“I refuse to pay £180 to milk a cow”. That is a quote from one of my friends, when asked his opinion on the Wii. So, when Microsoft announced it’s Kinect (known then as Project Natal), he denounced it as another gimmick, just another example of a company trying to hop on the motion-sensor bandwagon.
Now I, like many before me, had learnt that merely flicking my wrist creatively whilst playing Wii bowling pretty much guaranteed me a decent score. But, Microsoft promised something more than just a controller with an accelerometer inside. They promised that ‘you will be the controller’, a situation where people are forced to get off the sofa and join in, as the Kinect will be different technology altogether. They promised voice control that really worked, and could be used to control video playback and hold video calls with your nearest and dearest.
At first, I was sceptical, as run-ins with motion-sensing gaming had proved not so hot (PS2 Eye Toy to name one such miserable failure), and despite it seeming to work well at E3, I wondered how easy it would be at home, and if Microsoft would deliver (for the first time in ages) quality, but also for a reasonable price.
I awaited the release date with anticipation, and managed to bag the last one in GAME on the day for the retail price of £129, which saw me with the device and the bundled Kinect Adventures. I raced home as fast as the laws of physics (but also without breaking any speed limits, mind) would allow. Now, I have the new Xbox 360 ‘S’ console, which means that the unit plugs directly into the back of my console with no fuss, however if you have an older model you will need to plug the unit into a wall socket also. Thankfully, the cable to do that is bundled with the unit (nice save, Microsoft).
Soon, I was busy setting up Kinect ID, the piece of software that allows facial recognition for automated signing in to your Xbox Live profile, and I am pleased to announce that it really works. Microsoft suggest that you set it up three times; once in the morning, evening and night, to allow for different lighting conditions. Having done this, a simple wave at the unit will automatically sign me in, and take me to the Kinect Hub, the dashboard designed for controller-less interaction.
Within a couple of minutes, I had loaded Kinect Adventures and, all dignity forgotten, was waving and jumping like a lunatic on one of the mini-games, where I was racing down white-water rapids whilst collecting as many coins as I could. I can see the software greatly appealing to children especially, as no controller means not having to learn any complicated button combos etc, it is literally a case of stepping left and right, or jumping. It is, however degrading, absolutely hilarious. There is also a feature which takes in-game photos of you, just in case you feel the need to upload them to the internet. Yay.
The voice control is also very cool, and combined with the hand-controlled menu system on the Kinect hub, it is all very Minority Report-esque. One thing I would like to see (perhaps implemented in the next software update) is the ability to start up/shut down the console via Kinect. However, this is by no means a fault, and should not put people off buying it. Overall, it is absolutely fantastic, and (providing you have the required amount of physical space) DEFINITELY worth a look.
A revolution in gaming? Wait and see. A must-have for Christmas? Most likely. An enormously fun piece of kit? Most definitely. Nice job, Microsoft. 10/10. Now, where’s that cow?