It's odd that in 2010, almost four years after the launch of the Wii, the motion control wars are finally heating up. The continued success of the Wii has pushed Microsoft and Sony to answer, and Sony is swinging first on September 17th with the release of the PlayStation Move.
Move featured prominently into Sony's lineup at this year's E3, but that was just a taste. Now with the release looming, we've been able to spend some quality time with the hardware and are ready to talk about what it's like to use in the wild.
This Changes Everything?
There's been a lot of skepticism about the very concept of the Move. To be frank, in concept, it's very similar to the Wii. Move consists of a motion controller with a glowing orb on the end and a wireless navigation controller with an analog stick and d-pad on it. The two controllers work in conjunction with the already available PlayStation Eye to deliver a one-to-one motion control experience.
The Wii is only able to track your movement based on the controller's previous position, but because of the way Move was designed, it's able to assign the controller a position in actual 3D space (same as Wii Motion Plus). Unfortunately, the way that technological advancement translates to the gaming experience is subtle and will probably only be obvious to the serious connoisseur. While it's awfully cool that the Move can make it look like you are actually holding an object, the other advantages are far more negligible.
The first thing you'll notice about the Move is that less is more. With the Wii, you find yourself making a lot of small, sudden motions. Using the Move, you quickly realize that you need to follow through on everything just like you would in real life. Sometimes, a slower, but more realistic reaction to something on the screen works best, even though we've been trained to react with short bursts. This is really where the Move excels. What you're doing feels more natural and not a marginalized version of the actual activity. That is when the Move works like it's supposed to.
At the heart of any motion control technology is the ability to sense the player's motion, which is inherently going to present a problem, especially if you don't have optimal playing conditions. One of the things we were eager to test out was the Move's responsiveness in our office, outside of the carefully orchestrated environment of an official demo. When we could get Move to calibrate correctly (something you will become intimately familiar with as a Move owner), it worked like a freakin' charm; however, there were many instances when we could not get the motion controllers to be recognized by the PlayStation Eye, even after repeated attempts, despite being right in front of it.
If you decide to invest in Move, you're going to have to spend some time fooling around with the positioning of the camera and yourself in order to find the optimal arrangement for your situation. More than a few times, we were able to calibrate correctly, but when we went to play the game and actually do the motions, even moving a tiny bit put the controller "out of range." Sometimes your controller will be out of range, but the game you're playing won't tell you. The result of this is, of course, is your avatar standing like a wet noodle on the screen. Boo.
It's too early to tell yet if this is a limitation of the Move itself or if this is a result of the software. I'm inclined to give Move the benefit of the doubt and say that since this is new tech, developers aren't too familiar with it and as they get used to it, this will become less of a problem. We'll keep an eye on this as other titles are released.
Finally, we have to think about what will be available if you're an early adopter of Move and it's not much. The games we got our hands on as a part of this review of Move were less than impressive. Sports Champions and Tumble were the two standouts; however, games like Start the Party! and Kung Fu Rider were almost so bad they hurt our feelings.
Right now, the only confirmed launch titles are Sports Champions, Start the Party! and Kung Fu Rider. Sports Champions, which is included with the Move bundle, is the most impressive of the three; however, there's not much that makes it a special experience. It's a hardcore, but sterile, sports experience. (Click here to read our full review.) It does showcase the potential of the Move and that is a step in the right direction.
On the other side of the coin, Kung Fu Rider sounds like it should be fun, but the Move controls become unnerving once you get past the basic levels. (Click here to read our full review). Start The Party! is in a class all of its own and will appeal to few, if anyone at all. (Click here to read our full review).
Unfortunately Tumble, a downloadable PSN game we really enjoyed (Click here to read our full review), has not been confirmed for launch. Keep your fingers crossed, but even if it is available day one, it will not be enough to boost the Move into must-buy status.
If Sony fanboys were clamoring for motion controls (and, were they?), then it wasn't for use with lackluster titles. It's going to be awhile before we see any meaty games that take advantage of the Move's potential and appeal to hardcore gamers.
Our final verdict is that Move is an interesting, compelling technology that has some launch day issues and most important, a weak catalog of games to support it on release. What Sony's got cooking at launch is enough to keep you entertained for minutes, not hours. Unless you are a big fan of motion controls and have been dying to have them on a console with more horsepower and in HD, you might want to sit tight and wait to see what happens with Move. Or at least, wait until there's a compelling game to make you try your hand at it.