The peripheral of the future, today!
So here we are, the last leg of another decade and another fantastic year for gaming! The motion gaming battle has reached its peak with both the PlayStation Move and Microsoft Kinect now available to buy in stores. Despite the close battle it seems that Kinect is the word on everyone’s lips. Finally here at Hooked Gamers, we have got our hands on the peripheral that Microsoft is dubbing “the future of gaming”.
The Kinect has been marketed to the masses with the punchy tagline, “You are the Controller”. As much as I disliked the idea to begin with, using your own body as a controller has actually proved to be quite fun. I will be straight with you, the Kinect works and it works well. The Kinect bundle I purchased included the Kinect peripheral and the launch title, Kinect Adventures. At a cost of £130, this may seem quite substantial but it is a good introductory package for newcomers to motion-controlled gaming. As it only costs Microsoft a total of £36 to produce a single Kinect unit, the original price could be a bit lower and if it was closer to the £100 mark it would more than likely sell out this Christmas and I would probably be recommending you to pick it up while stocks last.
The Kinect is Microsoft’s contribution into the notorious battle that has become known as the ‘console wars’ - currently the heat revolves around motion gaming. Needless to say, Nintendo led the competition 4 years ago this month when they released their revolutionary console, the Nintendo Wii. Nintendo captured the casual gaming market with their motion controllers and it soon seemed that every household in the world owned a Wii - it was a licence for Nintendo to print money. Both PlayStation and Microsoft realised they had missed out on a huge potential income and as soon as possible, they released their entries into the motion gaming market. However, it was not until E3 2009 that the two companies announced their answer to Nintendo’s foresight. Better late than never it seems, as the amount of time spent developing these units has allowed the companies to surpass the technology seen in the Wii. Now all three major consoles have taken their shots for motion control gold, I can say that for me the Kinect has scooped the award.
She is a heavy lass
Unboxing the Kinect was one of the most exciting things I have done for a while. I felt like I was unravelling a piece of history and at that moment my life was going to change (it did not unfortunately). Out of the box the first thing I noticed about the Kinect is that it is certainly not small, not by a long shot. The peripheral is huge and for those of you who have not seen one yet, imagine the Wii sensor bar multiplied in size 100 times (okay I exaggerated a little). The Kinect is a chunky piece of equipment though, however this does have its advantages as the unit seems very robust and sturdy.
The Kinect requires two USB ports - one to transfer data and one to power it. Unfortunately this will require owners of the earlier Xbox 360 models to buy an adapter in order to play the Kinect. The latest model of the Xbox 360 has a special port built in the back of the console that combines these two functions…how convenient.
Start your Engines! Slowly
Getting started with the Kinect is easy but quite tedious as you have to go through about a dozen menus to get acquainted with your new hardware. Different tutorials and system explanations show you all the different features of the Kinect and how to use all of them - this does take quite a while. You may also have to install three updates before you can actually start playing too. One of them took nearly an hour with my Internet connection! With this rather long process out of the way you can start playing your Kinect and jump around like the maniac you always knew lived inside you.
The first thing I noticed once I had got down to business with the Kinect was that it was disappointingly slow. A good majority of people are hoping for some sort of Minority Report style interface and response time, and if you are one of them you will no doubt be sorely disappointed. The Kinect works exceptionally well and tracks your movements very precisely, but the hand pointer on the screen that is synchronised with your hand moves incredibly slowly. This means you cannot zip through menus and options as if you were flipping through the pages of a book as some people were hoping. You are forced to take it steady and move your arms slowly in front of the Kinect to make sure you select an option without scrolling past it. This is not a huge problem but is a slight let down considering what the advanced technology was expected to allow you to experience. We wanted the future!
“Xbox… Xbox… goddamn it…XBOX!”
In addition to the motion sensors, the Kinect features voice connectivity and facial recognition. Both can either work really well or not at all, meaning reliability is not a particularly strong point. The voice connectivity is impressive when it works and can be handy when you cannot be bothered to pick up a controller or move your arms. To activate the voice commands, you have to say the word “Xbox” at the normal dashboard. Once the Kinect recognises you have called out this word; a small window appears at the bottom of the screen with the word “Kinect”. Now this is where it gets tricky, saying “Kinect” has proven to be a pain. Considering there is no ‘official’ pronunciation of the word, it can take a couple of times of repeating “Kinect” loudly before you get any response. Once the word is recognised, you are dropped into the new additional dashboard section named the Kinect Hub. If you are having real problems with the voice recognition, you can always just wave at the screen and the Xbox will take you to the Kinect Hub anyway. The facial recognition feature is also very impressive but sometimes it is unable to serve its primary function efficiently, mainly when you are wearing a hat or glasses. When you launch the Kinect Hub the facial recognition technology scans your face and matches it with pictures that the Kinect has taken earlier in the setup. When it has matched the pictures with your identity, it will then sign you into the synonymous Xbox Live profile.