Sony's PlayStation Move motion-tracking "wands" may lack a killer app, but they don't miss a gesture. Where my time with Microsoft's body-mapping Kinect camera revealed an experience premised on somewhat laggy, clearly casual-angled motion-tracking, playing with Sony's Move wands and smaller propulsion-oriented sub-controller was like upgrading to high fidelity.
My first demo, a rail-style shooter unimaginatively dubbed The Shoot, thrust me along corridors thronged with menacing robots and hovering orbs. Pointing a single Move wand at the screen, I gunned down hordes of hulking automatons as they popped in like cardboard cutouts, occasionally flanked by panicked civilians who subtracted collateral damage points from your score if killed. When I jabbed the Move wand toward the screen, it triggered a melee lunge. If I pointed it downward and tapped the fire button, I conjured a shockwave. All the while, the tracking reticule followed me flawlessly, as if connected to the wand's glowing globe-tip by an invisible tether.
The other game I tried during a tour of Sony's press booth was a Move-mapped version of Quantic Dream's noir homage Heavy Rain. This version traded the game's timed-sequence button tapping and controller waggling for Move wand controls. For instance, opening a door might involve thrusting the Move wand perpendicularly toward the screen (reaching for the door handle), holding the trigger (grasping the handle), then pulling back to slide the door open.
Other more abstract actions required gestural sequencing, say wagging the controller left and right, lifting it vertically and holding for a few seconds, then tilting it sideways. Playing the fight sequence that occurs shortly after the game begins--a simple series of button presses and controller wiggles in the standard version--became a harrowing kinetic struggle to match gesture prompts onscreen. The latter felt a bit too frenetic at times, more of a study-until-you've-memorized-the-sequence mechanic than something dynamically winnable, but the wand tracking itself was flawless.
Sony seems to have the lag-free precision-tracking parts down pat, arguably better than either of its competitors. Its challenge: Producing more than just one or two games (including retroactively upgraded ones like Heavy Rain) worthy of the technology when it launches on September 19.
Follow me on Twitter (@game_on)