MOVE-ing On Up: Hands-on With the PS3’s New Motion Controller

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After Peter and I took in the Sony press conference that announced the Move controller, we joined the hundreds of other people gathered at the event to finally get our hands on the thing.

The first game we checked out was Crave Entertainment’s Brunswick Bowling. It’s already available for the Wii but this PS3 Move version took advantage of the console’s hardware and had super-sharp textures and colors. The play experience felt much Wii Bowling but with some major differences.  The placement of the ball felt very true to where I was aiming it. It was very unlike when I play bowling in Wii Sports and wonder why the ball on the left side of the lane when I was aiming right. The other thing I noticed with Brunswick Bowling was that the Move controller read the weird English and spins I was putting on the ball far more accurately that it does when I play on the Wii. I’m guessing that the

Next, Peter and I moved on to SOCOM 4, the game that most surprised folks when Peter Dille said it’d be playable with Move. While waiting for the controller to recalibrate, it was explained to us that the motion controller works in conjunction with the Playstation Eye and that the shifting colors on the ball allowed the Eye to more accurately track the controller. Even at this early pre-alpha stage, the Move pair felt more accurate in terms of fidelity than the Wii remote does.

The Move controller feels much lighter than it looks and so does the sub-controller. They’ll both charge off of the same mini-USB connections that juice up the Dualshock 3. We didn’t get a battery life estimate but anything the Sony reps could quote us at this point probably isn’t optimized. One thing I liked about the sub-controller (Jesus, what a name….) more than the Wii nunchuck is that it has less buttons.  I always accidentally press the Z button when I mean to press C but there’s no chance of that here. Maybe it’s just my big hands, but I don’t love the placement of the D-pad on the sub-controller. It feels too close to the analog stick for me to comfortably and consistently shift my thumb down and tap the right directional input.

As Peter and I waited and waited for a chance to throw some punches in the Motion Fighters brawling game, we watched others play. While this title, too, is early, it felt less precise than SOCOM 4 did. Swings for uppercuts weren’t registering and there was a bit of noticeable latency in other moments. But, again, the game’s still a long way from being finished.

My initial thoughts about Move are that Sony might be able to deliver a broader, better-looking set of motion control software to the console than Nintendo’s managed to muster for the Wii at this point. Sony doesn’t have the same kind of carefully manicured image that Nintendo does. You’d never see a realistically violent game like Motion Fighters on the Wii. Also, first- and third-party developers could deliver a sharper, more precise kind of motion control experience to players by virtue of the PS3’s beefier hardware. Of course, the downside to the Move is that it could open up the floodgates for the same kinds of poorly-executed waggle-ware that’s plagued the Wii to wind up on the PS3. Still, the most helpful way to think about how Move might change the PS3’s fortunes is to not to consider it as a bold new direction but as another set of experiences the console can offer. When the holidays come and a curious shopper enters a Gamestop looking for a console to bowl on, they might just choose the one that also plays Blu-ray discs and is ready for 3D. We’ll see how much of a seismic shift Move will make for Sony in the months to come.

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