Microsoft is treating the Kinect not as an extra peripheral you can add onto your Xbox 360 but as an entirely new console launch and way to play gaming; something they anticipate will keep the 360 moving for at least another couple of years.
Do they have a winner on their hands or is the Kinect going to be the biggest failure in Microsoft’s history?
Let;s start at the beginning, the Kinect review unit that arrived was the bundled version which came with the 4Gb Xbox 360 unit but I instead plugged it directly into my 250Gb version.
The physical install is as basic as you get, you plug the Kinect into the Kinect port on the back of the Xbox and then place the Kinect under the TV, exactly where my Wii sensor is which caused a few problems in the end as I kept on having to move one or the other to game properly.
Once it’s setup you just power on the Xbox and then my first problem started… it asked me to insert the setup disc that came with the unit? Since this was the first time I was turning on my new Xbox I wasn’t sure whether I needed a disc for the 360 or not. Eventually I decided they had sent me a debug unit (Xbox 360) instead of a retail unit and then swapped the Xbox for the 4Gb that came with the Kinect.
Same problem… so at least I know it’s now the Kinect that’s the problem. I grab the manual and start trying to find where the stupid setup disc is. There is nothing in the manual about it and I am actually starting to get upset now.
Then the mother of all brainwaves hits me, why don’t I just insert the bundled game, Kinect Adventures, and see if that works. Bingo, mandatory install begins and everything continues as normal. Why they couldn’t just say that on the screen is beyond me.
Anyway onto the software setup now, you are led through a bunch of menu’s asking you to stand here, there and everywhere and with a bit of furniture shuffling I was able to get my body into every purple square on the screen and the Kinect then decided I had a perfect setup. Which I was pleasantly surprised at since my lounge area is currently pretty small and not any bigger than I would expect any local apartment or flat to be.
We ran through the audio tests and into a problem though, since my TV is inside a cabinet the audio seemed to feed back into the unit or something and the Kinect couldn’t successfully complete it’s tests which means that voice commands are an absolute no no unless I want to be yelling to myself for most of the time.
So far the Kinect has proved I’m an idiot and saved me from being an idiot.. is that 1-1 or 2-0?
I headed over to the Kinect settings and performed the fine tuning with our friendly smiley faced card that comes bundled with every game
You are made to line up the card into the spaces provided on screen and after doing that a few times I was told the Kinect is now successfully calibrated.
One of the things I was looking forward to was being signed in automatically by facial recognition, but unfortunately as has already been reported, this feature is hit and miss at the best of times. Actually it’s miss 99% of the time with the only time it ever worked being when my daughter joined in Joyride and it picked her up. But every other time for her and every time for everyone else it didn’t know who we were.
So after smiling at the Kinect in a multitude of different ways I decided to try out the Minority Report styled menu system, this is a complete win. It is far more logical to use motion controls to sweep past the menus and make selections than using the controller. I found myself grumbling about how unfair it was whenever something happened that forced me to use the controller as it was far more fun just doing it all like some sort of mini magic man.
My only problem with the menu system is that you need to wave at the Xbox to activate the Kinect Hub and while I could see myself in the bottom right corner waving the Xbox didn’t always think my wave was acceptable and it would then stubbornly refuse to activate. This oddity was an endless source of amusement to the wife who was only to happy to show me how to wave properly.
I tested Kinect with a multitude of games, those reviews will be coming out this week, and in general I found the responsiveness to be good. It changes depending on the game and as such it seems to be mainly driven by the software developers’ ability and not the device itself.
The visible body tracking in the menu’s shows you how well the device is seeing you and I can’t say I had many problems with that at all. However the Kinect killer is light, once it gets to dark or if you are receiving direct sunlight then you start to lose the motion capturing ability and things go a little screwy.
Closing curtains or turning on your lights generally solves this problem and then you can continue gaming.
In closing, there is a lot to complain about where the Kinect doesn’t get it altogether there and there is a lot the Kinect can improve on. But generally these are things that you didn’t really consider before and it’s to Kinect’s credit that you want it to do more.
The one thing Kinect is an absolute master at, and why it will do well, is that the barrier to entry to gaming has been obliterated by Microsoft’s motion controlling toy.
Everyone from my 5 year old daughter to the grandparents instantly knew how to use it and play games and while the device doesn’t really add anything to the core gamer yet it is a great way to get yourself a brand spanking new 250Gb Xbox 360 and the family an entertaining gaming device at the same time.
Our scoring system is generally based on gameplay, presentation, sound and value which unfortunately doesn’t translate well to a hardware review.
But we need a score so let’s jump straight to the Overall score.
The Kinect has some problems and could well be improved with more power. I personally am not expecting it to ever be a must have for hardcore gamers but it’s amazingly easy to use and with so much money and marketing behind it you know it’s not just going to be dropped in a few months.
If you have a family then this is an absolute must have addition to your gaming setup this Christmas, if however your setup is solely for your use as a hardcore gamer rather wait and see what the developers are going to bring to the plate.
I know it’s on our santa list this year, it’s just whether I can afford one and find one that’s still to be seen.