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Xbox 360 Kinect – Initial Impressions

12th November 2010

The Kinect motion controller is finally here and if Microsoft’s advertising campaign is anything to go by, it’ll be the biggest selling item this Christmas. It has all hallmarks of a gaming hit including new tech, family orientated gaming and low stock levels.

Retailing at £129.99 it’s not cheap but it has to be looked at along the lines of a new console, rather than a new controller. Hooking it up is easy and the initial set-up moves pretty quickly. The optional facial recognition takes a little more time but it’s worth the extra effort and allows Kinect to recognise you when you sit down to play. Very cool and just a little sci-fi.

The dashboard is controlled using either voice commands, or by waving your hands in a ‘Minority Report’ style. It’s not quite as slick but it’s almost there. One thing I would have liked is a way to turn off the console using Kinect, as relying on a button seems at odds with the philosophy.

The main reason for buying Kinect is the games and this really where it lives or dies. The sensor is bundled with the very average ‘Kinect Adventures’, consider this akin to the disc of mini-games that came with Wii Play. It’s a clever move from Microsoft; give the feeling of value by bundling a game no one would pay full price for, whilst pushing the consumer to buy an additional, better game. Which for most people will be the excellent Kinect Sports.

Kinect Sports feels accurate, intuitive and really shows off what the device can do. The Wii does a great job of mimicking your actions by using a controller but Kinect does an even better job by tracking your hands, arms, feet, knees and even your head. Imagine playing football where you can actually kick or head the ball into the goal. Even your celebratory dance is replicated by your on screen avatar. For me space is an issue and I’m just about able to accomodate the 6 feet of required space. A two player game requires a minimum of 8 feet and I doubt my girlfriend will be too keen on moving house in order to play two player table tennis.

Kinect is a very impressive piece of kit, it feels like something from Back to the Future’s depiction of 2015 and there’s no doubt that, while it does a lot of what the Wii can do, Microsoft haven’t simply attempted to replicate Nintendo’s success but are determined to surpass it.