Aug 27, 2010
I was sceptical about Kinect. I was thoroughly looking forward to getting some play time with the motion capture device in order to tie up any doubts I had about the craze, and even maybe make me love it. So I hopped on Kinect over at the Konami stand one morning during Gamescom to finally get my go. Steve and I played on a downhill hover-board game thing, which appeared to be the perfect way to test how sensitive this thing really is. We stepped up to the play area and lined ourselves up with the boxes on screen, which were designed to detect us as players. ‘Put your hand up’ the command said on screen, and so we did. Steve got a lovely notification saying ready pop-up in front of his box. Naturally mine took a bit more persuasion. ‘Move forward’ the man said. ‘No to the left’ he instructed’. ‘Maybe a bit to the right’ he commented. Eventually I finally got detected and was ready to start. I wasn’t greatly impressed so far. 3, 2, 1 GO, and we were off down some crazy course. The required a fair bit of movement before any turning or tricks would be recognised, which is fair enough, but when I’m flailing around like a monkey on crack just to turn a wee bit to the right because the game won’t bloody turn, that’s when we have our problem. Eventually I did turn, straight into a wall that is, while Steve zoomed passed and won. Not a great start in my exploration into what Kinect is all about I don’t think. I brushed the brief encounter off my mind and decided to give Kinect a second chance.
This second chance came in the form of the Kinect stage demonstration the next day. Once again I was excited to see how games actually designed for Kinect would work with the system. Kinect Sports was up first, developed by the lovely British studio that is Rare. It looked pretty decent. They were gathering up volunteers to try out different sports on stage, but no matter how much I waved and shouted I was just never picked. Apparently I’m just not as able as a 12 year old kid and a geriatric old man. Maybe it was the hat. The sports consisted of running, long-jump and all the other Olympic sports that us gamers avoid in fear of becoming some-what fit. All of them functioned fairly well, the response time was still slightly spongy but that was to be expected, and the people looked like they were having fun. The replay mode after each event, that shows the players doing all sorts of actions that would usually get you sent to the Looney bin for performing in public, popped up on screen. This acted as a lovely reminder that Kinect is not just a thing to use on games, but a new way of interacting with your console. Voice recognition and video capture are elements of the Kinect that seemed to have been shunned out of Gamescom in favour of light-hearted running simulations. I would have loved to have seen a live demonstration on how Kinect allows the user to interact with movies with the utterance of one word. It may have even made me want to buy one. But unfortunately it was not meant to be and Kinect Joyride was up next.
Originally intended as a free Xbox Live Arcade title, Joyride has since been mutated into a Kinect launch title. Mr Demonstrator started out by customising his van. He positioned his shirt in front of a box on the screen to choose the colour. The colour form the shirt was then copied and sprayed onto the van. This was actually pretty impressive and left me thinking that people with a very limited spectrum of colours in their wardrobe will be missing out. Personally I would just nip down to Homebase and nick a wall colour chart. Onto the race, and once again Mr Average (and by average I mean not wearing a hat) was pulled up on stage for a 2 player race. Driving consisted of what you would expect, using the hands to control and pushing forward to boost. Weapons could be activated by hovering your hand over the weapon icon and an array of tricks could be performed by doing certain actions whilst airborne. I was pretty surprised by Joyride. It genuinely looked fun. The interface was good and people enjoyed playing it. Kinectimals was next on the scene.
I was actually quite intrigued by Kinectimals. It seemed like an interesting prospect to have a life-like exotic cat act like any regular pet should, just through some fancy waving and voice commands. So the woman picked a Cheetah, and very wittily named it Peter. I thought to myself ‘If I had a cheetah I would call it something far more awesome than Peter’, ‘something like Domingo or Mr Bumbleshanks’. Alas my cries for more sophisticated name calling were drowned out by idiotic laughter from people who just realised Peter did actually rhyme with cheetah. She petted the cat for a little bit, for which it was most grateful and purred happily. She then went on to describe how Peter would copy any movement she does. First she jumped, and the cat jumped and fell over. How hilarious I thought, a virtual cat virtually fell over and inflicted pain upon itself. It’s no surprise to find that these family-orientated games had no warm-hearted effect upon my cold outer shell. She then stood on one leg, as did the cat, again falling over. I started to think if maybe the cat liked the pain. She then proceeded to the more sophisticated tricks, like ‘play-dead’. She lay on the floor in a hilarious fashion while that cat delightfully span around on screen completely disobeying the woman and acting very much alive. ‘He’s very frisky today’ she said with a chuckle as I thought ‘nope there’s something wrong with the interface’. Eventually he did play dead and once again it was hilarious. Kinectimals was over and left me thinking about how this game will really play out in people’s homes. It’s all well and good pretending to have this cat in your house and lovingly playing with it but how far will it really go. However, this is a question that unfortunately can only be answered with purchase of the game.
It was a mixed bag from Kinect. My hands on time left me disappointed but some of the demonstration had me pretty impressed. Kinectimals was fairly shoddy in my eyes, whether it was the player or the console I just don’t know. The emphasis on the gaming aspect of Kinect caused one thought to pop into my mind, a thought that makes pains me to say it. But that thought is that it’s just a glorified EyeToy. Argh, I hate saying that, but that’s just what I saw. If I had seen something more impressive or more dashboard and film interface I’m sure I would have had a completely different experience with it. I wish I had had some more hand on time and I wish I could have been overwhelmed with it, but it was not meant to be. Maybe when I see some more hard-core titles demonstrating what more it has to offer I will finally be convinced it is a step in the right direction. For now, in my eyes, it isn’t really something to look out for.
Brilliant article! Have to say you’ve just described everything that was concerning me about Kinect. I guess time will tell but at the moment it’s not something that’s remotely interesting me, especially after that disconcerting product placement scene in last week’s episode of Smallville with that guy flailing around like some sort of seal.
Great article Tom, it seems my doubts about Kinect weren’t misplaced. I never liked the Eyetoy so the chances of me liking this where low anyway, but it hasn’t done anything to convince me to like it. Anyway, I have my wii if I wan’t to wave around like an idiot!