Did Motion Gaming Succeed Or Fail In 2011?

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By the time 2010 concluded, motion-supported video games were at an all time high in popularity.  Microsoft had just launched its Kinect device for Xbox 360; Sony introduced its PlayStation Move to an awaiting public; and, of course, there was still the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo’s flagship console for this generation.  All three support movements of arms, legs, and other body parts for different kinds of games, including music/rhythm, action, and sports.  And a lot of players seemed to be getting into the trend.

Now, one year later, it’s flourished even further with the release of many games across each platform, but the question that lingers is: has motion gaming gotten any better, or is it a trend that’s best left forgotten?  Well, we’ve got a couple of things that argue for its existence, as well as a couple that leave us wondering why it’s still around.  So, without further ado, let’s discuss the positive aspects…

Microsoft Kinect

Say what you will about the way it looks you over when it first starts up, or how some games – like Kinect Disneyland Adventures – aren’t really aimed at anyone outside of a younger audience, but the fact of the matter is, the Kinect has turned out to be quite a surprise.  A lot of titles are utilizing it in great ways, even if you require a significant amount of room to get it to work at its best potential (unless, of course, you own that cool Nyko Zoom peripheral).

Case in point – “hardcore” games like Child of Eden and Twisted Pixel’s The Gunstringer have turned out to be better than expected thanks to creative development and some truly immersive techniques to involve the player.  (They’re fun as hell, too.)  Workout games have also improved quite a bit, including the introduction of the effective UFC Personal Trainer and the reasonably better Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2012.  And more casual affairs, like Kinect Sports Season 2 and Dance Central 2, aren’t too shabby either.

the gunstringer kinect

Next year should bring more Kinect involvement to the forefront, particularly with more popular titles like Mass Effect 3 and Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.  Whether that will be enough to really push us more in the direction of full-on action games has yet to be seen.  But, hey, it beats nothing.

 

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Let’s be frank.  As cool as Twilight Princess was when it first came out for the Wii a few years back, the motion controls were clearly tacked on.  This was a GameCube game modified to play on the new Wii system, period.  What we needed was a Zelda experience that truly made us feel like our attacks and defensive moves meant something, rather than being put in merely as placeholder movements.  And with that request, we finally got our wish with Skyward Sword.

A monumental game in itself, Skyward Sword was made even better with clear, concise movements read by the WiiMotion Plus.  Sure, there were times that combat needed to be adjusted for tougher enemies, but in all, it handles superbly, and really makes you feel like you’re involved in each encounter, rather than watching from the sidelines like in most role playing games.  What’s more, Nintendo celebrated the occasion by releasing a special edition version of the game with a collectible gold Wii remote – which we’re happy to own by the way.

Other Wii games also made proper use of the peripheral, like Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters and Kirby’s Return To Dreamland, but there’s no question that Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the standout title.  This game WAS made with Wii’s motion gaming in mind.


The PlayStation Sharpshooter

While the PlayStation Move may not be an instant hit with most folks (check our negative reasons below), we admit that we became fans of the company’s Sharpshooter peripheral; it's a plastic rifle that houses both the Move controller and the Navigational controller into a comfortable grip, so you feel like you’re holding an assault rifle instead of a pair of dorky controllers.

What’s more, Sony strongly supported the peripherals with some tremendously cool games this year.  Joining the previously released Time Crisis: Razing Storm were Sega’s House of the Dead Overkill: Extended Cut, as well as Sony’s own excellent first-person shooters Killzone 3 and Resistance 3, along with the long-awaited SOCOM 4.  For that matter, Goldeneye Reloaded was a novel pick as well.

Maybe a rifle-in-hand isn’t the most ideal way for more dedicated first-person shooter fans to play, but we like the style that’s offered, as it’s a decent alternative to just fiddling around with analog sticks.  Plus, that reload function?  Very cool.

 

And with the good comes the bad.  Here’s our negative aspects of motion gaming…

 

The PlayStation Move in general

As terrific as Sony’s motion control device is with first-person shooting titles, the rest of the games fall by the wayside in term of effectiveness.  Most of the company’s original launch titles have drastically been reduced in price, and several bundles can now be found for around $50-$70.  What’s more, games that have been released this year featuring Move motion support have been mostly forgettable.

Case in point – Everybody Dance.  Sony’s equivalent to Dance Central 2 simply couldn’t live up to its potential due to a lack of motion body movement reading (like the Kinect can do) and a lack of entertaining party songs.  What’s more, some other games simply failed to implement motion controls that well.  We’re looking primarily at the utterly forgettable PlayStation Move Heroes, as well as Carnival Island (ugh) and Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest, which would’ve been better off with routine controls.

Sony’s still got a ways to go when it comes to really selling its motion controls properly.  Maybe 2012 will be the year it introduces some games that make a difference, rather than run through the, ahem, motions.


The glut of forgettable third party games

It’s official – with any given motion peripheral, you’ll have a handful of game developers and publishers that try to take advantage with shoddily made software.  The Wii is heavily clogged with forgettable shovelware from most of these companies (and it’s STILL being released), and the Kinect and Move are starting to pile up as well.

The Kinect is a bigger victim than the Move, thanks to the likes of such awful garbage as Hulk Hogan’s Main Event, Blackwater, Self Defense Training Camp and The Black Eyed Peas Experience, which has nothing on either Just Dance 3 or Dance Central 2.  Both systems, however, got its fair share of commercialized, tepid gaming experiences, including Grease Dance (Greased Lightning it ain’t), Wipeout 2 and Fit In Six.

If either Sony or Microsoft really want to put motion gaming in a better place, they need to take responsibility and limit some of the below-average fare that’s coming out for their motion devices.  Otherwise, folks will lose interest in the fad and stick with their controllers.  Just saying.

 

So, overall, motion gaming in 2011 has made some improvements, but by the same token, it’s also fallen victim in some areas to software that was better off not being released, as well as bad reception to certain ideas.  Maybe in 2012, we’ll see the kind of implementation that will really get us involved.  Let’s hope so.

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Robert Workman
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