In theory, the PlayStation 3 controller is a complicated mechanism, a device with too many buttons for the average person to understand. In theory, the better control mechanism for interactive drama is a good old remote control you can wave.
Heavy Rain, which is indeed an interactive drama made to be appreciated by regular people who like cop shows and mysteries, will soon support Sony's Move controller.
For me, a person who is comfortable with a PS3 controller, the Move feels like it is just no good for this task. Last week, at a Sony showcase event, I tried playing Heavy Rain with the Move. This is a game I liked. This Move was a controller that had already impressed me.
I was playing the scene when the private investigator visits the prostitute. There is conversation early on and then, once the prostitute's "friend" shows up, there is a brawl. With a PS3, you control everything, from the private eye's leaning and coaxing for more information up to the violent swings and lunges of the brawl, with various prompted presses of controller buttons and sticks. The concept is the same with the Move, except now you are not tilting a stick or pressing a button — you are gesturing.
Some of the gestures work, as when you knock on the door of the prostitute's apartment by knocking on an imaginary door in front of the TV. During the brawl, some of the arm swings needed make it feel like you're fighting the guy right there in real life.
But... the big downer here ... is that gesture control systems are poor at explaining failure. If a game prompts me to press a button and I fail the challenge, I assume I didn't press the button fast enough and I commit to pressing it more swiftly next time. If a game wants me to jab the Move wand forward and I think I do but I get a red circle indicating failure, I can't tell if my timing was off, my forward jab wasn't far forward enough, or ... was it pointed down too much? Too high? Not a straight line?
Perhaps the Move support for Heavy Rain, which will be offered as a downloadable update to the game, will work better in the hands of a person who doesn't have the PS3 controller as a point of reference.
Maybe for them the Move will feel as natural to wield as a PS3 controller does for me. At least I now know how exotic a new controller feels to someone who isn't comfortable wielding it, as exotic and ungainly as a violin you might put in my hands if you told me Heavy Rain could be controlled with a few toneful notes on that.
Heavy Rain with Move isn't for me. I'm too convinced the PS3 controller is the superior input device for this. But I'm left wondering: Will Move players of Heavy Rain know, when they have failed, why they have failed? Will they be able to improve?
Or will they do one last shake of their arms, a wave of frustration?