E3 2011: The Motion Control Report
Last year, both Sony and Microsoft rolled out their respective motion control peripherals in full force at E3, challenging Nintendo and beginning what appeared to be the “Motion Control Wars”.
Though I have not yet finished the video reviews of them, I have made my opinions on the three companies motion control devices clear in the past: Nintendo’s Wiimote can only do a small handful of things but does them well enough. Microsoft’s Kinect is an incredible piece of technology that is completely useless for gaming. Lastly, Sony’s Move, while not flawless, is a phenomenal motion control device that is sorely lacking in support.
Since then, things have played out strangely. Most people already had a Wii and it left a bad taste in their mouths when it came to motion control. Sony practically abandoned the Move right out of the gate and has even attempted to sabotage it’s success in Japan. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Kinect has sold like hotcakes entirely on a single dancing game and some homebrew tech demos.
Now, one year later, we return to E3 to see what everyone has done with their motion controllers.
With their newly announced and strangely named Wii U, Nintendo has decided not to improve their motion control one bit. The Wii U’s new controller, while featuring gyroscopes, is not designed for any sort of serious moving and Nintendo has opted to give the system backwards compatibility with the Wiimote to provide it’s motion control. This means the Wii U’s motion control will be exactly the same as the Wii’s motion control. In many ways this makes sense as, to Nintendo and many of it’s consumers, the Wiimote was “good enough”. Not to mention adding the much needed position detection would no doubt result in them admitting that the Move is a better controller; something they do not want to do. Again, this makes sense as the general public firmly believes the Move is nothing more than a cheap Wiimote knock-off with only marginal improvements, if any. Also, as stated in a previous article, this gives Nintendo an excellent way to phase out their motion control stealthily.
Now, one may wonder if perhaps the more powerful hardware would improve the motion detection of the Wiimote. Many believe that part of why the Wiimote doesn’t work so well is because the Wii just isn’t powerful enough to handle it’s readings. However, this is mostly a myth. The biggest issue with the Wiimote is it’s lack of position detection and this is something the Wii U does not appear to be addressing.
Most would believe that Sony completely dropped the Move this year as seemingly no news about it has surfaced from E3. This is only partially true. Sony did make some new announcements for the Move, but many of them have dropped off the collective radar of the gaming community as no one cares about the Move.
Mostly, Sony announced optional Move support for nearly every new first person shooter coming to the console. This is wonderful as, again, it’s optional and some people do find Wii-esque pointer based FPS controls to be more enjoyable, myself included.
Perhaps the most interesting part of all of this was Ken Levine, the man behind Bioshock Infinite, announcing the addition of Move support. He has previously mocked motion control and said he would not include it in Bioshock Infinite as gamers would feel “cheated”. However after actually trying the controller, he changed his tune. This is a perfect example of the state of the Move. Sony has made what is undeniably the best motion controller on the market, then threw it in the ocean and told it to swim. With next to no marketing, the only thing keeping the Move afloat is the fact that it is a phenomenal peripheral.
Still, it was supposedly Sony representatives that worked to make Ken Levine a believer. So it seems that convincing every FPS developer to add in motion control is their top priority with the Move. Again that makes sense. Move-based controls in an FPS can be a good thing and Killzone 3 has been the primary reason why people have been buying the Move (and Sharpshooter attatchment), so they may as well continue to appeal to them. Furthermore, Move control in FPSes is optional so it doesn’t piss off the hardcore gamers who dislike motion control.
In spite of all of this though, one actual Move game was announced: Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest. An on-rails game where players swing a sword, shoot arrows, and throw shurikens against an evil skeleton army. What makes this noteworthy is that it’s being made by Zindagi Games, the people who made Sports Champions and many of the Move’s tech demos. In fact, the hero of the game, Deadmund, was the tech demo skeleton who was also released as DLC for Sports Champions last October. What this means is that we can practically guarantee that the controls will be good and the game should be a must-own for Move owners. Also interesting is that the villain of the game, Morgrimm, was actually a secret character in Sports Champions.
While the other two companies have turned motion control into a side note, Microsoft went all out. Practically their entire press conference was devoted to adding Kinect support to nearly every game!
Unfortunately, anyone who owns a Kinect could clearly tell things were not looking good. Mass Effect 3 added voice commands which, while cool, made me wonder why we needed a Kinect for it. Afterall, isn’t voice recognition software based? Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon promises to add Iron Man-esque gesture controls to it’s gun building system, but with so many gestures it seems like it would be easy to screw up. Not to mention the fact that you probably have to be standing up in order to use these new Kinect controls. Meanwhile Forza is adding head tracking, letting players look left and right by turning their heads left and right. Too bad the TV is in front of them. Also, what if that screws up, with the camera spazzing out at an inopportune moment? Hopefully the developers will have the foresight to add an emergency Kinect shut off button.
Then there’s the Kinect exclusive games. Star Wars Kinect was blatantly laggy and inaccurate. Kinect Sports 2 was a joke (and also laggy and inaccurate). Kinect Disneyland was not only depressing but appeared to be a cheap mini-game collection (most of which were basically the same game). Meanwhile, Tim Schaffer’s Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster blatantly snapped players into canned animations.
The only good things that seemed to be coming to Kinect were Dance Central 2 and Fable: The Journey. Dance Central 2 is basically the same as the first one, which is the best game on Kinect, but adds the 2-player simultaneously play the first game should have had. As for Fable: The Journey? Well it’s a lightgun shooter except you use your hands to cast spells. That may not be exciting to anyone else but considering Sonic Free Riders is currently the best non-dancing game on Kinect, I’ll take what I can get. Unfortunately the player’s aim seemed a bit too good and chances are the game will incorporate some heavy auto-aim.
So there we go. Nintendo is moving on, Sony is quietly adding optional support, and Microsoft is going all-out. Sure makes you wonder what next years E3 will be like.