EA Games held a preview event last night in Manhattan, showing off the company's latest big-name games, from The Simpsons Game to Half-Life 2: Orange Box. While most of the action took place on the various screens around the room, my eyes were drawn to a large, funky-shaped piece of white plastic at the Metal of Honor Heroes 2 display. They had an actual Wii Zapper set up to demonstrate the game's on-rails shooter-style Arcade mode. I couldn't resist the chance to try Nintendo's new Wii peripheral, not scheduled to hit stores until November.
The Wii Zapper is fundamentally just a white plastic shell in which you place your Wiimote and nunchuk and hold like a machine gun. That said, it's a very nice white plastic shell in which you place your Wiimote and nunchuk and hold like a machine gun. It feels solid, and both controller parts fit snugly into the device with no noticeable wiggling. A trigger on the front of the Zapper counts as its only moving part, activating the Wiimote's B button when pressed.
I used the Zapper to play Medal of Honor Heroes 2 in its arcade mode, a variant that feels more than a little like Time Crisis. The Wiimote picked up some interference from the numerous other Wiis and light sources in the room (a problem you probably would only experience at an event like this), but once I got the hang of it, the Zapper control worked pretty well. It felt relatively comfortable while I aimed at the screen and shot at Nazi soldiers. While Arcade mode felt well enough, I can imagine more traditional FPS gameplay feeling disorienting to get used to, with the nunchuk and its analog stick mounted on the back of the Zapper.
Like I said before, though, the Zapper is just a plastic shell and aiming with it didn't feel very much different from aiming with the Wiimote as usual. You still have to point the Wiimote at the screen and adjust your shot for wherever you put the sensor bar. It feels pretty cool and gun-like, but it doesn't really change the gaming experience.
Granted, I only played with the Zapper for a few minutes, and with only one game. Future Zapper-compatible games might take advantage of the accessory to provide some as-yet unheard-of change to gameplay. The $20 device comes with a Zelda-themed crossbow target game, too, so it's not like you're dropping a Jackson on only a piece of plastic. Either way, I'm not ready to either condemn or worship the Nintendo Wii Zapper yet. It might be fun, or it might be a useless gimmick. We'll find out in November.