House Special: Motion Controls Where We Are

With Sony and Microsoft set to release their motion control solution by the end of the year, I thought it was time to look back at the advancements that motion controls have made in the past 3 1/2 years on the Wii.

Looking at the Wii’s line-up, most would assume that motion controls are only good for sports compilations, mini-game collections and shovelware. While the Wii does not suffer from a shortage of games that fall into those 3 categories, there have been several major advancements to gameplay due to motion controls.

The first and most prominent example is IR Aiming. This is apparent just from the sheer number of rail-shooters that Wii is home to including House of the Dead 2 and 3, Overkill, Dead Space: Extraction, Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles and Darkside Chronicles and Ghost Squad.

After a rough freshman year on the console, FPS have also married these controls to make a control scheme that offers a much smoother experience than one can expect with standard dual analog set-up. And games like The Conduit and Modern Warfare: Reflexes offers the user numerous options to customize the aiming to their liking.

More precise aiming is not the only thing the Wii-Mote has bought to the FPS genre.

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Above is a video for Medal of Honor: Heroes 2, by no stretch of the imagination is this an unique FPS. It is set in World War 2 like so many shooters before it, and level design and missions offer very little variation. What does makes this game stand out is its unique control set-up. Other than the fine IR aiming this game offers, it uses gestural controls to offer a more robust feel and use for the weapons.

In most games, a gun controls as a gun no matter what it is. Sure some are better equipped for long-range, some come in handy in close-range, but they all control the same.  Medal of Honor Heroes 2 was the first game  that made them feel different to the end user. The pump-action shotgun had to be manually reloaded after every shot and you do this by shaking the Nunchuck. You aim the rocket launcher by moving the Wii-mote to your shoulder (in actuality you simply need to aim it away from the screen, but we won’t touch that) and using one of the Wii-mote’s unique features, the sound of the rocket travels from the speakers in the controller to the TV screen as you see the rocket explodes. The sniper rifle works by twisting the Wii-mote left and right like a knob to zoom in and out.

On paper these sound like minor features, but they go a long way in drawing the user into the game. Selecting a gun is no longer confined to where you will be shooting from, but also what motions you can handle at the moment.

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Next we come to the Godfather: Blackhand Edition. Before the Wii version, this game had made its home on every platform under the sun so it needed something special to stand out after a year plus on the market. So EA added motions to the game, and give it a whole new life. For the first time, you could feel like you were in the shoes of the main character as your actions in real-life were replicated in game.

This was one of the first Wii-games to use motions to mimic physical interactions. You used the Wii-Mote and Nunchuck in conjunction to act as your hands (right and left, respectively) you were able to punch-out would-be thugs, shakedown business owners and go to town with a baseball bat. While it may be a bit sadistic to some, you were also able to use the Wii-mote to act out in-game executions like snapping someone’s neck. It all added to the visceral nature of the game.

In addition to these physical actions, the game also used the pin-point accuracy of the Wii-mote to aim your guns over specific joints and gave you independent aiming while driving a car.

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Finally for a more recent example, Red Steel 2, which is a sequel to an original Wii launch title. This game fulfills 3 years of potential as it finally merges the Wii-mote into an upstanding sword based game with some shooting elements. The game makes use of the Wii-Motion Plus to give the most responsive controls yet on the system. It handles the switch from gun to sword with ease, and never trips up during the more impressive moves in the game.

This game is also an example of how an old idea (FPS and sword based combat) can be given new life with the use of motion controls.

These aren’t the only 3 games to make progress using simple motions, but were the 3 I chose to highlight today. So this is just a snapshot of what motion has given gamers in the past 3 1/2 years, and I for one can’t wait to see what Sony and Microsoft have up their sleeves.

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