Hands-on with the Kinect: First Impressions

16 07 2010

As was announced two weeks ago via a tweet by the Microsoft Store, the Kinect motion controller for the Xbox 360 was made available to the public for demonstrations in only three states: California, Arizona and Colorado.  

The Kinect was on demo at 4 Microsoft stores in America.

As per a Microsoft press release on Thursday, the Kinect will be available for demonstrations at 32 reported locations throughout the United States beginning this weekend. For a full list of cities that are featured on the Kinect Demo Tour, visit the Microsoft announcement article page.

The Pause Button’s own IncreaseBlue was fortunate enough to test out the Microsoft Kinect controller before the tour and offer her thoughts in the post below. 

Thoughts and Impressions on the Kinect. 

When Microsoft debuted the Kinect motion controller at E3 2010 I, like many others, was skeptical about the controller’s sensitivity and responsiveness to the game player. While I was overall impressed with the Kinect controller, I wasn’t completely off-base with my suspicions either.  

The Kinect is Microsoft‘s take on motion controls. It tracks individual player movement on the 3D plane, utilizing only an Eyetoy-like sensor device, and allows gamers to control Kinect enabled games (as well as their Xbox) without a physical controller in hand.  

I was able to play on the Kinect controller with one of the debut Kinect-enabled games, Kinect Adventures. The demo allows 1-2 players to play several mini-games including dodge ball, rafting, obstacle courses, and small dancing competitions.  

A young gamer directs his raft in the Kinect title, Kinect Adventures.

With a single player, the Kinect is surprisingly responsive. The motion tracking is very accurate with the in-game models. There is noticeably less lag between human movement and character movement in comparison to the Wii.  

Whereas on the Wii sometimes movements that are too quick or not deliberate enough sometimes offset or are not read by the Wii sensor. I could not effectively “trick” the Kinect into offsetting or misreading my movements by acting too quickly in single player mode. I was truly expecting that I had to move slowly and deliberately to ensure that the movement be reciprocated, but it seems the Kinect is more focused on reading more “natural” movement for games to make for a smoother experience.  

The overall senstivity to certain motions seemed to affect the Kinect when more players were involved. As is seen in the above photo, the Kinect read both players as squat down when one was actually squatting down and another slightly bent his knees.

Unfortunately, after the single player bouts were over, the Kinect experience began to fall apart after that. 

I tested the controller out with two players. Myself and another Pause Button gamer played the rafting mini-game and immediately hit snags. In order to successfully navigate our raft through a raging river, we were instructed to lean, jump, and reach our way to the finish line.  

It is obvious that playing with more than one person would create a need for some sort of teamwork, but in order to really do well, both of us had to be less than a foot away from each other and almost in a rehearsed tandem just to get our raft to go right or left. 

With a couple of mistimed jumps and leans, we glitched our raft past a few ramps and some of our movements were either unread by the controller, or offset the raft entirely. This could be more due to the game rather than the controller, but it is something to take into consideration.  

Just from observing other participants in the demo, it is obvious that the Kinect and its launch titles will appeal more so to younger and casual gamers.

All in all, with Microsoft boasting that the Kinect can be used for up to four players, I personally don’t see this working well with more than two players at a time. Avatar movement becomes crowded and the controller seems to be less responsive the more people there are playing.  

One last blindingly obvious factor that revealed itself to me while playing on the Kinect, was just how much this device would appeal to casual gamers and, even more so, young children. When I was playing, kids at least 13 years-old and younger were lining up to get their chance to jump, reach and lean their way through the games.  

Also, many of the Kinect games such as Dance Masters, Kinectimals, and Adrenalin Misfits are geared towards the same crowd of casual and children gamers. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it won’t do Microsoft any favors in trying to sell the Kinect as a “core gamer’s” motion controller.  

Debut Kinect titles such as Adrenalin Misfits (left) and Dance Masters (right) seem more slated towards casual and younger gamers.

After the demo I was able to talk to Lily, a Microsoft representative, who commented that the $150 “placeholder” price tag for the Kinect controller was the “highest that it can go. So it’ll either be $150 or cheaper than that…” Lily also commented that anyone who preordered the Kinect from the Microsoft store would receive a 20 percent discount off of the final price come launch day.  

Overall I felt that the Kinect controller was very impressive. While some of it was still a bit buggy and kind of fell apart with more than one player, I feel that Microsoft’s take on motion controls is a strong contender that many casual gamers can enjoy. As for “core gamers,” I think that without more serious or engaging games, many might pass off the Kinect as another gimmick and stick to their handheld controllers.  

The Kinect controller is slated to be released in November of this year.



One response

3 10 2010

I’ve already played Kinect and it rocks. It will destroy the Sony Move.

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