We separate the rumour from the technical wizardry to deliver our verdict on Microsoft’s new motion sensor for Xbox 360.
Motion gaming has been huge ever since Nintendo released the Wii in late 2006. The idea of actually taking part in what is happening on-screen during your leisure time is a very appealing concept as the Wii’s sales figures of 75 million consoles sold worldwide confirms.
However, Microsoft, the makers of the Xbox 360 console feel that Nintendo clearly missed a trick with the Wii and have come up with a quite frankly brilliant alternative. The newly released Kinect peripheral, compatible with all Xbox 360 consoles, looks set to change the way we play games forever.
Technology of the Future
Using motion and voice sensor technology, players are invited to “become the controller.” You only have to take one look at Microsoft’s ad campaigns to see that another catalyst for living room embarrassment has been born. Earlier this year, we detailed what controller-free gaming meanings for developers and players. Now that we’ve got a Kinect unit we’re ready to share more impressions on the technology.
Once Kinect is attached, the Xbox is under your command through various movements and voice commands. You can sign into the console, play discs, check Achievements and change your Avatar just by talking to the system and pointing at your screen. We found that using voice, rather than movement, worked better when negotiating the Dashboard, as sometimes the movement controls seemed a bit slow to respond and became quite fiddly when sifting through the menus, especially when using the Avatar editor.
Kinect also uses facial recognition, which works well when multiple players are signed in and wanting to play. The sensor recognises which person signed into which account, so each player can only control their own account. This also means that players can leave the game at any point and come back in whenever they like, as the sensor will realise they have entered the space and sign them back in.
At this point, it is important to say that we found the sensor works best in a well lit room, with plenty of space. The sensor itself does move around and adjusts its own settings to adapt to your surroundings, but for the best possible experience at least six feet of room is required. But once all is well, tell your console through voice command, to play a Kinect compatible disc (that’ll be one of the ones found in the new garish purple cases, not all 360 games are compatible with Kinect) and prepare yourself some fun and inventive gaming that will make you lose a whole lot of sweat and about the same amount of dignity.
“Are you buzzing? I’m buzzing”
Gameplay-wise, the sensor responds well to the commands of the player, so long as lighting and distance is correct. What is impressive about the device when playing games is its multiplayer capabilities, as it allows two players to take part at once without confusion. If a player moves, only the Avatar in their control will move, not the Avatar of the other player, which makes for fun competitive gaming. See our reviews of Kinect Adventures and Kinect Sports for more gameplay verdicts.
Overall, we don’t think Microsoft’s Xbox team could have done a better job with Kinect. There are some niggles to be ironed out by software updates, as there usually is for new hardware, but all in all, it is a great piece of kit. It’s clever, intuitive, fun and above all, something just a little bit special. Kinect really does have that wow factor, the technology involved is a joy to behold and it genuinely puts a smile on your face while using it. In comparison, the Wii now seems so 2006.
Kinect for Xbox 360 is available now, priced £129.99.