The motion controller wars start now.
In the four years since its launch, the Nintendo Wii has made motion-controlled gaming not just its dominion, but a hugely profitable business. But by the end of the year Nintendo will be back where they started, slugging away with two well-monied competitors for the hearts, the minds, the flailing limbs of gamers.
The first of those competitors, the Playstation Move, hits stores on Sept. 19, promising to marry the main stream popularity of motion gaming with the sheer processing and graphical power of the Playstation 3.
But can the Playstation 3's Move motion controller set itself apart from a console which has made motion gaming so seemingly ubiquitous?
Let's have a look.
Loved Sense of Precision: Playing with a single Move controller or two, the sense of precision you get wielding those funny looking controllers is hard to overstate. It certainly goes beyond anything we've seen with the Wii Remote and relatively early into our time spent with the controllers we're left feeling like it may also surpass the Wii's MotionPlus add-on. Game after Move game shows that Sony's motion controller easily, clearly tracks tilt, rotation and movement in 3D space.
Launch Library: The Playstation Move feels very little like the launch of a new controller. Instead the Move feels like Sony is rolling out an entirely new gaming platform, and in many ways they are. While this new way of playing for Playstation owners may be missing any single system-selling killer app, it still has a surprisingly strong line-up of launch games. It's the sort of line-up we've seen with the Playstation 3 and Playstation 2's release. A group of games that hint at the potential of a new system and gives you a sense of what the Move might one day deliver.
Design: It might look funny, like, as Totilo likes to say, an ice cream cone for a robot, but the Move's controller feels all kinds of right. The Move is actually slightly thinner in the middle, giving it a subtle, almost dumbbell feel. The finish seems to grab onto your hand a bit more than we're used to, putting any fears of flying controllers to rest. We also absolutely love the placement and feel of both the big, fat, Move button and the analogue trigger. The trigger has the same feel to it as the R2 and L2 triggers of the standard Playstation 3 controller. But instead of curving away from your finger, the Move's trigger curves towards it like the trigger on a gun. That new Move button, located in the top centre of the controller, is an over-sized, pressure-sensitive oval that feels squishy, but still remains responsive.
Ball: The most obvious thing about the Move controller is the big, white, rubber ball that rests at the very top of the controller. The empty, light-up ball isn't there to just make it easier for the Playstation 3's camera to track your movement. We've also found that developers use the ball's ability to change colours on the fly to augment gameplay. The ball flashes colours in some games, denoting your movements, or reaction to things happening in the game. This extra bit of sensory feedback has, we think, some pretty exciting potential and shows that Sony is looking beyond just matching what's already in the motion gaming market.
Finally, Augmented Reality: We haven't really seen a lot of this yet, but the Playstation Move nails augmented reality and does it in a way that you're going to enjoy. Games like Start the Party, EyePet and even Sports Champions all experiment with the idea of turning that Move controller into a piece of cartoon fiction when it shows up in live video on your television. The first time you see it, a live video of yourself holding a cartoon weapon or silly toy, it's really neat. Imagine what developers may do with this in a year or two.
Move Price: Depending on what you already own, you could get into the Move for $US50. Of course, that's if you already own the console and the camera. But the point here is that Sony is giving you options, lots of options. You can get a console bundle, a Move bundle, or just a Move controller. And you can never go wrong with choices.
Charging: The Move controllers all feature built-in rechargeable batteries. You can use a USB cord or some third-party Playstation 3 controller rechargers to give your Move controllers a second wind. Sure, as with the PS3 controllers, you need to leave your console on to do it, and that still annoys the hell out of us, but at least you don't have to swap out batteries.
Hated Constant Calibration: The one thing that concerned us during our time with the Playstation Move was how constantly it seemed to want to recalibrate itself. It rarely if ever actually stopped a game to do so, but there were a lot of between level, between game adjustments going on. So many in fact, that we wonder if there isn't an issue of calibration degradation going on, or at least a concern that it could happen during a gaming session.
Button Placement: We adore that roomy Move button and the sexy trigger found on the underbelly of the controller, but we're not really fans of the Playstation 3's iconic triangle, square, circle and X buttons. The four buttons are all shaped like tiny, round Tic-Tacs and are located on either side of the Move button. Their placement is crowded and awkward and using them can be frustrating and overly complicated.
Touchy XMB: The Move isn't just for playing games. You can also use the motion controller to move around in the Playstation 3's menu systems. Instead of using the controller as a digital pointer, it uses the movement of the Move to push you through menus. The problem is that the Move manages to be simultaneously too sensitive and not sensitive enough when it comes to cross media bar controls. Initially, once you pull the trigger to activate the Move's XMB controls, it feels sluggish, making you exaggerate your arm movements to get the menu to move, but once it starts moving, the menu whips back and forth between options, forcing you to circle in on your choice. I think this is solvable with a patch, Totilo favours the idea of a XMB designed specifically for the Move. Either way, in its current form it feels broken.
There are two ways to look at the Playstation Move, or any motion controlled gaming device that isn't the Wii. You can consider the hardware in a vacuum, without comparing it to the Wii. Or you can compare it to its obvious competition. Fortunately for the Move, either way you look at it, the Playstation 3's answer to motion gaming seems to have what it takes to compete. The question is can they set themselves apart from a console that doesn't just own the market, it practically invented it.
The Playstation Move is a intuitive, natural feeling way to play games and it brings with it not only a sense of increased immersion to already graphically immersive games, but a new way to play with your reality and a refreshing form of colorful feedback.
The Playstation Move was developed and distributed by Sony Computer Entertainment as an add-on for the Playstation 3 on September 16. The standalone Move Controller retails for AU$69.95, the Move Navigation Controller for AU$49.95 and the Move Starter Kit with Move Controller and PlayStation Eye Camera for AU$99.95. Sets of Move controllers and copies of Move games were given to us by Sony Computer Entertainment for reviewing purposes. We played multiple games, used and abused the controllers, tried to break them, experimented with them and had fun with them for about a week.
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