I was not impressed with the Kinect at E3. The games were as pedestrian as to be expected – lean to steer! Match the actions on camera! – and it hates left-handed people since all navigation was to be done with the right. One would certainly hope that there have been improvements between now and then, but I am approaching this with more than a little trepidation. I never expected to be blown away by this tech since there are few games that I feel can be vastly improved by having them depend on reading the human body. The accuracy just isn’t there yet. I do give them credit for trying; how else will it get better? As a bonus, I no longer call it the Kinetic. This was a surprisingly hard habit to break!
When it comes to camera tracking like the Kinect promises, I mostly think of the possibilities for instruction. You could probably learn basic martial arts at home since the camera would detect whether or not you are maintaining the proper form or if your speed is adequate. This gets people active and will, hopefully, feel less pointless than waving your hands in the air to the beat. Now, I LIKE dancing games. I’m a DDR freak. The only two Kinect games I enjoyed at E3 were Dance Central (Harmonix) and Dance Masters (Konami). Frankly, I liked Konami’s offering more and not just because I wiped the floor with the demo guy on the third day on a hard difficulty on my first time playing ;)
That said, it looks like the first two Kinect games I’ll be covering are Dance Central and Sonic Free Riders. Still waiting on shipping for those so I can’t say when I’ll get to dive in (Man, USPS is slow to Canada. I’m still waiting on a bunch of other games I ordered more than a week ago!). The Sonic game will be all new to me, but back in June I spent a good chunk of time with Konami’s Adrenaline Misfits and really wanted to like it. New IP and you board down extreme tracks as fast as possible while doing stunts. Basically, you lean left and right and jump occasionally. It’s even less exciting than it sounds.
I know I’m raining on the parade without yet seeing the results of the final product, even though I want it to work. I want it to see peoples of all colours. I want the tracking to be excellent. I want it to be accessible to everyone and bring new people to gaming. The human body is capable of so many amazing things but the Kinect is facing an incredible challenge to try and keep up. Will the sensor be fast enough? Accurate enough? Interesting enough? There are only so many fitness and dance and racing and party games that even I want to play! Will it evolve to work fluidly and naturally with RPGs? I mean, work without forced waggle, er, arm waving, like a lot of Wii games suffer from. What about first person shooters? Nintendo managed to make a platformer controlled by a set of bongos that mostly worked. Now it’s up to Microsoft and other developers to expand the offerings for the Kinect. I own both the original 360 camera and an EyeToy. If nothing else, they have already done better than those.
I would love an SSX-style game on the Kinect but, as it stands right now, it wouldn’t work. Well, it would, but it’s just a lot of leaning and craning your neck to keep watching the screen to make sure you are where you want to be. As my comfort level with the body controls increases, this will be less of a problem to, hopefully, no issue at all. To be totally fair here: I snowboard and, uh, it IS a lot of leaning and craning your neck to make sure that pesky tree is where you left it and branches aren’t going to take your head off. The real thing always wins, though, since outside I have wind and inclines that I can feel and it’s a rush that will never be replicated indoors. Dubai’s kick ass thing aside, anyway. You are, if I’m honest, at least a little less likely to get hurt with the Kinect unless you roll your ankles or smash into a fellow player. I even wanted Tony Hawk’s Ride to work because at least that required actual balance on a replica board. Did I buy it? No. I was afraid that it was dead-end tech and I’d spend all that money on something that would only ever work with one game. Even with my bongos and taiko drum and beatmania controllers and super scope, I do use those for more than one game and even use several controllers on the PC. I did have to make an import ready PS2 for the other Taiko and Beatmania games, but the option existed. The wiki page points that more games using the board are coming, albeit with a new developer, and I might take the plunge. Heck, if it works with Kinect AND the board, they might be on to something!
Now, for a more immediate issue:
When it comes to playing at home, I’ve got less than 2 metres between my tv and the back wall. That’s around 6.5 feet for the rest of you. And that’s if I move my couch and stand under the shortest part of my roof, which means I can’t really raise my hands or I’ll scrape them across the awful stucco ceiling. I don’t want to talk about how many times I’ve cut my knuckles on that since the roof juts down the same way over my desk. In the game room I usually don’t care since, you know, I’m sitting down and don’t stand on the couch. DDR I play probably too close to the tv, but I can jump as high and enthusiastically as I feel like since I’m short and the roof is closer to a normal height over there. It’s too bad my games aren’t here yet or I’d race home this evening to boogie or, well, race the night away! :)
For my final word before I pick up my Kinect at lunch, Dance Central still needs this. It’s perfect.