[As you can see from the list above, we've now trawled through the main line-up of launch titles for the PlayStation Move, but it’s finally time to delve into the hardware itself.]
Since the birth of the Nintendo Wii in 2006, the 21st century has seen the rise of a new movement in gaming: motion controls. Several smashed television screens later, the Wii’s radical Wii Remote controller proved to be more than a passing fad too, with the Wii achieving phenomenal worldwide success and breaking sales records. Today, the Wii still smugly stands as one of the biggest influences the modern gaming industry has ever seen.
It may have taken four years, but the competition has finally started to catch up when E3 2009 saw both Sony and Microsoft compete for a spot in the market – each leader took a decidedly different approach however, with Sony aiming to stick with the traditional tangible controller in the vein of the Wii and Microsoft opting for a more radical, hands-free revolution with Kinect. Then again, Sony isn’t entirely new to the market having developed the EyeToy Camera for the PS2 launched back in 2003, and the PlayStation Eye in 2007 Camera which has been left with very little opportunity to flex its muscles due to only a handful of throwaway titles available – until now.
Move over Nintendo?
On first impressions it takes a while to get over the controller’s frankly funky design: you’d swear you were gripping a Sony sex toy. And then there’s the initial intrigue of the large, squidgy glowing ball that protrudes the top that puny children will probably liken to a coloured candy. Before long however, you grow to appreciate the design; it’s certainly a more comfortable fit than the Wii’s squarely rigid formation due to a more tactile, rounded construction.
The sleek black design is standard of Sony’s solid build quality, and blends in nicely with the PlayStation family of peripherals as the central square, circle, cross and triangle face buttons you’ve grown accustomed to for the past 15 years are present. To the left and right of the controller you will find the slightly awkwardly placed start and select buttons, along with the PS button for XMB access and a couple of Move-specific buttons – a trigger is situated beneath the unit and the primary Move button dominates the front for your thumb to rest on.
Overall, despite its kinky first impressions, the Move controller is a successful design that your hand comfortably moulds into. A wrist strap is also included to prevent you from inadvertently breaking your extortionate plasma television and calibration is less complicated than you might expect.
Like the dual shock controller, the Move can be plugged into the PS3 via USB to charge (it takes an hour to fully charge and a reported nine hours of battery life) and it’s a similar story with the Eye Camera which works the instant it is plugged in. Adjust the lens to wide angle by turning it clockwise (you are prompted to do this whenever you start a Move game) and marvel at your picture in all its grainy glory.
Truth be told, the resolution of the Eye Camera isn’t its greatest asset when used as a standalone webcam for video chat, but it’s not as noticeable in most games, particularly when the game doesn’t even use your image on-screen during gameplay. Most games will put you out by presenting an initial calibration, but very little effort is required thankfully – more often than not you will just be asked to point the controller at the camera in order for it to register your position. Nothing too taxing then.
The pricing strategy for PlayStation Move is smart in that Sony has catered for all consumers here. For example, some, like myself, may already own an Eye Camera, in which case the controller is available in a standalone package with an RRP of £34.99, whereas others will want a starter bundle which contains the Move Controller with the Eye Camera and a demo disc for £44.99, though they can typically be found online at prices below RRP. Move can also be found bundled with the PS3 and accessories such as a charging dock and gun attachment are also available. Curiously however, the controller can also be found included with launch title Sports Champions in a bundle that’s exclusive to America.
To accompany the Move controller, a Nav-controller is also available, although at this point it’s not really worth it. It acts as a substitute for the dual shock controller and contains an analogue stick akin to the one you would find on a standard unit. While only a handful of games really make use of it, the dual shock controller can still be used in conjunction with Move, even if it is somewhat cumbersome in practice. You can also navigate the XMB by moving the Move controller, but it again feels too unwieldy to be precise.
On face value at least, the Move Controller offers good value for money until you factor in the accessories and games, but still seems to be more accessible than Kinect’s comparatively steep price-point for the core experience.
