Today I got to play on Microsoft’s new piece of kit for the Xbox 360, Kinect.
So, what’s Kinect?
Kinect is a new peripheral for the Xbox 360 that is released on November 10th. It’s a camera that sits underneath your TV and utilizes 3D motion-tracking technology that picks up 20 different points on your body. It also features a multi-array microphone that provides voice recognition for games and general use of your Xbox. It has a motorized base, which is operated by pressing the X and Y buttons on your 360 controller to make the camera tilt upwards or downwards. Adjusting the camera with your hands may break it, so be careful! Also worth noting is that for an optimal gaming experience the camera requires a distance of 1.8m/6ft between the player and the camera.
Do you need the new style Xbox 360?
Nope, although it is easier if you have one of the newer style ones.
If you own one of the new 4GB, 250GB or Halo 250GB consoles you can simply plug the camera into the port at the back of the console.
For those who still own one of the original versions of the console, you can still purchase Kinect, but connecting it is slightly different. You need to plug in an adapter (which has been confirmed as in the box already when you purchase the camera, so no need to spend extra cash!). The adapter needs to be plugged into a USB port on the console, which the Kinect camera cable then plugs into. A cable running off the adapter then needs to be plugged into a plug socket. The adapter cannot be plugged into one of the front two ports, it needs to be plugged into the rear port of the console. Owners of a wireless network adapter will need to use another cable (which again is included) which extends the length of the cable for the network adapter, allowing you to plug that into the front of the console.
A bit of a pain, but at least you don’t have to splash out on a new console!
What does it bring it to Xbox 360?
Instead of using your conventional controller to flick through the menus on the dashboard you could instead use the Kinect. If you choose to use the camera then you’ll notice a slight change to the dashboard:
To select one of the options you simply move your hand over the option and hold it there for a few seconds. Alternatively you can use your voice! By saying the word ‘Xbox’ you can then follow by saying what you wish to select, such as ‘Zune’ to enter the Zune Marketplace or maybe even ‘Play Game’ to, surprise surprise, play the game that’s in your disc tray!
Voice commands can also be used to pause and play films that your watching, as well as controlling Sky Player if your subscribed to that.
Then of course, you’ve got Kinect games!
So what games can we expect to play using it?
First of all, I’ll talk about the games I got to play today, which were Kinect Adventures, Kinect Sports and Dance Central.
The first game I got to try out was Kinect Adventures. On display were the games shown in the Kinect Adventure trailer from E3 2010 which were River-Rush, Reflex Ridge and Rally Ball.
River-Rush places the player on a raft, and by using side-stepping movements you work your way through the course collecting ‘pins’ along the way. Certain parts of the course require the player to jump to reach higher points on the map.
Reflex Ridge again places your avatar on an object, which is this time a small wooden board on a track. Along the track are objects that you need to dodge by ether stepping to one side, ducking or jumping…and once again collecting pins as you go.
Rally Ball is a little like dodgeball. The idea is you hit incoming balls with the intention of smashing the blocks infront of you, which rebound the balls back at you.
I liked Kinect Adventures. It was pretty responsive, although I noticed a slight bit of lag during the rafting. The action was quite basic, but enjoyable. Its worth noting that this title comes with every Kinect camera in the box.
Next up was Kinect Sports. I got to race against another guy who was at the event with me on the 200m hurdles, as well as try out the bowling.
The hurdles were great fun. The trick is to jog on the spot, making sure you bring your knees up as quick and as high as possible. When you’re coming up to a hurdle it’ll start flashing a yellow colour, which will then change to green when your close to it. Once it changes colour…jump! I sadly came 5th on my first attempt, but managed to get another go at it later on, improving on my time and coming in 2nd! I could tell that I’m a little out of shape, needing to pause for a few moments after the two races before playing another game!
Now I’m not great at bowling in real life anyway, and that was reflected in my first couple of go’s on the Kinect version of it. It reacted very well to the speed and direction of which I bowled. I liked the little touch of having to place your hand over the bowling balls to pick one up, similar to grabbing an arrow when playing Sports Champions with the Playstation Move.
