Reviewed by PS3Fitness.com on September 17, 2010.
Summary: Motion Controls come to the Playstation 3, and they’re good!
I’ve owned the PS3 since it was first released, choosing it at the time over other systems like Xbox and Wii because of innovations such as Blu-Ray and HD graphics. The Blu-Ray was great (I can’t go back to watching standard DVDs anymore), and the graphics on my PS3 games were impressive, but admittedly my PS3 started collecting dust the day I bought a Wii for my nephew and nieces.
It wasn’t too long before I had to get one myself. Let’s just say that I am blessed with…low metabolism. My friends can eat and eat and eat and not gain weight, while I’ll gain 10 pounds just thinking about food. There was something great about how the Wii made you get up out of your chair and move. I successfully lost weight using Wii exercise games, and even started the site Nutwiisystem.com to help others.
But I always hoped that the PS3 would some day support motion controls. As much as I love the Wii and its cute cartoony characters, there’s just something cool about the “virtual reality” of boxing with a real tough looking fighter or hitting fastballs off someone who looks like a real major league pitcher.
Sony’s been a big disappointment to me in recent years. I was irate when they ripped out OtherOS functionality (that was one of the reasons I bought the system in the first place). And I pretty much stopped buying games for the system. I found that the games I played more were on the Wii. Although the Wii, too, was getting a little dry.
And so, I was happy to hear that Sony was coming out with Wii-like motion controls. Sony and Microsoft had all mocked Nintendo back in 2006, but 80,000,000 Wii units later, Nintendo had the last laugh. I was also happy to hear that both were not content to just copy Nintendo’s technology, but actually took it a step further with their own engineering. The burning question, of course, is…did Sony come up with a cheap imitation of the Wii, or did they surpass it?
I’m happy to report the latter. I am very, very impressed with what I’ve seen so far.
I ordered the Playstation Move Starter Bundle, which comes with the Playstation Eye camera, the Sports Champions disc, the Move Controller, and a Game Demo disc. If you don’t have a Playstation 3 already, you can get the PlayStation 3 with Move bundle. And be sure to pick up extra Move Controllers, for reasons I’ll describe below.
The Starter Kit came all wrapped in plastic and in a box which I was happy to see was much smaller than I was expecting (I also picked up a Navigation Controller, which it turns out wasn’t really necessary.
The Move Controller basically looks like a microphone with a plastic ball on top. I’ve seen pictures and always assumed the ball was blue and made of rigid plastic, but it’s white (it’ll glow different colors) and the plastic was soft. Unlike the Wii remote, the battery is built-in and charged using a USB cable.
The Playstation Eye has been around for a while, but never quite caught on (there were a handful of PSN games that used it, but nothing too exciting). It’s basically a high-end Web cam. I already had an Eye, but given the bundled pricing of the kit, it made sense for me to just get another one.
The demo disc contains an “introductory video” (basically a long commercial with bunch of game scenes set to “I Live to Move It”), a Setup Guide, and demos for Sports Champions, Start the Party, EyePet, Kung Fu Rider, TV Superstars, The Shoot, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11, Time Crisis, Echochrome II, Beat Sketcher, and Tumble. Beat Sketcher (where you draw on your screen over an image of yourself) and Tumble (where you use the Move controller to move and stack blocks) are both excellent showcase applications where you can show your friends the capabilities and technology of the Move.
The Setup Guide shows you a little introduction to the Move. Then it takes you through setting up the Motion Controller and the Playstation Eye. Setup was a snap. To set up the Motion Controller, you connect a USB cable to it to charge up its battery (a red LED will blink while it’s charging). Press the PS button to pair the controller to your system. (The unit should be fully charged and disconnected from the USB cable before using it).
