This Autumn, the biggest console conflict in recent years is set to begin. Will Sony Move the Xbox out of its way, or will the Xbox Kinect itself to the champion’s trophy? We demoed both at the EuroGamer Expo last weekend and are ready to give you our verdict.
Sony: Moving You To Tears of Joy and Frustration
You’ll never forget the first time you play the Move, especially if the game is Hustle Kings. To quote PJ Hruschak, “The few minutes I played Hustle Kings in the Sony Booth at E3 2010 were easily the most frustrating of all my gaming endeavors and time spent at the expo.” Perhaps the game isn’t terrible, but using the Move to control it makes you want to take the motion-controller and smash it through the television – especially if that is also made by Sony.
It’s an example of everything that went wrong with the Wii, and what is going wrong with the Move and Kinect. Move support feels random, bolted-on and awkward. Then, when you understand it, it feels pointless. The same goes for the KungFu Rider, which made CrunchGear “want to turn off the PS3, curl up into the fetal position, and cry [their] pain away”. For us, it simply led us to the next stand and a revelation in Move gaming: SOCOM 4.
Andrew Yoon describes the experience best. For SOCOM 4, “PlayStation Move worked exactly as we thought it would, resembling the experience of playing a Wii FPS. Aiming is very fast and responsive.” With the graphics prowess of the PS3 combined with pointing-to-aim, the Move has created one of the most immersive first-person experiences. The same is true for the Heavy Rain integration, where you shove the control forward to push people out the way, or roll it to the side to avoid a fatal stab to the neck.
The controllers themselves are what you’d expect from a Sony-copy of an older technology – refined and beautified. The black finish, no matter how beaten up, will never look as gross as a well-used, dingy Wii controller does. The ergonomics are also a massive improvement. The controllers are light, and the hands wraps easily around the curved design. The big light-orb at the top is much smaller and less dorky in real life, too.
And unlike the Wii, there is no wire running between the main controller and the one with the analogue stick – independent motion is much easier without a flailing cable.
Xbox: Sort-of What You’d Expect, Given That There is No Controller
Although Apple has hijacked the word, the Microsoft Kinect truly is magical – more so than anything Apple has ever produced.
By using your body as a controller, using the system is as easy as it is intuitive. You poke your hand out in front of you and the Kinect will recognise it as the controller. Move your hand, and the on-screen cursor will dutifully follow. Want a friend to play? All they have to do is stand next to you and the camera will recognise a second player, instantly adding them to the gameplay. For games like Kinect Adventures, it means that people can dip-in during their favourite mini-game, and escape afterwards. It’s a completely novel and casual gaming experience.
The system is full of nice touches, too. For instance, in Kinect Sport, the game not only recognises actions relevant to the game, but your whole body’s movement. If you’re playing online, you can wave at the opposition and your character will do the same. If you want to win, whip out the lewd gestures and watch as your opponent gets put off. It’s a priceless feature. The games also use the camera to take pictures of you in-action, so you can view your actions after the match has finished. It’s like an instant-reply, but of you instead of the gameplay.
The real joy, however, comes from games like Dance Central, which can only be played due to the unique technology of the Kinect. The premise is simple: copy the on-screen dance moves to the music. It’s like Guitar Hero, but for your whole body. As the Kinect is the only device on the market that can track your whole bodies movements, head, body, arm and leg movements all come into play. It’s like you’re actually dancing for points, rather than the flailing-arms experience of the Move or Wii.
The Proof is in the Ping Pong
Luckily for us, the two systems have provided us a control for the comparison: table tennis. Available as a launch game for both systems, the humble sport outlines the difference between the two systems.
Move table tennis is a very precise affair. It takes a while to get to grips with and takes into account even the smallest movements of the arm, the most delicate twists of the wrist. It’s a game that people can master with enough practice – giving advanced users a sense of achievement. The Move does best with precision, small movements – hardcore gameplay.
Kinect table tennis, on the contrary, is much more Wii-Sports. Wave your arm and the ball gets hit. Sure, velocity of the shot is detected, and yes, it does detect both fore- and backhands. But, as explained by the Xbox rep, the game doesn’t even detect your hand. It registers our most opposable extremity as an extension of the forearm. The accuracy and precision is just not there, replaced instead with instant, accessible fun.
And what else would you expect from a system with no buttons? It would be impossible to match the twelve input keys of a regular controller, plus analogue sticks, with just body-control.
Conclusion: We’re Copping Out. Sorry.
Luckily for consumers, it seems like the two companies have aimed for completely different markets. Sony have taken the control system of the Wii, and fine-tuned it for hardcore gamers, including added support for three-dimensions. Microsoft, however, have upgraded the Wii’s soul: the fun, party-play potential is extraordinary.
Which is best? It’s impossible to say. Rather ironically, however, the one we won’t be buying – the Kinect – is probably the one that’ll have the biggest impact on gaming in future. The Microsoft device will be well worth the purchase should you have a big living room and often have friends over. It will, almost undoubtedly, produce the finest party games of the current generation.
If you are like us, however, and don’t host regularly, then it’ll be the Sony that moves you the most.