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Xbox 360 Kinect - Demands on Space and Laggy but Fun

By Stuart Andrews

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Xbox 360 Kinect

Summary

Our Score:

8

That doesn't mean that there aren't some serious disappointments. Firstly, while the voice and gesture recognition works brilliantly, the integration into the dashboard isn't as profound or as effective as it first appears. Saying "Xbox" gives you immediate access to a context-sensitive bar of speech commands, but within the Dashboard all you can do is launch the new Kinect Hub.

Within this, you can handle profiles, add and modify avatars, launch games, tune the sensor and access the Zune, Sky Player and Last.fm services. However, while you can look for a movie to rent, browse for music and watch Sky TV using voice commands and gestures, you probably won't want to. Despite a beautiful, intuitive interface, it's a slow and unwieldy way to do things, particularly if you want to search for an album or browse through Zune's library of films.

More importantly, there's no getting around the fact that Kinect is very tetchy about space. You really need a minimum of five feet of space between you and the sensor to make a game worth playing, and a further two or three feet behind you to play in. If you want to play with two players simultaneously in many games, including the bundled Kinect Adventures, then you'll need to stand even further back and have several feet to either side as well. Use the hub's Kinect Tuner utility or stick to less demanding games, like the kart-style racer, Joyride, and you can get away with slightly less, but only slightly. This rather makes all those smug comments made about the price of two-player Move setup sound a bit rich; if you want to play Kinect as Microsoft intended, you might have to buy a bigger house!

This is Kinect's single biggest problem – and a bigger problem in the UK than it will be in areas of mainland Europe or the US. The fact is that where Wii works in just about every living room, and Move will work in most, Kinect needs space in which to work. If you have it, however, and you're willing and able to move furniture around, then it's worth it. Kinect really is something new, different and amazing.

The feeling starts when it first scans your face as you start a new game and places your avatar on screen, and carries on when you wiggle an arm or shake a leg and realise that your avatar is copying you exactly. There is lag, and you can see this in the efforts that some games have made to get around this. However, in the sorts of game that Kinect does well, it's really not that much of an issue. It's not the technical limitations that will stay with you, but that all-important sense of fun.

Take the bundled game, Kinect Adventures, for example. While there's nothing particularly clever or sophisticated about this mini-game collection, whacking balls at boxes using your head, body hands and feet not only makes you look stupid, it also puts a big smile on your face. The river rafting activity takes getting used to, but with two of you in the boat together, frantically scrambling left and right and trying to synchronize your jumps, it's a blast. Ditto plugging holes with hands and feet in an underwater tank being attacked by psychotic fish. Ditto flapping your arms to float up and burst bubbles in the low gravity of an orbiting space station. To experience it is to love it.

Jones

November 8, 2010, 8:32 pm

It was never designed as an attempt to replace a controller for FPSs or, say, a football game but unfortunately the bulk of those with XBox's will look at it's shortfalls in these areas the keenest.





To truly take off, Microsoft must either be relying on a huge number of the Wii type younger or party audiences to have an XBox already or hoping that many of this demographic will be willing to buy Kinect AND an XBox.





I'm not so sure but I hope it does well. Having played games for over two decades now its all to easy for me to be driven to boredom by the latest "greatest" FPSs and what not (Crysis, for example, was a chore for me) but this looks like it'd be a riot - even if the riot only lasted an hour at a time!





And who can deny that they arent at least a tiny bit excited about the prospect of some sort of penalty kick/free kcik game coming to Kinect?! Might help England train up some decent PK takers for future World Cups...

smodd

November 8, 2010, 9:43 pm

Maybe in the future they can sold a Hardcore Edition, just give to people some 2 wrist and 2 ankle bands-like and the input lag can be reduced a lot y u still have the freedom you want...

Stelph

November 8, 2010, 9:55 pm

I wonder if the Kinect has object recongnition built in as well? I.e. for a star wars game you could hold a stick as a lightsaber (cause surely thats what everyone wants these devices for!) :-p

Hugo

November 8, 2010, 10:06 pm

Stelph - Move does ;)

Runadumb

November 9, 2010, 12:39 am

@Jones Crysis was pure unadulterated fuuuuun ;)








People seem to hate on Kinect for not catering to the "Hardcore" but the Xbox caters plenty for that audience. Why can't it also have content your kids, parents or whoever could easily pick up and play without the massive learning curve? I can see a youngin getting lots of joy out of that silly pet game. Shame with some Move games.


I like the fact the wii, move and now Kinect exist, even if I get little from them.





PS I say this now but not being able to get near console and shot people in the face because my GF was flailing her arms about pretending to be on a life-raft would get old really fast :)

KultiVator

November 9, 2010, 5:01 am

Tut tut T.R. - your nicely balanced review is sure to upset Ahlan!





;-)

warwick67

November 10, 2010, 3:16 am

Whilst the Kinect technology is impressive I feel your review gives it a score that does not reflect that fact that it has clearly not yet fully proven it's definite long-term worth as a gaming accessory and you appear rather too fawning of it's achievements thus far.





I found Ars Technica's excellent review to be more detailed, balanced and comprehensive: "Buy a house, clean your floor, move your butt: Ars reviews Kinect" - http://arstechnica.com/gaming/...

StuAndrews

November 10, 2010, 3:55 pm

@Warwick87


You can say the same thing about any new games console or accessory we review, and it's the nature of these things that there value changes over time. All we can do is look at how good the games are at launch and come up with a considered idea as to future potential. Personally, I think the review does just that.





The big issue with Kinect - and I can't say this enough - is that the experience will differ from person to person depending on how much space you have available, and the sort of games you like. In my own home, we had to move furniture to get everything working properly, but we felt that the good times we had playing Kinect made it worthwhile. The most important thing about it is that it feels genuinely new and genuinely fun. It's important to make the points about space and lag, but it's easy to obsess over these issues and miss out on how well Kinect and its launch games work.





And while I hate to stir up a hornert's nest, since we've had Kinect in the house everyone wants to play it. Every member of my family has a favourite game they want to play, and everybody loves it. Much as I like PlayStation Move and Sony's desire to make motion control work for traditional games, I can't really say the same about any of the titles we've seen so far (bar The Shoot, which I've become a bit obsessed with). I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Killzone 3 and Little Big Planet to turn this around next year. Move is a great technology, but so far the games haven't measured up.





@Stelph


I can't see it being a problem. From what I've seen from the full-size body scan in Your Shape, Kinect has no problem picking up objects that shouldn't be in the frame, including my coffee cup if I'm holding it, or my four-year old daughter then she decides to launch herself on me in mid exercise. All part of the fun ;?

davidc

November 10, 2010, 4:02 pm

its actually nice to play something different rather than another FPS / shooter / race sim. Whilst its definately not the finished acrticle, it is fun to play and if you have the room,should be great for family party games. We shoud be glad Microsoft are trying something different and not moaning that "you can't play COD on it"...it just needs a killer game that breaks new ground...hopefully in the next 6months / year we will get it, until then, just have fun!!

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