Features// Xbox 360 Kinect Launch Line-Up

Posted 4 Nov 2010 04:02 by
So, finally Kinect is with us in the SPOnG office, actually it is upstairs in the break room because the SPOnG office lacks sufficient space. It launches in the USA today - Kinect that is. Actually it launches in the USA about a minute before we were allowed to put this over-view live. It launches in the UK next week.

Yes, it's three years since Don Mattrick decided that Microsoft's Xbox 360 needed a new direction. It's two years since the company decided to license "a low-cost, plug and play, USB-powered device that can either sit on top of or next to a television screen or a monitor, or be integrated into them" from Israeli company Prime Sense, (which by the way just raised $50million in additional venture capital).

It's a little less time since the company decided to call its new motion tracking controller 'Natal' after the Brazilian home town of its project lead, Alex Kipman. It's three months since Natal was renamed 'Kinect' at a press event prior to E3, which included an actual elephant in the room.

Mixed Review
I'm going to give you my take on the device and some of its accompanying launch titles and I am also going to intersperse this with differing from views from SPOnG writers Mark Johnson and PocketFrenzy.

I say, "some of the launch titles" mainly because all of them are not available in the UK at this time - the device does not launch over here until November 10th. But also because we received review copies and Kinect one and a half days ago.

Games
As I say, we received our review unit on November 2nd. Packed in with it was a copy of Kinect Adventures - rather than a sports game. Accompanying it were copies of:

Kinectimals
Kinect Sports
Fighters Uncaged
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved
Kinect Joy Ride

Lovely. Unsurprisingly, and as you can see from this list, there isn't anything that you'd call a core title in there. Yes, despite the June showing of US talk show host Jimmy Fallon having fun with Burnout Paradise with the new, cool, face of Kinect (Mr Kipman was obviously just the 'project guy') Kudo Tsunoda, we are faced with a familiar set of 'family' titles.

Before we leave Mr Kipman, however, let's remember what he said before Mr Tsunoda took over as the sunglassed face of Natal/Kinect.

"We'll have games that are specifically designed to work only with Natal – not just arcadey games, but real, hardcore, triple-A titles."

Of course, this was early on.

Later that same month, Microsoft was keen to point out that, "At Xbox, we're developing controller-based games for the core and Kinect titles that appeal to everyone."

Why do I mention this? Simple, with the kit in my hands, my expectations were now to be realised.

Later that same day, a very nice man arrived outside the office with a copy of Dance Central - the real "Wow game" from E3. He'd couriered it all the way up to Yorkshire from London. One game. Nice fella. It also shows how much Harmonix/MTV and, of course, Microsoft Game Studios are standing behind the game.

All the titles came in their Kinect livery. I call it a dark purple coloured box. Others will have a more accurate description. You can see box shots pictured on this page.

Kinect's box is unassuming. It carries a nice enough weight in its rectangular understatement. It made me feel as if I had something rather more substantial in my hands than a new controller. I looked at it, I looked at the space we have in the office between HD-TV and opposing wall. I realised that there was no way that was going to be enough space to play and not smash a writer or two around the head.

We had been playing Wii games and Move games there for some time, but Kinect is a full-body, no controller controller. There was going to be jumping around, there was going to be flailing. The manual requires that you have two metres for a single-player (4m for two players) between you and the Kinect sensor as a minimum. It was time to move the Xbox 360 Slim and its new Kinect friend upstairs to the company's very lovely, very one glass walled, break room.

Once we'd moved the couch around and tidied up the floor (Kinect hates a messy floor, it needs a floor to focus on and track you), we plugged the USB cable from Kinect into Slim and proceeded to yell: "Xbox! Wake Up!" to no avail.
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Comments

DoctorDee 4 Nov 2010 05:55
1/12
I've been a skeptic about Kinect since I first heard about it. Well, not since I very first heard about it, back when it was all smoke and mirrors and magnificent pseudo-technical promise and Milo. Back then I was all wide eyed wonderment, and anticipation. Back then I was ready to have my paradigms realigned… much like you need your wheels doing after you kerb them particularly badly.

Then I saw the early videos, and it became clear that Microsoft had much more of an idea than a product. The early press videos showed things happening on screen before the user moved. Effect before cause, and I began to suspect that Microsoft had cracked the mirror, and was blowing the smoke up my ass. Then I became a cynic.

