This is a guest post written by long-time community member and friend Mike Parks – otherwise known as simply @BigRedPimp. You can also find him helping to “pimp” out his wife’s Eco-friendly Homemaker site. Mike has had a Kinect in his hot little hands for nearly three months now, and was gracious enough to give us his thoughts on the device thus far.
Video game controllers have come a long way since some of us were kids. We’ve gone from blocky, one-button joysticks that move a small, yellow circle around a maze to current iterations that have more buttons than we have fingers. Often times, we find ourselves wondering what’s next and hoping for a little more interaction with the games we play. Gamers want just a bit more immersion into worlds they choose to dedicate their spare time to.
In recent years, some companies have experimented with video-based or motion controls. Games using these technologies would allow the player to get involved through motions that either the controller or the camera would pick up and translate into movement. These often offered minimal enjoyment and, after the newness wore off, felt gimmicky at best.
Enter Kinect for Xbox 360. In order to hopefully offer something different, Microsoft has released a new style of gaming peripheral that uses camera-based game play and offers a totally new twist on anything we’ve seen before.
The Kinect is an attempt to get users off the couch and into the games they play. It offers a camera, microphone and a depth sensor that allows it to not only see and hear the players but determine their location in front of the TV. Kinect even allows for more than one person at a time to play which is great for getting families involved.
The camera in the Kinect is an RGB camera that captures video at [email protected] It offers an impressive image quality that is not only good for allowing games to capture detailed images but great for video chat using Video Kinect. It seems to lag behind slightly during Video Kinect sessions but that does not interfere with its processing during normal game activity. Overall, it’s a great camera for its purposes.
The microphone is a fairly standard multi-array microphone that is able to pick up a wide spectrum of sound. The sound quality is above average and great for voice communication via Video Kinect or even issuing voice commands to the Xbox 360. To get the attention of the Dashboard, you just say “Xbox” and it responds. You may have some issues with responsiveness of voice commands with certain accents and dialects but it still seems fairly accurate. The microphone is passable but far from horrible.
Kinect uses a depth sensor to track a player’s location in the room. If you’re curious how it works, it basically bounces infrared light onto the play area and processes the brightness of a series of images into a sort of greyscale image. With this information, it’s able to figure out the shapes of things like your furniture as well as recognize facial & body movements. If you walk forward, your avatar moves forward. Act like you’re kicking a ball and your avatar will do the same. This is the best aspect of the product and does a fantastic job at what it does.
GAMES & SOFTWARE
Of course, the whole thing would be useless without the games. Kinect comes with a game called Kinect Adventures that has players kicking and punching dodgeballs at targets, navigating a raft down a river or even racing around an obstacle course. The game has a lot to offer players with 20 different game types to play as well as collecting trophies along the way to document your adventures.
Another game that flexes the muscle of Kinect is Kinect Sports. This game includes a few sports titles that really get you off the couch and involved in the game. One minute, you could be swearing off that last gutter ball in Bowling, hurling a javelin for distance in Track & Field or even scoring the game-winning header in Football (sorry, “Soccer” isn’t in my vocabulary).
You’re not stuck with having to buy all the software to use the Kinect either. There’s plenty of things to do within the Xbox Dashboard too. Currently, the ESPN, Last.fm and Zune applications as well as Video Kinect take advantage of certain aspects of Kinect. It has something to offer everyone, no matter the price.
The Kinect experience is definitely one that everyone should try at least once. The offerings as of this review range from sports, exercise & music titles with a few action games rounding out the mix. Kinect has a lot of potential to get families playing together. The core gamers shouldn’t feel left out either as there are plenty of titles both current and in the works to satisfy even the most hardcore gaming appetite. While it may not be a game-changer, it does well at enhancing the fun factor and leave players wanting more.