as VandenBerghe turned his hand and the Remote back to the TV, the camera swiveled back with him. MotionPlus had taken over for the Remote's pointer. The Wii never lost track of its player.
MotionPlus had made these controls smarter. The swings to the side could even allow the developers to map a quick-turn.
This wasn't marketing. Technically, that's what MotionPlus added to the shooting of Red Steel 2. Otherwise, VandenBerghe said, no, MotionPlus was not essential for Red Steel's shooting gameplay.
But remember, Red Steel 2 fans, the essence of the franchise is guns and swords.
MotionPlus is essential to the sword-fighting in the game, I was told. VandenBerghe has been on the project for a year and a half. He remembers riskily informing his bosses that the game had to use it. He remembers expecting MotionPlus to birth a lightsaber game at this E3 that would steal his game's thunder. He remembers being shocked that no such game shows up. And he maintains that it would be pointless to make a game with sword-fighting without MotionPlus — unless, as with a No More Heroes, the intention wasn't to emulate the feel of actually swinging a sword.
To sword-fight is to swing your arm. Vigorously. In real life or the game.
Red Steel 2's sword combat involves big swings, short swings, blocks, combos. And without MotionPlus, Vandenberghe told me, it would have involved a six-to-10-frame lag between player motion and the action on the screen. That would be too slow to make the game worth making, he told me.
In Red Steel 2, the switch from gunplay to sword combat isn't activated by a button. There's no weapons toggle. The change is activated by the rapidity of arm movement. The gun is the game's default, but swing your arm sharply and the sword comes out — and stays out until the Remote is leveled and shots are again ready to be fired.
I swung the virtual sword in the game. I almost had to wallop Vandenberghe and other people standing by to get some of the best strikes on the game's enemies.
Vandenberghe told me that he keeps getting quoted as proclaiming himself to be the man who killed waggle. Kill waggle with this? These controls felt right.
The game was recently delayed to 2010, a move Vandenberghe said is designed to balance the quality of the adventure. When released, Red Steel 2 will be bundled with a MotionPlus.