I’d have liked to try out the other sports on offer in the full game, such as Football, but sadly the two we played were the only ones available on the dev kit 360 that were on offer.
And finally, Dance Central! This has to be the most anticipated title for the launch of the Kinect.
It’s being made by Harmonix, who are the legends behind the Rock Band games (as well as the early Guitar Hero titles).
You know what to expect with Harmonix. At launch you get a very good selection of tracks on the disc, with DLC promised for the future. However, due to the choreography that goes into the tracks for Dance Central don’t expect them to turn up on marketplace as often as tracks for Rock Band do.
The layout of the menus on Dance Central are clean and simple, which continues when you come to dance. The idea is simple, you follow the dance moves that the on-screen avatar are displaying which are also shown with a basic diagram of that particular dance move on the right hand side of the screen. If you don’t do a good job of copying the dance move then your character will start glowing red in the area you should be moving (your legs, arms, etc). I’ve been assured that the more difficult songs on the higher difficulty settings are practically like being a backing dancer, with complicated dance moves streamed together.
And so it was time to dance! 6 tracks were available to dance to, listed in order of difficulty. I ofcourse, went for the easiest of the tracks on offer, which was Lady GaGa’s Pokerface. You then get the option of choosing Easy, Medium or Hard (I bet you can guess which I went for…). It only got me to use 3/4 different dance moves, in some cases mixing a couple together towards the end. Although I felt a little silly, I can’t deny, it was actually pretty nifty to play and a great laugh! Compared to everyone else, my score wasn’t that great, but its the taking part that counts, right?!
The game is 3 player too, although the front dancer will be the only one getting scored. The two other dancers appear behind the main person.
Along with those titles you’ll also be able to pick up a few other releases, such as:
Kinect Joyride: A simple looking kart racing title, where you just use your hands and body to steer your vehicle. You can also perform tricks and boost your way around the track.
Kinectimals: Think of this title as the 360 equivalent to Nintendogs. You get to choose and name a cub from the choice of 5 that come on the disc. You can play with your new found friend who will copy your movements, such as playing dead or jumping. You can also choose to take on different obstacle courses. Something else confirmed is that some retailers will be stocking cuddly Kinectimal animals which will have a barcode on there tag that can be scanned by the Kinect camera, adding that particular animal into the game.
Your Shape Fitness Evolved: Apparently, the software in this title is more accurate than the first party titles. Although the camera usually picks up 20 different parts of your body, this title goes a bit further, picking up several more (sadly I do not know the exact number). This makes the title very accurate when it comes to measuring your statistics and tracking your movements while performing the games different work-outs. You’ll be able to track your progress as well as setting up your own workout routines.
So what did I really think of Kinect?
I’ve heard alot of feedback from various people who had played on a Kinect before I, and I’ve heard mixed responses.
I enjoyed playing on the Kinect. Apart from a little bit of lag on Adventures it picked up my movements quicker and more accurately than I expected.
It’s launch line-up does feel quite ‘casual’ which will ofcourse put off the big Halo and Call of Duty fans, but I feel that this new tech has the potential to be a must buy for the Xbox 360. The important thing for Microsoft is too keep investing money into worthwhile titles for it, regardless of how well it sells come the 10th November. It does need more games that will attract it’s core fanbase (such as a Halo title). Forza Motorsport next year could well be the first of those.
Many people have dismissed it because of its similarities to the Nintendo Wii which I feel, in some cases, is a little mean. It’s fresh, it’s different and most importantly, it works. Using it is straight-forward and configuring it looks quite easy. Another thing the Kinect has been compared to has been the EyeToy (PS2’s motion camera), which is fair enough. It’s far more advanced in its motion capturing however.
£129 is expensive, whichever way you look at it, although you do also get a copy of Kinect Adventures. The fun I had using one today, as well as the features like controlling the dashboard (which sadly weren’t on display) have made me feel happier that I’ve preordered one.
With Forza and a Star Wars title already confirmed for next year, if you think you’ll be able to afford one at Christmas, I recommend pre-ordering one!