Are Motion Controls Finally A Viable Option For All Gamers?

By Adam Ma on February 22, 2011, 9:38PM EDT
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I think it's pretty fair to agree that as a whole, the market for motion controlled games has been filled with mostly games based on gimmicks, as opposed to games that really utilise them well. I never truly saw the Nintendo Wii as a next generation console for that very reason. Its entire premise was motion controller gaming that really felt as if it could easily be replaced with a normal old 'boring' controller. Of course, there are a few exceptions, like The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess, but there was never a point in time where a Wii game brought to me a unique experience that absolutely could not be replicated with a classic controller. Worse than that, the few game mechanics that did manage to find some sort of motion dependency were often times poorly programmed and riddled with so many bugs and inconsistent movement readings that the games themselves weren't worth playing. So what has changed since then? The competition.

Being given the opportunity to sit down with Killzone 3 recently, I took the time to immerse myself in all three versions of the game: the normal version, its 3D counterpart, and using PlayStation Move via the Sharpshooter peripheral. Following Sony's logic, all three versions of this game are the future of entertainment, available to be enjoyed depending on how much cash you have sitting in pocket. The normal version was quite a bit of fun, the 3D version was an interesting experience, but it was the motion controller that stuck with me the most.

On one hand the technology still has a long way to go. For example, turning with the Sharpshooter is imperfect and the cover system feels far more fluid on a controller than using a plastic gun. But it's certainly a large step forward from most other motion-oriented FPS titles that I've experienced on the market. The difference here is that Killzone 3 actually feels like a title that's been designed, not simply with a motion controller in mind, but to fully exploit and take advantage of the Sharpshooter. Part of this boils down to the Sharpshooter itself, which is easy enough to get the hang of once you spend a little bit of time making some personal adjustments. Everything from turning speed to movement sensitivity has to really be taken into account, and it's these personal settings that set apart Killzone's motion features from that of a stereotypical Wii game. Customization simply isn't necessary on the Wii, as aim is almost always absolutely perfect, but knowing that I had to work to understand exactly how I was supposed to use the Sharpshooter to play the game was half the challenge. It feels strange, until it clicks.

Another part of this motion controller gaming dilemma lies with the games themselves, which largely boil down to 'gimmicky' titles. There wasn't a single game between Move and Kinect's launch that caught my interest for that reason. I didn't want to pet a tiger or dance/workout (which is what all the Kinect seemed to be offering) nor did I want to pretend to be a boxer or play games that were perfectly fine on a controller just to have something different. Up until this point I've always felt that motion controllers have been working hard to unnecessarily replace a feature on my console that has always been working just fine. To look at a motion controller as an alternative though, puts the subject in an entirely different light.

Perhaps this is the route that motion controllers should have taken from the very start, to avoid being labelled as a cheap gimmick only a few years down the line. Much like how every movie isn't presented in 3D, not every single game should push down on motion controls. That isn't to say however, that such a technology isn't a viable alternative. My time with the Sharpshooter wasn't persuasive enough to convince me that now is the time I should be purchasing over a hundred dollars in extra devices for my PS3, but it's certainly a more interesting option to consider in the future. From here, I suppose it depends on how many other developers decide to follow suit with Guerrilla Game's example. I'm very interested in seeing which future titles manage to provide an equally engaging, but different, experience using both platforms for entertainment.

It could be seen as unreasonable to ask a developer to take the time and manpower to essentially create two completely different games, and perhaps for some developers it would be. Not every FPS needs to have a motion controller option after all, the same way that there will always be those few sensor-based games that really don't need a controller. I look at the investment the same way I sort of looked at my first purchase of Rock Band; I would never spend my time singing, playing guitar, and drums all at once, but it's nice to have some options every once in a while. Most certainly I found that the game's price tag to be quite justifiable, and why shouldn't it be? To be able to play a game, multiple times, and obtain a completely different experience from it every time is something almost every developer should be working towards.

So if you've already jumped on board the Wii train and have no intention of looking back, that's quite alright; and if you've decided to condemn any controller that has more to do with how you point than where you point, that's quite alright as well. But for those out there in my position who simply want their games to be a more dynamic experience, and who were never really impressed with what the Wii, Kinect or Move had to offer from the very beginning, take heart as we may start see some very interesting things happening with these motion controllers in 2011 that mayb be far more compelling than what's been offered up in the majority of instances over the last five years of Wii reign. At the very least, those who have set down the money to experience both the Kinect and the Move will finally have the option to draw a little more out of their games that happen to be compatible with both.

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