1st Sep 2010 | 08:53
For the benefit of anyone who hasn't been paying attention recently, let's get reacquainted with the basics of the PlayStation Move; how it works, how it looks, how it feels, what it smells like.
The Move controller fits snugly in your hand as a smooth, slightly concave, rounded cylinder. Your thumb rests on the new 'Move' button - the controller's action button.
On either side of your thumb, the familiar PlayStation symbols are displayed on small 'clicky' buttons, whilst the PS button is placed just below and set into the controller.
Underneath, your forefinger rests on an analogue trigger - with a slight lip on the end to stop the slipping problem that many gamers found with the shoulder buttons on the SixAxis. It's perfectly moulded to fit the hand and all the key buttons sit exactly where you'd want them to.
It's only the start and select buttons that are a bit awkward to get to. Placed on either side of the shaft, you end up having to press them with the side of your thumb, which is either a cramped or stretched manoeuvre depending on which you're going for. Lucky you won't be using them very much then.
The Move's stand-out feature, visually speaking, is its white orb. The hollow, soft, squeezable ball is the key to the whole operation and the bit that keeps "sex toy" in the back of your mind whenever it's in sight. Which is no bad thing, obviously.
Couple this with the PlayStation Eye and you've got a similar set up to the Wii - only the exact opposite. Bear with us.
See, where Nintendo essentially put a camera in the controller, which looks for a sensor bar on top of the TV, Sony puts the sensor in your hand. Point the Move at the Eye and the white orb will flick through and finally glow with one its 100 potential colours - the one that contrasts the most with your wallpaper so that it stands out.
Also housed in the Move's matte casing is a three-axis accelerometer and angular rate sensors that can detect the controller's rotation and titling movement in any direction - which also make up the basic mechanics of the Wii remote.
Sony's gone one step further, though, by throwing in a magnetometer (a digital compass to normals) which uses the Earth's gravitational pull to bolster the other readings. That's right, people; the PlayStation Move uses the Earth itself to up the accuracy.
It's the PS Eye that keeps track of the controller in the main, though. By judging whether or not the ball on the end is getting bigger or smaller, it can register forwards and backwards motion for stabbing, pushing or just general poking in-game.
So it's got the internal gizmos, it looks good (if a bit dubious) and feels good apart from a couple of awkward, lesser-used buttons. Oh and it smells of not very much, for those of you who were waiting for that bit.
But what really matters is how all this affects the in-game experience. The questions we need answers to are: Does it work, is it really any different to the Wii and will it bring anything to the table other than annoying family fun?
Speaking of which, we dedicated most of our play time to Sports Champions. The other option was Start the Party and, well, there's only so much flying fruit you can slice up against the clock before you go numb inside.
To answer the first question: Yes. PlayStation Move absolutely does work. Sports Champions is lag-free and movement is 1:1 99 per cent of the time - sometimes eerily so.
Take 'Disc Golf' (golf with a Frisbee) for example. Using the Move's trigger to pick up the disc, the camera zooms into a first person perspective, leaving a white hand representing your own. We stood for a while tilting the Frisbee in every direction, attempting to spot even the most minuscule limitation, misrepresentation or lack of synchronisation.
There wasn't any. The little white hand even trembled slightly at 1am when we were trying to throw the perfect "drive" while wired on coffee.
The Move also recognises when you've changed your stance to execute a forehand flick from the side, rather than a backhander across the chest. The variety of shots available is crucial for curling the disc around obstacles - which you can do by tilting your throw (just like real life). You'll also slam it into the dirt more times than you'd like (just like real life).
Similarly, in Table Tennis, the in-game bat mimics the Move exactly - so that any level of spin can be put on the ball in any direction. We could describe the possibilities, but really all you need to do is imagine the real-life counterpart. Basically if you can do it, erm, you can do it.
Table Tennis also utilises the Move's ability to track forwards and backwards motion. We were actively encouraged by the game's tips screens to move forward for drop shots and to dash back to return shots with a bit more venom.
Volleyball offers less control over your beach-buff character, but it's enough. At first, it looks to be based on a set of canned animations triggered by certain similar movements - and perhaps to a greater extent than the others, it is.
But there are a lot of animations available, everything from overarm/underarm serving, spiking and blocking. It's a pretty full package, even if it isn't quite as analogue as 'The Spinning Wrist Test' showed Table Tennis and Frisbee to be.
In more frantic situations like Gladiator Duel, you're given exactly the same amount of 1:1 analogue subtlety as Disc Golf and Table Tennis - but your sword can get a bit caught up in the foray and glitch in a direction you didn't particularly want.
The power with which you swing your mighty weapon is more of a factor in the Gladiatorial arena. The Move registers speed, and more powerful shots will splinter your opponent's shield. (You can control your own just as fully as you can your sword with a second Move controller).
However, if there's generally one thing about the Move that isn't 1:1, it's the power gauging - it's too forgiving. But then there's always going to be a certain level of assistance - otherwise we'd just play for real and get that exercise thing our doctor has been nagging about.
In Table Tennis, just holding your bat in front of the ball as a barrier would send a shot over the net every time - albeit without a chance of actually scoring. And in Beach Volleyball, the most pathetic of real-world swings would send the ball over the net on every serve.
MOTION PLUS PLUS?
So Move is accurate and responsive - but ever since the Wii remote got the Motion Plus upgrade, it's been given a whole new level of dexterity as well. Does PlayStation Move surpass it?
It's hard to tell. In terms of responsiveness and field of motion, Swordplay on Wii Sports Resort does just as good a job as Sports Champions' Gladiator Duel when it comes to hitting people in the head.
But Gladiator has a greater level of depth, as its shield and dodge system are brought into play. Add to this the fact that Gladiator works best when you actually take up a manly fighting stance, and something tells you it has a level of subtlety the Wii doesn't.
Where PlayStation certainly finds superiority, however, is where it always has. The graphics and size of Sports Champions far exceeds Sports Resort and, in fact, stands up perfectly well in comparison to a high-end competitor like the Xbox 360.
The whole presentation is Tekken-esque, with over-the-top, chunky 3D characters each receiving their own personality. The surrounding environments are equally lush with water effects looking particularly pretty, even if foliage on the ground is a little bit flat.
It's hard to say whether the Move has much technical prowess over the Wii Motion Plus or whether it's just that the high-end graphics that draw your attention to the finer details. Either way the PlayStation Move feels more responsive, more-sophisticated and generally more in-depth.
That's the main reason why the PlayStation's core audience should have a long hard look at the Move. Motion control with all the graphics and features of a high-end console seems to almost give it more legitimacy, even though the basic game mechanic is what we might label 'shovelware' on anything less.
And, remember, this is only the start. The PlayStation Move definitely deserves to be coupled with AAA titles like Killzone 3 and SOCOM - and when it does we wouldn't be surprised if a lot of core gamers actually prefer it to the pad. (There, we've said it).
Even before those big must-have titles hit the shelves, though, PlayStation Move is a success in its own right. After all, it got us to play 'shovelware', enjoy it - and even respect it.