Move requires you to stand at least eight feet away from the camera, but this simply isn’t practical for some people. My room for example offers nowhere near this amount of space, but fortunately I haven’t encountered any problems from playing at a closer distance. It also reacts to low lighting conditions surprisingly well, but reports of problems with brighter lighting levels have been surfacing.
Unsurprisingly, Move works better when played whilst stood up, which may come as a shock to those who love to unwind into their DFS sofas at night for a spot of COD. Trust me; I tried to play a sitting game of Table Tennis on Sports Champions when I was feeling overly lazy, but it only made the experience more problematic and less immersive.
Comparisons to the Wii are frankly unavoidable so I’ll get this way: many initially scoffed at Sony’s scornful attempt to replicate the Wii’s technology, but in terms of sheer accuracy, Sony Wii’s all over Nintendo and doesn’t bother to flush afterwards. It’s absolutely astonishing.
The squidgy ball that you previously wanted to lick is actually the Move’s central component which acts as a sensor detected by the Eye Camera, resulting in absolutely pinpoint accuracy when your movements are translated on-screen in true 1:1. In a novel touch, the orb glows in different colours depending on the game, and is soft and squidgy in texture presumably to soften the blow should you whack an innocent infant child, as demonstrated by the comical safety briefing diagram that is presented every time you start a game.
Progression from the Wii was only natural however: you would hope that technology would have improved given that the Wii was launched four years ago now. As a piece of geeky hi-tech technology then, the Move’s attributes instantly impress even at this early stage, but it’s ultimately up to the software to showcase what it can really do.
Sports Champions and Tumble are the clear software frontrunners but, typically of most hardware debuts, the majority of launch games are somewhat lacking overall, with lacklustre entries such as Kung Fu Rider and Racquet Sports dampening its supremacy.
The Wii is famed for starting the casual gaming craze, and while the Move has its fair share of obligatory titles of this vein, Sony aims to broaden this cliché by releasing a slew of gamer’s games to those that think motion controls are infantile atrocities for seven year-olds with underdeveloped motor skills. PlayStation-exclusive favourites such as Heavy Rain have already been patched to be compatible with the Move controller, and SOCOM and Killzone 3 are also on their way soon.
It’s fair to say however that the games principally designed for the Move work better than some of the existing titles that have been forcefully patched: Heavy Rain, for example, didn’t benefit from the Move as much as you would think because it was never designed for it from the outset. It’s like screening older films in 3D that were never meant to be viewed that way.
Speaking of 3D, like many others I’ve been a bit of a pessimist when it comes to the advent of 3D TVs. And yet I’m starting to think that Move is one of few technologies that could genuinely benefit from the added depth – it would undoubtedly enhance your ability to judge shots in Sports Champions, for example, and could heighten the immersion which is what Move is trying to achieve anyway. So far only Tumble is playable in 3D, but I’ve yet to try them for myself. When 3D hopefully comes into full fruition next year, it will certainly be interesting to see if and how Move adapts.
Overall, PlayStation Move is a sturdy piece of kit that is technologically proficient in the motion market. While it is, in essence, a mere step from the Wii’s concrete foundations, but the more advanced 1:1 tracking makes a profound difference in gameplay and there is clearly a lot of potential for future and existing games to take advantage of the hardware. As with most launch line-ups however, some of the games currently available don’t quite do the technology the supreme justice it so richly deserves.
With Microsoft’s rival Kinect launching in a few months’ time, Sony’s head-start is a clear advantage, but it will nonetheless be a very interesting battle once it unravels -initial sales have shown that there is interest in the product, but will the initial hype dissolve into a forgotten novelty? This of course is a question that can only be answered by the developers and their ability to conjure consistently innovative games to retain our future interest. Still, it’s about time the Eye Camera was put to good use.
Gamer Limit gives the PlayStation Move Controller 8.5/10.