Kinect – Post Hype Impressions
Kinect’s launch, like most products that launch with large sales figures and extensive marketing campaigns, somewhat overshadowed the device itself. Sales were incredibly impressive, and now around 10 million people have a Kinect sensor in their living room, but are they likely to be using it?
I approached Kinect with a sense of guarded optimism. I’ll admit to being a fan of the Wii, despite the majority of the games being ‘shovelware’ there have been some great games for the console. For the most part however, motion control was unnecessary. Despite this, Wii Sports Resort, Mario Kart Wii, The Godfather, Madden and the sublime Wii edition of Resident Evil 4, amongst others, won me over to the unorthodox controller. Kinect seemed to have far more potential, though a part of me kept saying ‘It’s an overhyped eyetoy’.
The technology behind Kinect blew many (myself included) away on that first try. It is a remarkable piece of hardware and the applications some very clever people have been able to hack it for illustrate this better, in many ways, than the games. That’s not to say the games aren’t good, they just suffer from the same problems all launch titles do – they don’t fully grasp the potential of the hardware. Actually, that’s not quite true, one game does – Dance Central.
Dance Central is developed by the minds behind the Rock Band games, so they know how to pull off a good rhythm game, but the fact they managed to massively outshine Microsoft on their own hardware is incredible. Kinect Adventures, for example, suffers from a slight lag in recognition of movement. It’s not even close to game breaking, but it’s just noticeable enough to irritate. Dance Central doesn’t seem to have this problem, it works wonderfully, and if any game should suffer lag issues, it should really have been the one trapped on a beat. The camera seems to better recognise movement of limbs, particularly when they cross the body in DC, than in other games, so hopefully whatever Harmonix got right other developers can imitate.
Kinect Sports, Joy Ride and Adventures are fun, but limited. Sports is the better of the three, but mainly for table tennis and volleyball. Football is a bit awkward, though enjoyable enough, bowling pales in comparison to the Wii version and boxing just doesn’t quite work. Joy Ride is probably the least impressive, it gets tiresome quite quickly, though I could imagine the very young enjoying it thanks to a simple control scheme. Adventures really doesn’t last too long, and the only game that really grabs the attention is the River Rapids. These minigames just don’t have that much longevity, but minigame collections rarely do. Nintendo managed to capture the novelty and fun of motion controls just that bit better in their pack-in than MS did.
Kinect Sports, Joy Ride and Adventures rarely emerge from their boxes at this point, but that’s down to the fact that they really are made for multiplayer. This causes a big problem thanks to Kinect’s biggest drawback – space. Kinect needs a huge amount of room to identify players. It claims six feet minimum, but only Dance Central really works effectively at short distances, and that’s with extra space behind to avoid injury through walloping your leg or backing into a wall head first. Adcventures and Sports both need around 8 by 8 feet, if not more, to be effective, and even more than that for multiplayer.
Thanks to the space limitations in my house Kinect is rarely used. There’s just too much hassle involved in moving furniture around only to play mini game collections. Dance Central, and to a lesser extent exercise game Your Shape are the only real reasons to turn on the machine and for most gamers that’s surely not the ideal reason to own a Kinect. Your Shape also needs more space than Dance Central, so it, like most exercise equipment, became swiftly ignored.
It’s a real shame that Kinect needs such a large play area. Of course it’s understandable given the technology involved, but I don’t live in a small flat, I’ve tried every room in my house and there’s just enough space for single player if couches are moved. Two players at the same time is impossible. More of a pity when Microsoft claim a lag-free experience is possible and potentially coming soon. If Kinect had a real killer app it might be worth the hassle, but unless you really, really love Dancing, it’s just not justifying the cost right now.
On the upside, there are some potentially excellent games on the way. Child of Eden, Codename D, Rise of Nightmares and Steel Battalion all have the potential to make Kinect a lot more interesting. If one or two of those games are fantastic and MS can pull off their lag-free claims, then Kinect should become a must-have product for 360 owners… if they have the space of course.
Now that the hype has died down a bit, Kinect remains an incredible technical achievement, but as a gaming device it’s yet to prove anything more than a novelty. The space concerns mean that many, many gamers simply will not be able to use it and those lucky enough to have the room may find the calibration before each gaming session takes so long it becomes a chore to turn on. If MS or third party developers can take inspiration from the hacking scene, or even just make a few games that don’t need full-body recognition (and so less space) then the technology is there for a big leap in how we play games. As of right now though, Kinect just doesn’t live up to the hype.