Saturday, 22 October 2011

Kinect: A year gathering dust

It has been just under a year since Kinect for Xbox 360 hit stores across America; a week later it was released in Europe. Sales were phenomenal during the first 60 days when the motion control device managed to sell a whopping 8 million units, while landing a place in history as the fastest selling consumer electronics device ever made.

Some of us believe the best use of Kinect has been with the user interface, something that will soon be improved even further thanks to a new dashboard update due for release in November. It will bring with it new motion and voice control options alongside Bing search integration.

A year is a long time in gaming though and looking back, despite great sales, it has generally been a year of disappointing software releases and frustration for many Kinect gamers.

No one can deny that the hardware itself is excellent, it is well built and does the job Microsoft wanted it to do. The problem seems to lie with the lack of many decent Kinect games, lack of space in gamer’s houses and a hardware based controller which could have added more “hardcore” gamer options rather than regressive hand gesture controls we seem to be getting now.

My experience has been less than stellar, the main reason is that despite living in what would be classed as an average sized front-room in the UK, it doesn’t work anywhere near as well as I had hoped. Single player gaming is doable, but there is no chance of any multiplayer games unless we literally move out all the furniture.

This differs from the experience we have had here at home with Sony’s motion controller – the PlayStation Move. It was a breeze to use in a small room with at least 2 other people playing together at the same time, a much more enjoyable experience.

Games are also a major issue at the moment with very few above average titles on the market. The most successful Kinect games are nearly always first party titles from Microsoft Studios who have released games like Dance Central 1 & 2 and what I feel is the best Kinect game overall – Kinectimals.

Third-party games have had the tendency to be a mishmash of fitness titles and mediocre dance games, while decent games like Child of Eden that have failed to sell well despite both good reviews and the small range of Kinect games on shelves.

Rise of Nightmares was another title that many people had high hopes for. Especially as it had a good visual style and atmosphere, but once again it was the motion controls that let it down, feeling awkward rather than easy to use as they should have been.

Things have managed to get better towards the end of its first year though, with Forza Motorsport 4 bringing with it head tracking. This means that Kinect can be used as a peripheral rather than a stand-alone device that you have to use by itself.

The Gunstringer tried to do different things too with mixed results, though it was generally a very good example of what could be done with Kinect if developers put a bit more thought into their games rather than treating it as just a party or mini-game device.

Games on the PlayStation Move have not been perfect either, though in general the Move can be used as just another control option in games from first person shooters to strategy games, something that Kinect seems to struggle with.
The next year will be an interesting one for us Kinect owners as we hope that we can finally wipe the dust off our hardware with games like Kinect Star Wars, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor and even Minecraft which is due to arrive soon. Our fingers are crossed that these 2nd generation of Kinect titles prove that our disappointment was unfounded.

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