When Nintendo’s Wii arrived on an express train from leftfield in November 2006, it was widely derided as being a bonkers gaming misfit. Why would gamers pay for the public ridicule of ‘active gaming’ and shatter their patio doors in the process?
But it was, of course, another stroke of prescient genius from Nintendo. So much so that Microsoft and Sony have, well, stolen the idea and developed more advanced systems for the Xbox 360 and PS3. Kinect for Xbox 360 will arrive in November 2010, but first to the party is the PlayStation Move.
‘Inspired’ by Wii
Unlike Kinect, which is a controller-less system that uses a 3D camera to track and map your movements, Move follows the Wii’s lead by using motion sensitive controllers to replicate your actions on screen.
The centerpiece of the system is the Motion controller and its glowing orb. You also need a PlayStation Eye (an extra £25) and, for some games, the Navigation Controller (another £25), which you hold in your other hand to provide greater control in first-person shooters like SOCOM 4.
Eye on the ball
Load up a compatible game, and the Eye will track the Motion controller’s colourful ball – whose LED cleverly changes to a colour that stands out the most in your room – in three dimensions to within millimetres.
This combines with feedback from the Motion controller’s magnetometer and accelerometers to replicate your movements on screen with Wii-drubbing accuracy.
In action, it works almost flawlessly. Even in our gloomy test room the Eye had no problem tracking our controller, and it’s certainly the fastest and most accurate motion-sensing games system we’ve used so far.
Complaints? While the Motion controller is comfortable in the hand the trigger very accessible, we found the other buttons a little too small and fiddly to press.
And while the PS3 can support up to four Motion controllers for multiplayer action, only three of these can be used in tandem with a Navigation controller, because the PS3 can only support up to seven Bluetooth devices at once. It’s no disaster, but may limit the number of four player games available for Move.
The glowing Motion controller may be Move’s trademark, but the Eye is its secret weapon. It’s not quite as advanced as Kinect’s 3D-mapping camera, but is a big step up from the Wii’s sensor bar and does more than just track your controller. Its 640x480, 60fps video feed can be displayed within games, though this can look grainy if your room is gloomy.
More impressively, ‘augmented reality’ software can overlay graphics – for example, changing your controller into a giant sword. Sony has also demoed upper-body motion tracking using two Move controllers and face-tracking techniques. With so few games available, these features are currently little more than demo gimmicks, but the potential is huge.
Dearth of games
A lack of launch games is, as expected for such a new platform, an issue for Move. There are only three dedicated launch titles – Start The Party, Sports Champions and Kung Fu Rider – plus nine playable demos (if you buy the £50 Starter Pack, which includes the Eye and one Motion controller).
Both Sports Champions and Start The Party are fun and engaging. The latter, a collection of mini-games, really shows off the Move’s precision and brings limited ‘augmented reality’ by mapping 3D objects onto a video of you flailing your arms around.
But they’re ultimately cheap knock-offs of Wii Sports and Warioware. The best of the launch games is The Shoot, but Move certainly doesn’t have anything like Super Mario Galaxy 2 on its hands yet.
That’s all going to change very soon. Current games like Tiger Woods 2011 will be given patches for Move support, so you’ll just need to download a game update to get swinging your virtual golf club.
Later in 2010 the first big titles will arrive in the form of Heavy Rain’s Move Edition, SOCOM 4, Echocrome II, a PAIN Move Edition, Sly Collection and LittleBigPlanet 2. Gran Turismo will also screech into town, with its ability to let the Eye to track your head and adjust the viewpoint depending on where you look.
And 2011 will bring the much-anticipated Killzone 3, Heroes on the Move and the Harry Potter-esque Sorcery, which changes the colour of the Motion controller’s tip to show which spell you can cast, among other tricks.
Time to Move?
So, PlayStation Move is certainly an investment for the future – but should you buy now? Despite the lack of games, for current PS3 owners it’s a no-brainer. From the early games and demos we’ve seen, Move will be a major part of PlayStation’s future, so it’s worth getting the practice in now.
There’s also very little difference between Move and Kinect on price. Microsoft’s system will cost £130 when it launches in November 2010, while £135 will get you the Move Starter Pack (Eye, Motion controller, demo disc) plus a spare Motion controller and two Navigation controllers.
With Kinect’s voice and gesture control potentially providing a different motion-sensing experience, there may be some justification for getting both. One thing’s for sure – it’s time to bubblewrap your breakables and prepare your lounge for a next-gen, motion-gaming feast.