When the current generation of consoles was in development, few anticipated that motion-control would be more than a gimmick. Only Nintendo’s Wii offered motion-control capabilities on launch yet here we are, four years after Wii first appeared, with both Sony and Microsoft launching their own motion-control platforms. Sony is first out the gate with their Playstation 3 Move motion controller.
The Playstation 3 Move Sports Champions Starter Bundle contains everything you need to get you started playing with the Move controller, though for multiplayer fun you may want to pick up additional controllers. Within a fairly neat, compact box is a Playstation Eye, one Move Controller, set-up instructions, the Sports Champions game in a full plastic case and an additional disc containing demos of games available for the Move.
Unless you already have a Playstation Eye, the bundle offers a significant saving against buying these three elements separately. It should be noted that the package does not contain a separate charger cable, though the controller can be charged using the same USB mini-cable as a regular Playstation 3 controller.
The Move system uses a Playstation Eye camera to track the positions of up to four motion controllers and sensors within each controller used to determine their motion and rotation. This allows for movements to be tracked with a greater degree of accuracy than that which was possible on the Wii.
The cylindrical form of the motion controller makes it comfortable to hold and the controller can be securely fastened to the user’s wrist using an adjustable strap. The controller is weighty enough to feel solid without ever seeming heavy. A soft orb on the top of the controller is able to change colors, enabling the Eye camera to keep track of its movements.
The two most frequently used buttons (the ‘Move’ button and an analog trigger) are large and placed on opposite sides of the controller, enabling players to simultaneously cover both without risk of selecting the wrong button accidentally. Other buttons are located sensibly around the controller, the most frequently used ones within the easiest reach with the less used ‘Select’ and ‘Start’ buttons on the left and right sides respectively.
Set-up is quick and easy. Playstation Move controllers use the same simple synch method that the wireless DualShock controllers use. Just connect them to the PS3 with the USB mini-cable and tap the PS button and they are ready to get to work.
The Eye connects to a USB port on the machine and must be placed either directly above or below your television screen. The only other thing you need to do is set the lens to the wide angle mode and then you are ready to start playing.
Though there is no ‘must have’ title in the initial batch of Playstation Move-enabled games, Sports Champions is amongst the most enjoyable released to date and perfectly demonstrates the capabilities of the system.
There are six different sports in Sports Champions: Archery, Bocce (lawn bowling), Disc Golf, Gladiator Duel, Table Tennis and Volleyball. Each of these sports can be played in three different modes: Champion Cup, Free Play or Challenge. Free Play mode enables you to play with others if you have extra controllers and is ideal for practicing skills.
Challenge mode is a timed form of game played solo in which you gain points for accomplishing tasks (for example, throwing balls into rings in the Bocce Challenge). The goal here is to beat your previous best score.
The Champion Cup is a single player campaign in which players compete against ten other athletes to become the ultimate champion of their event. Opponents are relatively weak at the initial ‘bronze level’ but become much tougher at ‘Silver’ and ‘Gold’ levels. To add replay value, you are awarded points for each bout that the game uses to unlock extra locations, equipment, costume variants and fun mini-games that can be used in the other gaming modes.
As you might expect, each of the sports offers a unique gaming experience and all make good use of the capabilities of the Move Controller. Each has a quick tutorial to play through, acquainting you with its controls, and most are simple enough that they can be picked up quickly. For instance, in Archery you just reach backwards over your shoulder, press the trigger and then, keeping it pressed, point the controller at the screen to aim and then release the trigger to fire. These simple controls make it ideal for party play as with just a few minutes of practice visiting friends will be ready to play.
Inevitably you will find that you return to some sports more often than others. I find myself returning most to Disc Golf, Bocce and Archery because the challenges offered in their mini-games are varied enough to keep things fresh. Of the other games, both Table Tennis and Gladiator Duel are entertaining but become repetitive in single player as there are no mini-game twists. Only Beach Volleyball ends up disappointing as the gameplay feels repetitive and the game frequently prompts you to do an action to keep the game alive, lessening the challenge.
Each of the sports games can be played with just one controller, though some support a player using two controllers simultaneously. For the most part there is little to be gained by doing this, except in gladiator duel where it gives additional control over the shield, making for a more nuanced gaming experience. This sport aside however, players using just one controller will not feel as though they are missing out.
Visually, Sports Champions is pretty unremarkable. In most sports you are restricted to a single spot or view, meaning that there is not much variety in what you look at. The characters move a little stiffly at times and some have exaggerated features, yet the interface is clean and easy to read and the in-game camera never puts you in a situation where you cannot see what you are doing.
Where Sports Champions disappoints most is in its simplistic idea of customization. While the game offers multiple outfits and types of equipment for each character, you are forced to choose from a limited set of preselected characters that feel like cultural stereotypes. It is a shame that there is no option to create your own character from scratch so that you can compete with someone that you have designed yourself.
An additional omission is that of an online multiplayer mode, leaving living room party play as the only way to face off against a real human opponent.
The hardware at the heart of the Move system is truly impressive and Sports Champions does a good job of demonstrating just what it is capable of while being a truly entertaining game, particularly when played with friends. The motion control is remarkably accurate and the controller is really easy to use.
At $99.99, this starter bundle represents strong value for money compared to buying the elements separately. With additional controllers retailing for $49.99 and the optional navigation controller for $29.99, though, the cost of adopting Move can soon mount up making it an expensive prospect.
Given the weak slate of titles on offer right now, most will find it hard to justify investing in the Playstation Move. As with most new platforms, early adopters will have some waiting to do before the first “must have” title that makes full use of Move’s capabilities arrives. For those who do invest though, this bundle is a great way to start and Sports Champions is the sort of game you will likely find yourself returning to again and again.
– Aidan Brack
Shop for the Playstation 3 Move Sports Champions Starter Bundle for a discounted price at Amazon.com.