The Sony PlayStation Move is a set of two controllers that give you motion control gaming above and beyond what the console's current Sixaxis controller offers you and the chance to get into the game as if you were really there. Sound familiar? That's because for the most part it is. But can Sony improve on the Nintendo Wii Remote and Nunchuk? We went hands-on with a number of games at E3 in Los Angeles.
To the uninformed the Sony PlayStation Move can be best described as a vastly improved Wii Remote. It's a stick that you wave around in front of your console, the game reacts to your movements and then relays that positioning information on screen meaning you've just swung a golf club or pointed your gun at someone. That's the basic reality of it. In actual fact it's a lot more advanced than that, and is all the better for it.
What actually happens is that you plug the company's Sony PlayStation Eye webcam into your PS3, fire up the Move controller and then the camera tracks said controller as you use it. Because it is actively tracking it visually rather than just through motion detection, as is the case with the Wii Remote, it means that the Sony PS3 knows exactly where the device is.
That precise positioning means that the data can be used more effectively in-game, which in turn means a vastly improved experience over the competition from both Nintendo and Microsoft.
There are two types of controller available, the main Sony PlayStation Move controller and a navigation stick. The Move controller features a large coloured ball on the top (it changes colour as well) and that's the tracking element. Beneath that ball are a series of buttons (yes buttons) and these allow you to interact with the games just as you would a regular contoller. There is a also a trigger.
Some of the games like SOCOM 4 use the buttons, some like Table Tennis don't and it will really come down to what game you play as to whether or not you're using buttons and whether or not you'll be needing a second controller - the navigaton controller.
This second controller is like the Wii Nunchuk and offers you the ability to control your character's movements in-game with an analogue stick you control via your thumb. If you've played on the Wii the whole process for moving around is second nature with the navigation controller operating like a dumb partner to the more intelligent Move controller.
Of course some games will require you to use to Move controllers so if you're likely to play lots of different games you might have to end up buying two Move controllers and one navigation controller - bringing the cost of the three up to around $100 / £70 (UK prices haven't been confirmed) plus the camera to make it all work. Sony has said there will be bundle deals to get you started so we'll wait and see what that brings before making judgement. It's also worth pointing out that it will work on your current PS3, old and new alike.
Controllers and how they work are one thing, but what about the games? So far Sony has announced 16 dedicated titles for PlayStation Move available on the day of launch and 40 more slated to hit throughout the holiday season before the year is out, servicing both casual and hardcore gamers alike.
Titles already confirmed are: Sorcery, SingStar Dance, Heroes on the Move (working title), SOCOM 4, Heavy Rain Move Edition, echochrome ii, EyePet, Sports Champions, Tumble, Beat, Time Crisis: Razing Storm, Toy Story 3, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11.
Sports Champions - Archery
One of the biggest games you'll see at launch and one that will be bundled in the box. Sports Champions gives you six sports to play with to see what's what when it comes to all this movement malarkey.
Archery is just as it sounds, with you competiting freeplay or otherwise on a range of archery courses hoping to get a bullseye. Using two Move controllers, it allows you to recreate the feeling of holding a bow and arrow. One Move controller is used for the body of the bow, the other for the strong, with you pulling back one hand to increase the power. As you pull back the controller rumbles and the more you pull back the stronger your shot.
Turn the front Move controller sideways (as in the picture) and the bow turns with you. If that wasn't enough to freak you out, to load the next arrow you have to reach behind your back and pull one out with your movements perfectly recreated on screen. It's incredibly clever and incredibly exacting and if you had a pretend frame it would feel like you were Robin Hood, just in your living room.
The downside? It's archery.
Sports Champions - Table Tennis
The second Sports Champions game we played was Table Tennis. This one only requires you to have the one Move controller and lets you play the fast paced action of ping pong in your living room.
Here you throw the Move controller up to serve (something that we failed to do first time - a norm we are told) and then for the rest of the game pretend it's a paddle. Because the PS3 is tracking the exact location of the controller you can do spin shots, curve balls and anything else you fancy within the realms of table tennis. That can be a good thing and equally a bad as the game does require you to be good at table tennis to work effectively. If you can't play in real life then you'll struggle here.
We had only one game as the queue was long. Overall though it's good, and a good way, like archery, of showing off what is capable. Like Wii Sports, Sports Champions will be the game you reach for when people come around to see your new toy.
Heavy Rain is an amazing game and come September when the PlayStation Move comes out will be getting a software update to allow for Move support. The game itself doesn't change (read our Heavy Rain review), but where in the past you had to shake things or interact with elements by moving your Sixaxis controller, here you're just doing the same with the Move instead. It means it's even more of an armchair game, come movie than ever before.
The big strength with Move over Microsoft's Kinect for Xbox 360 is that you've got buttons and it's with games like SOCOM that those buttons come into play.
Here you use both the Move controller and the navigation controller just like you would a Wii first person shooter. But unlike the Wii where you'll find your target spot flaying around as you try to locate the sight on the screen, the Move system knows exactly where you are. That means the system is considerably more responsive and considerably more precise.
We had no problem picking off the bad guys when they appeared quickly and efficiently with zero lag and zero annoyance. It's smooth, quick and we like it. You can also play the whole thing sitting down - we were tired - although we felt just too uncomfortable and conscious playing it as if we were holding a rifle just like the adverts you've probably seen.
The good news though is that Move works with fast action gaming, something we doubt Kinect for Xbox 360 can and certainly from experience we know the Wii can't.
Tiger Woods 11
Like Heavy Rain, Tiger Woods from EA will be getting an update in September to let you use the Move on the game and if you're a golfing pro it is highly recommended that you do.
Not one to mess around with easy levels we dived straight into the expert level with zero assistance and zero help. We wanted it real. The problem is (we don't play golf that much) that's exactly what you'll get.
Five holes and 15 over par later and we've lived to tell the tale, just. Using a single Move controller you hold it like it's a club and then are left to master your stroke. How you swing is exactly replicated on screen for better or for worse. That means if you slice it, you've sliced it in-game. If you swing hard it will swing hard in the game. If you ... well you get the picture.
The Move controller basically allows you to play as good as you can in real life, it is that simple. Thankfully you can tone it down, you can get it to help you, you can set it so you hit a perfect shot every time.
Throughout this First Look we've found ourselves coming back to the same words over and over again: exact and precise. That's exactly what Sony have created, a very exact and precise controller that will map your every move.
Thing of it as a Wii HD with better tracking, better movement and better precision that will add masses of depth to all your gaming rather than just being focused about casual family fun.
To compare it to the Microsoft Kinect isn't easy. We've played with both systems and they are both very different. Kinect is all about the magic, the fact you've become the controller and the fun you can have with that. Sony's PlayStation Move will never be able to replicate that, but then the Kinect will never be able to let you successfully replicate the level of precision of the Move.
Sony Move is about enhancing your games, and although our time was brief, it's something all PS3 owners should look at further. Either way one thing is for sure, the Sony PlayStation Move shows that Nintendo's Wii isn't for this world much longer.