One year after its unveiling, WiiMotion Plus is days away from locking onto Wiimotes everywhere. Let's get the bad news out of the way: Go ahead and earmark another $80 for Nintendo's coffers.
Last year, Mark said the thrill of 1:1 motion it delivered was "greater than maybe any experience I've had on the Wii aside from Super Mario Galaxy."
This year, I tried the three games NIntendo was showcasing with Wii MotionPlus at its booth to see how far it's come and, this close to the final product, whether it's really worth it: Wii Sports Resort, EA's Tiger Woods PGA 10 and Grand Slam Tennis. The former two come with a MotionPlus dongle bundled in.
Grand Slam Tennis
"What the hell do I need MotionPlus for?" was my immediate reaction. It felt no more precise than Wii Sports Tennis—it simply let the game distinguish whether I was holding the racket on the left or side of my body, so I could swing backhand and forehand style (and it didn't do that so well). The abstraction level—the conceptual distance between my actions and what happened on the screen—also didn't feel great. It certainly wasn't 1:1. Not so hopeful!
EA's Tiger Woods PGA 10
Aha, here we go. Tiger Woods PGA 10 delivers more on the 1:1 front—as you twist the Wiimote left or right, so does the club on screen, which translates predictably in your shots. I kept cutting the ball way to the right, since I couldn't keep my swing entirely straight. But I felt completely in control—I knew it was my fault and it was mimicking my motions perfectly. Score.
Wii Sports Resort
No surprise, Nintendo's own software is where it shines, where the value of MotionPlus comes through the most.
What was surprising was where it mattered the most: In the dueling sword game, while my sword onscreen mapped perfectly to my motions with the remote (with ever so slightly perceptible lag) I destroyed my opponent with high speed wrist waggles, so in actually gameplay, MotionPlus seemingly offered nothing.
Then I got to archery. Holding the Wiimote vertically, it becomes the bow. The nunchuck is where you grip the string. So, you start with your arm out and bring the nunchuck up to the Wiimote. You press Z to virtually pinch the string, and pull the nunchuck back toward you, away from the remote, like you'd prime a real bow. Release Z, and the arrow fires. It's a really satisfying experience, one of the Wii games where the motions don't feel totally arbitrary. It depends on the MotionPlus to relay precisely where in space you're holding the remote, so you can aim. So you need MotionPlus—a definite win.
Finally, I played table tennis. It destroyed any doubts I had about MotionPlus. Everything was mapped precisely 1:1. If you twisted the remote left or right as you swung the paddle, the ball would respond when you smacked it with topspin or backspin. The physics, while simple, felt completely natural, along with everything else. It was fast, it was accurate, it was a blast. I felt like I was actually playing table tennis, more than I've felt like I was playing any other sport on the Wii.
This in part due to the scale of the game—replicating ping pong 1:1 is much easier than tennis, which takes place on a different scale. But the mastery of the simulation, the fluidness means you'll never go back to Wii Sport Tennis, which feels positively last-gen by comparison. Wii Sports Resort delivers on so much of the original promise of the Wii.
What it made clear, however, is that MotionPlus by itself doesn't necessarily guarantee the experience is going to be better, just because the remote tracking is that much more accurate. It's still totally up to the developer to make use of it in a way that's actually good—so while Red Steel 2, and maybe even the new Zelda will require MotionPlus, it doesn't mean they're necessarily going to have better motion controls or be better games. It just means they can be better. Way better, even, if the developer knows what they're doing.
But then again, if a bunch of games require the MotionPlus, it's not like you're going to have much of a choice anyway. [Giz@E3]