Kinect’ing people! A hands-free ‘hands on’

August 25, 2010, Author: Ray Willmott

Kinect is going to be an integral tool that introduces gaming into more households than ever before. Effectively, Microsoft have come to finish the job that Nintendo started with the Wii back in 2006. There’s no doubt about it, no matter how Sony may think otherwise, Kinect is going to be the present everyone wants this Christmas and after trialling it, it’s not difficult to see why. Anyone can jump straight into Kinect, stand in front of the camera and be a part of a game. It’s as if gaming is being started from scratch and everyone is being forced to adapt.

Good or bad, I find out if Kinect really is the future.

During my trial, I played with two people who aren’t extensive gamers alongside myself and my girlfriend who play games on the Xbox regularly. When both my girlfriend and I were playing Joy Ride with our friends, we got slaughtered, every… single… time. No matter how many successful laps of Forza I’ve had in the past, no matter how many times I’ve whipped around the cities in Project Gotham or propelled ahead at high velocity in Gran Turismo, Joy Ride still had lessons to teach me. I came 8/8 during every race I played and I’d even learned how to do boosting and stunts in mid air. Clearly, previous involvement with games of a similar ilk has no bearing on your capabilities within Kinect games. From my experience, it actually seems that non-regular gamers found it easier to adjust than those of us who are used to controllers. Our posture was all wrong and we were a little rigid, as we are too used to having a prop to focus our intensity on. i.e the controller.

When you first play Kinect, especially if you are a regular gamer, you’re going to be very surprised by how important every aspect of your body is to your own individual progress within a game and your general success rate. Having only trialled three of the games in Kinect Adventures, and Joy Ride, I didn’t get to see everything Kinect can do, but have enough perspective now to see just how important this will be to the way gaming will be played from this point forward. The slightest twitch of your leg, or the force you put behind the swing of your arm, is all crucial to your performance. In River Rush, you can have up to two people playing, each at either side of the raft, and you will need to use teamwork in order to maximise your points; both steering the raft by moving your bodies and jumping in order to reach the Adventure Points. Whereas, in Ricochet, a dodgeball type game, you will need to use every part of your body in order to perform at your best.

Every movement of your body plays a part!

While there will be Xbox Live support within certain titles, Joy Ride will enable you to have eight people playing over Xbox Live at one time, the focus of Kinect will be in your living room. In an age where online gaming dominates the multiplayer market, Kinect looks set to bring the party back into your own home and that’s why this Christmas, finding one of these is probably going to be very difficult, but worth the trouble!

Kinect is going to open doors wide for the future. Anyone who has not necessarily been into gaming before is suddenly going to be given a rich opportunity to embrace it as never before. Casual gamers will be in the same boat as those who take pride in being labelled ‘hardcore’ and it will now be possible for people with handicaps and ailments to ascend to gaming greatness and compete with others on an even playing field, something which has never been possible until now. In that regard, Kinect is truly revolutionary.

It’s easy to see why some would be annoyed by this abrupt change in the gaming landscape, players have been used to using a game pad for years, adjusting to directional buttons or analogue sticks for movements and the tap of a button prompting a character to jump or punch. With Kinect, the individual has become the controller and every action is determined by the way you move your body. Suddenly, it’s all about dexterity, flexibility and endurance as opposed to who can button mash the fastest.

A standard set-up for any living room!

Some may argue that Kinect offers too much freedom and that developers aren’t going to make full use of the capabilities. I wonder whether the five year lifespan Kinect has been given will be enough time for developers to truly get an idea for what can really be done with the technology. It’s worth noting that Sony’s Move is being supported by most of Sony’s forthcoming A-List franchises (such as Killzone 3, Motorstorm Apocalypse and Little Big Planet 2), whereas Microsoft have yet to associate any of their key franchises with Kinect, with games initially announced or rumoured to feature Kinect support no longer receiving it. Don’t they trust their multi-million dollar project with their multi-million dollar game franchises? Do they think people wouldn’t play them? As I previously alluded, people who weren’t gamers before can suddenly become gamers; shouldn’t they get a chance to be competitive in the games that people class as ‘hardcore’, or would Kinect support cheapen the experience?

All I know is that my hands-on with Kinect was an eye-opener. Microsoft have created something fun for everyone, something that will make non-gamers interested and want to get in on the fun too. However, it may have some way to go before it proves to the fence sitters and the doubters that this is a revolution, that it is the next step and that it is as important to their gaming collection as anything that may have come before it.

I will be returning to Covent Garden this weekend to play more Kinect and will hopefully be trying out Dance Central, Kinectimals, Kinect Sports, Your Shape, EA Sports Active 2 and more Kinect Adventures and Joy Ride. If you have any questions you’d like me to pose to the team at the exhibition centre or any questions you’d like me to answer in a full hands-on report then list them in the post below.

Also, check out our Facebook page to see a video of me playing Joy Ride!