Kinect’s presence at this year’s Xbox briefing was sensory rollercoaster of release titles and upcoming concepts still under development. I was privy to most of the titles on show after seeing them at the Natal Experience event the day before, but it was good to see the games being explained a little more as well as being demoed live on stage.
We were first shown how you’d sign into Xbox LIVE via Kinect. Simply standing in front of the unit and waving at it will sign you into LIVE. Once logged in, waving for a second time will take you to the Kinect dashboard screen. The Kinect dash features a much easier to navigate menu system, specifically created for the waving of your digits.
Navigating looked simple enough, moving your arm out and away from your body caused the menu to navigate a pointer on screen in that direction. Holding your hand in that position for a short length of time would load that selected item – simples.
Voice commands are also an option here. Starting your command with ‘Xbox…’ will initiate the Xbox to listen out for the command, be it ‘Xbox Play’, ‘Xbox Pause’, ‘Xbox Stop’, most frequent comments, whether playing music or video, can be commanded by the power of your voice. How well this gets picked up in a noisy atmosphere or while music is played I will have to wait and see in our hands-on later today.
With voice and video integrated into the Kinect unit we were shown how video chat would work with Kinect. Everything looked pretty similar to how it currently is on LIVE, all but without the headset – which is great. Kinect’s base is motorised so if you plan on moving around the room the device will track your movements around the room. It won’t follow you into another room though, that would be one hell of an achievement if it did. The chat demo looked great, video was sharp and audio was picked up pretty well, even though there was a bit of background hiss from the mic sensitivity. Maybe that can be tweaked in an options area. With Kinect video chat coming also to Windows LIVE Messenger for PC, there is no better time to be video chatting than right now.
Now on to Kinect’s games. A few games were demoed during the briefing. The first was Kinectimals; a title I missed out from my previous blog that covered the Natal experience event. Kinectimals is a virtual pet game where you can adopt around 40 characters, like tigers and other creatures, and play with them in around 30 activities. We were shown a little girl playing with her baby tiger called Skittles. Voice commands like roll over and calling its name out would make Skittles roll and come to the screen. Mimicking a roll over or laying on her back made Skittles do the same on screen. The game looks great for kids of a young age, and with the console being online there is scope for extra content, be it characters to adopt or new activities. So enough there to keep the little ones occupied.
Next up was Kinect Sports. This is one of the many highly active games for Kinect. The current line-up of activities includes: football, bowling, javelin, ping-pong, boxing, volleyball, and track based events like hurdles and 100meter sprints. All games showed some promise in them. Most of them looked like they involved some kind of running on the spot and throwing or jumping at the right moment when your character on screen needs to. The football game looked interesting, all but a little too turn-based looking. Penalty shootouts would have been better with Kinect, where one person was diving and the other shooting, rather than going through all the passing process.
Last year’s Joy Ride returns reengineered for use with Kinect. It was a shame to see Joy Ride delayed for this inclusion, and the question now is will Joy Ride remain as a free title and bundled with the device or will it now become a paid for game? That is one question to ask in our hands-on later.
Kinect Adventures is another energetic title that sees you ridding rapids, rail tracks, jumping clouds – all this while collecting coins along the way. Photos are taken of all the silly moves you have to make in order to collect the coins in the game, and these photos can then be shared online via Facebook and your friends. The game looks like fun and I think is one of the titles that will be in our hands-on later today.
It was a no brainer that we would be seeing a fitness game for Kinect. It is a perfect match for the device. Ubisoft has developed its Kinect title called Your Shape. This game alone will have housewives and even maybe gym trainers keen on its uses. With body tracking you can team up with personal trainers to lose those bulges. This is one game for Kinect that has me interested. I didn’t like the way other games have to rely on holding or wearing something to track your movement. With Kinect you are not restricted to this and you can still be tracked fairly accurately. This is one to watch for sure.
Harmonix next took to the stage to show its Dance Central title. In Dance Central you are given dance moves and complete routines to copy. After a few sessions of this game I can imagine you’ll be pretty hot on the dance floor, if that is your thing? With that said thought, for me it looks to be a game that you will not want to have your non-gaming friends catch you playing. With 600 moves and 90 routines on offer there is plenty of scope in this title that will give plenty of dance divas out there some enjoyment.
The last two titles took some key franchises and added a sprinkling of Kinect dust over them. The first was a Star Wars game that was shown via a trailer. Being a Star Wars child this brought a smile to my face and a gaping jaw followed. – A common reaction to anything Star Wars. The game looked like it was played in waves of enemies where you mimic the moves of holding a controller and slash your way through waves of Storm Troopers with your Light Sabre. Force moves were also present in the trailer, showing Force push, rush and an explosive force wave of energy that I can’t remember the name of. Whether there will be much variety in this game is unknown from the trailer, I am hoping there is, as who doesn’t love waving a Light Sabre as a Jedi, it is full of instant win.
The second title announced for Kinect compatibility was Forza. Its developers Turn10 showed how easily it was to convert their stellar racing title into a Kinect friendly game. Additional elements for Kinect other than driving with your arms and feet was that you could look around the cockpit with a turn of your head as well as being able to interact with the car’s inside components like closing doors, switching on lights and starting engines. I can’t see the core gamer switching to this method of control, but it opens this franchise to a wider audience, making Forza a game that will be more easily approachable for the casual non-gamer.
Overall there was an interesting range of Kinect titles on show at the briefing, and there are plenty more being released by other publishers throughout E3 this week. 15 titles will launch alongside Kinect’s release later this year. There still is no price announced for the unit yet. I am hoping it will be cheap enough for the market Microsoft is clearly aiming for, especially the casual and non-gamer market, as a high price will stop them from physically jumping in.
I have my hands-on later today, so if you have any questions on Kinect and its games let me know in the comments.