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PS3's wireless controller: hands-on impressions

PS3's wireless controller: hands-on impressions

The PS3 is finally playable, and I got my first chance to test-drive the new console earlier today. I played Warhawk, which is the first title to utilize the PlayStation 3's newly announced motion-sensitive controller. The motion feature worked better than I expected, allowing me to orient my onscreen aircraft for dives and climbs, as well as banking left and right. What's cool about the motion sensitivity is that it takes the "body English" that many people employ when playing and makes it part of a game's control scheme. The motion-sensitive controls could theoretically free up buttons otherwise used for flight control as well.

That said, the PS3 motion control isn't at the same level of interactivity that the Nintendo Wii offers--it seems more of an extra than an integral part of the playing experience. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. Some of the Wii games, such as Wii Sports Tennis, seem to be more workout than video game, which is great if you're trying to get your heart pumping but may not appeal to couch-potato gamers who just want to blow off some steam with a first-person shooter after a long day at work. (Full disclosure: I fall into the latter category.) As always, though, it will depend how developers make use of the feature; it will be interesting, for instance, to see if motion control makes a third-party franchise title such as Splinter Cell or Madden actually play better on the PS3.

Aside from the motion control, the PS3 controller's cosmetics are almost a dead ringer for those of the existing Dual Shock controller that you'll find on today's PlayStation 2. But the minor differences are telling: there's a new button with a PlayStation logo in the center of its face, directly between the select and start keys, that's almost certain to be a "home" key. The controller is also wireless--the cable shown in the photo is simply a security lash to keep show attendees from sneaking off with a souvenir--with what looked like a standard mini-USB jack in the back for recharging the internal battery. And the L2 and R2 triggers are pressure-sensitive.

As Microsoft did with the Xbox 360 controllers, Sony is following the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" model with its PS3 controllers. While Sony may take some flack for eschewing the sort of revolutionary control scheme that Nintendo has adopted, I think the retro design was a smart move. Both enthusiast and casual gamers are familiar and comfortable with the classic PlayStation controller, so anyone will be able to hit the ground running when they first sit down with the PS3.