Kinect Impressions

kinect impressions

I got to try out Kinect over the weekend, and I had enough hands on time with Microsoft’s full-body motion controller to get a decent impression. This isn’t a review, per se, but it’s still going to be a decent summary of my thoughts on it.

Kinect, if you’ve somehow managed to avoid the copious amount of information about it over the last year, is a sensor bar that hooks up to your Xbox 360 and uses an infrared scan of your body as input in specific games as opposed to the remote-wand set up used by the Wii and the PlayStation Move. The major hook of Kinect is the lack of any extraneous methods of control: it’s just the game and your body. There are no complicated button combos to remember, no dual analog sticks to fumble around with. By making the game an extension of yourself, Microsoft hopes to tap into the casual market by removing arguably the largest obstruction for new gamers: controllers. Does Kinect work in this regard, or was Kevin Butler right about the need for buttons?

The first thing that struck me about Kinect was how advanced a piece of technology it is. Honestly, setting the thing up is a tad unnerving as the device has you run through a few simple exercises in order to set you up in its memory banks. Kinect can move up and down in order to get a better look at you, so it’s rather like submitting to a full body scan. Once you finish synchronizing your scan with a Gamertag, Kinect will automatically recognize you as soon as you come within range of its camera. A friend of mine was trying it out, and I walked in front of him and the device immediately picked me up and logged me in. I was a little surprised about how well it worked in this regard.

A lot has also been made about the use of Kinect to navigate the dashboard, and this does work pretty well, but only inside the Kinect Hub. The way this works is that, to play any Kinect games or use any Kinect-specific features, you need to go to the Hub and do it from there. You can do all the usual Xbox stuff like browse your Achievements or manipulate your account, but it’s a separate zone from the regular interface. Using your hand to move around the menu works too, but it’s not as smooth as you might expect: to access anything in the Kinect Hub or the games, you need to place your hand over the desired choice and hold it there for a few seconds. This is implemented to prevent Kinect from accessing the wrong option, but it’s kind of a give and take. While I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t the “Minority Report” menus I wanted, I was grateful that I wasn’t backing out of the wrong menu every five minutes.

Kinect-Adventures

So I liked the interface and I was impressed by the technical aspect of recognizing you by your biometrics. Kinect can do neat tricks on that basis alone until the cows come home, but the real way it needs to grab you is through good software. I got to try out Kinect Sports and Kinect Adventures, and I was suitably impressed by both.

Kinect Adventures is the title that gets bundled in with the device itself, and it is essentially a collection of mini-games loosely bound together in a very simplistic story mode. Activities range from the oft-seen raft gameplay to floating around in a space ship. The minigames are quite fun, and the device works well even with the input of two separate people. It did go a little nuts at some points, but overall the gameplay was smooth with two people jumping around like jackasses.

You will feel like a moron playing Kinect for a little while, especially after it shows you the pictures and videos it’s taking of you as you play. This ceases to be an annoyance after a while, and at the end I genuinely enjoyed the images of myself leaping around, swinging my arms.

Kinect Sports is where the real meat of the experience is right now, and rightly so. There are a few main games in the package like the requisite table tennis and bowling events. My advice is to skip those and go for beach volleyball and the track & field events. Volleyball is a ton of fun, especially if you’re side by side with a friend setting up spikes against the computer opponents. It’s unfortunate that four real people can’t play this in the same room with the exception of system link. It’s way more interactive than Wii Sports is because the game actually requires the use of your whole body. While you won’t actually have to dive for wayward balls, you will be jumping for them.

Kinect Device

Track & field is actually split up into several smaller events like sprinting, javelin throws, discus, long jump and hurdles. Every Kinect game has an activity level on the back of the box, and Kinect Sports earns its “active” rating. You have to run in place like your life depends on it, lifting your knees to chest level so Kinect can properly detect how much hustle you’re putting into it. By the end of the game, I had definitely worked up a sweat. I’m actually fairly in shape (I hit the gym everyday if I can), but Kinect makes you work. There were a few glitchy moments with the discus and javelin events where the game would think that I had moved my arm when in actuality I had done no such thing. Such problems are mercifully few and far between though.

All told, I ended up having a lot more fun with Kinect than I thought I would. To be honest, though, I thought the same thing about the Wii when I tried it for the first time. The Sports title is a really good time, but that can only go so far. Kinect Adventures is good for a little bit too, but I’m not really a “dance” or “play with cute animals” type of guy. Kinect does try really hard to impress from the outset, and you’ll have fun with it for a few days guaranteed. The novelty will wear out soon, though, just like it did with the Wii. Controller-less gimmicks aside, Kinect needs more games if it wants to stay alive. With nothing announced aside from Steel Battalion for the enthusiast gamer, I’m left to wonder how much longer Kinect will remain relevant.

At the beginning I did say that this isn’t a review, but if pressed for a score, I’d say a B. The technology is quite sophisticated, and the amount of fun you can have with the games did exceed my admittedly low expectations by quite a large margin. I’m just worried about the future of Kinect and whether or not it will suffer from Wii syndrome.

That’s what I thought of Microsoft’s new technological wonder. Has anyone else tried it, and what did you think? Anyone hoping to give it a go?

Written by

mitch@gamersushi.com Twitter: @mi7ch Gamertag: Lubeius PSN ID: Lubeius SteamID: Lube182 Origin/EA:Lube182 Currently Playing: Stardew Valley, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords, Battlefield 4, Tom Clancy Double Feature: Rainbow Six Siege and The Division

3 thoughts on “Kinect Impressions”

  1. Saw both Kinect and Move for first time IRL (in store) today:

    -The Move looks as ridiculous as you think a controller with glowing ball on the end would look.

    -The kinect makes you look as ridiculous as you think it does, I still hold that watching people playing it is far more entertaining then playing it yourself.

    I agree with what you said, “I’m just worried about the future of Kinect and whether or not it will suffer from Wii syndrome”

    Except the Wii has some great innovative titles such as Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Super Mario Galaxy whereas most of the Kinect games I saw on sale were “Tennis game by Company Z”. I just can’t see any Microsoft releasing clever/new games like Nintendo does for the Wii. It looks like party games and mini games all the way. If you are judging it by biggest game on release day it’s Twilight Princess vs. Dance Central/Kinectimals

  2. Would be nice to see a “Motion Plus, Move and Kinect”-part on the next podcast.
    I’m not in motion controls so far. I play Wii with friends some times, but that’s it. I think Move has the biggest potential for a good gaming motion controller (I mean for “real” games, and not mini games, fitness games or sport games).
    But, hey Microsoft, prove me I’m wrong and release some mind blowing games.

  3. [quote comment=”14524″]Saw both Kinect and Move for first time IRL (in store) today:

    -The Move looks as ridiculous as you think a controller with glowing ball on the end would look.

    -The kinect makes you look as ridiculous as you think it does, I still hold that watching people playing it is far more entertaining then playing it yourself.

    I agree with what you said, “I’m just worried about the future of Kinect and whether or not it will suffer from Wii syndrome”

    Except the Wii has some great innovative titles such as Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Super Mario Galaxy whereas most of the Kinect games I saw on sale were “Tennis game by Company Z”. I just can’t see any Microsoft releasing clever/new games like Nintendo does for the Wii. It looks like party games and mini games all the way. If you are judging it by biggest game on release day it’s Twilight Princess vs. Dance Central/Kinectimals[/quote]
    Notice how Kirby, Twilight Princess, and Super Mario Galaxy all use the motion controls very little.

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