Kinect Review


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It seems like only yesterday the internet was in awe of Microsoft’s Project Natal. I remember watching videos of gamers in their huge showroom living rooms fighting, talking and dancing around with no controller in sight, amazed at a new technology that felt light years away.

Yet here we are, and Project Natal now renamed to the quirky ‘Kinect’ is with us and has been in my living room for over a week already. I’ve waited this long to share my thoughts so I could have a chance to watch friends and family interact with it, to get an overall view of Kinect as a gaming platform rather than just my so called ‘core gamer’ opinion.

Firstly I skipped the midnight launch, sorry folks but there were plenty of main stream sites live covering the London launch with Call of Duty Black Ops one night followed by Kinect the next it was just too much hard work, plus it was freezing! So the next day I tried a different journalist approach, actively turning into in a casual gaming consumer in my quest to source a Kinect in London the same way that the target audience would, by hitting the high street. Similar to the Wii launch stock was sparse, but determined to get a Kinect without pre ordering I found Argos had stock, albeit only a few and only in one store which luckily was local to me. Fellow Gamdo staff G-r0 had alot less luck in his quest to source a Kinect in central London, unable to find a store with stock on day one.

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After collection and mandatory twitter post, I rushed home complete with what felt like the only Kinect in London and began unboxing and setup. This is where Kinect shows signs of first generation technology, teething problems which as a techy I can deal with but I can imagine alot of casuals would find annoying and confusing. To be fair Microsoft has done a great job, getting this technology to market so quickly and providing a reasonable step by step on screen setup process. The main issue which is going to be a huge problem is setup when space is limited, especially in London and other densely populated cities which makes the process a tad frustrating.

Kinect requires 6 feet minimum, only due to reading piles of previews and reviews did I know this. Yes there is a tiny warning on the box but for the average joe buying this as a gift its too late. I can see alot of space issues popping up, and alot of refunds when people realise they just don’t have the room for Kinect. The advertising doesn’t exactly warn you that you need an airplane hanger sized room to play it in, although every scene in the adverts are set in gigantic over-sized spaces which aren’t just there for the wow factor, you do actually need to upgrade your house.

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Setup takes a while but is dam exciting with the sci fi music playing in the background and the anticipation of being in the Minority Report. It’s also dam frustrating even in what I thought was a moderate sized living room. I started with the Kinect sensor in front of the TV, which seems sensible if you have your TV on a bench or stand. The problem is unless you bring the Kinect sensor forward to the edge of the bench it cannot see the floor which is a requirement and will halt your setup progress. Already short on space moving your Kinect sensor further foward will remove more room to play. So I balanced Kinect on top of my TV and began the setup process again. By placing Kinect above your TV you give yourself an extra foot of playing space, which really helps. Ideally you need the official TV mount, or you can make your own like this guy, or you can risk it and just leave Kinect to balance on its own, I chose the latter as I just wanted to play!

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Kinect has its own dashboard or ‘hub’ as its called, which is a bit of a let down. I was expecting to control the Xbox dashboard with gestures and voice but alas this is not possible (yet?). But what this does give you day after day is that pretty cool moment after you turn your Xbox on to say ‘Xbox Kinect’. In a calm and quiet voice from anywhere in your room (or even in the room next door as I accidentally discovered) you can access the Kinect hub with voice, or by waving (a set motion wave not any old wave). Once in the Kinect hub voice and gestures can be used to navigate around. At this point you say Xbox Kinect Adventures and boom, the game loads. It still takes a while getting used to voice commanding your Xbox, not because it doesn’t feel natural, but because it’s so dam cool.

Each time you start up Kinect Adventures you have to run through a short setup process, why it doesn’t remember this each time I have no idea. It is SO important to get this bit right. You have a visual indicator on screen as to what part of the room you are standing in, and it is grouped off into two areas, GOOD and BEST. Standing as far back as I could without landing on the sofa I was borderline between the two, so believing ‘best’ would be best I chose that. Big mistake. The best area was basically where my sofa and bookshelves behind my sofa were, so Kinect kept losing me and my first in game Kinect experience was terrible. My Xbox kept pausing the game and telling me to step back. I can imagine plenty of people have had this same issue with Kinect Adventures, as you are lured into thinking ‘best’ is the best way to play when infact if you don’t have the room you need to play in the ‘good’ area. Restarting the game and selecting ‘good’ changed everything. Kinect Adventures is so much fun.

I’m not going to review Kinect Adventures as a game because I don’t think it is a game as such but more as a technology demo for Kinect, and that it is. Your entire body is tracked, I knew this but I began just standing still waving my hands in awe, slowly discovering I could kick, headbutt and even pelvic thrust the incoming balls. (ed. innuendo?) I then realised I could step left and right, back and forward and all is tracked and portrayed on screen. This is the point when you start to want to upgrade your house, or just clear everything in your living room out the way. Luckily my L-shape sofa is detachable, and now remains unfixed so I can quickly move the L part of it out the way to make room for Kinect. I don’t have a coffee table, coffee is gross, but if you do, move it and any other junk out the way and watch out for overheard light fittings or nearby children otherwise you could end up like this poor kid below or find yourself ripping out your lights Penny Arcade style.

Kinect also has facial recognition, which works perfectly. Spend a few minutes scanning your face from different angles around the room and linking it to your gamertag and as if by magic when you stand up Kinect will sign you in to Xbox Live. Combine this with voice commands and full body tracking this technology is really amazing, Kinect takes us one step closer to Red Dwarfs Better than Life and Star Trek’s Holodeck. And that is exactly what everyone is forgetting, this is a new technology like nothing we have seen before. Most reviewers put me off Kinect with mediocre scores, but the lure of this new tech still made me go out and get it, and I’m glad I did. Kinect has to be experienced, and everyone who has tried it with me is left in amazement at how well it works.

Yes there is a bit of lag most noticeably when you jump, and yes there are setup bugs and space concerns, and yes Kinect Joy Ride does suck. But putting all that aside the technology is so advanced and such a good attempt for first a generation commercial release that I can look past these teething problems, bad games and space requirements, because Kinect really is fun. Even for a hardcore gamer like myself who thought the Wii was a terrible gimmick with low accuracy and crap games, I can highly recommend Kinect.

9/10 Great technology, great fun, just make sure you have the space to play

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  1. #1 by Jiro on November 22, 2010 - 12:50 pm

    Hello, I tried this device this weekend at a friend’s house and I must say it was excellent! It has fast response timing and the interactive games were very entertaining! I should imagine that their entertainment value might increase exponentially as the numbers of players increases. Great review and great device; well done Microsoft & good luck Nintendo/Sony :S

  2. #2 by Gary on December 14, 2010 - 10:02 pm

    Hi, I also tried this device it has some issues with the older xbox with the usb connections etc also it does cause the older xboxes to crash, lock up, now and again, I got both types so that doesn’t affect me now, it gets extremely hot after long periods of use, it doesn’t follow you around the room like pre advertising suggested, software is still very WII like graphics wise and playability. I was a bit dissappointed because it promised so much, I’m praying for microsoft to bring this technology into games like COD etc, Final thing is IT DOESNT SAVE YOUR BLOODY SETTINGS< THAT REALLY ANNOYS ME. . . . . apart from all that I love it

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