Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
The Upcoming (And Pointless) Console War

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 1 Jan 2013 16:00
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I found it a little wearying to see comments on my ZombiU review to the effect that my distaste for the Wii U was "inevitable". I wouldn't have thought so. I didn't like the Wii because all that faffing about with motion controls was detrimental to functional gameplay, but I was cool with Nintendo right up to the Wii, and the Wii U seemed like a return to a focus on immersive gaming and a slightly less drastic enforcement of hardware gimmicks.

Note the operative words "slightly less". And it's the touchscreen controller that gave me a sense of foreboding about the Wee Poo (sorry, that was beneath me). It didn't seem like having to occasionally look at the controller would be good for immersion, your gaze repeatedly tracking across the living room as you shift your view from screen to screen, but in practice it turned out that wasn't really the issue. The issue is pointlessness, because humans are not chameleons and cannot operate their eyes independently.

Having two screens to play with can only be justified if both screens are used synchronously. It makes sense on the DS because the screens are right next to each other and there's a dearth of screen real estate on a handheld, but my living room TV is very big and lots of stuff can fit on it.

A lot of people have been saying to me, ooh, it does add something when you can sort through your inventory on the touchscreen in real time, glancing up to the big screen to check that the zombies haven't closed in. But my point is, how many screens are you looking at when you're sorting your inventory? One. And how many are you looking at when you're checking your surroundings? Still one. If you had a game that switched to the inventory screen when a button is held down, instantly returning to the gameplay screen when the button is released, then that would be functionally identical to the ZombiU inventory system. And it doesn't require a touchscreen draining the controller's battery life.

The touchscreen-plus-big-screen setup has precisely one function, and that's local multiplayer. There's a lot of potential in the concept of one player having exclusively access to an additional screen, and while I haven't had much of a chance to try them out myself, I'm assured that the local multiplayer games in Nintendoland can be quite the larf and a harf. Actually one application that occurred to me was co-op sniping: one player could act as the spotter, highlighting targets on the big screen using a Wiimote like a laser pointer, while the other player uses the touchscreen as the scoped view and follows their directions.

But you can't base a whole console around local multiplayer because there will be a lot of times when you want to amuse yourself and there aren't any other convenient human beings around (feel free to make your personal favorite masturbation joke here). If the touchscreen controller had been offered as some kind of peripheral for the occasions when you are playing local multiplayer, that would have been jim dandy. But no, it's always got to be all or nothing with Nintendo these days, doesn't it. They're like a bad gambler going all in on a pair of nines. So every single player game on the Wii U will have to have needless touchscreen gimmicks by law.

Still, at least the touchscreen controller has one function, which puts it ahead of motion controls, at least. Motion controls essentially have negative function, because they do a lot to reduce one's ability to react in a game world. It's like playing a normal game with mittens on your hands, at best. It's a shame that things got as far as Steel Battalion on the Kinect before everyone figured that out, but still, lesson eventually learned.

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