I recently got the opportunity to play the new Microsof Kinect motion-control gaming system. This Xbox 360 accessory will go on sale on November 4, 2010 for a price of $149(1). With the introduction of the Kinect, Microsoft takes aim at the massive popularity of the Nintendo Wii and the newly-released Sony PlayStation Move. Does the Kinect offer a top quality motion-control experience? Here are my impressions:
First of all, having no controller is a pretty awesome idea. There’s no batteries to buy, no straps to wear, and no buttons to press. It is kind of freeing, but there are drawbacks. One of the most notable is that precise motions and multiple input commands are difficult. Want to change the weapon you’re carrying, reload, use different ammunition, or check your inventory? Without a button to press, this is a major chore. Want to pull off a multi-button special move in a fighting game? That’s not going to happen here.
So the system is not for all types of games, but how does it work for games that use only simple motions? The answer is good but slow. For example, when playing the ping-pong game you are required to toss the ball in the air with one hand and then hit it with the paddle to serve. Kinect accurately performs the motions, but with a noticeable delay.
Unfortunately for Microsoft, this makes many of the games I tried for the Kinect virtually unplayable. Regarding the ping-pong, the speed of the game is laboriously slow compared to the ping-pong that you can play on Wii Sports. It has to be at this anemic speed, though, because you literally have to anticipate when to swing the paddle instead of swinging in “real-time”.
This might not be as noticeable in a game like bowling, which does not require precise timing to throw the ball down the lane, but in a game like baseball which requires timing to swing a bat, the Kinect simply does not measure up.
Another difficulty I noticed with the Kinect was the need to stand in one place. The camera only seemed to accurately sense movements within a relatively small area. If you moved outside of the area, the motion recognition was very hit-or-miss. You could always keep adjusting your camera to focus on wherever you might happen to be standing, but do you really want to do that?
I was very excited to have the opportunity to try out Kinect, as the idea of games without controllers seems like such a cool idea. Sadly, though, Kinect simply falls short of offering a reasonably playable gaming experience. Ideally, Microsoft could correct this with some kind of firmware download in the future, but as it stands now, it simply does not work.