So I'd love to tell you that within minutes of unboxing the Kinect, I was a convert. All my nay-saying evaporated as hit strike after strike in Kinectisports Bowling. All my cynicism washed away as as I played with Tim's Dick. I refer, of course, to his Kinectimal… a Black Panther named Richard. Tim loves Dick.

Yes, reader, I'd LOVE to tell you that. But that's just because I love lying.

If instead, I tell you the truth… Kinect is rubbish. Absolute and utter crap. It's nicely packaged, beautiful piano-black well-constructed crap that I would be happy to have in my lounge. Not that my lounge is big enough for two of us to play simultaneously.

That's not to say it won't make metric shedloads of cash for Microsoft this "holidays" buying season.

What your first look failed to mention is that Kinect lacks any finesse. It does not have face detection, so it cannot tell one user from another. It does not have any real hand detection, so it cannot tell what position or attitude your hand is at - which is why the table tennis is so laughably poor. It does not have a way to indicate when you want to release a bowling ball, so it makes that decision for you, it cannot tell what you are doing with your hand at the time it makes this decision, to spin has to be applied by wafting your hand from left to right or vice versa AFTER the ball is dispatched. The kart game realises in a way that Motorstorm apparently doesn't, that no one wants to play a racing game stood on one leg, so it accelerates and brakes for you. WTF!?

The truth is Kinect is so far from the capabilities that were touted in its vapourware phase it is actually a joke. The unit is not capable of much more than an EyeToy either can do today, or could be made to do with a bit of clever software.

The idea that Kinect in its current form will be used in corporate presentations is actually a joke. Because businessmen generally do not like to make themselves look like cocks in front of potential clients or their peers. The Minority Report aping interface control is incredibly poor on Kinect. Because it cannot recognise what your fingers are doing, or detect subtle depth cues, you cannot "tap" on an button. Instead you have to hover over a button while a timer detects that you are paused, and activates it. This makes it incredibly slow and frustrating as a control method. Because it has no "homing" for the cursor, although it is very accurate it is also massively approximate, so all the buttons have to be reasonably massive, making the interfaces look toy-town.

Microsoft has been cajoled, seduced and harangued by its own insecurities into launching a Wii competitor to access that formerly inaccessible (to it) market - the casual gamer. And who knows… Kinect may succeed with this unfathomable demographic. But at £100 plus, this is going to leave a lot of gamers feeling abused.
PaulRayment 4 Nov 2010 10:13
2/12
"Hey, Gamestation. Remember that deposit you said was refundable?"

"Of course we do"

"I want it refunded"

"But you could always sell it on Ebay before Christmas and make some money"

"Oh, OK, I'll do that"
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PaulRayment 4 Nov 2010 10:17
3/12
On a more serious note (kinda). This is a huge disappointment. It's like Natal and Kinect are two different products and due to all the future speak regarding Natal, Kinect is dated before it's been released.

For the same price of Kinect I could pick up Fabel 3, COD Black Ops and FIFA 11.

I know it's clear it isn't aimed at the type of gamer that wants those three games but I so wanted Kinect to work for me, as cool tech if nothing else. I've been an Xbox gamer way before the 360 and I'm gutted I won't be able to get the full experience. The biggest problem is the space, without moving home I won't ever have the space.

:-(((
CB 4 Nov 2010 10:49
4/12
"Minority Support"? That's a Freudian slip if ever there was one.
Tim Smith 4 Nov 2010 11:35
5/12
CB wrote:
"Minority Support"? That's a Freudian slip if ever there was one.


It was... or was it? No, you're right, it was... email me for your "SPOnG Freudian Spotter" prize (a statuette of a Mini Ninja this week).

Cheers

Tim
tim@spong.com
deleted 4 Nov 2010 11:54
6/12
I am very upset with Kinect, no sorry with Microsoft, They finally had a strong place in the market giving us some great games and powerful hardware and the promises of Natal were shoved down our orifices and I for one took them, now it seems we are s**tting Kinect!, i have cancelled my preorder and i will buy when software is developed that

1. allows me to play in a small space
2. is enjoyable and fun
and
3. is worth paying £130.00 for a motion sensing camera.

and

@DoctorDee, your post is amazing, it speaks complete truth and if only the reviewers will reflect this too.
alexh2o 4 Nov 2010 14:12
7/12
Well I still think Kinect is pretty cool and I reckon everyone is being a little harsh on it! I think, and Microsoft is to blame here a little, there's too much expectation and people are taking for granted all the cool stuff it is doing. Its like seeing a movie thats been bigged up so much it turns out to be a disappointment, but when the dust had settled and you think back, its actually a pretty good film.

