Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect Review
Get off the couch and into your game.
Setting up the Kinect is slightly different based on which Xbox 360 console you have. If you like myself have an older ‘non-slim’ Xbox 360, then you will need to plug in the supplied power adapter in order to make Kinect work. If you have the newer slim Xbox, then you just have to plug it straight in. Regardless of which setup you run through, there is a long enough cable for both power and the USB connection, which is a relief.
Once I powered on my Xbox and it detected the Kinect, it ran through a quick update to register the device and then proceeded to run through some sound tests to pick up background noise, optimize sound setup, and ensure that the sensor could recognize me properly, and here is where I ran into my first hurdle. If you look at the promotional video, you’ll see that there is a ridiculous amount of space between the player and the Kinect sensor. In reality, not every home has this much of ample space in which to frolic around in. In fact, I have a rather large and heavy coffee table in my living room which I had to tow away in order to play with Kinect. The second problem is that during the configuration, there is a ‘Good’ area in which to play in, and a ‘Best’ area. I was just about able to make it into the Best area by standing flush against my couch, which frankly was a little bit uncomfortable to say the least. The only difference between the two is that some games might not recognize two players properly if they are in the Good zone, but playing in the Best area will give you no issues. This restriction on space is what might put off some players – if you’re lucky enough to have a large living room, then you won’t have any issues with Kinect.
Once your Kinect is setup properly, you get a new icon in your Xbox Dashboard called “Kinect Hub”. If at any time you wave in front of your Xbox, the Kinect Hub will automatically launch and give you a list of options to choose from. You can launch whatever game is currently in your tray, edit your avatar, sign into Live, run the setup process again, or enable automatic sign-in using facial recognition. The automatic sign in is quite impressive, and after a very simple setup of standing in particular areas and positions, the Xbox will instantly sign you in any time you step in front of it. Moving your hand around will cause a small hand icon to appear on screen – hover over anything on the screen for more than three seconds, and you will select it. You can also execute items on the Kinect Hub through voice recognition by prefacing the command with “Xbox” – for example you can say “Xbox Open Tray” to eject your game, or “Xbox Dashboard” to return to the main dashboard. What is somewhat disappointing is that the gesture navigation seems currently only restricted to the Kinect Hub. If you want to browse your list of videos from your media PC, you still need to do this through the regular Dashboard and Xbox controller.
Having setup the Kinect and cleared enough space around me, I popped in the bundled Kinect Adventures to actually see Kinect in action. This game has always been on demo wherever Kinect has been displayed, and was one of the very first games to be demoed behind closed doors back at E3 2009. The game itself is very simple – you join a team of intrepid adventurers as they embark on exciting games to unlock awards and harder challenges. You start off with easy games such as river-rafting and racquetball, but as you unlock harder games the game begins actually pose quite a challenge.
When playing racquetball, the tracking from Kinect was very impressive. My on-screen avatar matched my movements to the letter, even when I was just standing around waiting for the next level to begin. The Kinect however does not understand acceleration too well – if you ‘hit’ the ball hard enough it’s meant to bounce faster and harder at your targets, but most of the time my attempts were futile. Sometimes just a gentle tap would send the ball racing forward, but when I was flailing my arms around to get the ball to go faster, it would just gently bounce off instead.
One of the other challenges available is an obstacle course, which again presents its own shortcomings. At one point in the game, my avatar buckled in half and continue to stay that way throughout that section of the race, so it seemed as if I had no feet. But while minor hiccups may occur during gameplay, you can still have a fairly good time with Kinect Adventures. Best of all, a second player can simple walk in and stand beside you, and the game automatically adjusts and adds them in. When the walk out, the game returns to single player mode, all without introducing any menus or pausing. The game also makes use of the Kinect’s camera to take photos of you as you play along, resulting in some truly embarrassing photos at the end of each level.
My first experience with Kinect back in E3 2010 was a mixed one, as the system was still buggy and the games on show weren’t too appealing. But with the Kinect now gone retail and a host of games on the way, it looks to certainly win the hearts and minds of millions. While it might not replace the traditional mantra of gaming with a controller, it certainly opens up a whole new way to interact with your Xbox 360, and makes gaming a truly enjoyable and natural art.
|The bundled Kinect Adventures is a good two-player game, but look out for more interesting party games in the coming months.||
|In-game photo feature produces some hilarious shots.|
|Voice and facial recognition is great and needs hardly any training.||
|Hard to fully determine until more games have come out.|
|Gaming takes a turn for the better with natural gestures and seamless drop-in/drop-out multiplayer.||
|Kinect is a bold initiative from Microsoft that might not necessarily change the way we play games today, but it certainly will challenge it.|