Having finally been given a release date, Wii MotionPlus is officially on its way. We got to give Nintendo's motion-enhancing add-on a quick play-test at EA's Guildford HQ recently, sampling the 1:1 movement ratio on their forthcoming Tiger Woods and Grand Slam Tennis titles. The device itself is a small unit that securely clips onto the bottom of the Wii Remote, extending it by just over an inch. It's a completely unobtrusive addition to the Remote and after a while you forget it's even there. You can still attach the Nunchuk to the bottom as normal and it'll come bundled with a longer rubber jacket to accommodate the Remote with the MotionPlus expansion attached.
Essentially a dual-axis gyroscope (if that means anything to you), the MotionPlus peripheral was developed in conjunction with AiLive, a Californian company well-versed in creating tools for game development. The sensor that picks up 360 degrees of rotational movement is an InvenSense IDG-600, which has been built to conform to Nintendo's own rigorous specifications, so it can withstand mechanical shock, high temperatures and humidity (yawn). That's the dry facts dispensed with, so what's it actually like to use and what does it do to enhance Wii control?
Well, first of all the natty little add-on will come bundled with Wii Sports Resort, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 and EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis this July, so expect the majority of games supporting the peripheral to more than likely follow suit in the future. During our split-screen hands-on playing EA's new Wii tennis title, sampling the action both with and without the MotionPlus highlights how much more sensitive and responsive executing different strokes is with the device attached to the Wiimote. Rotating the Remote means slices, topspins and lobs are far more satisfying to pull off due to that lovely 1:1 motion and the accuracy in your shots is noticeably improved.
Moving onto Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 and the 1:1 motion is instantly apparent as your chosen golfer matches your swing perfectly on-screen in real time. Twisting the Remote turns the face of your club, helpfully indicated by a small gauge confirming where the club is directed in relation to the ball. EA stressed that this was still an early prototype model however, so the level of sensitivity may not represent that of the final product. Even so, the refinement it adds to the control systems in both Grand Slam Tennis and Tiger 10 was certainly apparent from our brief hands-on and definitely gives you the edge when playing against an opponent using the standard Wiimote.
Support for MotionPlus also looks incredibly promising with not only most of EA Sports' Wii catalogue boasting compatibility, but also the forthcoming Red Steel 2 and Virtua Tennis 2009 promising to include usage too. Obviously, you'll still be able to play and enjoy these games without the addition of Wii MotionPlus, although once you've had the chance to get to grips with it, you won't necessarily want to go back to the standard Wiimote when considering the alternative. The extra benefits in added sensitivity make placing a tennis ball more instinctive, it also makes putting a golf ball far more accurate and the potential prospect of thrusting and parrying with a katana blade in Red Steel 2 is an incredibly exciting one (even though its predecessor was questionable).
Wii MotionPlus may seem like a minor addition to the Wii's control system, but it nevertheless represents a genuine advancement in making Wii games more immersive, more tactile and ultimately more fun. Still, with the yet to be confirmed price being hinted at around the 20 pound mark, it could well be a fairly pricey one, especially considering most people will want to invest in a pair of them. Here's hoping that those promised bundles represent better value for money than the standalone product this June/July as MotionPlus support will only gather momentum in the coming months making it an essential purchase for any discerning Wii gamer.