Editorials and Features
Article by: MrCHUPON
Feature: E3 2007: Eww, Eh, Excellent #1 - The Wii Zapper [Written 2007-07-13]
The Wii Zapper: "Eh"
This year at Nintendo's E3 press conference, I was quite disappointed with much of how it went and pleased with very little. (I'm proud to say that Shawn Elliott of Games for Windows Magazine was wrong about this particular Nintendo Fan - no, not all of us always walk away satisfied!) However, there was one thing I hadn't decided on until hours after the conference ended. Some could still say, given this 'Eh' rating, that I've still not really "decided" on it.
Well, I've decided I, personally, probably won't be buying it - isn't that decisive enough?
I'm talking about the new Wii Zapper peripheral that was debuted during the conference. From the looks of it, the Wii Zapper is a piece of plastic into which your Wii Remote and Nunchuk snap into. The result is the union of the two controllers into a single unit that can be held in a fashion similar to an SMG or rifle. There are no moving parts, thus keeping the cost of the peripheral - which will come packed with supposedly value-add software (notice how Reggie didn't say "game" explicitly) - at $19.99.
So, great. We can now actually hold our Wii Remote and Nunchuk controllers as if we're really holding a gun. Cue the word "immersive". While playing Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, Ghost Squad, or any other similar light-gun-styled game optimized for the peripheral, we can actually feel like we're in the arcade with a badass fake gun instead of some disjointed, mock handgun consisting of a remote controller and a glob of plastic with an analog nub sticking out of the top.
Question is: how much sense does this really make? The easiest reaction to this - besides, "Damn, that's ugly-looking" (okay, so that was MY response) - is, "Dude, sweet. It's a gun." But let's take a step back and analyze the perceptive problem that the Zapper causes.
We know that the Wii Remote utilizes pointing technology that doesn't exactly replicate the "aim down the sight, point and shoot" mechanic of light guns. (In fact, it was a source of criticism by a journalist - not exactly up on his research - who didn't realize that it wasn't supposed to be a light gun at its core.) It relies on an approximation by two infrared lights that sit atop or below your screen. In essence, you're not truly pointing at the screen. Where you think you're pointing if you look down the "barrel" of your remote, then, isn't where you're necessarily going to actually be pointing.
That's all well and good. In this age of computers, many of us have gotten used to abstracted approximations of pointing devices whose movements and related output are simply proportional to each other - rather than identical (think a mouse, or the stylus in Metroid Prime: Hunters). The basics of the Wii itself wouldn't be so user-friendly if this concept of "proportions as opposed to exactness" was too hard for people to grasp. I take no issue with the fact that you use the Wii remote more like a laser pointer and less like a light gun.
The problem, really, is in the perception of the Wii Zapper and its intended use, and how it'll resonate with any casual "blue ocean" fish that want to pick up Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles for the first time, compared with how the Wii remote works. You know these fish - they're the ones who do play videogames, but almost exclusively at Dave & Buster's or the ESPN Zone; the ones who pick up House of the Dead 4 gun, literally take aim, and have a blast; the ones who stare down the barrel of their mock shotgun in Extreme Deer Hunter 2. They're likely ones who don't really know much about the Wii platform except that it's really fun, it's really simple, and it's really hard to find. God forbid they should know exactly how the Wii Remote works.
Imagine one of your friends - who swims with the aforementioned school fish - coming into your home, seeing the Wii Zapper, picking it up and going, "Aw, hot shit! Put on something to play!" The instant he brings his gun up to fire away, the remote is out of range of the sensor bar. Or maybe his reticule is too far up or down relative to where he wants to point. He looks down the barrel of your Wii Zapper and aims to the left, only to see the reticule zoom off screen (and into the kitchen). Your frustrated friend tries to follow along as you explain that he's not supposed to be aiming at the screen, but following the reticule and basing his movements on that. "You're actually aiming at this little bar here," you tell him, but what he really wants to do - what he thought he was going to be able do - is aim... point... and shoot.
So now he's got the concept down - don't point at the screen; keep everything relative. He does fine, but he's keeping this device kind of by his waist. He's shooting from the hip, Tony Montana style. That's still kinda rad, sure. But he's still experiencing the problem wherein he can't really aim it with large motions - he has to keep it more subtle, or his reticule flies off the screen.
Well, crap. If he's not going to really be able to handle it like a fake gun, then why bother?
I understand that this kind of thing definitely will have some sort appeal, and it certainly isn't junk. But it won't be as easy for some people to grasp as was implied in the press conference. It might not even be comfortable - already Chris Kohler, of Wired Magazine's videogame staff, is complaining that your hands end up being held too close together, and that the minute movements normally associated with Wii aiming just don't translate well to the sensation of holding, say, a Steyr TMP. In fact, for all the people who actually want to be lazy and sit their butts on the couch but still enjoy mass zombie genocide, it's much more comfortable to sit back with your Wii Remote hand resting on your knee or thigh and your Nunchuk hand slacking off to the side. In the end, I suppose I just don't see the point in a device that is meant to emulate an experience that you likely can't properly execute in the first place.
As far as that blue ocean fish is concerned? Maybe Nintendo should invest in a Wii Remote technology that responds to no less than six infrared lights placed about the screen. Carefully check out that House of the Dead 4 cabinet next time you walk past it and you'll see why.
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