October 16th, 2006, 17:19 Posted By: wraggster
Can tilting the Wii Remote provide an immersive driving experience or do we need an official Nintendo racing wheel?
The movement-sensitive Wii Remote provides developers with untold gameplay possibilities, not least the opportunity to form a makeshift wheel using its tilt-sensing functionality.
Quick to exploit this gameplay mechanic, Nintendo's Excite Truck and Ubisoft's two racers, Monster Trucks and GT Pro Series, all have players holding the controller on its side, tilting it left and right to steer the vehicles round the course.
CVG has played both Excite Truck and Mosnter Trucks, paying particular focus on how well this new control style works. The first and most important thing to note is that the technology itself works fine, both games picking up our movements with the greatest of accuracy and making for a solid gameplay experience.
Although Excite Truck made us, and many forum goers, concerned that this control system might be a little too loose, there were numerous gameplay videos revealing journalists, who you'd assume to be seasoned gamers, driving like they had their eyes shut.
But with Nintendo promising to give players a sensitivity option, and after a recent hands-on with Monster Trucks, which was far easier to control than Excite Truck, we have every confidence that the Wii controller forms a perfectly functional steering wheel.
The problem? There are two: the Wii controller isn't shaped anything like a steering wheel, and it's not locked to a central pivot point, like a normal wheel. The first problem has a negative effect on the illusion of it all - how can you feel like your driving a big truck when the 'wheel' in your hand is just a little white stick. It's nothing like the steering wheels on arcade machines, or even as visceral as the PS2 steering wheel with force-feedback.
Ubisoft's answer is a plastic wheel attachment in which you slot the Wii Remote to recreate the feeling of a wheel. It doesn't contain any technical parts - it's simple a plastic shell that the Remote fits into. Yes, this solves the first issue, and in a recent playtest, we found Ubi's attachment to be very comfy indeed, and getting it free with every copy of Monster Trucks and GT Pro Series makes it an even more attractive proposition. It will also work with Excite Truck, and any future driving game of the same control style because, as we explained, it's simply a frame in which to hold the Wii Remote, not a technical component.
But that doesn't solve issues of the wheel lacking a central pivot. Without this pivot your hands have no externally enforced stability. You might say that, with your hands simply left to float on their own as you viciously tilt the Remote left and right, this is a further compromise of the visceral feeling you should get from a steering wheel.
The obvious solution would be for a publisher or third-party peripheral manufacturer to create a wheel frame similar to Ubisoft's, but with a brace attachment that locks it to a table top or sits between your legs while in a seated position.
This would provide the perfect central pivot, but then problems of compatibility arise with games like Monster Trucks, which has you physically moving the controller in circular motions to perform stunts. If the wheel is locked to a pivot, these movements wouldn't be possible, rendering the game unplayable.
We think a detachable wheel would be the ultimate solution - giving gamers the option to attach the wheel for a locked, pivotal experience when compatible with the game they wish to play, and releasing the wheel to play more physically demanding games like Monster Trucks.
On the other hand, players who intend simply to use the Wii Remote alone to throw their Wii-racers around courses can expect responsive control, and even despite the controller's size and shape, it surely enhances the illusion further than an analogue stick ever could - which is the whole point of the Wii.
But what really matters, though, is YOUR opinion, so get yourself into the comments section and throw down your thoughts, opinions, ideas and idealistic driving game fantasies. And check back next week for a full hands-on preview of Ubisoft's Monster Trucks.
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