Sony PlayStation Move

Any review of PlayStation Move is going to have to admit the same thing: this is the first step on a long journey. As such, there is understandably a degree of discomfort that comes with writing about something so new, with so little real material to work from. It would be a little like Christopher Columbus describing the Americas as "a little small" having only just planted his feet on the shores of The Bahamas. 

In our case we've had Start the Party! and Sports Champions get us a moving in the living room. As we've seen from both those games, neither is particularly exciting in its own right. Sports Champions is the better of the two, demonstrating a wider, more serious side to PlayStation Move, whilst Start the Party! attempts to give us a taste of fun family-friendly gaming.

PlayStation Move is composed of two core parts. The first is the PlayStation Eye camera (£24), the second is the motion controller (£29). You can buy these things separately, or in various bundles as an expandable system. The basic camera and single motion controller bundle is £49.99. The system effectively gives you a huge range of control dynamics, because it not only knows how you are manipulating the controls thanks to the on-board motions sensors, but also knows exactly where the controller is thanks to the glowing balls being detected by the camera.

A comparison to the Nintendo Wii controls is not lost here, as essentially they do the same job, with the Wii Remote having an optical sensor to determine position for on-screen pointing. The PlayStation Move feels more substantial, more grown up, and more accurate, but then it is a much newer product, even accepting the Wii MotionPlus that was added in 2009.

The Move Motion Controller is wonderfully sculpted to fit into your hand comfortably. The black plastic fits in with the rest of the PS3 world, pulling across recognisable design points from your regular PS3 controllers. Like your existing controllers it is wireless with an internal battery, so you'll have to plug it in via the Mini-USB socket in the bottom to charge, although in the future we're guessing that using a charging cradle will be the popular option - we've summed up a range of accessories here.

The top of the Move Motion Controller is topped by the distinctive soft glowing ball, which already has something of an iconic look to it. There is something funky about its changing colours, and returning home on a dark evening to see through the front window two glowing orbs engaged in what looked like some sort of exotic mating ritual is a sight to behold. This is something that Microsoft's controller-less Kinect will never be able to boast about. Not yet, anyway. 

Being able to see those glowing balls also lets the system know when you've done something like cross your arms: it can determine the relative position of one controller to another (see Sports Champions Archery aiming for example) which allows you to accurately aim along an axis.

The Move Motion Controller also provides vibration feedback which can provide some degree of impact recognition as well as being put to atmospheric uses. We don't expect that vibration will really be used any differently from the way it already is. 

Setting up Move is simply a case of plugging the camera into a USB slot on your console and placing the camera in a suitable position. For many this will be front and centre beneath their TV, and the stand provides plenty of movement to get the angle you want. The Eye camera lens offers two positions depending on your room set-up. We chose the wide-angle setting, which is better suited to smaller rooms.

When you start playing a Move game you'll have to calibrate the controllers. The camera will give you a location overlay to stand in, so you have the correct position in front of the camera. Depending on your size, if you a playing against a child, you might need to stand either closer or further away. The same applies with two-player games (such as Table Tennis which we played). It becomes quickly obvious that you'll need quite a lot of space to play Move, especially when using two controllers. With Archery, for example, we had to move furniture aside to get far enough from the camera to "draw the bow" back.

You then have to calibrate the controllers. This entails pressing the button whilst holding the controller on various positions - shoulder height, by your side and at your belt buckle. You'll also have to let the game know if you are left or right handed, and in games where you can use two controllers you'll be asked to hold them together and press the button, so it knows which controller is in which hand. 

The main controls that fall naturally under the fingers are the trigger on the underside and the "Move" button on the top. As you hold the Move Motion Controller you can't help but place your fingers on these buttons, so they are ready to use. Your four standard PlayStation buttons (square, triangle, circle, cross) are placed around this, but it takes a little practise to hit one of these on demand. We've already seen basic quick time event-style strikes in Sports Champions Gladiators and we can see that QTEs will be an easy way to introduce some dramatic action to Move titles, as with the standard controller.

Equally, the trigger finds a natural deployment as a grab and release button, but we're guessing that many will want to see it as a trigger, to fire or use some sort of weapon.

Sports Champion Gladiators game also shows us some basic character movement. This is where the current deployment of the Motion Controller is limited - there is no analogue stick to move a character around. Instead we see the Move buttons used for this - press the button on the left-hand controller to circle left, and the one the right to move right. Additionally it will let you move back by holding both. This is fine in an arena, but when it comes to open-world gaming, or even on-rails first person-shooter style gaming, that's not going to be enough.

Of course you can use the point and click school of movement for first person control, point at a place and move here, but it's not until we get a game that offers you both Move and regular controls that we're going to be able to determine whether this is going to catch on. Some titles, like Heavy Rain and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11, will get an update to add Move support, so you'll be able to determine whether motion control makes for a better gaming experience.

But waiting in the wings is the Move Navigation Controller, something that we've yet to get our hands on. This gives you the controls you'd normally find on the left-hand side of the Dual Shock, so you can move your character around with the usual analogue stick, d-pad and shoulder buttons. How this fares when faced with fast-paced gaming remains to be seen. We've had a quick play on SOCOM 4 and Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest and so far things look like they are going to work.

One of the advantages that the glowing ball gives is the ability to superimpose something on the top of the controller. As soon as we saw this in Start the Party! we were thinking "lightsaber". That gaming moment will come when, in front rooms across the country, people will be waving Move and living the Jedi fantasy. Start the Party! is a collection of mini-games that didn't really get us excited, but that glimpse into the future makes us hope and pray that someone does Move justice.

From playing the limited titles we have, it's clear that PlayStation Move is accurate. The range of movements shown off by Sports Champions gives us a clear indication of the accuracy and versatility of the Move Motion Controller, with games like Disc Golf revealing what a slight change in angle will do, and Volleyball, Gladiators and Archery demonstrating how well two controllers work together.

Verdict

PlayStation Move may just step down the path of the predictable - bowling, tennis, fishing - but that's not where the glory lies (in fact these titles are already lined up). Sure, it brings motion control to the PlayStation, but it's not going to be the knock-out hit as we've already got those on the Wii. Talking of knock-out hits, yes, boxing does get us a little more excited.

But the things that will benefit from Move will be things like flying, some parts of combat games, the weird and whacky. We need to see how the control systems are developed to integrate Move without things becoming too simple, or too difficult. As it is, PlayStation Move certainly offers hardware that you'll be happy with. It looks and feels great and we like the glowing balls. We also like using controllers, whatever Microsoft Kinect brings, we're not ready to drop everything yet.

How do you score something this early in its life cycle? We have to score it on potential. We recognise that PlayStation Move could be something great, but it's all about the games. Having played a few titles, we're left wanting more: the technology works, and that's the real point here.

Would we rush out and buy PlayStation Move as soon as it launches? No, we wouldn't. We'd wait until there are exciting games that we want to play using motion control. Fortunately, that's not going to be long with the run up to Christmas seeing a number of titles released.