Going through the motions

By Matt Greenop

Sony's new wireless controller presents a challenge to its gaming console rivals, writes Matt Greenop.

The Move controller has been likened to a lollipop, among other things. Photo / Supplied
The Move controller has been likened to a lollipop, among other things. Photo / Supplied

It might be that first salvo has been fired in the videogame world's latest battle - but the combat is really hand to hand.

Motion control - pioneered by Nintendo's Wii and its waggly stick control system - has gone to the next level, with next-generation console makers Sony now in the game, and Microsoft about to enter the fray.

This week Sony launched Move, a motion control system for the high-definition PlayStation 3 gaming console, looking to find favour with those who prefer a more active style of play - or can't get their heads around complex controllers.

The Move controller comes in two parts - a stick with a glowing LED-fed ball on top, which has been likened to everything from an icecream cone or lollipop to sex toys, is used for motion control, and a smaller joystick and button combo which takes care of navigation. A PlayStation Eye camera is needed for the console to track the Move.

It costs $79.95 for the motion controller and a further $59.95 for the Move Navigator, although a standard PS3 controller can take on these duties, albeit in a slightly unwieldy fashion.

Krister Robinson, Sony's product manager in New Zealand for Move, describes it as "our most ambitious control system yet, delivering pinpoint accuracy that makes it perfect for enhancing the traditional game experience, yet accessible enough for families and fun seekers to enjoy".

True to form, launch titles are family-friendly party games and sports games that really won't present much challenge to gamers.

Though these titles aren't going to set the world on fire, there is good news - games that have traditionally seen players glued to the couch for days at a time will be joining the Move line-up.

The Move control system itself is impressively accurate, with its one-to-one tracking of the "lollipop", lending itself well to more traditional game types like first and third person shooters, and sports.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 will allow players to swing the Move controller like a club, and tracks it so well that even difficult shots like fades or draws can be pulled off - with a bit of practice.

Gun games like Socom Special Forces, Killzone and arcade favourite Time Crisis are building the new technology into their play style, with previews of the titles looking very impressive indeed.

One upcoming game that will surely be a blockbuster is The Fight: Lights Out, which bridges the gap between street fighting violence, fitness and gambling. Players hold a Move controller in each hand, and throw punches or put up blocks in real-time against opponents in a stunning first-person format.

Is the burgeoning PlayStation line-up going to be enough to take on the might of Nintendo? Arguably, yes.

Nintendo, is already the king of the motion control world because it released its device in 2006 and further refined it last year with the more accurate MotionPlus controller add on.

But while the Wii was one of the greatest advances in gaming since the invention of the jousting stick, it is an ageing product that's competing against increasingly similar products without the ability to display high-def graphics.

It also lacks a huge online playspace like the PlayStation Network or Microsoft's dominating Xbox Live online gaming service.

Microsoft loses control

Microsoft is chucking out the game controller entirely with its upcoming Kinect system.

Using a camera and microphone array, Kinect for Xbox 360 sees players movements and uses them to control onscreen gameplay. Kinect will be available in New Zealand from November 18.

This is not an entirely new way of controlling games - Sony's Eye Toy used this type of system, but didn't really take off due to uninspiring games and inaccurate control.

Quick look: Move launch games

Rating: 3/5
Sports Champions: Includes frisbee golf, archery, bocce, table tennis, beach volleyball and gladiatorial combat. Entertaining all-in-one title to push new controllers - high-def graphics and engaging gameplay, although an annoying need to recalibrate for each 'sport'.

Rating: 2/5
Kung Fu Rider: Novelty arcade game sees player escaping from the mafia by riding office chairs and other unusual items as attackers attempt kung-fu attacks. Fun and slightly addictive but very little thought around story or structure - super repetitive.

Rating: 2/5
Start the Party: Yuck - but children and gaming newbies might like it. A party game which uses controller to pop puffer fish and other similarly inane activities - all while you watch yourself projected onscreen by Eye camera.

- NZ Herald

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