The Kinect Review

Guest Article : Ivan Corbett

So we’ve seen in The Road to Kinect what the sensor is and how it works but the big question remains as to whether it’s worth buying.

So far the games released for Kinect have been less than inspired, sure they’re good at what they do. I mean Kinectimals for all its’ terrifying box art is possibly the best game for young kids I’ve ever seen and Kinect sports is good fun. But there’s not really a stand out title, or more worryingly something that hasn’t or couldn’t have been done before.

The not-so-friendly competition...

I’m definitely a fan of the technology behind Kinect and having worked a little with it I can definitely see the potential, it just hasn’t been explored yet. I think for Kinect to really succeed and ultimately be worth your money; it (and indeed the software developers behind it) need to stop trying to replicate the arguably successful Wii formula. We don’t want another batch of sports, fitness and party games; we want something new, something that no other platform can deliver. Kinect can do that and it really is early days for what is essentially a new platform so I can’t exactly knock it for not trying just yet. But for now let’s stick to what you can buy in stores today.

The Kinect sensor is a quality made device, it looks good and the gloss back finish compliments the new console and most probably your TV nicely, touches like the motorised pivot set it apart as a high quality device. Its performance is good with minimal input delay, comparable to the Wii but not as impressive as PlayStation Move. It works well in a variety of settings and the initial setup is quick and intuitive. Ambient light only really affects facial recognition as games (and we’ve tested this) can in fact be played in total darkness with no ill effects. If there is one glaring fault in the hardware design it’s the restrictive viewing angles, you will need to be a minimum of 2ft back from the sensor to be recognised at all and the ideal play space is 6ft one player or a massive 8-10ft back for two. At the very least you’re going to need to move furniture if not move house entirely to get the most out of this.

The Xbox 360 system software has been updated with the arrival of Kinect and aside from a few cosmetic changes Kinect centric features and applications have been added, these are accessible from a new “Kinect Hub” accessed by waving a hand on the main system menu (dashboard) or by saying “Xbox Kinect”. The layout of the Hub is a bit love or hate, it’s made of a grid of big tiles and sliders manipulated by an on screen cursor following your hand movements or again by fairly reliable voice commands, overall the hub serves its purpose well and is easy to navigate.

Other features include “Video Kinect” a video chat application that keeps you centre frame automatically and uses the Kinect sensors microphones instead of a headset, again it’s quite user friendly and it’s nice to see integration with MSN messenger, but if would have been nice to see it work with the existing party chat system. Older applications like Sky Player, Zune and the Avatar Editor have been given the Kinect friendly makeover too and work quite well with the exception of the Sky Player whose Kinect version loses so much functionality as to make it utterly useless.

Love it or hate it the Kinect Hub does the job

In Europe, Kinect has launched with 15 titles: it’s a mixed bag of Sports, Fitness, Party and Action games the best ones are.

Kinectimals: This was a huge surprise for me, not expecting anything of this overtly kid friendly title, what I found was probably the most polished and complete of all Kinect games, it’s simple to use immediately entertaining and boasts a surprising amount of content, all with excellent use of the sensors capabilities, a must for young kids looking at Kinect.

Dance Central: For Harmonix’s first foray into a dance game they hit it pretty spot on, it’s got a good mix of tracks (if only a little brief) and the presentation is top notch, if only it wasn’t so critical or indeed difficult in general it would have been a great party game in the vein of Rock band before it, but it’s sharp learning curve will most likely put all but the dedicated off.

Kinect Sports: You might have played this one before… although totally lacking in originality the implementation here is good, the motion controls work very well and two players are tracked equally well, there’s a nice selection of sports to play with most being enjoyable (running on the spot for a 100m sprint is not however) but that niggling feeling that this could have aimed higher is always there.

Your Shape: Yep I’m serious here, yes it’s a fitness title and looking at it as just that it’s a damn good one, the presentation is excellent with the main controls being tailored to you personally to always be within arms reach on screen, a very large library of well explained work out routines and great stat tracking make this possibly the best fitness title on a console yet. Then again most of the workouts require you to keep a mostly impossible rhythm and the tracking is off at times. That and did I mention it’s a fitness title… Go the gym.

I won’t waste much time with the worst titles but allow me to say that Deca sports have never made anything remotely playable and “Motion sports” for Kinect is no better, “Sonic Free Riders” is so picky on timing that even the developers sucked at it in the demos, “Kinect Joy-Ride” while actually fun and well-made has so little content that it really should have been the pack in title (the actual pack in title, “Kinect Adventures” is passible at best with only two of the five mini-games fun to play.) and as for the cavalcade of other fitness titles… Go to the gym.

So there you have it Kinect, no doubt a great device that will sell a zillion units thanks to the novelty factor, casual games like Dance Central, Kinectimals and Sports. And the $700 million spent on advertising it.

But perhaps it’s not something that someone reading this site would be all too interested in… yet.

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