When it released the Wii, Nintendo gave the clear message that it would not play by the rules of the prevailing console wisdom. The result? The best-selling console of this generation, the best-selling game of all time (Wii Sports, if you had to ask), a whole new market of casual gamers, the ill-will of so-called "hardcore" gamers... and two competitors who could possibly be accused of playing console gimmick catch-up.
With the PlayStation Move, Sony looks to cement their place in the "motion-control" bandwagon - in the spirit of charity, let's all forget their half-hearted, late-to-the-party Sixaxis gimmick (who really wants to remember Lair anyway?) by releasing something that looks suspiciously like the Wiimote.
Going through the motions
It's been a year since we first saw the PS Move in E3 2010 (the same E3, not coincidentally, that had Microsoft rolling out their take on motion gaming with the Kinect), and we haven't grown fonder of the look since then. While the Wiimote's boxy design has faded to the background by the dint of its sheer blandness, the Move goes for the opposite effect: that big glowing ball on top, prone to turning hot pink, practically screams for your attention. Factoring in the curvy lines and vibration function, the Move looks suspiciously like-well, we'll just let your imaginations fill in the rest. (Note to Sony marketers: that phallic logo does not help one bit.)
The Eye camera (which comes with the Move starter kit) fares better off in the design front. First appearing on the PlayStation 2 as the EyeToy, this new version sheds the "Toy" part off its name and a few pounds off its frame to give a sleek design. Placed under your HD TV, the raised mic crown and its rounded camera base gives it a discreet, but remarkable, profile.
Held in your hand, the Move feels a lot lighter than the standard Wiimote so much so that even five straight hours of gaming on it proved to be quite painless. The button layout, though, took a bit of getting used to: PS gamers familiar with the "circle, square, x, triangle" layout might be befuddled with the way they're suddenly squared around a central button-which, like Prince's name when he was the Artist Formerly Known as a Glyph, is represented solely by an unpronounceable symbol (the aforementioned logo) that the manual helpfully says is called the "Move" button. The buttons themselves felt overly small and difficult to reach, particularly when you're gripping the trigger.
There's also the Navigation controller, which in Wii parlance would be called the Nunchuck-except that it's wireless (good) and doesn't have motion capability (not so good). As in the Nunchuck, the extra controller is mostly used for moving your character around. It sports an analog stick and a couple of buttons.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to get a demo unit to review... but the Move does allow you to use a normal Sixaxis instead. As any sort of extended playtime can tell you, however, this really isn't the best option. With the Move on my right hand, I had to grip one of the Sixaxis' stems with my left, and stretch out my thumb to manipulate the thumbstick. So it's a toss between economics and ergonomics. Choosing not to shell out the money for a Navigation controller means a less-than-ideal experience.
Video via manyinblog on YouTube
We like to move it, move it
So how does the Move stack up against the competition? Having played both the Kinect and the WiiMotion Plus (the new attachment to the standard Wiimote that promises greater accuracy), the Move was our last untried frontier for this generation's motion-gaming gimmicks, and we were curious to see how this showdown went.
The Move actually occupies a neat, conceptual middle ground between the two systems: by combining both the Wii's gyroscopic controller and the Kinect's camera, it bridges the tried-and-tested waggle of Nintendo with Microsoft's futurist ambition. That's the theory, at least. The proof, as they say, is in the gaming.
To test the Move, we loaded up a marathon session of Heavy Rain: Move Edition. In many ways, this is actually the perfect game for a comprehensive Move hands-on. It's a signature PS3 exclusive that plays to the system's marketed strengths: high-fidelity graphics and a resolutely mature storyline. Its "quick time event" gameplay might have earned it a love-it-or-hate-it rep but it was spot-on perfect for this hardware review: like Wii Sports Resort for the WiiMotion Plus or Dance Central for the Kinect, Heavy Rain: Move Edition showcases the controller's capabilities by requiring you to pull off a wide range of motion.
And what a range it was. In the course of playing the game all the way through its end, we had to do tons of movements like we were in a dance troupe or something. No kidding.
After eight solid hours on the Move, it definitely played like a refined version of the Wiimote. For all its neon goofiness, the glowing ball, combined with the camera and a whole slew of internal sensors powering the Move's gut, really does a bang-up job in detecting the finer movements that would have stumped Ninty's white waggler.
While it wasn't a perfect one-to-one reading by any stretch of imagination, I could still favorably compare Heavy Rain's relatively cramp-free Move experience against, say, Okami on the Wii, where the ‘Mote repeatedly misread even simple horizontal slashes. Plus, I only had to calibrate my entire Move set-up once, as opposed to Wii Sports Resort, where I had to contend with controller drift during marathon Archery sessions.
As for the Kinect... well, Microsoft's big, hands-free gaming idea is an entirely different beast. While they may share some ideas (using the cam, for example), the Move is content to refine the Wii experience while the Kinect goes its merry own way. It turns out that the Move doesn't really occupy a middle ground between the Kinect and the Wiimote; the Kinect is in a whole new trajectory all together, and it still remains to be seen if that pays off.
Bust a move
The Move, then, delivers everything it promised. Still, I can't quite shake the feeling that it might be all a bit "too little, too late". Unlike the Kinect, the Move doesn't offer a radically new way to control the game; we've seen it for the past five years with the Wii. And for all its limitations, the Wiimote has what the Move does not: a massive library of games, running the gamut from shovelware dreck to modern classics like Super Mario Galaxy 2, that were designed to work with this controller.
In contrast, the Move only has a couple of exclusive games (including such "gems" as Zumba Fitness and Michael Jackson: The Experience), with the rest of the library tacking on Move functionality almost like an afterthought (a notable exception seems to be Killzone 3, with Kotaku's Brian Crecente calling it the game that made him believe in a motion-controlled FPS). In fact, even Nintendo itself seems to be rejecting the very revolution they pioneered; while they're certainly not ditching motion controls for good, their new console, the Wii U, features a return to a more traditional controller.
The Move is no cheap investment. A starter kit clocks in at P4,995 in Datablitz - that comes with just the Move, the Eye, and one casual game, yet another P1,550 for a Navigation controller, and then another P2,395 for another Move controller for that special 2nd player in your life. A price tag like that really begs the question: who is the Move for, really?
Certainly, for X360 or Wii owners looking to convert, or for the console virgin looking to get his first system, the base PS3 alone, with its acclaimed exclusives, should be enough enticement; the Move simply doesn't have the novelty or the library to be an appealing, must-buy standalone feature just yet.
Perhaps the Move is preaching to its own choir. For the upwardly mobile PlayStation completist, looking to exploit the full potential of an already-impressive console, it does sound like a good deal-but at present, the Move is an impressive technical achievement that may have just been too late to the party.
Click here to view the Sony PlayStation Move in the Buyer's Guide