E3 2009 officially opened the floodgates in terms of motion control on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Though Nintendo had found major success already with the company's Wii console, Microsoft and Sony were clearly hungry to get in on the action.
During each of their respective press conferences, we learned that neither Microsoft nor Sony wanted to directly emulate the technology Nintendo was using, but between the two, Sony's demonstration clearly piggybacked on the Wii remote wand shape and MotionPlus.
As time went on, we learned that this motion control initiative would be called PlayStation Move, and unlike the Wii, the technology would use a camera along with a light-up wand controller. The ball on top of the Move controller is what the PlayStation Eye sees, which it then computes into input commands.
Our review will take a look at the PlayStation Move Starter Bundle, which will retail for $100 when it's released September 17. It includes a Move controller, a PlayStation Eye camera, and a copy of Sports Champions. We'll also look at other PlayStation Move titles we've been able to test out, along with whether we think the Move is worth a purchase if you already own a Nintendo Wii.
The standard PlayStation Move controller
The standard PlayStation Move controller has a rubberized ball on top that's capable of switching colors via LED lights that are embedded at the bottom of the ball. We've been told that this functionality was included in the remote so that the device could change color if clothing or background interfered with what the PlayStation Eye could distinguish.
Most of the DualShock 3's buttons are represented on the Move controller, except L and R buttons. Instead, the Move controller replaces them with a standard "T" trigger button and an "OK" central button that has the PlayStation Move logo emblazoned on it.
The standard X, O, square, and triangle buttons flank the OK button. They have a simple, "click" feel to them, not the pressure-sensitive kind seen on the DualShock 3. The Select and Start buttons are hidden on either side of the Move controller, and we actually found them a bit tough to hit midgame. About halfway down the controller is the PlayStation Home button, the same one found on the DualShock 3.
The standard PlayStation Move controller is quite comfortable, and we really like how well the ergonomic shape of the device glides the trigger button directly into place in your hand. Though it's modeled to better facilitate a proper grip, it's a bit clumsier than what it's like swinging around a Wii remote.
There's no player number indicator on the PlayStation Move controller. Instead, when playing locally with more than one person (and more than one Move controller), the rubber ball will light a different color to signify whose remote it is.
PlayStation Move allows for two standard controllers to be used by the same player at once. For example, in Sports Champions' Beach Volleyball mode, the player has the option to use two remotes instead of one to help perform moves like bumping and serving. There's an option to use just one remote in this game mode as well, and switching in between both one- and two-remote setups didn't really change our opinion on overall accuracy. Extra Move controllers will go for $50 each.
We really liked how easy it was to navigate the PS3's XMB (cross-media-bar) menu system with this controller. By holding the T button on the remote, we were able to successfully move through menus left, right, up, and down. We were also impressed with how effortlessly we were able to select items and how well the camera was able to interpret the slightest of moves--ideal for selecting a single menu item among dozens.
The Navigation controller
Though the Navigation controller is not included in the bundle reviewed here, it is available separately for $30. The Navigation controller can be used in tandem with the Move controller to play certain games, like SOCOM 4. That said, during our testing with the software samples that Sony supplied us, we almost never had to use the device.
In terms of layout, the Navigation controller is about two-thirds the size of the standard Move controller and only features X and O buttons. A D-pad and analog thumb stick allows for nonmotion movement, and around back there are L1 and L2 trigger buttons. We're anticipating that this controller will primarily be used for games like SOCOM 4, where the player must be able to move a character as well as point or aim onscreen.
The Move controller and Navigation controller each have USB ports (just like the one found on a DualShock 3) so it'll first need to be paired to the console via a wired connection. Additionally, that port is used to charge both devices.
There isn't much involved in the preliminary setup of the PlayStation Move. The Eye accessory will take up a USB port, so there may be some issues with freeing up extra ports on newer PlayStation 3 consoles that only have two slots. Luckily, we tested the Move with our older PS3 models that gave us four ports to work with.
We placed the Eye below our TV in the center of the stand, though it can also be placed above a TV as well. You'll need to make sure the PS3 is close enough to the TV to accommodate the Eye's USB cord, so some slight rearranging may be required. We didn't have much of an issue getting everything situated correctly, but we're anticipating that this may be an issue for those with wall-mounted TVs or with custom-built home theater furniture that's measured to fit perfectly.
We should note that a few games recommended a minimum distance of 6 feet between the player and the PlayStation Eye for the best results. Though that might not seem like much, it may be tough to play with the PlayStation Move in a dormitory or, more specifically, a Manhattan apartment.
The game included with the Move Starter Bundle is Sports Champions, Sony's take on Wii Sports. Though Sports Champions only includes Disc Golf, Archery, Table Tennis, Gladiator Duel, Beach Volleyball, and Bocce Ball, these games feel much more fleshed out and give the player a healthy number of options and unlockables.
There's an impressive amount of production value packed into each of the sports. Most modes offer various courses to try out and a solid selection of avatars to choose from. Graphically speaking, the games look great, much more impressive than what we're used to in other sports variety games.