Last Friday, Sony fired an opening volley in the upcoming motion-sensor war over your wallet contents. After spending a weekend with the new hardware and launch titles, we humbly submit our impressions of the Playstation Move.
^ Not the Move, but much funnier.
The Move hardware package comprises the Playstation Eye camera, one or more Move wands, and an optional navigation controller, which is essentially a cordless version of the Wii’s Nunchuck attachment. Once you’ve charged up your Move wands, updated your firmware, and plugged in your camera, the setup process is over.
The Move wand (pictured above, vivisected courtesy of iFixit and Gizmodo) is light and easy to hold. The rubber orb that sits atop the controller feels like a high-end puppy chew toy. Sidebar: If you have anything bigger than a Pug, keep the Move wand in a cabinet or on a shelf, because the Move is delicious.
The central Move button in the middle of the wand is the default action button for games, and is substantial and well-placed. Unfortunately, the Playstation shape buttons that adorn it on each corner aren’t easy to reach from the standard holding position, especially the Triangle and Circle, which are always a millimeter or two out of reach. The trigger on the wand’s belly catches your finger much better than the one on the Dualshock 3. It’s a fine device, overall, although I hope my favorite Move games won’t make me push Triangle or Circle.
The navigation controller (above) fits snugly in the left hand, and would make a terrific standalone media remote if it weren’t missing the triangle and square buttons. Oh well.
The Playstation Eye, which debuted in 2007 along with the PS3, is an SD 640×480 camera that won’t astound anybody. It does exactly what it needs to do, but don’t be surprised when Sony begs you to hand them an additional $99 next year for a 3D, high-definition upgrade.
Like all new interfaces, whether or not the Move collects dust or becomes a coffee table fixture depends on how developers implement its features. Here’s where things get dicey: there isn’t a Move game available right now worth buying. Even the better minigames in Sports Champions are little more than gussied-up tech demos, and the first wave of retail games look like they belong on the Wii shelf. The good news is that a few of these titles reveal bursts of potential for Sony’s new controller.
Sports Champions is a good choice for people who want the best Move tech demo right now. If you own a Move and want to show it off, you won’t do any better than Champions, but that doesn’t mean it’ll sell anything on its own. Each of the sports in the gallery, including Frisbee golf, gladiator fighting (which is technically a death sport), archery, Bocce ball, table tennis, and volleyball, is a tiny Move implementation test. My three favorites – Frisbee golf, table tennis, and Bocce ball – illustrate the extreme sensitivity of the Move wand’s tilt sensor. Whirling a Bocce ball or spinning a serve with a ping pong paddle feel as close to the real thing as you’re ever likely to get on a console. If tilt and movement capture aren’t 1:1, they’re as close as possible, which makes these three games ideal for showing off the controller to friends.
Archery uses two Move wands to simulate a bow pull, and is clever in theory, but its floaty pantomime can’t hope to replicate the real thing. The gladiator fighting game also lets you wield two Move wands in a shield and weapon combo, and has real potential to reinvent melee combat in action games. The game itself, however, is a disappointment. Volleyball is the set’s gesture-based Wii contender, and can go fuck off.
The Sports Champion Move bundle comes with a demo disc that includes trials for Beat Sketcher, EyePet, The Shoot, TV Superstar, Time Crisis, and a handful of others. Keep in mind that some of these demos are already available on the Playstation Network, so if you want to avoid buying the bundle, you can still try out a few Move games for free. Beat Sketcher and EyePet use what Sony’s calling “Augmented Reality,” which means you’ll be watching yourself on TV and interacting with the software in some way. Beat Sketcher is a fun diversion (for around ten minutes) that turns the Move wand into a paintbrush and your living room into a giant canvas. EyePet lets you play with a computermonkey. For most adults, the long term benefits of Augmented Reality appear limited.
Most of the other demos do more to showcase the downsides of the Move than anything else. Time Crisis and The Shoot are a pair of cheap arcade shooters with the aim sensitivity of a first generation Wii game. Ubisoft’s loathsome Racquet Sports is a Wii port, and it shows. Some developers are much better at minimizing lag and maximizing sensitivity than others, but that’s to be expected from the first crop of launch games for a new device. Early reviews complained about the Move’s constant need for recalibration, but I found this to be a rather painless tradeoff for the sensitivity.
Want to see how the Move might accommodate the RTS genre? Check out the R.U.S.E. demo, which incorporates the navigation controller and an interface that will almost make you forget you’re not using a mouse. Even if the game doesn’t win you over, the interface is a hint that developers are cooking up some clever Move tricks that might pay off down the road. And that’s really what these early examples are all about – being creative and finding the sweet spot that combines the Move’s strengths with good game design.
It’s clear that the Move has potential, but developers will have to learn to optimize. Although it has incredible 1:1 tilt sensitivity, there’s a perceptible lag when using the device to aim. Move-enabled shooters like MAG and Killzone 3 won’t be as fun if the reticle isn’t easy to control, so it’s possible that the Move won’t succeed in all the ways Sony hopes it will.
Waving a wand around for an hour won’t ever be as comfortable as using a standard controller; the Move can’t possibly replace the Dualshock 3 for every application. That said, it’s still the best motion-sensing controller ever made. Putting spin on a grenade or making melee a fun, viable option in the next Uncharted are a just few obvious ways the Move can change the way we play games. If developers can dream up creative ways to use the Move as a tool rather than a gimmick, PS3 owners are in for a treat.
Launch Games: 5/10