You know how the Wii controller works. You know what it can do. You've seen the press shots and read the games previews. But how does the controller actually feel?
No matter how many Wii game previews you read, finally getting your hands on the controller in December (or November, if you're a super-keen importer) will be a totally new, slightly unusual feeling. But we analysed, poked, prodded and playtested the controller to death in a recent hands-on session with Wii to bring you these detailed impressions of exactly what the controller is like and how it performs.
Please note, Nintendo was quick to stress that the controllers we used were not final retail units, and so may still differ slightly from the end product you'll be excitedly plucking off the shelves. But apart from a couple of the controllers still being hard-wired to the consoles (instead of being fully wireless), they felt pretty near to complete to us.
THE WII REMOTE
The Wii Remote is, as you'd expect from Nintendo, a solidly-designed, comfortable piece of kit. At roughly the length of an average biro pen, the remote has curves in all the right places to make reaching all the buttons an effortless ordeal.
When held in the remote position, your thumb sits nicely over the A, with the D-pad easily within reach. On the flipside, your index finger rests completely naturally on the B trigger - a curved button that is strangely satisfying to press.
Earlier versions of the controller felt light and relatively cheap - as expected for a demo containing almost none of the final controller's technical guts. But we immediately noticed that these newer controllers were, on the contrary, rather weighty. Just think, as well as the buttons and usual circuitry, there's a force-feedback motor, speaker, battery pack, accelerometer thingies and the sensor panel and trickery all packed into that small unit so it's bound to have some heft. It's good - it feels like quality. And it feels expensive (which at £30, you might say it is).
How does it perform? Superbly. The feature that's most intriguing to begin with is its pointer functionality, as this is the first function you see in action, used to navigate almost all game menu screens we've seen so far on Wii.
Completely ignoring the on-screen prompts to start the game, we waved the controller gently left and right to test the pointer's response times. It's spot-on. If you're REALLY picky, you might say there's a slight nanosecond delay in the pointer's motion. But it's so slight it's not a factor - and we played Trauma Center long enough and hard enough to confirm that fact. Besides, these aren't final controllers, remember? Response time could be totally perfected on retail units (and we'll be testing those in two weeks time).
Delving deeper into our curious examination, we lifted the controller to our eye and looked down its body at the screen like you would a gun. We realised that the controller's pointer function is not direct - as in the icon you're controlling does NOT appear on screen exactly where you're aiming the controller like it would with a lightgun.
It works more like a mouse. With a PC, for example, if you have a 17" monitor you don't have to slide your mouse 17 inches across to move the pointer from one side of the screen to the next. The Wii works the same - your movements are scaled up.
That said, the distance from the TV (or in fact, the sensor bar) made a great deal of difference in the pointer's sensitivity - the closer we were, the more sensitive the pointer's movements became. Standing right next to the TV made it near unusable, the slightest movement sending the on-screen pointer flying off the edge of the screen. We found that the sensitivity was most comfortable from about four feet away. Although anywhere from around three feet to the average length of a living room was more than playable.