Take a look at this video, where the game is being demoed while a translator explains the functions of the new controls. We assume they're optional for the most-part. They'd better be.
In case the translator's voice has made you switch it off already,or you refuse to watch YouTube for religious reasons, it contains demonstrations of:
Swiping the touch screen up to push Nathan Drake over obstacles and climb ledges
Swinging on a vine using Sixaxis (sigh)
Climbing up (or down) a vine using climbing-like sweeps on the rear touchpad
Tapping the touch screen to indicate a platform to jump to while climbing
Drawing a line across a cliff face to set a route for Drake to climb
Tapping an enemy while climbing to pull them off the cliff, or tap them while sneaking to pull of a CQC move
Gyroscope control for the sniper scope
Stop, you're doing it wrong
There are several problems with most of the above when Uncharted is the game in question. Firstly, Sixaxis swinging has always been a gimmick. Always. Secondly, climbing up a vine has always had a perfectly logical controller input - UP. In fact, of all these examples, only the enemy tapping makes perfect sense, as it's often a problem to know which button you'll have to press to execute a stealth kill in 3rd-person action games. It's a bit like tapping them on the shoulder to say 'hello'.
The tech looks amazing, as does the game. And there are so many potential uses for all of it, we're incredibly excited. But was Uncharted really the best game to demonstrate them? It's always been a game that you play with a control pad. Sure, it had Sixaxis control for the log balancing bits, but they were nicely underplayed, few and far between. I can understand Sony wanting to use it's biggest hitter to demonstrate its new tech, but gamers would have been more excited just to see an uninterrupted gameplay video.
Above: Sorry, I'm exaggerating, I know. But what's wrong with using the buttons? They're RIGHT THERE
So let's forget that these features are being shoehorned into Uncharted for a moment and appreciate how awesome the tech looks. The gyroscope control looks identical to that found in the 3DS version of Ocarina of Time, where you control your slingshot by physically moving the device in the real world, with 1-1 aiming. If you want to aim behind you, you can physically turn around (or just exit aiming mode and make Link face the other way if you're on the bus). But while 3DS loses clarity on the screen when you tilt the device left and right thanks to the 3D effect that requires you to keep your head still, NGP will always show you lovely things, no matter how far you tilt it.
Imagine how this could be used in Metal Gear Solid games. You could whip out your binoculars, then physically scan the horizon using the gyroscope functionality, adjusting the zoom with the touch pad on the back of the device, maybe switching to night vidion with the other hand, all the while looking damn cool inthe real world(*cough* sure you will *cough*).
Push the button
Bottom line is this: Games designed specifically for these features will be superb. DS used its unique capabilities to such amazing effect, it managed to out-sell its rival despite having the ugliest 'traditional' games we've seen this side of the PSone. You only have to look at the LocoRoco-esque Little Deviants (details on this one very soon) on NGP to see how the rear touch panel can be used in new and exciting ways, like physically altering terrain that's on the screen with your fingers from behind the screen.
But where Uncharted is concerned,the device hastwo physical sticks, a d-pad and buttons for a reason. They work perfectly well with hardcore games. Always have, always will. The touch-screen functionality and tilt techare exactly what the casual, cell phone crowd likes, so the potential for incorporating that kind of interaction intoPS3-quality games is a very promising new area for Sony to exploit. But not with Uncharted.
It's a nice demo, but we don't want the Sixaxis situation all over again.
27 Jan, 2011