Xbox 360 Kinect First Impressions

Written by Joe Martin

August 3, 2010 | 10:19

Tags: #first-impressions #kinect #kinect-price #motion-control #natal #xbox-360-kinect

Companies: #microsoft

Kinect for Xbox 360

On a sheer fun-factor front it doesn’t really look all that good for Kinect, to be honest. The lag that plagued the time we spent with it is reason alone for most consumers to be sceptical and consider the alternatives – latency isn’t a complaint that can be levelled at the Wii or PlayStation Move quite so easily.

Mind you, on one level it’s impressive that Kinect functions at all and, while it may be a bit slow to respond, there’s no denying that it’s reliable at sensing player movement. It’s occasionally over-sensitive and prone to error like any system, but if used in the intended way then it’s remarkably accurate.

At one point, for example, I walked in front of the camera as Paul was navigating a menu. Rather than crashing because it suddenly detects too many elbows in front of the sensors, the system correctly realised a new player was joining the game.

Realistically though, Microsoft has to do more with Kinect than simply show that it functions (and even then, with caveats), especially considering the price. It’s an expensive item, coming late to a market no longer wowed by the idea of motion control.

Xbox 360 Kinect First Impressions Kinect for Xbox 360
Is this Kinect Adventures or just Wii Sports: Slightly HD Edition?

Consider the £129 RRP and the compilation-centric list of launch titles and it's obvious Microsoft is at risk of straddling two markets, unable to appeal to either hardcore or casual gamers at large. The games aren’t interesting enough for the former, the price too high for the latter… and possibly the former too.

On that note, it’s worth questioning how many people are still excited by what is essentially motion-control anyway. The idea of controlling our games by waving our arms around stopped appealing to us a long, long time ago. As it turns out, the only thing we find really interesting about Microsoft’s Kinect is the fact that it isn’t technically a motion-control system. Its main function at the moment may be to allow you to peddle virtual bikes or bounce a ball against a wall without (woe betide) having to actually buy a ball, but it’s theoretically capable of much more. The fact that it’s built around a system of cameras, rather than gyroscopes, means it is capable of more than just detecting when you jump up and down.

Xbox 360 Kinect First Impressions Kinect for Xbox 360
Input lag not pictured

Alas, for the moment there’s not much to be seen on that front and it remains to be seen if Kinect will attempt some of the same tricks as the nifty, but underused PlayStation Eye.

All of which ultimately brings us back to the same quiet, resigned disappointment we started off with. Kinect may hold a lot of hypothetical promise, but when it’s assessed under real-world conditions then it starts to falter and fail. It lags. It’s expensive. The games that Microsoft has confirmed consist of either mass market pap or samey minigame dross that we probably wouldn’t look at twice if it were offered to us for free.

There are admittedly a few things worth keeping an eye on, such as Fable 3 or Forza with Kinect, but they are precious few. Fewer still are Xbox 360 or Kinect exclusive, raising worries that the Kinect support will be awkwardly shoehorned in where it doesn’t belong.

Kinect has felt like a me-too effort from the offset, with Microsoft and Sony both perceived as simply chasing the lucrative Wii market that Nintendo has done so well out of. Whether that’s true or not, the reality is that Microsoft’s Kinect feels both premature and confused, marred equally by confused marketing and technical hiccups.
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