I had high hopes for PlayStation Move since its announcement. Having played around with various titles for about an hour today, I have to say: if Sony’s technology is better, it isn’t showing in its first-gen software.
Frankly, I’m not sure that it ever will.
Here’s the premise: PlayStation Move tracks a ball of light with a camera. Move’s big claim to fame, if you’re comparing it to Nintendo’s Wii MotionPlus, is that it can track you in Z space (depth). That means you can stab someone with a sword rather than just swipe.
My first demo was a game called TV Superstar – essentially a series of minigames themed like a TV show. The Move’s camera snapped photos of my face, mapping them to my character…cutting off my goatee so I looked a bit like Hitler. The gameplay? Waggling. And faster waggling to make my character run faster. Take away some cutesy character customisation, and you see the sort of half-assed motion game Sony should be sweeping under the rug.
So I tried The Fight: Lights Out. This is game seemed like the antithesis to TV Superstar. It’s gritty and violent, sure, but it also tracks two Move controllers rather than one, allowing you to punch an opponent into oblivion. Plus, the Move’s camera would track my eyes, allowing me to rotate my position by turning my head (a good thing, since I was warned not to move my feet after calibration). I couldn’t wait, even donning 3D glasses for the full effect. The combat? Laggy. And I never felt like my punches were registered the way I threw them onscreen. Rather, my uppercut registered a precanned animation. I understand that my punches probably looked too horrible to use, but a lag, combined with pure animation cues, stops you from feeling like you’re fighting. Heck, even Wii’s loosely controlled Punch Out! feels more like actual boxing.
And things didn’t get much better for a while. Shoot was a tiring, slow, aim-the-camera-at-the-TV shooter. Singstar Dance? It looked polished, but since when is waving one arm dancing?
So What Did I Like?/h3>
Luckily, my Move demos weren’t a complete wash. The new SOCOM, for instance, is no more technically advanced in terms of controls than any Wii game: Aim the wand at the screen, use a nunchuk to control your camera, shoot people. But what made it infinitely better than the average Wii title was this thing is a real PS3 shooter. It looked and felt like a real PS3-gen game, offering a level of graphics and physics luxury that we’ve mostly lost in the era of motion controllers.
Sports Champions, Sony’s now-mandatory answer to Wii Sports but with a gladiator—including a shield-and-sword mode—really shined as well. It’s not that the motions were perfect 1:1, but the animations and motion tracking found a natural, comfortable balance. I felt like I could control my shield without any tutorial, and the same can be said about the sword, whether I was charging in with a shield bash or slicing away at my opponent’s legs.
And iPet…look, Sony’s EyeToy has been doing augmented reality for a while. But my iPet, a beautifully rendered monkey who sat on the carpet in front of me, is the sort of app that you don’t see on the Wii or Xbox 360. Now was a full motion tracking Move system necessary to make the game work? Probably not. The monkey reacted as well to visual-based hand tracking (think petting) to the wand (with which I blew bubbles and threw a ball). But the wand did make the game more fun offering me ways to interact that otherwise would most probably be impossible.
I’m by no means writing off Move. It’s a peripheral that may indeed have more tricks up its sleeve than the Wiimote, but demos of actual planned games don’t lie. It’s clearly going to be under-supported by unpolished first gen software for a while.
Now, whether Sony can make sure a few bad apples don’t taint the consumer’s perspective of the bunch, whether Sony can entice developers to stick with the platform through its growing pains, these are the “ifs” that cloud the future the Move platform. But based upon my early hands ons? It’s a Wiimote HD, for better and worse.