To connect the Eye, you have to set the camera to “wide angle move” by turning the lens so the right so the white dot points to the blue dot (something I never knew you could do). You can place it above or below the middle of your TV screen (closest to your shoulder is best). Then, plug it into a free USB port on the PS3. In the documentation they say the Eye must be about 5 to 6.5 feet from the TV, while on the game it says 8 feet. From my experience, 6 feet was good enough, which was just right for my tiny apartment.
The Setup Guide continues with tips, all of which should be familiar to anyone who’s played a Wii, complete with pictures of silhouettes of people knocking lamps over. It does add tips about room lighting, which of course wasn’t an issue with the Wii.
When you start up Sports Champions, your Controller will start to blink. Point the blinking controller to the Eye and hit the “Move” (squggly) button in front + the Trigger (T) button on the back. The controller will turn a bright purple when it’s connected (I admit, I was giddy with excitement when I first saw this). Scroll down reading the terms and conditions where you agree not to sue Sony when you knock Aunt Betty’s lamp into her pet cat, and then you can get started.
Before playing a game, you have to calibrate the Move controller. The first thing you see is an actual video image of yourself (that alone is probably the best contribution to weight loss that Sony did–instantly upon seeing myself on TV, I wanted to lose more weight). The system will tell you to stand in a certain area and move your controller to your shoulder, side, and belt buckle to calibrate (you need to adjust the camera so that your whole torso and hips are on the screen).
I’ll write a more detailed review of Sports Champions in a separate post. But I can say was the perfect game to showcase the capabilities of Move. The actions of the screen are truly one-to-one with the actions on your hand. Ping pong on the PS3 really feels like ping pong, where you can move and twist your paddle in real-time (as opposed to in Wii Sports Resort where movement is hurky-jerky and you can beat the system by flailing your arms in an unnatural way). When your real body moves, your on-screen view moves too. And as much as I love my little Mii, there was something nice about controlling photo-realistic looking characters on the screen (the upcoming Kinect Sports uses cartoony characters, so Sony’s alone right now as far as realism in sports games). And since this is a fitness and exercise blog, I will say that yes, I felt my heart rate go up and my muscles get stronger after a few bouts of Gladiator Duel.
As far as figuring out the controls, it was pretty easy, as the Move Controller pretty much mimics the Wii remote (although I was a little disappointed that the controllers don’t have speakers in them).
I’d thought that the Move Navigation Controller (not included in the Starter Kit, unfortunately) would be the equivalent of the Wii nunchuk. It is in the sense that it’s held in your other hand and has a joystick, but it’s not in that it doesn’t have motion control. I’d say it’s really just another version of the Dualshock controller, just one that’s shaped more easily to fit in your hands. I haven’t found a game where you actually need it (in most cases it’s fine, if a little clunky, to hold your regular Dualshock controller in your left hand and use the buttons and joystick with your thumb).
For games that do require controls in both hands, they’ll usually give you the option of using two Move Controllers. From Sports Champions alone, I’d say buying a second Move Controller is required, as the experiences of games such as Gladiator Duel and Archery seem incomplete with only one.
Overall, I’d say that the Playstation Move feels and looks like a “next generation” Wii. Having said that, you will pay a price. To purchase a Playstation console, a Move Starter Kit, three more Move Controllers, four Navigation Controllers, and a few games will run you close to $1000. In this economy, that’s not easy. So I’m going to guess that the Wii will still do just fine as a casual gaming platform for families and friends to play together. On the other hand, relative weakness of Sony’s other launch titles notwithstanding, it’s hard not to feel excited about the potential of the Move, especially with technologies like 3D coming down the road very soon.
And so, I’ll give this five out of five stars. Sony has made the right move, and we’ll see how Microsoft and Nintendo counter. Hopefully the competition will wake up an industry that’s clearly been in need of it, and we’ll see great fitness games for Playstation, Wii, and Xbox.
Just as I do for Wii Fitness Games, in the coming months, I’ll be reviewing the best PS3 games that can be used for fitness and exercise. It should be an exciting couple of months, so stay tuned!