Games review: Cameras, kicks, and (voice) commands with Microsoft’s Kinect
After all the rumour, conjecture and name changes (does Natal ring a bell?), to finally see Microsoft’s sleek, black, motion control device in its release form and, better yet, to have the chance to put it through it’s paces was something of a relief.
By now Xbox 360 owners should have been able to update their dashboard — the series of menus into which your 360 first boots — to the new futuristic, minimalist style. Kinect is of course the reason for this redesign, its motion controls perfectly complementing the streamlined set-up, as hand gestures scroll through the various windows and simple voice commands select specific functions — Kinect adopters soon having to grow accustomed to waving and talking to their console in order to get the most out of it.
MSN users will also be pleased to hear that Kinect offers video calls to other MSN users, even those using a PC, the onboard camera impressively tracking the caller without any user intervention. In fact the camera truly does impress, not only detecting the user in 2D but also mapping the body in 3D so that a movement forward or sideways is picked up, all without holding any kind of peripheral. What this means in gaming terms is that games can track your body movements perfectly and without too much of the motion lag which so many feared.
Until the device gets into the wild and takes its place in thousands of lounges, it’s impossible to know just how accurate it will prove in smaller living rooms (Microsoft suggest sitting approximately 1.8m away from the device for the best experience), but initial forays reveal an extremely responsive experience, free of the lag that so many feared. Release-wise it’s more of a mixed bag, only Sonic Free Riders (a colourful if slightly cumbersome racer), Kinect Sports (Kinect’s stock sports title), Kinectimals (think Nintendogs with exotic cats), and two dance titles, DanceEvolution and Dance Central impressing.
Of even those, none truly demonstrate the true potential of Kinect, each having taken the safer route, rather than the treacherous, but ultimately more rewarding, one. What this means in terms of gameplay is that games tend to consist of a few stock tricks: leaning to direct movement, jumping on the spot or waving your hands in the general direction of an onscreen item or enemy — Harry Potter we’re looking at you.
It seems that we’ll have to wait until the next round of big releases before we have an idea of just what potential the more ambitious developers have in mind. For now Kinect is an impressive opening gambit by Microsoft, currently focussed at the ‘casual’ user — quite understandable on the run-up to Christmas — but with the potential to influence even the most hardcore of genres in the right hands. Not quite essential yet then, but certainly worth picking up for anyone wanting an impressive preview of one of gaming’s possible futures.Tagged in: games, gaming, kinect, microsoft, videogames, Xbox 360
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