The PlayStation Move Sharpshooter

The Sharpshooter is one of the many gimmicky peripherals rolled out to promote Sony’s Move motion controller, and as far as gaming add-ons go, it’s a cut above your usual waste of plastic. The setup works, and it does provide a unique experience. Unfortunately, there are some flaws that owe more to concept than design. Most video games are not built around realistic mechanics and you’re often at a disadvantage when it comes to gameplay.

I tested the Sharpshooter while playing Time Crisis: Razing Storm, The Shoot, and Killzone 3, and while the hardware is serviceable, the finished product nonetheless resembles something that you would find in the toy aisle at Wal-Mart. The small plastic components are a little flimsy – the narrow stock, in particular, doesn’t seem like it would hold up under pressure – but it’s durable enough as long as you’re only using it for gaming.

The gameplay configuration is otherwise perfectly acceptable. Playing simple rail shooters is as much fun as it ever was in the arcade, and if that’s all you’re looking for, the Sharpshooter is accurate, fun, and easy to assemble. The games themselves don’t have much lasting appeal, but there is a genuine thrill associated with a simulated firearm.

Things get a bit more complicated when you add independent movement in a game like Killzone 3. The layout takes some getting used to, but you’ll have easy access to every button other than Start and Select and those are hardly essential during gameplay. The thumb stick on the Navigation controller does a fine impersonation of a left analog stick and all of the Move Wand’s key functions are conveniently mapped to the Sharpshooter’s trigger.

The problem is that while the Sharpshooter is functional as a controller, it simply isn’t built for marathon gaming. Holding your arm out in front of you for any length of time will rapidly drain your shoulder muscles, and you’ll end up contorting your body (and sacrificing accuracy) in order to compensate. Doing so becomes painful after about thirty minutes, and there’s no natural neutral position or comfortable way to play.

Those physical issues compound a few other gameplay shortcomings. Since there’s no right analog stick, you have to point the cursor at the edge of the screen in order to turn, and it occasionally feels like the camera is caught in a twister. You’ll find yourself spinning in circles trying to figure out which way is forward and even when things are going well, the Sharpshooter doesn’t allow for the split-second reactions that are possible with a more traditional thumb stick configuration.

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Fortunately, the Move is responsive enough for solo gameplay, and it’s an enjoyable way to experience a story as long as the enemies aren’t being generated randomly. You’ll die fairly frequently, but survival requires much more economy of movement and you’ll actually have to think about your next step in order to move forward.

In a more dynamic (and less predictable) multiplayer environment, however, the camera becomes a serious liability. It’s extremely difficult to reorient yourself when you’re getting shot in the back, and any competent player will have you dead long before you can even think about returning fire.

The controller’s rumble feature is also a bit of an annoyance. The Wand shakes whenever you pull the trigger, and the reticle goes haywire in response to those vibrations. It makes it incredibly difficult to control the spray of bullets beyond the first shot, and attempting to hit long-range targets is often an exercise in futility.

With that said, I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun with a sniper rifle. The motion controls shine when the pace slows down and you’re able to line up the perfect shot, and the simulated realism definitely enhances the experience. There’s something disturbingly satisfying about holding an actual (plastic) gun and pulling an actual trigger, and it makes it clear that the mechanics at least have potential.

Sadly, Killzone isn’t the best showcase for those ideas. The Sharpshooter’s attempts at verisimilitude are at odds with the bullet-absorbing intensity of the modern FPS, and it severely limits the practical applications for the peripheral. The toy would be fantastic for a more methodical game that prioritizes accuracy over movement speed, but as it stands, the Sharpshooter is still a novelty that’s better suited for rail shooters than for more traditional AAA titles.