Stick and Roll

Dana Massey | 2 Jan 2007 07:03
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This could then be extended to the running game as well. Like "deking" in NHL 07, the stick could easily replicate stutter steps, spins, straight arms and the other moves pulled in football. Madden 07 took some baby steps with the hit stick - although that is now a few years old - and the use of the stick for kicking, but they didn't even begin to exploit the potential of the 360 controller.

EA Sports isn't the only one to use or abuse the skill stick in the realm of sports. THQ was similarly unimpressive in their shoddy WWE: SmackDown vs. RAW 2007. In this game, players can use the "skill stick" to grapple and perform moves, but again, it is almost exclusively limited to simple one-directional taps. THQ's only bow to the power of the stick was the inclusion of custom moves, where an on-screen prompt gives you an option that usually consists of either pressing the stick up and down very quickly or rotating it. With a little more forethought, the developers could have realized they had a title perfectly suited to the stick, and by letting players choose their moves through a series of motions, they would have left oceans of content for players to uncover as they wrestle.

If the 360 got me excited about sports again, the Wii put me right over the edge. Wii Sports is packaged with every system to show people the power of the controller. For those living in a cave, players use a wand-like device to perform actions on the screen. Thus, if you're playing tennis, you just swing the stick as you would a racket. The same goes for bowling and the other sports in the game.

Although hockey was not included in the sports pack, it's a sport ripe for the Nintendo to take to the next level. With his left hand a player could use the analogue stick to skate around the ice, and with his right hand, he could easily mimic the motions of stick handling, deking, passing and shooting.

If a Wii hockey player wanted to fire a pass to the right, he would just need to make a short smooth motion in the direction of the player he wanted it to go to. If he wanted to do a slap shot, he'd wind back with the wand-hand and bring it down underhanded to fire. The speed at which the player moves could determine the strength of the shot, while the use of the D-Pad - which is located at the top of the remote - lets him aim. To do a saucer pass instead of a direct one, all he would need to do is flick his wrist at the end of the passing movement. Deking could be performed by simple, delicate wrist motions.

The possibilities of Wii hockey are endless, just as the golf and bowling in Wii Sports have made fans out of many who didn't previously care about those sports.

Both the Wii and the 360 have opened the door to innovation in the one area I had thought innovation was becoming impossible. The 2008 crop of sports games should include brand new ways of playing the games, rather than just new rosters and higher poly counts. It's up to EA Sports, THQ, Take2 and anyone else making a sports game to ensure that their products take full advantage of the technology provided to them. For the first time in a long while, I'm looking forward to seeing if they do.

Dana "Lepidus" Massey is the Lead Content Editor for and former Co-Lead Game Designer for Wish.

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