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Joystiq hands-on: new PS3 controller


Immediately following the Sony keynote, we pushed and shoved our way to a quick and dirty session with the new PS3 controller. Warhawk was the only playable demo touting six-axis sensing functionality; so naturally, our destination was the setup featuring that game.

At first grip, the PS3 controller was light -- too light. It felt cheap, like one of those third party knockoffs. But obviously Sony has a different perception about the new weight. If indeed developers embrace the motion technology, then a lighter controller will be easier on the wrists.

Of course, our hands were all too familiar with the controller's curves, having held this same design since 1998 -- heck, it's virtually the same controller we've clutched since the PlayStation debuted in 1995. If it ain't broke don't fix it, right? Wrong. Microsoft came correct this (next) generation. Sony has done nothing, in terms of physical design, to match that.

Look ma, no thumbs!In practice, the sensing system felt tacked on, at least, tacked on to this Warhawk demo. The sensitivity certainly needed tweaking (it was overly sensitive), as did the response time. But those factors can be fixed -- and will be fixed. More awkward was our newfound thumb dilemma. Our thumbs didn't rest well on the analogue sticks and we found ourselves searching for a spot to put them. As seen here, they ended up in the air. (In other words, we are not flashing our 'two thumbs up' approval sign.)

Despite these negative reactions, we believe the sensing system, once adopted and tuned by developers, has the potential to attract consumers. There's a natural inclination, especially with first time gamers, to twist a controller in an effort to manipulate on-screen action. And of course, the added functionality is a perfect fit for flight-based games or racing titles, but how will it enhance other genres? How will it innovate?

Still, bigger issues loom. We can't help but feel this was a last ditch effort to thwart Nintendo's Wii premiere. And in that vein, Sony's added technology felt rushed. Here's to hoping we haven't seen the absolute final design of the new PlayStation 3 controller ... however farfetched that hope may be.

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