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Sony shows off Killzone 3D with Move Sharp Shooter motion rifle

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CES isn’t much of a video game show, but a few of the major publishers are highlighting their unique titles this  year. At its booth, Sony has an interesting demo of its upcoming post-apocalyptic shooter for the PS3, Killzone 3. Motion haters brace yourself because the demo is played entirely with the PlayStation Move controller and a special new gun peripheral called the PlayStation Move Sharp Shooter. As a fan of the Wii, I was initially drawn to the concept. Unfortunately, while Sony nailed the 3D, its motion control has a ways to go before it’s ready for prime time.

The gun is great

The gun peripheral is suspiciously well built, leading us to wonder just how much it will cost. The wand and nunchuk sections of the Move controller snap into the gun around the barrel, allowing easy access to the control stick and several face buttons. In addition, the controller routes buttons to power the gun trigger and two buttons around the gun. It also has a pump-action reloading motion and button on the bottom so you can snap in a new round of virtual ammunition. The unit is well built and feels great in the hands. Sony’s use of it, however, leaves room for improvement.

The motion control is not so great

To shoot, you literally aim at the screen and move the gun around, which drags a targeting reticle around the screen. It’s a bit laggy, but playable. Unfortunately, like many bad Wii shooters, moving around is a nightmare. Strafing and walking forward is accomplished with the control stick, but turning is done using motion control, and it proved notoriously difficult to do. The only way to turn is to drag the gun reticle all the way to the top, bottom, left, or right sides of the screen, pushing the viewing box in a new direction. It’s not hard to do, but it takes a lot of time and movement to accomplish and is especially cumbersome considering how blazingly easy it is to move forward and strafe with the control stick. It’s fun to aim at bad guys like Duck Hunt, but its easy to get your viewing angle stuck in a bad position. The best Wii developers have smoothed out this problem in the last four years, finding ways to better mimic the way Mouse-based PC shooters play. Sony hasn’t been paying attention, it seems.

The 3D is decent

With that said, the game was playable in 3D using passive glasses (the kind you wear at the movie theater) and when I was were able to aim, it was quite immersive. The targeting reticle is actually pushed back into the screen, making aiming feel more natural and satisfying. It was also fun to see grenades and other things fly at the screen and unlike most 3D in movies, I felt like it helped pull me into the experience.

Overall, with some motion sensitivity tweaks, Killzone 3 may work well as a motion title, but it may cost a pretty penny to own the Sharp Shooter. Killzone 3 hits shelves in February.