The majority of complaints all centre around familiarity. People are used to tactile feedback - now they will need to adapt to visual or audio feedback. They find navigation or use confusing - like any new anything, Im sure once people are used to it, its much more fluid. etc

Then theres issues around price and space. Whenever a new console comes out its very expensive - out of the price range of most - but it comes down and you buy when its the right price for you. If its too expensive now, just wait! When the 360 itself launched, people waited for a drop in price, they didnt say 'oh its not worth it' and decide never to get one... Regarding the space requirements, if you dont have the room then dont get it! Its unfortunate but thats life. If you cant fit a 50" TV in your room, you just dont get one, and you dont start criticising it for being too big.

Maybe its just me, but I think Kinect is genuinely different to any gaming experience Ive had previously and I like where its at. Within a year Im sure the software will be updated, the price will be a lot less, and the game devs will be making better games... and the majority of complaints now will be forgotten!
deleted 4 Nov 2010 14:46
8/12
@alexhooren
When the 360 itself launched, people waited for a drop in price, they didnt say 'oh its not worth it' and decide never to get one...


Problem is it isnt `really a console` its a mid/end of life filler, and when will we see a price drop? possibly never going on the pricing of MS accessories

If you cant fit a 50" TV in your room, you just dont get one, and you dont start criticising it for being too big.


No you buy the 40" or 32" or even 26" TV how do we do that with Kinect? do we get Move? Wii? as the space limitations are simply as long as your arm swings. and the thing is i can fit 50" in my Games room, I can fit 200" if I like as i have the vertical and horizontal to do that, but for Kinect I need depth too and that's where the problem comes in.



DoctorDee 4 Nov 2010 15:09
9/12
haritori wrote:
i have cancelled my preorder and i will buy when software is developed that

1. allows me to play in a small space


This is the one that really freaks me out. I can understand the lack of ability to recognise hand movements, simply because a high enough res sensor would raise the price too much. But why not use a wider angle lens, or - like Move - one with two (or more) zoom positions. My lounge is a reasonable size, but it's arranged with a cabinet beneath the wall mounted 55" LED TV, and Kinect would need to be at the front of that. At the other side of the room is a radiator, and in front of that a couch... leaving nowhere near enough room to Kinect in.

My movie room is much more Kinect sized. But I use an HD projector - so no light, so no Kinect.

I personally think Kinect is a big damp squib. But even if I didn't, my house simply cannot accommodate it... and I live in a reasonably large house.
deleted 5 Nov 2010 01:40
10/12
Problem Solved!! just got the phoen with MS tech support and here is their advice for small rooms.

"Simply place the TV in the Garden and stand in next doors garden, obviously after illegally removing his/her fencing, and using his/her outdoor electrical supply to run a 40 meter cable (£99.99 for official XBOX emerald coated 40m extension lead) to the TV, XBOX and Kinect as well as any required sound amp placing speakers in the correct locations, you should now be able to watch any Movie you like and use you whole body to pause or play! please note when wishing to play games follow these additional; instructions option a or option b but not both,

Option A, Paint your body green (£39.99 Official XBOX Paint) and make sure you are positioned 45.6 degrees north of the Eiffel Tower, Kinect should now recognise you and upto 3/4 of a second player.

Option B, Wait 10 years until technology can follow what we promise.

Thank You For Contacting MS Support."
DoctorDee 5 Nov 2010 07:28
11/12
PaulRayment wrote:
"But you could always sell it on Ebay before Christmas and make some money"

"Oh, OK, I'll do that"

Remember, of course, eBay's new fee structure:

Final value Fee = What you sold it for - (what it cost you * 110%)

Add in listing fees and PayPal fees and you'll be done up like a kipper. Running failed gubernatorial races is not cheap! Especially not if you are as profligate as Meg Whitman.
anon 28 Nov 2010 03:22
12/12
@haritori
...so your room is tall and wide enough but not deep enough, so if you want it that bad you could just rotate the room setup 90* and have plenty of depth..
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