Microsoft Kinect Is Fun, Despite a Few Problems
LOS ANGELES - Now that the Microsoft Kinect motion control system, formerly called Project Natal, has an official price and release date, Microsoft is letting people try it for themselves at E3. We gave it a try and came away with some interesting impressions.
First and foremost, Kinect is fun! There's something about getting in front of the TV and having any part of your body, and usually the whole thing, be part of the action. Your body position, posture and reflexes all factor into the gameplay , and there is something slightly intoxicating about feeling like your entire body is part of the game .
While it may be a significant departure from gaming tradition, and the vast majority of games planned for Kinect are aimed for the casual gamer demographic, there is something about using Kinect that can appeal to anyone.
Kinect will most certainly be a hit for parties, too, because the motion gaming gets even more fun when standing next to someone else enjoying the same experience. We had a chance to play next to journalists we had never met before, and despite being strangers we were laughing and encouraging and barking directions to each other within 30 seconds of playing. It makes for a great social experience, as long as you don't mind hopping and flailing your appendages in front of other people.
The range of games on display was impressive, too. Everything from party and sports games like those the Wii made popular, to driving simulations, platformers and even "Kinetimals," a game that lets you interact with a pet and teach it tricks.
Of course, that's not to say that there aren't problems. And some of them may be quite annoying to certain people. For instance, the control interface for many games may be intuitive to those who know it, but first-timers might have a hard time figuring out what to do.
But even more importantly, Kinect may not be compatible with many living rooms. Kinect requires a significant amount of floor space with all the hopping and swinging that's required for most games. We're not just talking about moving the coffee table; many families might have to move the couch, too, in order to keep themselves from tripping in the heat of a wild soccer match.
You might also have a problem with Kinect if your living room is too large. While trying to navigate a white-water raft by shuffling left and right, we found that it was so easy to get caught up in the action that we shuffled right out of Kinect's field of view, making our character disappear from the screen.
And even though Kinect is remarkably good at identifying bodies and movement, it still makes mistakes. Someone standing behind the player might inadvertently find themselves as Player number 2 because Kinect assumed they were playing too, which is what happened in our demo.
Of course, the biggest issue that people have talked about since Project Natal was announced is lag, or the small delay that occurs between your movements and the matching movement of your onscreen avatar. We found that the rumors of lag are real, even if the lag was negligible in many cases. Still, in some games, the lag was noticeable enough that it affected gameplay. The games Microsoft demoed on Kinect were not finalized versions, so its possible that the lag times will decrease by the time launch rolls around. But if the lag time persists, small as it may be, many people might be frustrated by Kinect's reaction time.
But even with these problems, Kinect is an undeniably entertaining experience. Microsoft has yet to announce an official price for Kinect, so it's hard to say if said experience is worth it yet. All we know is that we want to do it again.