I’m something of a cynic, so I wasn’t all that sure about the new 360 controller. But having seen it in action in the recent E3 press event, there are a few good reasons for families to get excited about another way to play.
Firstly, I really buy the rubric of “getting the technology out of the way” that goes along with dumping a hand held controller. Microsoft’s recently re-named Kinect camera controller (previously Natal) does a good job of feeling futuristically simple. You just put your hand up and gesture your way through the menus. My kids will love this – although I can no longer simply hide the controller when I want them to stop changing channel.
Kinect Sports from Rare was the first game I considered in more detail with the hardware. As I said, “Kinect Sports offers soccer, beach volleyball, bowling, table tennis, track and field, and boxing played solo or in teams. Each are played with your full body as the Kinect camera calculates your limb, torso and hand movements.”
It makes a lot of sense for many of these games to be played without the hindrance of cables or controllers. I’m particularly looking forward to getting out of breath playing the Track and Field events. But I’m less convinced by games like Table Tennis that need much more fidelity.
I made the point that compared to Wii-Sports “Kinect Sports offers a more exuberant and accessible experience that is closer to real exercise. What it lacks in precision it aims to make up for by the freedom of not needing to hold a controller.” I may be proved wrong but I think the disconnect of precision simply won’t suite some gameplay activities.
Much more convincing though was Your Shape Fitness Evolved. This is the new fitness game that uses the Kinect controller to track your movements during your routine and then offers real-time feedback. “Seeing the game in action was a marked step forward from previous DVD-like fitness games that made use of a camera. Having the player’s frame on screen as the game visually analyzed their skeletal positioning and accuracy is really impressive.”
Simply seeing an accurate real-time 1-to-1 picture of yourself in the game completely made sense of Kinect to me. Showing it to my wife, she was obviously impressed at both the accuracy and range of feedback the experience offered.
This was all very well, but for Kinect to make sense to me it really needed a killer game. I think I found it in the form of Dance Central the new dance game from Harmonix. Rather than stepping on pads or striking poses with remotes, it lets you use your full body to dance.
“This change may sound minor, but it turns the game from a novelty into something that feels genuinely beneficial. As you are taken through the different stages of choreography you are really learning to dance.”
In a similar way to Your Shape, Dance Central felt like it created a new gaming experience with the Kinect controller. This wasn’t just aping something the Wii had been doing for the last few years it was totally fresh. And seeing it game me that same buzz of excitement that I had first playing Wii-sports.
This is obviously only scratching the surface on these games, not to mention the other Kinect news, but on first showing I’m hopeful that there is plenty for the family gamer to enjoy here. Maybe it’s time to start saving those pennies again.