My knowledge of the Kinect was rather limited. I knew the basic setup -- a camera-based system with which the player's body would be used as the controller -- and I was aware of a rather unsettling tech demo featuring a little boy named Milo. Charlie Brooker, writer, professional ranter, and creator of the BBC special "Gameswipe"described the demo as "just horrible" and made the amusing observation that "No one over the age of thirty can buy it without feeling or looking like a pedophile." I found it vaguely charming, despite the fact that the idea of a digital child with vacant, soulless eyes who would know my face seemed like something ripped straight from one of George Orwell's night terrors. Milo never did make his way onto the Telescreen, but the demonstration (however finessed it undoubtedly was) nonetheless intrigued me. When my sisters rang me to share the good news that they had bought a Kinect, I felt it my journalistic
excuse duty to try it out for myself.
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The only game we had, Kinect Adventures, offered a rather enjoyable and concise overview of the system. Moving the character was, as one would expect, quite natural, and the collision detection seemed to work quite well. The general gameplay was as preposterous a spectacle as one might imagine, finding me flailing around like some kind of shaved, anorexic chimp under the influence of military-grade amphetamines, desperately dodging invisible obstacles and grasping for objects that exist only in the mind's eye, while the machine records the data. I could almost see the seedy scientists behind the false wall in my sister's living room, nodding their heads, scribbling their notes, muttering things like "Good, very good," and "Subject has shown substantial improvement in endurance and agility tests since our last session," while I stood in silent angst, pondering the meaning of it all. To add insult to injury, the Kinect is programmed to take pictures during moments when one is expected to look especially idiotic, which it helpfully plays back as a slideshow so as to bring home the point that you are the shame of your mother's loins.
I'm not entirely sure what to think of the Kinect. I didn't notice any real problems with motion sensing -- in fact, it exceeded my expectations -- and I give Microsoft credit for trying something new and interesting, compared to the Wii Mote and the Playstation Move. However I did notice a bit of lag while playing which, while not terribly problematic with a repetitive game like Kinect Adventures, could prove to be a headache should it crop up in more fast-paced games. I'm hesitant to say that the novelty of using one's body as a controller will translate into something that will provide any kind of longevity for dedicated gamers. I've seen little in the way of "hardcore" titles -- The forthcoming survival horror game Rise of Nightmares is the only one that comes to mind -- and i'm skeptical of the possible implementation. Games in the vein of Heavy Rain seem more suited for the Kinect style of play, but aside from the fact that such games aren't terribly mainstream, I have a sneaking suspicion that, on the whole, most players would prefer to use the standard Xbox controller. As a social experience, the inherent silliness of the Kinect system can provide endless entertainment (alcohol optional, but highly recommended), but the thought of using it for a single-player experience, especially for those living in an apartment, seems somehow less alluring. Still, the Kinect fascinates me, and as a fiend for all things innovative, I believe it has the most potential of all the current-gen motion controllers to push the envelope and offer some intriguing new gameplay choices.