As I am sure you are aware, the next Xbox console is all but confirmed to be only usable online. Likewise, I am most definitely not the first to tell you that this poses a problem for the many people in the world without high-speed Internet. In the U.S. alone, approximately one third of people lack broadband. However, even if you ignore these figures, requiring an Internet connection to play your single and multiplayer games will still be problematic. Consider the recent SimCity debacle. Now, imagine your entire console game system acting in the same manner. Having trouble? Here’s a picture to help.
The Wii was revolutionary for the time it came out. 4 years ago, motion control was a simple gimmick. Now it seems like everyone can’t get enough. PlayStation Move was pretty much a direct copy of the Wii Remote. It was just different enough for Sony to avoid patent infringement. On November 4th (which happens to be my birthday), Microsoft came out with its own version of the motion camera. However, Kinect is less of a controller and more of a completely different way to play games. I’ve been playing with Kinect for almost a week now. Below are my impressions.
Setup and Calibration: Microsoft wants you to think that Kinect is easy to hook up and use, but that fact depends on what you have in your living room. I have an older 360, so using the Kinect port is not an option. I recommend a USB hub if you have both Kinect and a Wi-Fi adaptor, only because this setup will still allow you to hook up wired controllers, MP3 players, and Rock Band Mics without unplugging Kinect. Once you get past this step, you still may run into some problems. My living room is strange because the main seating area is not directly facing the TV. In order to have enough play space, I had to break Microsoft’s rules and position Kinect off center, or more specifically, to the right side of my television stand. After figuring this out, I was able to recalibrate Kinect, and everything has worked pretty great since.
Ease of Use: Kinect is probably the most user friendly way to play games. If programmed right, any simpleton can play a Kinect game by moving like they think they should. For example, playing bowling is as easy as reaching out to grab a ball, positioning your aim, and making a rolling motion. It beats the Wii because it doesn’t require button presses, which are known to confuse non-gamers. Controlling the Xbox Dashboard with Kinect is a neat idea that also works well. You can even use your voice. However, you can only control specific sections. Yes, that means no voice-controlled Netflix for you. If you’re reading this Microsoft, please get on that.
Is it fun?: The games that came out at launch are a mixed bag. I haven’t played them all, but I can tell you that Kinect Sports and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved are must-buys. I loved these two games so much that I decided to also order Kinectimals and Dance Central because other reviewers liked them just as much.
Should you get it?: When Kinect works, it feels like what the Wii should have been. In general, it’s more intuitive than Nintendo’s 4 year old hit. It even gave me a sweat in no more than 10 minutes. However, I wouldn’t recommend Kinect for people in apartments or unusually small houses because there just isn’t enough room for the sensor to keep track of you. If you’re taller than a young child, being too close to the camera means that it can’t see your whole body at once. For 1 player, you’ll need at least 6 feet. For 2 players, you need at least a whopping 8 feet. Some games won’t even let you go solo at 6 feet, so try to keep the latter in mind. Even if you have a big apartment, you should make sure that your floors are solid, because stomping all over a hollow floor is sure to piss over neighbors on the lower level. If you think you have enough room, go for it. Kinect is the best motion-controlled gaming experience available on the market. It’s strengths far outweigh its weaknesses, which will probably almost all be fixed with firmware updates and the second round of games.