6th December 2010 - Microsoft has finally hit the market with their version of motion control for the Xbox 360. The major difference between this and the other major players is that there is no wand to wave, no “mote” to “move”. That’s right, you use the wonderful specimen that is your body to control your avatar and everything else on the screen.
The setup was pretty easy for me, as it will be for most people who have been pulling apart and setting up their games systems for years. I have the older model Xbox so it was a case of plugging the Kinect into USB port on the back off the system, plugging it in to the power and turning the Xbox on. The Xbox automatically recognised that Kinect was connected and went straight into the system setup testing the room for audio and light properties. The whole setup could have been done in about 15 minutes and we would have been ready to use it, however I knew I wasn’t going to have enough room in the room my Xbox was set up in, so I had to move that as well. Not ideal but glad I did as there is only just enough room. More on that later.
As with most hardware it is the software that will make or break it. I am not going to review individual games here though. The dashboard functionality is fairly intuitive and even my son who is 5 has no problems in navigating through the menu. To select an icon you hold your hand over it while a circle “fills up”. I didn’t have to explain it to him, he just watched me do it a couple of times and he knew what he had to do. To slide the dash to the next screen you select the arrow on the side of the screen (which takes less time than a normal selection) and then you slide your hand across. As I said it is all very intuitive and responds quite well for the majority of common operations.
For most of the operations it is pretty clear how you have to navigate through the menus and things of that nature. However when I sat down to watch a movie from the Zune marketplace I found the controls to be a little clunky but it also could have been my lack of knowledge using the Zune marketplace as it was my first real foray into it.
The Kinect ID feature which auto recognises players when they stand in front of the sensor to begin with was a bit hit and miss, I found myself having to run the Kinect ID setup so it would recognise me in different sorts of lighting and stuff like that. At first it annoyed me, but the good thing is that it builds up a bank of references in all different conditions and I can now say that it will almost recognise me in every lighting condition I throw at it.
There are some system limitations, the biggest one being space. As mentioned above I had to move my Xbox from my rather small theatre room in the rental I am currently in out to the family room. I have the sensor mounted (balanced really) on top of the TV at a height of about just over 5 foot and you still need a big distance to get the most out of it the system for the majority of games.
One of the things to note is that yes it is easy enough to fool the sensor and trick it. That is always going to be a limitation with anything like this. I can be trying to navigate and have three or four kids run through the camera space, yes it will lose my hands for a second or two, but I find just returning them to my side and letting me re-track my hands fixes this problem. To be honest though it is only a small thing and completely avoidable, if you don’t have the playing area near a major walkway in the house.
There has been a lot of talk about not including the voice recognition here in Australia. To be perfectly honest it is a case of not knowing what you are missing. Yes it would be nice to have it included at launch, but the fact that we haven’t had it before lessen the blow in my eyes. But on the other hand just knowing that they are using it in another English speaking country is a little annoying. I am looking forward to it being activated as I think it has the potential to be the killer part of Kinect that will be implemented into shooters and such games.
The actual aesthetics of the Kinect itself are gorgeous. Finished in the same gloss black that they used on the Xbox Slim it will fit in well in most theatre rooms or family room setups. It reminds me a little bit of Wall-E from the movie of the same name, I keep expecting it to come to life and start running around the living room.
With a price tag of $199 including Kinect Adventures this is not cheap as far as an add on goes. However when you consider what is included and what the technology contained with in the unit is, I think that it proves value for money. And when you compare the cost of the other motion controls on the market and account for the cost of more than one controller to accommodate a second person and it is basically on par.
The comparisons with the Wii and PS Move were inevitable, my stance is that all three of them are different and achieve different things for different people. In ten years time when we look back at this generation of consoles and controllers which one will stand above them all. In my opinion it will be the Kinect, not because of the Wii type games that we are seeing at the launch but because of the stuff game developers are only now thinking about and will be thinking about in 12 months time. I believe the technology that is used in the Wii and the Move is almost maxed out, I would be happy to be corrected though, where as with the technology in the Kinect sensor we are only just scratching the surface of what will be achievable. Microsoft’s big challenge is utilize the differences and superior technology to make different styles of games and to enhance the games that gamers play now and in the future to make this the standard of the next Xbox for all dashboard navigation and marketplace functions.
AAG SCORE: 8.5/10
- Easy to setup.
- The technology is exciting.
- It is well designed and looks great.
- You need a fairly big space.
- No voice recognition activated in Australia on launch.
- Kinect ID can be a little hit and miss initially.
Reviewed and Written By Michael Brennan